Paul Anderson (weightlifter)

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Paul Anderson
Paul Anderson, durante lo squat con una ruota di carro.jpg
Personal information
Nationality American
Born (1932-10-17)October 17, 1932
Toccoa , Georgia, USA
Died August 15, 1994(1994-08-15) (aged 61)
Vidalia, Georgia, USA
Height 5 ft 9 12 in (177 cm)[1]
Weight 360 lb (163 kg)
Sport Olympic weightlifting, Strongman, Powerlifting

Paul Edward Anderson (October 17, 1932 - August 15, 1994) was an American weightlifter, strongman, and powerlifter. He is an Olympic gold medalist, World Champion and two-time National Champion in Olympic weightlifting. Anderson played a big part in the manifestation of powerlifting as a competitive sport. He is considered to be one of the strongest men in recorded history for his mostly unequaled feats of strength.

Early life[edit]

Anderson was born in Toccoa, Georgia, United States of America.

As a teenager, he began his early weight training on his own in his family's backyard at Toccoa, Georgia to increase his size and strength so that he would be able to play on the Toccoa High School football team, where Anderson earned a position as first-team blocking back.[4]

Anderson later attended Furman University for one year on a football scholarship before moving to Elizabethton, Tennessee with his parents. In Elizabethton, Anderson met weightlifter Bob Peoples, who would greatly influence him in squat training and introduce him around weightlifting circles.[4]


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." Prior to Anderson's lift, the Soviet champion, Alexey Medvedev, had matched the Olympic record of the time with a 330.5 pound press. Anderson then did a 402.5 pound press.

During the 1955 World Championships in Munich, Germany that October, Anderson went on to establish two other world records (for the press - 407.7 pounds - and total weight cleared - 1129.5 pounds) 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 degree fever) with Argentine Humberto Selvetti in the amount of weight lifted, but because Anderson 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 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.[5][6]

Family life[edit]

In 1960, Paul Anderson married Glenda Garland. The couple were devout Christians. They had one child, Paula, born in 1966.

Paul Anderson Youth Home[edit]

Paul Anderson and his wife Glenda founded the Paul Anderson Youth Home, a home for troubled youth in Vidalia, Georgia in 1961. Paul and Glenda 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. Paul was famous for strength stunts such as driving a nail with his bare fist and raising on his back a table loaded with eight men.

Guinness Book of Records[edit]

The Guinness Book of World Records (1985 edition) lists his feat of lifting 6,270 pounds (2844.02 kg) in a back lift as "the greatest weight ever raised by a human being".

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. Nevertheless, Guinness Book of World Records did cite him in its 1985 edition for a backlift of 6,270 pounds. This became the basis for his reputation as the "World's Strongest Man".[7]


As a child, Anderson suffered from Bright's Disease (now known as chronic nephritis), a kidney disorder, and he eventually died from kidney disease. While competing, he weighed between 275-370 lb[8] and was 5 feet 9.5 inches (1.765 m)[1] tall.[4]


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

Personal records[edit]

Official records[edit]

Olympic weightlifiting

done in official competition[1][8]

  • Clean and press: 185.5 kg (408.5 lbs) on 1955-10-16, in Munich at the 1955 World Championships
  • Snatch: 150.25 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 This record has been expunged due to no official witness being present, and no evidence of the weight's measurement. (Source: "Guinness Book of World Records".)

  • Backlift: 6,270 lb (2,840 kg) (weight raised slightly off trestles; done June 12, 1957, in Toccoa, Georgia)[1]
→ listed as the greatest weight ever lifted by a human being[1]


Guinness also listed Anderson's best powerlifts[1]

done in small exhibitions or training (according to Paul Anderson himself)

Olympic weightlifting

best gym lifts (according to Paul Anderson himself)[1]

Other lifts

done in small exhibitions or training

  • best 'authenticated' full squat: 930 lb (420 kg) (as a professional at Silver Springs,Maryland in 1965)
  • Full squat: 1,206 lb (547 kg)[4]
  • Assisted deadlift: 1,000 lb (450 kg) (using metal hooks attached to his wrists)[4][8]

Quotes about Anderson[edit]

What some of the greatest lifters in history have to say about Paul Anderson[9]

  • Chuck Ahrens (Famous Muscle Beach strong man of the 1950s)
"I could do 310 in a standing one arm side press with a dumbbell, Paul could do it for reps with ease."
  • Ed Coan (World famous 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 (Named "The Number One Strength Athlete in the World" by Powerlifting USA magazine in 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."
  • Bruce Wilhelm (Two-time winner of The World's Strongest Man competition)
"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 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."


Further reading[edit]

  • Anderson, Paul (with Jerry B. Jenkins). The World's Strongest Man. Victor Books, Wheaton, IL. 1975 ISBN 0-88207-651-5.
  • Strossen, Randal J. Paul Anderson: The Mightiest Minister. Ironmind Enterprises, Inc., Nevada City, CA 1999 ISBN 0-926888-08-0.

External links[edit]