Tromp Van Diggelen was a strongman, author and teacher born in 1885 who endured a sickly childhood like many old-time strongmen. He actually almost died three times as a child, from pleurisy, pneumonia and bronchitis. However, his mother was determined to have a healthy kid and she decided to set up an appointment with Eugen Sandow to help the youngster.
Tromp was only 12 years old, but Eugen told him to exercise with strands. Unfortunately, Tromp was so weak that he couldn’t even pull them. Some time later, Tromp’s science teacher tried a different approach and gave him a physiology text book in order to teach him more about human body and ways to gain strength, since he felt sorry for Tromp Van Diggelen who couldn’t even compete in sports like other kids his age.
During a class with Mr. Tatham, his science teacher, Tromp came to an idea of muscle flexing to increase strength through improved blood flow. Soon enough Tromp was standing in front of the mirror, flexing and relaxing his muscles while visualizing them becoming stronger and more powerful. At the same time, he dreamed about having a perfectly carved body like Eugen Sandow.
The next time his mother saw him, she couldn’t believe her eyes. In 1899, only two years after his appointment with Sandow, Tromp’s mother brought his son to Eugen once again. Sandow was surprised to hear that Tromp hadn’t made a use of his expander, but became strong purely through flexing and relaxing muscles. Nevertheless, Sandow advised him to continue with this practice as it’s obviously working great for him.
Tromp played very important role in the world of physical culture. One of his best known discoveries was the one of Max Sick, who changed his name to Maxick after Tromp explained him that it wasn’t the best idea to have Sick in your name as a strongman. Interestingly enough, Maxick also had a troubling childhood filled with different health issues and near-death experiences. He was also forbidden by his father to use weights, but managed to develop muscle control exercises to stay in shape and build strength. It kinda looks like a case of multiple discovery, as they both trained through muscle control at the same time – when no one else did.
Tromp brought Maxick to London and organized his initial performance, where Maxick met Monte Saldo who was preparing his own mail order course at that time. Tromp suggested to Monte that he might want to add mentally controlled movements by Maxick in his newest course and Monte agreed that he could add workouts by Maxick and Tromp, with some alterations. Three of them met at the Apollo-Saldo Club and that’s how the legendary Maxalding course came into existence.
Tromp’s system focused on functional strength gave him a chance to experience life of freedom instead of spending 4-5 hours per day in a gym. He was very adventurous, living in real nature in Africa for several years among wild animals. He did have a gun with him, though. He was an avid big game hunter, mountain climber and fisherman. His wrestling career was impressive, with 99 wins and 1 loss in times when wrestling was as real as it gets. Tromp Van Diggelen won Mr. Apollo contest, founded the British Amateur Weightlifting Association and worked as a mining engineer profesionally. He died in 1967.