Is it suddenly cool to care about the history of strength? One of the joys of the internet has been, for me at least, the immense interest weight lifters from around the world have shown in learning more about the strong men and women who went before them.
In the past, people were forced to buy fitness magazines or search for old books or academic articles, to learn the history of strength. Now people have access to websites (like this one), online forums and, amazingly, well produced documentaries. Several years ago the fitness manufacturer Rogue Fitness joined forces with the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sport Studies to begin producing documentaries on the history of strongmen and women.
The outcome of this collaboration is the focus of today’s post.
In 2017, Rogue released a documentary on French strongman Louis ‘Apollon’ Uni. Much to my great shame, little to nothing on this website focuses on Apollon, aside from sporadic comments on the Apollon wheels. This does a great disservice to one of the most impressive strongmen of his generation.
Born in Marsillargues in 1862, Apollon lived a vagabond but eventful existence. He ran away from home at the age of fourteen to join a circus near his hometown and while he eventually returned home for a brief period, spent the rest of his life in and out of the circus.
In the circus Apollon built his immense strength and power. At his prime he could clean and jerk 341 lbs. He could also hoist two train wheels – weighing 366 lbs. – overhead. These train wheels were later dubbed the Apollon Wheels and are found every year in strongmen competitions around the globe.
Edmond Desbonnet, a French physical culturist and strength historian, was a great admirer of Apollon and, in 1896, took down his measurements for posterity.
Height 1 meter 90, chest (normal) 1 meter 29, chest (expanded) 1 meter 36, waist 1 meter, arm (flexed) 49 centimeters, forearm (relaxed) 42.5, forearm (flexed) 46, calf 50, weight 120 kilos.
I give this all as a brief introduction to the following documentary. Entitled ‘The Rogue Legends Series – Louis ‘Apollon’ Uni, this documentary is a fascinating insight into Apollon’s life. Describing his early life and influences, the documentary makers take us through his evolution from runaway child to undisputed strongman.
As someone who is privileged enough to teach the history of strength to students, this documentary is priceless. It features comments from Dr. Jan and Terry Todd, two of the field’s most renowned historians and, more importantly, makes this history accessible.
To return to the history at the beginning of this post, is the history of strength cool? The answer for me was always yes. I believe these documentaries will help create more converts.
As always … Happy Lifting!
It’s nice to know that there are others out there who have a passion for the historical aspects of strength and physical culture. I find that I learn something new every time I read your essays. That’s saying something considering that like you, I was educated by Jan Todd herself. She is the reason I decided to finish my degree at UT, and it was an amazing experience. The Stark Center was absolutely incredible. I wish I could live there!
Hey Andrew, that’s awesome and thanks so much for stopping by. I’m always in awe at how many people taught by Jan retain their interest in the history of physical culture – she has done so much for the field! Thank you for the kind words and we’ll continue to pump out articles here!