Eugen Sandow

From a skinny child of poor health, to the King of England’s personal physical adviser. Eugen Sandow rose to the top using nothing but his own intuition and training methods.

Creating a successful household name for himself, along with many successful businesses, Eugen became a world famous athlete and strongman, who supplied the world with exercise guides for the young and old. This is his story:


 

Eugen Sandow

Athlete Statistics

Full Name: Eugen Sandow
WeightHeightArmsChest
185 - 195lbs (83.9 - 88.5kg)5'9" (175cm)18"48"
WaistThighsCalves
30"42"18"
Year of BirthNationalityProfession
1867GermanStrongman, Professor of Scientific and Physical Culture,
Era
1900
Weight185 - 195lbs (83.9 - 88.5kg)
Height5'9" (175cm)
Arms18"
Chest48"
Waist30"
Thighs42"
Calves18"
Year of Birth1867
NationalityGerman
ProfessionStrongman, Professor of Scientific and Physical Culture,
Era1900

 

Eugen Sandow

Accomplishments

  • World Renowned Strongman
  • Creator of “The Institute of Physical Culture” and “Strength and How To Obtain It” training guide.
  • Personal Professor of Scientific and Physical Culture to King George V of the United Kingdom

 

Eugen Sandow

Biography

Inspiration in Italy

Friedrich Muller was born in Prussia (now known as Kaliningrad, Russia) in 1867. He later adopted the stage name Eugen Sandow. In his youth he was an energetic, but quite a frail child growing up.

In the hope that Sandow would gain strength and vitality from the fresh air of Italy, his father and Eugen visited the country on regular holidays in the hope the sea air, and change of environment would do him some good.

Low and behold it did, but not in the way his father would have expected. Here’s Eugen talking about what happened during his trips to Italy:

“The desire result of the trip was achieved, but hardly in the expected manner. It was not by strolling under the blue Italian skies in the ozone-laden breezes from off the Mediterranean Sea, but by spending every available moment in the art galleries and museums of the great cities, that I learned of secret of health and strength. The works of the old masters in sculpture and painting roused a thrill of half-envious admiration in me, and the more I studied them the more they fascinated me. Eventually, I came home from Italy with the fixed determination that, if training could do it, I would become a strong man.”

For many years to come, Sandow returned to Italy to visit the statues that first inspired him. On this path to discover the secret of the perfect body, he hoped to learn more about the anatomy of the “ideal man” by taking measurements, and exercising in a way that would replicate their physiques.

Body By Design

Throughout his years of hard work where he payed close attention to the ancient sculptures of Rome, Sandow became the first man to sculpt his body using only a keen eye – replicating his ancient idols.

After many years, Sandow built his body intro a chiseled physique, and with it, he became a well know strongman. However, his road to becoming known as a strongman was hard fought, with many difficulties on his path. But Sandow had a trick up his sleeve.

One day, Sandow then went to Amsterdam with very little money in his pocket. With the need to promote himself as cheap as possible, Sandown came up with a cunning plan that would eventually get him arrested.


 

Eugen Sandow

Sandow The Vandal

Around the city, slot machines were available that would allow people to test their strength by pulling a lever. Low and behold, Sandow visited these machines and pulled the lever ‘off’ every one, all in the hope to gain some popularity as a strongman.

As a result, this caused a lot of attention from the local police, believing it was a local gang vandalizing the machines. After only a few days, Mr. Sandow was caught in the act. When questioned he responded:

“When I got to the station, I explained that I had paid the necessary coin into the machine, and was entitled to exercise my arms. Of course, they refused to believe that one man could be strong enough to break the machine and sent for the chief officer. When he came along, he, too, was doubtful of my story; but when the strongest man at the station accepted my invitation to try his strength on me, the commissary was not only convinced, but became quite friendly, and I was released on my own recognizance’s.”

He soon established a reputation in a series of challenge matches against leading strongmen of the 1880s, which included Charles Sampson, Frank Bienkowski, and Henry McCann.

His match against McCann in 1890 was used as a model for all strongman competitions to come in the future.


 

Eugen Sandow

A Physical Educator

As an entertainer, Sandow performed acts such as breaking cables, lifting people above his head, and other strongman movements. He also took part in exhibitions where he’d display his physique to crowds in England and the United States. At the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, he joined Florenz Ziegfeld’s Trocadero Company and toured the continent for several years.

Gaining more and more popularity, a physical educator (Dudley Sargent of Harvard University) said that Sandow was the finest specimen of manhood he had ever seen. because of his amazing physique, Sandow had a healthy career performing around America for a period of time. He was reported to have earned more than a quarter of a million dollars.

After his success performing around the globe, he returning to London. This is when Sandow promoted health and fitness enterprises, one being his own “The Institute of Physical Culture.” This led to more centers being opened around the Great Britian. This proved that Sandow wasn’t just a strongman and performer, Eugen was also good at marketing, as he sponsored various pieces of training equipment and dietary supplements.

Eugen’s Early Death

After a fruitful life of performing and success in front of thousands of people, Eugen Sandow unfortunately died from a brain hemorrhage at the ripe age of 61. The physicians believed it was due to the fact that 3 years earlier, Sandow lifted his car out of a ditch single handed – this apparently caused the hemorrhage years later.


 

Eugen Sandow

Training

Sandow used exercise to increase his overall health as a skinny and frail child, but soon after visiting Italy he wanted to recreate what he saw using his own physique.

Many people in the 1800’s didn’t believe the Greek statues were a true representation of the human body, believing they were exaggerations and not attainable. But Sandow had other plans.

Isolation Exercises

After using an approach now known as calisthenics, he soon realized that he wasn’t making the necessary development he’d hope for.

But Sandow was a determined young man and kept trying new methods. After many hours of developing his own training methods, Sandow created separate exercises that worked each individual muscle group.

Here’s what Sandow said; “giving each individual muscle a movement, and of so arranging the form of the exercises that when some muscles are brought into play others are relaxed and left without strain.

It’s clear to see now that Sandow was on to something big. His body soon started to take shape in the way that he wanted. He continued to visit Italy on a regular basis, to make sure that his progress matched that of the ancient Greek status.

Sandow’s Training Methods

There was a lot documented from Sandow’s training, especially his own programs “Strength and How To Obtain It,” which involved exercises such as:

  • Bicep curls (including reverse)
  • Shoulder press
  • Lateral raises
  • Kettlebell swing
  • wrist curls
  • Situps

“Nothing, in my opinion, is better than the use of the dumb-bell, for developing the whole system, particularly if it is used intelligently, and with a knowledge of the location and functions of the muscles.” – Eugen Sandow

His suggestions were to use light weights of  5-10 lbs. Which can be performed in 10-15 repetitions and 2-3 sets depending on the exercises.

Among the basic structure of his exercise plan, Sandow would also recommend activities such as:

  • Breathing through the nose especially when exercising
  • Keeping your knees bent to improve posture and circulation
  • Work on alternative sides for better blood flow
  • Get fresh air as often as possible, especially when exercising
  • Mind muscle focus. Focusing on the muscles you’re working for the best results.

 

Eugen Sandow

Nutrition

There wasn’t a standard program that Sandow followed. He wasn’t a firm believer of any special diet, especially a restricted one. He liked to make sure he was getting enough to fulfill him at the right times throughout the day. Using balanced meals that were easy to digest. Believing that digestion was a huge factor in overall health, he advocated mastication in every meal.

“I do not care for anything intoxicating (hard liquor) but do enjoy a beer or some wine on occasion, never touch tea or coffee, eat “plain”, wholesome food for the most part, but do “indulge” on occasion. I have my meals at regular intervals, and prefer simple foods that are easy to digest. I chew my food well and believe strongly that mastication is a key to good health.”

There were some interesting habits the Sandow liked to follow away from his diet.  He said these protocols would help retain his overall health. Such as cold baths first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

As we have seen from recent scientific studies, cold baths can reduce swelling in muscles and increase that rate of recovery, Sandow was truly living the right type of lifestyle tpo obtain a healthy body, and ‘god-like’ physique – doing all of the right things on his own intuition.

Here’s Sandow talking about his daily habits:

“I endeavor to have my meals at regular hours and prefer that they shall be simple and easy of digestion. I always take care to chew my food. Proper mastication being a sine qua non of health. I take plenty of sleep and find this essential to my well-being. As I do not generally get to bed before midnight, or even later. I do not rise until eleven, when I take a cold bath all the year round, preceded by a little light exercise with the dumb-bells.

I then have breakfast, and after attending to my correspondence and seeing my friends. I go for a walk or a drive, whatever be the weather. At seven I dine, after which I rest until my evening performance. Then I close the day with another cold bath and supper. Usually, I dress lightly, though always suitable to the season. My nightly exhibitions, I may add, supply me, together with a good constitutional every day, with all the exercise I need. If I want more, I take it, as I sit reading or smoking, by nicking my muscles.”


 

Eugen Sandow

Idols and Influences

Sandow became so famous that he appeared in shows around the country such as the Royal Albert Hall in 1901.

One of the judges at the time was none other than the writer, Arthur Conan Doyle. As Sandow continued to tour the country, he was soon noticed by Theodore Roosevelt. Who said that he was ‘ideal’, the perfect figure of a man at the time.

Influencing the world of health and fitness. His greatest moment came when he was appointed ‘Professor of Scientific and Physical Culture’ to King George V of United Kingdom.


 

Eugen Sandow

What we can learn from Eugen Sandow

Eugen created a household name for himself as a strongman, personal adviser to the King of England, and successful entrepreneur. Some of his works included training guides such as “Strength and How To Obtain It”. 

Sandow also created his very own training centers around the United Kingdom. What can we learn from a man such as Sandow is;

Seeing that he first started his strongman career by using his own intuition and a keen eye. Along with the determination to emulate his idols (the ancient Greek statues that depicted strength and health). Sandow has shown us, that with very little equipment, we can transform our bodies with the simplest of exercises.

From his early years vandalizing slot machines, to becoming a world famous Professor of Scientific and Physical Culture. It all started with one simple thing – exercise and strength. With the right mindset and an eye for perfection, you too can achieve your very own physique of greatness.

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7 comments

  1. Big Ron

    November 20, 2017 at 11:08 pm

    Could someone read this over for mistakes.
    I am very happy to see this artcle, but it is full of errors, which are numurous and obvious.

    1. Greatest Physiques

      November 21, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      Hey Big Ron, thanks so much for your feedback. We’ve gone through Eugen Sandow’s biography with a fine tooth comb. Hopefully now it’s to your liking? If there’s anything you ‘spot’ in the future, don’t hesitate to give a shout.
      .. We always appreciate it! All the best!

  2. sam i am

    March 24, 2018 at 2:24 am

    He was not “German”. He was Jewish, just born in Germany. There is a difference. But nobody likes to gives Jews any credit if it can be covered up eh …

    1. Greatest Physiques

      March 27, 2018 at 10:23 am

      Hi Sam I Am,

      Thanks for your comment. Can you please point us in the direction of where you found this information? Here is a direct quote from Wikipedia:

      Sandow was born in Königsberg, Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia) on April 2, 1867 to a German father and a Russian mother. Although his parents were born Jewish, the family were Lutherans and wanted him to become a Lutheran minister. He left Prussia in 1885 to avoid military service and travelled throughout Europe, becoming a circus athlete and adopting Eugen Sandow as his stage name.

  3. Casey

    September 5, 2018 at 11:45 am

    His thighs are not 42”. It clearly shows his thighs aren’t bigger than his waist. Even Ronnie Coleman at 300 lbs had thighs that were 34”

  4. pusite kurac

    December 18, 2018 at 9:40 pm

    42 inch thighs? Are you idiots for real? now i cant take anything from this text seriosly..

  5. Big mike

    June 21, 2019 at 12:38 pm

    Obviously when he was measuring his thighs he went around both together while standing up, not individually as we do nowadays.

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