Arthur Saxon

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Arthur Saxon
Arthur Hennig

(1878-04-28)April 28, 1878
DiedAugust 6, 1921(1921-08-06) (aged 43)
OccupationStrongman, circus performer

Arthur Saxon (April 28, 1878 – August 6, 1921), born Arthur Hennig and nicknamed "The Iron-Master", was a German strongman and circus performer from the late 19th century into the early 20th century. Saxon is best known for the bent press, a lift in which he was far superior to any other strongman, setting a world record of 168 kg (370 lb) which remains unbroken to this day. He also lifted 175 kg (385 lb) informally in a gym, as well as making a "two hands anyhow" lift of 203 kg (448 lb).


Arno Patschke, known as Arno Saxon on stage, a performer and former Greco-Roman wrestler from Germany was eager to make money performing strongman acts. He traveled to Leipzig, where he convinced Oscard Hilgenfeldt and Arthur Hennig to join him in creating the "Greatest Strong Show" in the country.

Eventually Arthur's two brothers, Kurt and Hermann joined the group as well, forming the "Saxon Trio," and in 1897, the Trio began performing for a circus in Europe. In one act, Arthur Saxon lifted his seated brothers on a barbell with one arm. Another popular portion of their performances included opening the stage to anyone who challenged the validity of a lift, to try for themselves.

Cover of The Development of Physical Power, published in 1905

At one point during a bent press performance Saxon claimed the act could not be repeated by the famous Eugen Sandow. Unbeknownst to Saxon, on February 26, 1898, Sandow, in the audience at the time, accepted the challenge. Sandow was unable to replicate the lift and, in retaliation, took the Saxon Trio to court. In the case Sandow won with a ruling that he had "handled the bell in exactly the same bodily attitude as Arthur", the judge not fully understanding the lift.

Personal Records

Saxon recorded several of his personal records in his books "The Development of Physical Power" and "The Text Book of Weightlifting".

Bent press - 371lbs/168kgs

Two Hands Anyhow - 448lbs/203kgs

One-Hand Snatch - 200lbs/90kgs

Two-Hand Military Press - 252lbs/114kgs

One-Hand Military Press - 126lbs/57kgs

Behind-The-Neck Jerk - 311lbs/141kgs

Clean and jerk - 342lbs/155kgs

One-Hand Clean and Jerk - 247½lbs/112kgs

Pull Over and Push - 385lbs/175kgs


Cover of The Text Book of Weightlifting, published in 1910

In 1905, Saxon published The Development of Physical Power, which explains his methods for performing lifts including the usage of barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells, as well as Ring, Ball and Square lifting. This book also depicts Saxon displaying the lifts in 45 pages of photographs.

Saxon's The Text Book of Weight-Lifting, published in 1910, includes some psychological explanation of lifting, rather than strict routine. He explains several lifts, such as the famous bent press and continental lifts.


While Saxon was exempt for service in World War I, he nonetheless suffered from malnutrition due to food shortages in Germany, even as he continued his strongman act in Scandinavia. After the war he tried to continue his strongman act, which conflicted with his unhealthy condition. He grew weaker and developed tuberculosis. Saxon eventually developed pneumonia, causing his death on August 6, 1921, at age 43. His occupation at the time, as recorded on his death certificate, was as a stonemason.