By Brooks Kubik

Last week I received an email from a young man who was under the impression that strongmen die you – in other words, he thought that weight training and weightlifting will kill you.

When I pressed him. He said that Arthur Saxon and Louis Cyr had died young, and so he thought the same was true of all strongmen.

Several days later I received an email from a man who believed that John Grimek had died relatively young. (In fact, Grimek lived to be 88 years old.)

This reminded me of an article I read in an old issue of Peary Rader’s Iron Man magazine. (Vol. 29, no. 5 – June – July 1970) The article was written by Bob Brown, and was titled:

“Will Weight Training Kill You?”

(Note: Let me give a big THANK YOU to Bob Brown for doing this work and putting it into an article back in 1970 – and the same to Peary Rader for publishing it!)

Brown had been stunned to learn that a famous bodybuilder has passed away at an early age even though he appeared to be the picture of good health. It made him wonder if weight training was somehow bad for your health.

So he sat down and compiled a list of 70 famous physical culturists – bodybuilders, weightlifters, professional strongmen, gym owners, mail order instructors, athletes who used weight training to improve in their chosen sport, etc. – and then started to check to see when they died and how old they were.

And please note: I wasn’t there, and I’ve never talked to the man, and I don’t know how he picked the 70 men. So you may think he selected men who would prove something one way or another. But we can all sit down and do a different list – or a bigger list – and the results would probably be about the same. For example, Peary Rader (who passed at age 82), John Grimek (who passed at age 88), Milo Steinborn (who passed at age 95), Jack Lalanne (who passed at age 97), and the Great Rollino (who passed at age 104) should go on the list.

And also note: we’re dealing with men who practiced old-school physical culture. They were all lifetime natural – one hundred percent drug free.

He broke the results down into three groups:

A. Early Death (age 65 and under)

B. Average Life Span (age 65 to age 75)

C. Long Life (age 75 and older)

I’ve updated his results because some of the men on his list were still living when he wrote his article back in 1970. He placed them in the group for “Average Life Span” but they outlived that category, so I’ve moved them to the “Long Life” group.

Here are Brown’s updated findings:


1. Floyd Page (heart attack) 38

2. Ray Van Cleef (heart attack) 54

3. Karl Moerke 52

4. Alois Sebos 38

5. Dr. Krajewski (Apoplexy) 63

6. Eugene Sandow 58

7. Arthur Saxon 43

8. Roger Eells (heart attack) 54

9. Ronald Walker (cancer) 40

10. Louis Cyr (kidney disease) 49

11. Wally Zagurski (heart attack) 50

12. Vic Nicolette (heart attack) 50

13. Harry Paschall (heart attack) 60

14. Tony Terlazzo (heart attack) 53

15. Karl Swoboda (heart attack) 50 (?)

16. Charles Rigoulot (heart attack) 59

17. Jack Kent (heart attack) 52

18. Bobby Pandour 38

19. Wm. Oliphant 60


1. Warren Lincoln Travis (heart attack) 65

2. Charles “The Biceps” Poire 69

3. Hector Decarie 70

4. Antone Matysek 71

5. Alan Calvert 69

6. Paul Von Boechmann 73

7. The Great Batta 73

8. Henry Blackman 70

9. W.C. Pullum 73

10. Albert Taucher over 73

11. Prof. William J. Hermann over 70

12. Win Franklin over 72

13. Sam Kramer 75

14. Charles Atlas 77


1. Sig Klein 85

2. Bob Hoffman 87

3. Albert Taucher

4. Cannon Ball Richards 82

5. Dr. Frederick Tilney 82

6. Sanford Bennet 85

7. George Hackenschmidt 90

8. Oscar Mathes over 80

9. Prof. Attila 80

10. Lou Poulton over 81

11. Prof. Anthony Baker 103

12. Frank Jerson over 81

13. Paul Bragg 81

14. Wilf Diamond 86

15. The Mighty Atom 80

16. Thomas Inch 82

17. Ottley Coulter 80

18. Lionel Strongfort 92

19. Bernarr McFadden 88

20. Father Lange over 82

21. Buermeyer 83

22. Earl E. Liederman 84

23. George F. Jowett 79

24. Maxick 79

25. Al Treolar 86

26. Otto Arco 82

27. Stanislau Zbyzcho 88

28. John Y. Smith 90

29. Adolph Nordquest 80

30. Otis Lambert 87

31. Roy White 108

32. Prof. Siebert 95

33. Herman Saxon 80

34. Tom Aston 80

35. Carl Busch 80

36. Jim Jeffreys 78

37. Karl Norberg over 80


In a group of 70 randomly selected famous weight trainers and weightlifters, we have:

* 19 (about 27 percent) who died young

* 14 (about 20 percent) who had an average life span

* 37 (about 53 percent) lived a long life

* 5 (about 7 percent) lived to age 90 or above

* 2 (about 3 percent) lived to age 100 or more

(Note: In 1970, the USA had roughly 200 million people and an estimated 4800 centenarians per U.S. Census figures. What were the odds of finding TWO centenarians in any randomly selected group of 70 persons?)

Brown believed – and I agree -- that was pretty good proof that weight training will NOT kill you – and in fact, that regular exercise, coupled with good nutrition, will add many years to your life.

So, I ask – Will weight training kill you?

Look at the data, and draw your own conclusions.