Marvin Eder Copyright
Marvin Eder, Chest Pose – Photo Credit Russ Warner

Way back when I was probably the World’s weakest bodybuilder, with an 11-inch arm (fully pumped) and could bench press 80lbs for reps, Marvin Eder was being credited as being the “Worlds Strongest Youth”. He certainly had incredible power and a magnificent physique years ahead of his time.

Recently he wrote to me, now in high late 60’s and told me he still feels strong, currently training on high repetition chins, dips, and squat jumps for fitness and health, and otherwise lives a quiet and relaxed life. Recognized for his achievements at Vic Boff s Association of Old-time Barbell and Strongmen at the 7th Annual reunion. Marvin is now also taking top honors at the 10th Annual Oscar Heidenstam Foundation Awards in London March 2000. A tribute well deserved. Here’s his story ………

An All Time Powerful Bodybuilder

For decades recognized as one of the most powerful bodybuilders of all time MARVIN EDER a star of the 1950’s and pre steroid era, used poundages in basic exercises and trained with an intensity that few even of today’s over supplemented or drug assisted bodybuilders, complete with well padded lifting suits can approach, let alone excel. Examples will follow, but consider for now the power of being able to side press single-handed more than your own bodyweight (220lbs at 200lbs b/w) or complete 8 wide grip chins with an extra 200lbs attached ….a real ‘lat’ stretcher.   

Although I was well accustomed to seeing and reading of the ‘Biceps from the Bronx’ Marvin Eder in my early training days, it was to be 45 years or later before I actually met him in person in London, at an earlier OHF awards, yet he still radiated keenness and sustained a high interest in bodybuilding and lifting although he was unhappy with the abuse and misuse of steroids. ‘Marvin always trained ‘naturally’ and of course it is a lot tougher than using chemical aids to energize and assist rapid recovery. Natural recuperation takes longer, when your own individual body physiology is ready, but it also builds life long vitality, rather than short term stimulation. Delighted to meet him after such a long time of admiring him from afar, the very first question I asked Marvin, aware of his awesome prowess and power, was “Where the hell did you get your energy from?”, and he replied casually, “Just natural I guess. I was full of energy, often trained several times daily’ (note we do not recommend other bodybuilders, especially newcomers, attempt to follow his example, Eder was unique).

Although being pictured in many muscle journals of his era, Marvin Eder featured most often and prominently in Joe Weider’s ‘YOUR PHYSIQUE’ and ‘MUSCLE POWER’ magazines of the late 1940’s and early 50’s displaying phenomenal power, being one of the first to bench press close to 500lbs at under 200lbs bodyweight. A terrifically strong Olympic presser, i.e. the two hands MILITARY press, his supposedly ‘professional’ status denied him the opportunity to compete in the USA OLYMPIC team or the AAU Mr. America, both being the losers, as Eder would undoubtedly have won many other top titles in bodybuilding and the Olympic games for America if given the chance.

Earle Liederman, famed ‘Muscle By Mail’ merchant and author of note said of Marvin on seeing him for the first time: ‘Under the lights, I particularly observed Marvin’s arms which performed a most unusual biceps contraction. His biceps would become fully flexed and remain in that state for a moment, and then with a faint forearm movement, the same biceps took on another contraction so that the belly of the muscle seemed to roll, or creep, towards his deltoid. He did this with either arm. This cannot be fully explained, nor appreciated with words, and must be seen for better wonderment. Anyway you can imagine seeing an 18-inch arm, such as he own, become bent and then firmly flexed so that the huge baseball size biceps knots up into exceptional height. Right there you become satisfied and your hands applaud, yet right before your eyes, and when you feel that no greater contraction could be made with such a biceps, this same biceps begins to move, starting from the highest point, which apparently separates itself from the mass, to creep inwardly toward the shoulder, thereby causing the biceps to become even larger, though not any higher.”

Muscles War

All quarrels result in victims and unfortunately this era being the period of the so called Hoffman/Weider ‘Muscle Wars’. Marvin Eder became a casualty and lost out on any possibility of becoming a member of the AAU. Hoffman who had declared war on Joe Weider, feeling commercially threatened by Joe’s better understanding of the way bodybuilding was heading, blocked out every move of Marvin’s to become reinstated after losing out his AAU membership. Charles Smith is quoted as saying in ‘THE IRON MASTER’ Dec.1993: “in my opinion, Eder was given a dirty deal by the AAU who at the time was controlled by Hoffman. What Hoffman said went. It was nothing more than dirty politics. What Marvin was guilty of was being tied in with Weider That’s all. ” Joe Weider, published a letter from Eder in his magazines, dated Nov. 12 1953, with the brief note: “Dear Mr. Weider. This is to state that you have never at anytime acted inimical to my interests. Any actions which may have tended to professionalize me have been my own’ Signed, Marvin Eder.

Elsewhere in a ‘Questions and Answer’ column in Muscle Power in June, 1953 a question was asked “Is Marvin Eder a Weider Pupil?” and the answer was ‘technically’ no, although he endorses our methods. Thus the squabble went on. Disappointed but never the less undeterred Marvin thinking positively, went it alone continued using/mixing Olympic lifting with more general bodybuilding routines, training most week days, but resting week ends. All the time training heavy. His genetically enhanced recuperation abilities were exceptional, allowing him to work out longer and tougher than most, building an almost unbelievable power pound for pound making him surely one of the strongest men ever to have lifted and trained with weights. With a physique able to grace any competitive bodybuilding show.

Reg Park Trained with Eder

Legendary bodybuilder and strength athlete Reg Park talking of the early days, said of Eder:   “Marvin and I became quite close to a large extent because we had a lot in common in that we were more strength athletes than bodybuilders. Marvin and I had some great workouts, for example we did 120lbs dumbbells in seated press, and barbell rows with 400lbs. ” Marvin was later to state that Reg Park was one of the few that could keep pace with him in a workout, they were then squatting with 475lbs for 10 sets of 8 and 520lbs for 3 reps. Both of course later did even more. Marvin currently (2001) does high reps squat jumps still having tough legs, but now airing for cardiovascular fitness. Age brings its own wisdom.

Picnics were No Picnics

On September 6th, 1953 at a Strength and Health Picnic in YORK PA. Eder benched 480lbs in strict style, no arching or bouncing and just failed with 500lbs. (His best bench was to be 530lbs later). Two years later in an article in the April issue of Strength and Health (Hoffman’s mag) Marvin is featured in a report as working out in YORK Barbell Club with Dave Sheppard and a comment, “Only ineligibility for AAU membership prevents Eder from setting an official world record for the press, when he worked up to 325lbs at under 200lbs b/w in the mid heavies class”. He was then parallel squatting with 50OLbs. The late Art Zeller, with whom Marvin trained said, ‘I remember seeing Marvin doing parallel dips with a guy who must have weighed close to 40OLbs wrapped around him. He was only 18 or 19 years old when doing these phenomenal weights” ‘(Source Art Zeller in Muscular Development July 1988). In fact his single parallel bar dip with 434lbs at 198lbs b/w. has never been approached.

Eder also made a straight-arm pullover with 210 lbs at 197lbs b/w. David Willoughby author of reference book Super Athletes and numerous training and serious in depth articles. the famous authority, rated this as best lift on record. (Your author D.G. made 120lbs at 140lbs b/w good enough to win a medal, and tough enough to really appreciate Eder’s lift). Mighty Pat Casey the legendary power lifter later in 1985 rated Eder as “Pound for pound the strongest man who ever walked the face of the earth”. Most other strength historians and armchair experts agree. Marvin’s own choice was John Davis.

©Marvin Eder, Man of Might and Muscle Copyright by David Gentle All Rights Reserved

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