Lost Feats of Strength: Klein’s Tiger Push Ups


I love my PhD research. After three years, very few people can say that, but here I am. Now the reason for such positivity is not because a student recently gave me whiskey as a thank you present but rather because of the amazing access I’m given to lifters’ records of yesteryear. You see earlier this year I had the pleasure of spending some time going through Sig Klein’s personal papers in the Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sport History. For any anoraks such as myself, this place is effectively a mecca of physical culture history, containing the personal papers of several well known physical culturists and bodybuilders ranging from Professor Atilla to Tommy Kono.

In any case, for those unaware, Sig Klein ran one of the most successful gymnasiums in mid-twentieth-century New York. Known throughout the lifting world, the gymnasium was a sleek and shiny lifter’s paradise containing a multitude of barbells, dumbbells and rudimentary weightlifting machines previously covered on this site. The man in charge, Sig Klein, was not just an entrepreneur but a physical culturist in his own right. You see aside from running his gymnasium, publishing his own journal (Klein’s Bell) and training others, Klein boasted his own enviable physique.

As we discussed previously, Klein believed that one of the best measures of strength was to clean and press two 75 lb. dumbbells for 12 perfect reps. In his own personal lifting career however, Klein accomplished a far greater feat, 19 Tiger Bend push-ups.

Tiger Bend What?

Tiger Bend push ups, I said it.

So in researching an exercise that I’ve only just discovered it appears that there are two versions of the tiger bend push up. The first is really just a modified push up. The second is an inverted push up that is far more difficult. Needless to say Klein’s feat invoked the harder of the two. For those in need of a visual example, the following video does a great job showing this exercise in action as well as a handy how to kit for anyone interested in testing themselves (Cards on the table, I fell hard on my ass trying it in the gym earlier).

As is perhaps obvious, this lift requires an enormous amount of strength, balance and coordination. It serves as a stark reminder that the physical culturists of yesteryear were not just strong in terms of dumbbell and barbell lifting but also when it came to calisthenics. For me personally it sets a benchmark for developing a more holistic form of strength. It also looks undeniably cool which never hurts.

So how many tiger bend push ups can you do? Klein’s average, as detailed by his personal papers was 12 and 19 was his record. If we include falling horribly halfway through the exercise I’m currently at one and counting!

As always… Happy lifting!