Who is Hermann Goerner?
Hermann Goerner aka Hermann Görner was born in 1891 in Saxony, Germany. He was a professional strongman, a competitive strength athlete, and toured with Pagel's Circus. He passed away at the age of 65 in Hanover, Germany in 1956.
His lifelong passion for strength began when he started lifting at the age of 10. He grew to a height of 6 feet 2 inches tall and a weight of 265 pounds. His powerful physique explains why he also worked as a studio model for artists:
He became a professional strongman in 1921 despite losing an eye during World War 1. As a result, Hermann and his wife Elsie toured with Pagel's Circus, appearing in countries like South Africa, Germany and England.
Hermann Goerner's Deadlift
Some of Goerner's incredible feats of strength are unmatched till this day. He was a master at the deadlift as you can see from his jaw dropping lifts:
One Hand Deadlift
Can you imagine doing a one handed deadlift of 730 pounds? How about a two handed?
But, get a load of this – Goerner did a 730 pound deadlift with one hand. If that is not incredible, what is?
See what a 500 pound one hand deadlift looks like. This one arm deadlift is performed by a man known as the world's strongest pro bodybuilder, Stan Efferding:
Stan Efferding does a 500 lb deadlift with 1 arm
Besides watching the video to see what a 500 pound one hand deadlift looks like, there is one more great reason to see it. Efferding gives a great tip for anyone learning to deadlift. He speaks about the importance of acceleration off of the floor. And makes the point to stay focused on exploding off the floor through the ceiling.
Seeing the video above will give you some perspective on Goeren's one arm deadlift of 730 pounds on October 8, 1920 in Leipzig, Germany. In addition, on October 29th of the same year, he achieved a Guiness World Record with a one-handed deadlift of 301 kg / 664 lbs.
To date, no one has ever deadlifted more than Hermann Goeren with only one hand. Clearly, his grip strength was beyond phenomenal.
Two Hand Deadlift
From the above chart, you can see that only the most elite powerlifter today deadlifts over 800 pounds. And that is with all of the nutritional and training technology that we have.
Think of how shocking it is that Goeren did the following deadlifts:
A 790 lb deadlift with an overhand hook grip, and an 840 lb deadlift with a mixed grip. As of March 12, 2018, with data from all known powerlifting competitions, only 0.228 % ever lifted more than 800 pounds.
Yet, Goeren did exactly that one hundred years ago. Are you impressed yet? If not, feast your mind on this:
One Hand Snatch
To get a sense of the Goeren's strength, it is helpful to know a little about the sport of Olympic weightlifting. There are two lifts in Olympic weightlifting.
- The first is the snatch
- And the second is the clean and jerk
In the snatch, the goal is to lift the weight from the floor to overhead in one movement. This takes incredible strength and speed. For the clean and jerk, you lift the weight to shoulder height, hold for a moment, and then press overhead. They are both much easier to write about than perform.
Here is a great example of the sport of Olympic weightlifting; first you will see the snatch, which is the first event, and then the clean and jerk. Watch the incredible power of 2005 World Weightlifting Champion Dmitry Klokov:
Dmitry won this championship by performing a two hand snatch of 192 kg. This equals 423.3 pounds. Hermann Goerner, could perform a one hand snatch of 229¼ lbs using his right arm in the early 1900's.
You need an Olympic champion like Klokov to almost outperform Hermann Goerner. Below is a video of the powerful Klokov, the current President of Russian Strength Sports Association. He achieved a personal record one hand snatch of 101 kg / 220 pounds in 2017 (still less than Goerner's):
Two Finger Deadlift
Using only two fingers of each hand, on November 30, 1933, at the age of 40, he deadlifted 600 pounds. He used both an overhand and reverse grip. Now, you see why he was considered one of the strongest men in the world.
One of the reasons that his deadlift records stands unmatched for the last 100 years is because his gripping strength was unparalleled.
No wonder his nickname was Goerner the Mighty.
In 1951, Edgar Mueller wrote a book about Hermann's life under the title of Goerner, The Mighty.
What Can You Glean from His Training?
What can we learn from his approach to strength training? What aspects of this famous German strongman's approach can you apply to your own deadlift program?
The most important strength training tips are:
- Never train to failure – Edgar Mueller reported that Goerner never attempted a 1 rep max.
- Even if he knew he could do it. He did not lift to show off, despite being one of the strongest men who ever walked the planet.
- This is a critical lesson for anyone in the gym. Never lift as heavy as you can. Mueller wrote the following in his classic Goerner, The Mighty:
“He rarely exerted himself to anywhere near the limits of his astounding power. In many cases, he could have lifted more, but he always refused to do.”
- Unless you are in a powerlifting competition, there is no reason to attempt your 1 rep max, ever. And even if you are competing, it is still never a good idea to attempt your absolute maximum. If you do, you know that injury is just around the corner.
- Do a wide variety of exercises (crossfit anyone?)
- Mueller also writes that Goerner trained for long periods of time, from two to four hours at a shot.
- Warm up well and follow a progressive resistance training program. This is similar to the most important deadlift tips from Ed Coan. Success leaves clues, make sure you record every workout and add weight. Here is one great beginner deadlift workout and a 12 week deadlift beginner program to get you started.
Check out this wonderful tribute to Hermann Goerner. This includes a picture of his famous plank leg press. In 1921, he leg pressed 24 men for a total weight of 1,870 kg / 4,120 pounds.