The JWC’s Apollon Wheels Replica

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom Van Vleck, of the JWC, takes the Apollon Wheels Replica overhead at the JWC Training Hall

Al had told me for years he was wanting to make some Apollon’s Wheels and he finally made them! The best part was he made two sets and gave one to me as a contribution to our Strongman Evangelism shows.

Lifting Al’s version of the Apollon’s Wheels were like lifting history. But that did not change the fact they were formidable pieces of equipment!

My strategy was to do an over and under grip on bar and continental it to the belt. Then, I switched to a double overhand grip and popped it in the air. I had to let go of the bar, as it will not rotate (and you don’t want it to rotate on you as it could build so much momentum it could throw you over backwards or break your wrists). Then drop under the bar and regrip it in a “rack” position. Once here, it was just a matter of completing the push press. I was so excited that once I got it overhead I did a 360 degree turn with it at arms length.

If you travel to my gym or Al’s, the Apollon’s axle is a must see!

The Dino Gym’s Replica of the Apollon Wheels

by Al Myers

The Dino Gym's Apollon Wheels Replica

The Apollon Wheels have a mythical attraction to them.  What makes a better Challenge Barbell than TRAIN WHEELS!   I have  heard  the stories of Louis Uni (Apollon) lifting these giant  Train Wheels is his performances, and can only imagine how impressive he must have looked doing it. I only wish there were some pictures of him lifting them!!

Several people have made replicas of the Apollon Wheels (AW).  I have seen lots of pictures of them. What I don’t understand is why most replicas don’t resemble the original Apollon Wheels in the slightest.  Just look at the pictures of them and you will see what I am saying.  Most have rims that are way wider than the original Apollon Wheels. The hub design is not even remotely the same with some. Some replicas are plated with shiny chrome. The spokes are even turned wrong in some!  Sometimes I question whether they even used the original’s AW measurements! Most replicas that have been made look much bigger than the original AW.

I have wanted to undertake this project for quite some time – ever since I read in MILO several years ago (September 2004) an article  about the Hollie Brothers  and their quest in making an Apollon Wheel replica. They did it right, and tried to make a replica as close to the original as possible.  I had decided then, that when I took on this project, that would be my goal also.  Several design issues immediately became a problem.  First, only a “handful” of measurements have been recorded for the original AW and published. I read all the resources and tried to use what I considered the most accurate information.   I have several pictures of the original AW – and had to extrapolate from these pictures  and estimate some measurements – like the length of the gussets and width and diameter of the hub.  The one thing I did NOT want to be the same with my replica as the original AW was the weight.  The original AW weighed 366# (or 365# as some sources report).  I did not want to make it that heavy.  I don’t need any more heavy doorstops!  I wanted to make a replica that I could lift and train with!  So I decided my design weight goal would be around 250 pounds. The final weight of my AW replica turned out to be 240 pounds – which is ideal.

This project turned out to be a big success.  I was very pleased how my Apollon Wheels Replica turned out.  It’s nice to have something like this in the gym – when new lifters join their eyes are immediately drawn to this huge 2″ bar containing railroad car wheels as the plates.  It’s at that time I ask, “Have you heard the story about Apollon and his Challenge Barbell?”

The Apollon Wheels

by Al Myers

Norb Schemansky lifting the Apollon Wheels

The Apollon Wheels were made famous by the legendary French Professional Strongman, Louis Uni AKA Apollon, in the late 1800’s. Apollon used these in his strongman stage shows and billed them as the UNLIFTABLE Challenge Barbell. The Apollon Wheels were an old set of railroad car wheels connected by an axel. The Apollon Wheels weigh 366 pounds (total weight). The diameter of the Wheels are 26 inches and the diameter of the axel is 1.93 inches. The width of the Wheels are 4 inches wide and the length of the axel is under 6 feet (several sources report different lengths).

Who has lifted the original Apollon Wheels?

Besides Apollon himself, only three individuals have ever lifted the original Apollon Wheels. The first to lift the Apollon Wheels was Charles Rigoulet on March 3rd, 1930. Rigoulet, a Frenchman, was a World Weightlifting Champion and is credited with the first 400 pound Clean and Jerk in history!!! The next to lift the Apollon Wheels was John Davis, of the United States, on September 13th, 1949. Davis was also a World Champion Weightlifter and was the first man to Clean and Jerk 400 pounds under official meet conditions. Norb Schemansky, of the United States, was the third to lift the Apollon Wheels on October 17th, 1954, just one week after winning the World Championships. After Schemansky had the Wheels to his chest – he jerked the Apollon Wheels three times in a row!!!

Several modern day strength athletes have lifted Apollon Wheels replicas, but only these three lifters (or 4 if you count Apollon) lifted the original Apollon Wheels overhead. Today, the Apollon Wheels reside at the Musee National du Sport (a museum) in Paris, France.