Paul Anderson (weightlifter)

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Paul Anderson
Paul Anderson, durante lo squat con una ruota di carro.jpg
Personal information
Born(1932-10-17)October 17, 1932
Toccoa, Georgia, U.S.
DiedAugust 15, 1994(1994-08-15) (aged 61)
Vidalia, Georgia, U.S.
Height5 ft 10.5 in (179 cm)
Weight360 lb (163 kg)
Glenda Garland
(m. 1959; his death 1994)
SportOlympic weightlifting, strongman, powerlifting

Paul Edward Anderson (October 17, 1932 – August 15, 1994) was an American weightlifter, strongman and powerlifter. He was an Olympic gold medalist, a world champion and a two-time national champion in Olympic weightlifting. Anderson contributed significantly to the development of competitive powerlifting.

Early life[edit]

Anderson was born in Toccoa, Georgia, the only son of Ethel Bennett and Robert Anderson. As a teenager, he began his early weight training on his own in his family's backyard to increase his size and strength so that he would be able to play on the Toccoa High School football team, where he earned a position as first-team blocking back.[3] He used special homemade weights that his father created out of concrete poured into a wooden form.[4] Anderson later attended Furman University for one year on a football scholarship before moving to Elizabethton, Tennessee with his parents. There he met weightlifter Bob Peoples, who would greatly influence him in squat training and introduce him into weightlifting circles.[3][5]


In 1955, at the height of the Cold War, Anderson, as winner of the USA National Amateur Athletic Union Weightlifting Championship, traveled to the Soviet Union, where weightlifting was a popular sport, for an international weightlifting competition. In a newsreel of the event shown in the United States the narrator, Bud Palmer, commented as follows: "Then, up to the bar stepped a great ball of a man, Paul Anderson." Palmer said, "The Russians snickered as Anderson gripped the bar which was set at 402.5 pounds, an unheard-of lift. But their snickers quickly changed to awe and all-out cheers as up went the bar and Anderson lifted the heaviest weight overhead of any human in history." "We rarely have such weights lifted," said the solemn Russian announcer as Anderson hoisted 402.41 lb (182.53 kg) in the two-hand press.[6] Prior to Anderson's lift, the Soviet champion, Alexey Medvedev, had matched the Olympic record of the time with a 330.3 lb or 149.8 kg press. Anderson then did a 402.5 lb (182.6 kg) press. At a time when Americans were engaged in a symbolic Cold War battle with the Soviet Union, Anderson's strength—and his singular, tank-like appearance became a rallying cry to all.[7]

During the 1955 World Championships in Munich, Germany that October, Anderson went on to establish two other world records (for the press - 407.7 lb or 184.9 kg - and total weight cleared - 1,129.5 lb or 512.3 kg) as he easily won the competition in his weight class to become world champion. Upon his return to the United States, Anderson was received by then Vice-President Richard Nixon, who thanked him for being such a wonderful goodwill ambassador.

In 1956, Anderson won a gold medal in a long, tough duel in the Melbourne, Australia Olympic Games as a weightlifter in the super-heavyweight class (while suffering from a 104 °F or 40 °C fever) with Argentine Humberto Selvetti. The two competitors were tied in the amount of weight lifted, but because Anderson, who weighed in at 137.9 kilograms (304 lbs), was lighter than Selvetti, who weighed 143.5 kilograms (316 lbs), Anderson was awarded the gold medal.

Anderson could not compete in the year 1960 Olympics because he had been ruled a professional for accepting money for some of his weight lifting and strength exhibitions. Thus at the 1960 Olympics the Soviet heavyweight Yury Vlasov bested records set at the 1956 Olympics, with Anderson not competing in the contest. A short time later however, not to be outdone by the Russian and to verify his position as the World's Strongest Man, Anderson lifted the same weight as the Russian three times in quick succession demonstrating unbelievable strength. The extraordinary American athlete that Anderson was solidified his position as the most dominant lifter in the world and cemented his legacy as the strongest of the strong.[8][9][10][11]

Paul Anderson, 1957

In 1961, Anderson and his wife Glenda founded the Paul Anderson Youth Home, a home for troubled youth in Vidalia, Georgia. They both helped to build and support the Home with an average of 500 speaking engagements and strength exhibitions per year—notwithstanding the chronic congenital kidney disease that eventually killed him at age 61. He would perform stunts such as hammering a nail with his bare fist and raising a table loaded with eight men onto his back.

The Guinness Book of World Records (1985 edition) lists his feat of lifting 6,270 pounds (2,850 kg) in a back lift as "the greatest weight ever raised by a human being".[10] Anderson turned professional after the 1956 Summer Olympics, and so many of his feats of strength, while generally credible, were not done under rigorous enough conditions to be official. In fact, there is controversy surrounding the 1985 edition Guinness Book of World Records that cited him for a backlift of 6,270 pounds.[12] The current Guinness record is only 5,340lbs.[13]

Personal life[edit]

In 1960, Anderson married Glenda Garland. The couple were devout Christians. They had a daughter named Paula (born 1966).


As a child, Anderson suffered from Bright's disease (now known as chronic nephritis), a kidney disorder, and he eventually died from kidney disease.[14] While competing, he weighed between 275–370 lb (125–168 kg)[15] and was 5 feet 10.5 inches (1.791 m)[16] tall.[3]


Anderson's true life testimony can be heard as a dramatization through the Unshackled! radio ministries on program number 2521. Unshackled! has also produced a comic booklet telling the story of Anderson.

Paul Anderson Memorial Park, which features a large statue of him performing an overhead barbell lift,[17] located at the corner of Tugalo Street and Big A Road in Toccoa, is named for him.[18]

In July 2019, an episode of the History Channel show, “The Strongest Man in History” featured Paul Anderson and several of his historic feats of strength.

Personal records[edit]

Official records[edit]

Olympic weightlifting

Done in official competition[16][15]

  • Clean and press: 185.5 kg (408.5 lbs) on 1955-10-16, in Munich at the 1955 World Championships
  • Snatch: 152.5 kg (335 lbs) on 1956-06-02 in Philadelphia at the 1956 Senior Nationals
  • Clean and jerk: 199.5 kg (440 lbs) on 1956-06-02 in Philadelphia at the 1956 Senior Nationals
  • Total: 533.5 kg (181.5/152.5/199.5) / 1175 lbs (400/335 /440) (clean and press + snatch + clean and jerk) on 1956-06-02 in Philadelphia at the 1956 Senior Nationals

Unofficial lifts[edit]

Lift included in the Guinness Book of World Records (1985 edition)

  • Backlift: 6,270 lb (2,840 kg) (weight raised slightly off trestles; done June 12, 1957, in Toccoa, Georgia)[16]
→ listed as the greatest weight ever lifted by a human being[16][19]


Guinness also listed Anderson's best powerlifts[16]

Done in small exhibitions or training (according to Anderson himself)

Olympic weightlifting

Best gym lifts (according to Anderson himself)[16]

Other lifts

Done in small exhibitions or training

Quotes about Anderson[edit]

"I could do 310 in a standing one arm side press with a dumbbell, Paul could do it for reps with ease."[22]
  • Ed Coan (powerlifting record breaker)
"Though I never met him personally until the Strength Symposium in Florida, I saw films of him lifting in his heyday, with such absolute ease it was astonishing. Using his strength to benefit others is something that should make all powerlifters proud. What a great benefactor to mankind."
  • Jon Cole (powerlifter of the early 1970s)
"My love and respect for Paul runs deep. His ability to lift enormous weights in limited movements surpasses all. Those who attempt to discredit him shame our sport."
"He's the king of strength. His backlift was unbelievable. But more amazing was his total commitment as a Christian."
"Paul was an inspiration to me. Some of his feats may never be surpassed."
"A lot of lifters gathered at Sydney's on Santa Monica Beach near the base of the Pier. Here, as they got pissed [drunk], their stories became more and more fantastic. One heard of deltoids like watermelons and squats of a thousand pounds. This last turned out to be a solid fact for the incredible Paul Anderson. He was squatting with almost twice as much as anyone else's maximum."[23]
"Absolutely no question, Paul was the strongest of the strong. His physical deterioration and prolonged illness for the last 16 years of his life was a fate unbefitting such a great strongman and humanitarian. Paul was really a powerlifter and did the overhead lifts only because powerlifting as a sport did not exist 40 years ago. He excelled and was world and Olympic champ because he was far stronger than anyone else. When I hear people talk that a powerlifter will never win an Olympic gold medal, I tell them that Paul Anderson already did it, almost forty years ago."


  1. ^ "U. S. Weightlifting Champions - Men (all weightclasses)". Hickok Archived from the original on 2004-03-27. Retrieved 2012-10-01.
  2. ^ "Olympic Weightlifting On the Web!". LiftTilyaDie.Com. Retrieved 2012-10-01.
  3. ^ a b c d e f American Strength Legends. Paul Anderson. posted at
  4. ^ Bisher, Furman (October 8, 1955). "The Strongest Man on Earth". Saturday Evening Post. 228 (15): 96. Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  5. ^ Poliquin, Charles (April 2012). "Squat or Deadlift?". Flex. 30 (4). Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  6. ^ "Moscow Marvel". Time. 65 (26). 27 June 1955. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  7. ^ Morais, Dominic G. (2013). "Lifting the Iron Curtain: Paul Anderson and the Cold War's First Sport Exchange". Iron Game History. 12 (2): 33. Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Thomas, Robert McG. (16 Aug 1994). "Paul Anderson Is Dead at 61; Was 'World's Strongest Man'". New York Times: B 10. Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  15. ^ a b c The Strength Legacy of Strongman Douglas Silva by Charles Poliquin
  16. ^ a b c d e f g Paul Anderson: Superman from the South by Jim Murray
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Paul Anderson Memorial Park". Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  19. ^ "Paul Anderson attempting to lift a train car". Floyd Jillson Photographs, Atlanta History Center. Digital Library of Georgia. Archived from the original on 17 June 2016. Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  20. ^ Perine, Shawn (2015). "The 10 Strongest Humans Ever to Walk the Earth". Muscle & Fitness. 76 (3). Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  21. ^ Simmons, Louie (December 2013). "Don't Deadlift". Flex. Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  22. ^ Paul Anderson - The Strongest Man in Recorded History! by Bill Hinbern
  23. ^ Sacks, Oliver (October 2015). "Mind Over Muscle". Muscle & Fitness. 116. Retrieved 4 June 2016.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]