The Amazing Samson (1888 – 1962)
ALEXANDER ZASS was also known under the stage name of THE AMAZING SAMSON.
Zass was born in Vilna, Poland in 1888, but lived most of his early years in Russia and after 1924 in Britain. He lifted a 500 pound girder with his teeth, carried a small horse, caught a woman fired from a cannon and allowed professional boxers to hit him in the stomach, but his greatest talents were in bending steel bars and breaking chains which were the center piece of his music hall exhibitions.
Like many other strongmen of his era Zass was initially motivated to develop his strength when he attended a circus and saw the feats done by the circus strongman.
At first he developed himself by climbing trees, running and with home made dumbbells and barbells. Later he trained under some of the great Russian professional strongmen including Krelov, Anokhin, and Demetrioff who taught their systems in person and through correspondence. Anokhin taught his system to George Lurich who eventually became famous as a world champion strongman and wrestler.
Zass was very innovative and started bending green branches and twigs to develop his grip strength. Perhaps this was the start of his great belief in the application of isometrics and “maximum tension” (a concept that is present in Russian training methods to this day) for the development of strength. He believed such an approach superior to the use of weights in developing strength.
Whilst a prisoner of war he continued to develop his strength with the use of isometrics by pulling on the bars and chains. This episode and the knowledge that he obtained from it later became the basis of his mail order course which featured isometrics in the form of pulling on chains of various lengths.
Zass lived a very full and exciting life on many fronts. In addition to being a strongman he was also an accomplished animal trainer.
At one time he worked for military intelligence in Russia and later as cover for his manager, Captain Howard, who was a British secret agent. Zass died in Hockley, Essex in 1962. – Gordon Anderson