Quintessential Old School Weightlifting - Marvin Eder: Hardcore strength athlete Marvin Eder is shown handing 425 lbs. for eight paused reps in the barbell bench press; this in 1955 while weighing 205 lbs.. Even more amazing was the fact that two men had to hand him the 425-pound barbell. The flimsy weight bench he is benching on has no uprights.
Marvin Eder was a volume trainer famous for all-afternoon long sessions where he would handle world-record level poundage in one lift after another. The generalized weightlifting template of the time was the train the entire body three times a week.
He would begin an exercise and perform a few warm-up sets. He might then perform eight sets of 8-10 reps using a static poundage in squat, bench press, overhead press, deadlift, row, clean, curl, or dips.
Marvin Eder was (unbeknownst to him) a prototypical powerlifter; Eder engaged in long, frequent weightlifting sessions using bar-bending poundage handling heavy free weights for low to moderate reps. He was limited to primal exercises because basically all he had was barbells and dumbbells.
Marvin’s drug-free pre-steroid strength feats remain world level to this day. He turned his disadvantages, a lack of strength equipment and a lack of choices, to his advantage. As it turns out, doing fewer things better is the optimal way in which to build muscle and strength. Marvin’s era was so primitive that the lat-pulldown/tricep pushdown machine was being hailed as a breakthrough device. The incline bench press had yet to be invented.
We ‘moderns’ are afflicted with the curse of too many choices. Marvin Eder had a small menu of exercises to pick from and by training the lifts three times a week using multiple top sets, he got lots of practice. He ate voraciously, favoring whole milk and protein foods.
Eder was the greatest overhead presser in the world: he exceeded the world record in the overhead barbell press by 15-pounds when he pushed a jaw-dropping 345 in the clean and overhead press. His clean limited his press. Weighing 190 he could press 360 when taking the barbell out of the squat racks, avoiding the clean.
He was the first man under 200 pounds bodyweight to bench press 500 lbs.. Marvin Eder used a collar-to-collar bench grip that was all pec. His ultra-wide grip technique built pectoral muscles that were four inches thick when flexed. He coupled his pec power with some of the strongest triceps of all time. His dipping power was extraordinary: he could strap on an additional 200 pounds and blast out eight 10-rep sets. He once did a single rep in the dip with two men hanging from his feet for a combined weight of 434-pounds.
He could curl a pair of 100-pound dumbbells for 8 reps and then, without setting them down, blast out ten reps in the overhead press. Marvin Eder had a world class physique and was lean, athletic and functional. Marvin and his contemporaries developed a system for building muscle power and size that serves as the foundation for our modern strength systems.
Marvin was not alone…he had predecessors like Grimek, Stanko and Stanszcyk. Marvin’s inheritors were men like Hugh Cassidy and Larry Pacifico, men that used the Eder template, retaining his intensity while moderating Marvin’s volume, reducing session frequency from thrice to twice. His lesson for ‘moderns?’ Reemphasize core barbell and dumbbell exercises: do fewer things better.
About the Author
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of numerous books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher biography here.