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Badass INC. #2 – Hermann Görner

The second badass to get the Dave’s Gym seal of approval is probably my all time favourite strongman – the legendary Hermann Görner. This was a guy who performed feats of strength in the early 1900’s that have still yet to be beaten nearly 80 years on. This was a guy who also wrestled elephants for fun during his circus strongman act. Let’s take a look at what made him the consumate strength athlete.
Born on April 13th 1891 in Hänichen, Germany, Görner started becoming interested in weightlifting at the age of 10 and by the time he was 14 could perform a single arm kettlebell swing to arms length with 50kg. Throughout his strongman career his weight fluctuated between 264lbs and 293lbs at a heigh of 6’3″. For us Brits that’s between 18 and 21 stone! This was one massive man, even more impressive when you consider the relatively low level of bodyfat shown in most of the available pictures of him:
One set of measurements taken of Görner’s physique underline his sheer size. All measurements were taken when flexed:
Neck – 19.5″
Chest – 54.4″
Left Arm – 18″
Right Arm – 18.9″
Left Forearm – 15″
Right Forearm – 15.8″
Waist – 45″
Thighs – 27.6″
Nearly a 16″ forearm….is it any wonder he’s my hero? But big doesn’t necessarily means strong, right? WRONG.
Feats of Strength
Görner practised and set records in hundreds of different lifts throughout his career, but some of his most impressive feats with traditional weights revolved around his tremendous grip and pulling power. Deadlifts and the so called “olympic” lifts were a forte of his and the weights he could lift were phenomenal. Here are a few of my favourites.
  • Two Handed Deadlift with only two fingers on each hand – 270kg
  • One Handed Deadlift with the right hand, hook grip – 330kg
  • Two Handed Deadlift – 361kg (Double overhand grip)
  • Two Handed Deadlift – 377kg (200kg Barbell, with a fully grown man standing on each side!)


  • Right Hand Snatch  – 104kg
  • Left Hand Snatch – 90kg
  • Right Hand Snatch with the arm kept straight – 77kg
  • Two Hand Snatch – 135kg

Clean & Jerk:

  • Right Hand Clean & Jerk – 120kg (Barbell from the floor to overhead with one arm)
  • Two Hands Clean & Jerk – 177kg


  • Two Hands Anyhow (Floor to overhead, any style) – 195kg (Combined weight of 4 kettlebells!)
  • Two Hands Strict Barbell Curl – 110kg

These feats of strength are impressive by today’s standards, more than that – most of them still haven’t been broken. When was the last time you saw somebody doing a one hand snatch with two plates a side? The current world record for the one handed deadlift is lightyears away from Görner’s 330kg .

(As of writing Mark Felix holds a record of 225kg using an olympic bar with a hook grip in this lift, and Steve Gardener has broken 330kg off the floor in the 2″ ROM version of this lift – nobody has lifted this weight to full lockout in the manner Görner did. It’s also worth mentioning that the bars used in the 1900’s were considerably thicker than they are now, and probably didn’t revolve. In short, we’re all a bunch of pansies.)


So how did Görner go about building a strength that defies the legions of strength athletes who’ve come after him? In truth, a lot of it flies in the face of conventional wisdom but bear with me.
Görner held the belief that there were three true tests of a man’s strength: how much he could lift off the floor, how much he could carry, and how much he could put over his head. These were the kinds of lifts he trained, and he trained them often. Practice makes perfect, and during the prime of his career he trained 5-6 times a week with heavy weights in a huge variety of lifts, and devoting multiple days a week to the lifts he wanted to get better at. He was also an advocate of outdoor training and swimming, and he frequently swam before or after his weights sessions.
He was always creative in his training, thinking up new ways to test and demonstrate his awesome strength. For the Deadlift alone he trained about 15 different grip variations to build overall strength and competance in the lift, and that’s just for the two handed version! He did snatches, cleans, presses, swings, and curls with kettlebells, barbells, and dumbells – always training heavy and testing his limits.
A sample of his weekly routine, as described by Charles A. Smith:
Monday –

1.) Two Hands Snatch: After loosening up with calisthenics he would work up in 8 or 10 sets of between 1 and 3 reps from around 125 to 300 lbs. on a good day.

2.) Two Hands Clean & Jerk: Beginning with 220 lbs. he would work up slowly to near his limit, which was almost 400 lbs. It should be noted that he used a very shallow split style on both the snatch and the clean & jerk, barely dipping under the weight.

3.) Two Hands Continental to the Shoulders: When he felt really well, he would put more weight on the bar after his heaviest clean & jerks and do several single continental lifts. He did them by taking the weight from the floor to his belt, then boosting it from there up to his shoulders. His best was around 450 lbs.

4.) Two Hands Curl: Goerner usually did 4 or 5 sets of this, working up to a maximum super-strict rep or two with 220 lbs.

5.) If the weather permitted, he usually ended his sessions with either some slow running or some swimming.

Tuesday –

1.) Curl & Press with Kettlebells: Approximately 10 sets, going from 55 lbs. to 110 lbs. in 5½ lb. jumps (2½ kilo) jumps. These were done very strictly – usually only 1 or 2 reps with each arm, working up quickly to the 110 lb. bells.

2.) Clean & Military Press: Approximately 8 sets of 3 to 5 reps, going from 198 to 264 in 22 lb. jumps, doing 2 sets with each weight.

3.) One Hand Swing with Kettlebells: Approximately 8 sets (4 with each arm) beginning with 110 and sometimes going as high as 254 (using two kettlebells grasped in one hand).

4.) Deadlift: Usually 6 to 8 sets, never exceeding 3 reps. He usually began with 440 lbs. (200 kilos) and worked up to almost 800 lbs. Often he would do his lighter sets without a hook, or with only three fingers on each hand, or two, or only one.




1.) Curl & Press with Kettlebells: Same as Tuesday.

2.) One Hand Snatch: Usually, he would work up slowly in this lift, going from 110 to 220 with each hand.

3.) One Hand Clean & Jerk: As in the snatch, he would do quite a few sets, always using low reps (usually just one), working up to a best of 265.

4.) One Hand Deadlift: Alternating hands, Goerner would work up gradually in poundage from around 220 to over 700 lbs. on his good days, doing 10 to 12 sets.

5.) Squats: During this period, he usually squatted once each week, never more, and he would begin with around 220 and work up to approximately 600. He never really concentrated on this lift. Again, he favored low reps, 3 to 5.


1.) Clean & Press: Same as Tuesday.

2.) One Hand Swing: Same as Tuesday.

3.) Muscle-Outs with Kettlebells: He usually did these with “light” (up to 65 lbs. in each hand) weights and higher repetitions as a shoulder developer.

4.) Grip Work: Often, Goerner would practice lifting heavy barbells and dumbells with one, two or three fingers.


1.) Curl & Press with Kettlebells: Same as Tuesday.

2.) Two Hands Snatch: Same as Monday.

3.) Two Hands Clean & Jerk: Same as Monday.

4.) Front Squat: From time to time he did these, going up to a best of over 500 lbs.

5.) Two Hands Curl: Same as Monday.




As you can see, no slouching here. It’s worth noting that Görner’s gym was attached to a pub in which all the lifter’s personal steins (beer glasses) were stored on a shelf for when they were finished with training. Now THAT’s badass.

The whole point to this article series is that despite the advances in sports science, supplementation, “sports technology drugs” (cough), and gym equipment, there’s still a wealth of knowledge in the methods of lifters who came before all that. Hermann Görner is a prime example of this – in a time before steroids were even invented, and the first widely available sports supplements were still a few decades away; his training was basic and he used freeweights exclusively; his world records are still yet to be broken.

Nuff said. Hermann, you’re officially Badass Incorporated!


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