Goerner Club

by Al Myers

Ben Edwards is now part of the "Goerner Club" with his 310 pound Middle Finger Deadlift at the 2011 USAWA National Grip Championships.

It’s not everyday that a lifter can break a mark done by the famous German Strongman Hermann Goerner.  This past weekend at the USAWA National Grip Championships Ben Edwards joined, as I’ve termed, the “Goerner Club” for exceeding Hermann’s best reported lift in the Middle Fingers Deadlift.  Ben lifted 310 pounds.   David Willoughby in his book The Super Athletes listed Goerner as having done a MF deadlift of 140 kilograms (308.5 pounds) around 1925.  I have always considered this the mark to beat to be outstanding in the middle fingers deadlift.  Now, compared to what Hermann has reported in his other finger lifts, this lift of his seems to be a sub-maximal effort.  None the less, it is a very good lift (and is actually believable compared to some of his other claims).   However, this 308.5# middle finger deadlift is not listed in Hermann’s autobiography by Edgar Mueller’s Goerner the Mighty.  I have read this book several times, and I don’t ever remember seeing this lift listed.  Mueller does talk in one chapter about the wide deviations of grips that Hermann uses for his deadlifts, and mentions a middle finger overhand grip  deadlift (of which he lists Goerner as having worked up to 220 pounds), but nothing about using an alternate grip as we allow in the USAWA for the Finger Deadlifts.

Just how many USAWA members are part of this “Goerner Club” for the Middle Finger Deadlift??

The list is quite small.  Only TWO other USAWA members (besides Ben)  have ever exceeded 309 pounds.  The KING OF the MIDDLE FINGER is none other than Kevin Fulton.  Kevin has the best middle finger deadlift of ALL-TIME in the USAWA with a lift of 400 pounds.  This lift was no fluke, as Kevin has exceeded 309 pounds in the MF deadlift several other times as well in official competition.  He set this HUGE MF deadlift at his own 1999 SuperGrip Challenge (which was the first year this meet was held).   The other lifter that is a member of the “Goerner Club” is USAWA Hall of Famer Bill DiCiccio.  In 1994 at the Gold Cup, Bill matched Hermann’s effort with a 309 pound lift.  Now that’s it!!!  I have spent a few hours looking back at past meet results over the past 20 years and I couldn’t find anyone else!!   Congratulations Ben – you are now part of a very small club in the USAWA.  Hermann would have been proud of you.

Check out the YouTube Video of Ben performing the Middle Fingers Deadlift (located on the upper right side of this website).

Goerner Stroll

by Al Myers

Bob Burtzloff participated in the Goerner Stroll at Kevin Fulton's SuperGrip Challenge several years ago.

This will be the last event in the Oldtime Strongman Competition at the Dino Gym Challenge.  It is based on a unique stage act performed by the Oldtime German Strongman Hermann Goerner.  The name of this Oldtime Strongman Event was not pegged by me – I have heard mention of the Goerner Stroll for many years!  How did it get named?  Maybe it was the stage feat in which Hermann Goerner would carry two large suitcase onto the stage – one in each hand.  Once in the middle of the stage he would sit both cases down and out climbed two young gals in each one!  Or maybe it was that memorable day at the training hall in Leipzig in 1920 where he picked up two bars, one in each hand weighing in at 663 pounds together, and proceeded to walk across the gym!  Either way, Hermann deserves the credit for this feat!!

The Rules for the Goerner Stroll

Two barbells will be used.  The lifter must pick up both barbells at the same time, one in each hand, and walk (or run) a distance of 1 rod (or 16.5 feet).  The starting and finish lines must be marked.  The plates on the bars must be behind the starting line at the start, and finish entirely beyond the finish line at the end.  The weight selected on the bars must not be changed during the attempt.  Both bars must be loaded to the same weight.  A one minute time limit is allowed for the attempt.  If the bars are set down or dropped between the  starting and finish lines during this 1 minute time limit, the lifter may start over, but MUST restart at the starting line.  Strapping the bars to the hands is NOT ALLOWED.

The Mighty Hermann Goerner

by Dennis Mitchell

Hermann Goerner at age 36. This picture was taken around 1927, when Goerner was in his weightlifting prime.

Hermann Goerner was born April 13, 1891, in Haenichen, Germany. At birth he gave no indication that he would grow to be one of the worlds strongest men, and he eventually reached a weight of 245 pounds at 6′ 1′. He had 18.25 inch biceps, 16″ forearms, 27″ thighs, and an expanded chest of 52″.

Hermann Goerner started lifting weights at the age of ten, though never stated what got him interested in lifting. By the age of fourteen he had grown to five feet six inches tall and weighed 185.25 pounds, and could swing with a straight arm a 110.25 pound kettlebell. He participated in running, jumping, swimming, and acrobatics along with boxing and wrestling. He also enjoyed playing the piano and was a good billiards player. He continued swimming throughout his lifting career. At age eighteen he was working as a stove fitter. He had developed a fine physique and supplemented his income by posing for artists and sculptors.

He gained some local recognition, in 1911, by winning both the Middle Germany and the Brandenburg Province weightlifting championships. In 1912, he won a National contest in Berlin. Like many strongmen of that time he formed a trio with his brother Otto Goerner and friend Otto Brauer. They performed throughout the cities of middle Germany. Their act consisted of lifting, supporting feats, and juggling kettlebells. In 1913, at the age of twenty-two, he took third place in the German Weightlifting Championships. At that time five lifts were contested – the one hand snatch, the one hand clean and jerk, the two hands press, the two hands snatch, and the two hands clean and jerk. In 1920 a match was arranged between Hermann and Karl Morke, who was then world heavy weight champion. Hermann was out to redeem himself after his third place in the German National meet. Again the five lifts were used, plus a sixth lift of the lifters choice. Morke chose the squat and Hermann chose the dead lift, the lift that he was most noted for. Hermann totaled 214 pounds more than the champion. In 1922 Hermann turned professional, where he earned far more than he did as a stove fitter. In that year he also married Elsie Jwifel. The two of them performed with the Pagel’s Circus and traveled through South Africa. In the late 1920s, with the help of W. A. Pullum, he performed in England.

Hermann is best known for his one hand dead lift of 727.25 pounds. This lift has never been equaled or surpassed by anyone else since. He also did a 793.75 pound two hands dead lift using an overhand hook grip, not an alternate grip like what is used by most deadlifters today . He was outstanding in many lifts, too numerous to list here. He had a “Challenge ” barbell of 330 pounds that had a thick 2.75 inch diameter bar that he would clean and jerk at every performance. He was exceptionally good at curling, having done 242.5 pounds in strict form. In spite of being badly wounded in the first world war, in which he lost an eye, got shrapnel in his legs, and for a time was a prisoner of war, he did these remarkable lifts.

Hermann Goerner passed away in 1956.

The Challenge Barbell of Hermann Goerner

by Al Myers

Hermann Goerner lifting his famous Challenge Barbell. This photograph was taken in Cape Town, South Africa in 1923.

Hermann Goerner had a Challenge Barbell that only he could lift.   It had solid globe metal ends, connected by a 2-3/8″ diameter shaft, and weighed 330 3/4 pounds (150 Kilos).  It was said the Goerner could lift his Challenge Barbell overhead anytime – day or night – for over 20 years.  He didn’t even need warmups to do it – and often hoisted his Challenge Barbell overhead in street clothes.  This really demonstrated the strength of Hermann Goerner’s hands – as most other challengers could not even pick it off the ground. Goerner would use a power clean to get the barbell to the shoulders, and then put it overhead with a push jerk.

Source:  Goerner the Mighty by Edgar Mueller

Middle Fingers Deadlift Showdown

by Al Myers

Chuck Cookson pulling 340# in the Middle Fingers Deadlift.

More on the finger strength of Hermann Goerner…

Hermann Goerner trained the deadlift in many different ways. Pulling was always a part of his workouts – but he never really trained to have a maximum deadlift. He considered the variations of the deadlift to be more “showing” and useful in his strongman performances. He did one arm deadlifts in many different ways – thumbless grip, normal grip with no hook, grip with a hook, bent arm style, etc. He also did two hand deadlifts with different variations – such as an overhand grip with no hook, bent arm style, 2 bar deadlifts, finger deadlifts, etc.

This brings me to the topic of the day – The Middle Fingers Deadlift. Of all the Finger Deadlifts, the Middle Finger is the one where the most weight can be lifted. The rules of the Middle Fingers Deadlift are simple – you grip the bar with the middle fingers only (No other fingers may touch the middle finger when it is gripping the bar) and you do a deadlift. It is allowable to use an alternate grip on the bar.

Sam Cox topped Chuck's lift, with a lift of his own of 345 pounds.

Hermann Goerner claimed a best in the Middle Fingers Deadlift of 308 pounds set in the 1920’s. Compared with his other finger lifts, I don’t feel this “best” was anywhere near what he was capable of doing. The other day in the gym we had a Middle Fingers Deadlift impromptu competition – just to see what could be done. None of the guys participating in this are in training for finger lifting competition – and several of them had never even done a Finger Deadlift before. I was very surprised how well a couple of them did.

What is the best Middle Fingers Deadlift of All-Time???

I did some research of past USAWA record lists, and a brief internet search, and this is what I have found. I do not present this as an official list of the best Middle Fingers Deadlifts, as I am sure there are Middle Fingers Deadlift marks that I am not aware of. Also, some of these marks may have been judged by different standards. Some were in competitions and some just witnessed.

(Only lifts above Goerner’s Middle Fingers Deadlift of 308 pounds need apply)

Top List for the Middle Fingers Deadlift (that I am aware of)

1. 411 pounds by John McLoughlin.  Done at the German-American Athletic
Club in New York City in 1954.
2. 403 Pounds by David Horne.
3. 400 Pounds by Kevin Fulton.  Done at the 1994 Super Grip Challenge.
4. 345 Pounds by Sam Cox.  Done at the Dino Gym in Abilene, Kansas
in 2009.
5. 340 Pounds by Chuck Cookson.  Done at the Dino Gym in Abilene, Kansas
in 2009.
6. 330 Pounds by Steve Sherwood.  Done at the 1992 British Grip
Championships.
330 Pounds by Steve Gardner.
330 Pounds by John Gardner.
9. 309 Pounds by Bill DiCioccio.  Done at the 1994 Gold Cup.

If anyone knows of other lifters who have exceeded Goerner’s Middle Fingers Deadlift of 308 pounds, please let me know and I will gladly give them credit and put them on the list. Or do it yourself – and beat a “Best” of Hermann Goerner.

Other Middle Fingers Deadlifts that should be mentioned:

230 Pounds by Mary McConnaughey. Done at the 2005 Goerner Deadlift Dozen. This is probably the top women’s mark of all time.

237 Pounds by Roy Mason. This is probably the best Middle Fingers Deadlift for a lifter over 75 years of age. Roy weighed only 150 pounds when he lifted this.