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.

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