Don Athaldo as pictured in Health, Strength & Muscular Power.
Walter Joseph Lyons (better known as Don Athaldo) was an Australian Circus Strongman in the 1920s and 1930s. Although he published several books, it was his The Athalding System mail-order offering that helped give him lasting fame.
Poster for Fitzgerald Bros' Circus.
Lyons was born to Queensland carpenter Frederick Horace George Lyons and his wife Elizabeth on 26 November 1894 at Condobolin, New South Wales [1, 7]. Named Walter Joseph, he was constantly ill, asthmatic  and could not walk well until aged 5. At Fitzgerald Bros' Circus he saw the strongman 'Dr Gordon', became inspired and began reading about ancient Greece and taking correspondence courses in physical culture to build himself up .
Apprenticed to a blacksmith for five years, in 1915-16 he served as a shoeing-smith corporal with the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force at Rabaul, New Britain. In 1916-17 he twice enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, only to be discharged both times as medically unfit. Rejoining the A.N. and M.E.F. in November 1917, he returned as a shoeing-smith corporal to Rabaul where, after briefly being discharged in 1919, he served until 1921. On 22 August that year he married Vera Elizabeth Stewart at the Warren Methodist Church, Marrickville (a Sydney suburb) . He resumed blacksmithing at Leichhardt (also a Sydney suburb), as well as becoming involved in numerous sports (he boxed for a time as a light-welterweight).
Herr Pagel demonstrating the Horse Lift (using harness lift technique) in 1903. Athaldo used the same method almost 30 years later.
Adopting the name 'Don Athaldo' (*), he won acclaim as a circus strongman; cementing his reputation through spectacular demonstrations of strength and a flair for showmanship. Among his best-known feats were the Human Link, Bending & Scrolling, and Horse-Lifting (involving a harness lift of sorts). Topping the list : pulling a touring car with six passengers an incredible 805m (more than half a mile) up the hill of William Street, Sydney. If you've ever run the Sydney City to Surf half marathon, you know this hill. Insanely steep.
Various exercises from The Athalding System.
In 1932 he authored Health, Strength & Muscular Power, a booklet detailing his Athalding System . This was followed in the early 1940s by Meet Don Athaldo and Muscular Strength. In the early 1950s he wrote The Athalding Course, a 3-part series of lessons detailing his own approach to training and nutrition . Heavily influenced by Charles Atlas' Dynamic Tension course , it was Athaldo's The Athalding Course that helped cement his long-term fame.
Athaldo's philosophy combined the idealized man of action with ideals of health, masculine beauty and virility. Rejecting the notion of 'abnormal development' fostered by weight-lifting, he stressed diet, fresh air and 'dynamic tension'. 'The Athalding System', he claimed, would overcome bad breath, bad habits, cancer, stammering, brain fag, virile weakness and pimples, while developing a pleasing personality and the Oriental secret of calmness .
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Don Athaldo as pictured in Health, Strength & Muscular Power.
Although only 163 cm (5'4") tall and weighing between 70 and 76 kg (11 and 12 stone), Don 'The Pocket Atlas' Athaldo had a reputation for being something of a lady-killer. When performing he wore a leopard skin and leather ankle-boots, and off-stage enjoyed large American, convertible cars (preferably red) .
In January 1941 he enlisted in the Australian Military Forces as a physical-education instructor. Here he taught skills such as unarmed combat, but developed osteo-arthritis and was once again discharged medically unfit in 1944. During the war he and Vera separated .
On 24 May 1965 Athaldo died of a heart attack (caused by a coronary occlusion ) at his Ettalong home, and was buried in the Catholic section of Botany Cemetery  (now part of Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park ). He left his business to his secretary Catherine Thelma Nelson, (with whom he had lived for many years); his car to a son-in-law, and £5 per week to his wife .
* I'm not sure why he chose this name in particular, although there are certainly a lot of people & places named after him (notably the misspelt 'Atharldo Ct' in Canberra, Australia ). Perhaps Maxalding (originally Maxaldo) was an influence.
Advertisement for Royal Gymnasium, Leichhardt.
Athaldo lived/worked at Burton St Darlinghurst at one point. Does anybody know the exact address, or when this was? I suspect it was around the time he ran the Institute of Physical Culture in Oxford St.
He ran the Royal Gymnasium in Short St, Leichhardt for a time. Does anyone remember, or know anything about it?
When did he begin living with his secretary, Catherine Thelma Nelson?
Scott Andrew Bird is a writer, photographer and a guy who just loves this stuff. He's been at home in front of a computer for more years than he cares to remember (OK, 31) and is now making amends for years of many mistakes noted in the De-constructing computer guy articles (part 2) on T-Nation.
Stalkers may wish to track his every move via Twitter or Google+; everyone else is cordially invited to hop over to his online home. Enjoy.
Like this? Check out some of their other articles :
Matt Palfrey.UPDATE (5 Mar 2014) :
Unfortunately a connectivity issue got in the way of this one, so we've rescheduled it for Monday (full details below). Apologies for that.
If you've been involved with the fitness industry for any length of time, chances are you've thought about setting up your own gym. Perhaps you've already got one.
Either way - how do you promote it? Attract new customers? Learn about what works, and what doesn't?
This week we'll be discussing this area in detail, answering all of the above and a whole lot more. Joining us is Strength & Conditioning Coach Matt Palfrey, together with Personal Trainer (and Strength Athlete) Josh Hewett. Fantastic.
NB : We'd love to hear your questions and comments. If there's a particular subject you'd like Matt and Josh to address, just swing by the event page for this Gymchat (during the discussion itself) and jump in the Q&A.
And if you'd like to point your friends/colleagues to the discussion, just use the 'share' button at the top of that page. The more the merrier.
Thanks again to everyone who watched and sent in questions for the discussion Gymchat 237 - Old-Time Strongman Training [with 'Physical Culture Renaissance Man' Logan Christopher, joined by Personal Trainer (and Strength Athlete) Josh Hewett] - much appreciated. If you haven't seen it yet (or simply want to go over a particular point again), here's the entire video.
Logan Christopher.Old-Time Strongman Training - Phonebook Tearing, Frying Pan Rolling, Kettlebell Juggling and a whole lot more. Love it.
They're certainly uncommon areas: how do you train for them? What are the benefits of these approaches? What sorts of equipment is involved?
This week we'll be discussing the entire field of Old-Time Strength in obsessive detail. Joining us is 'Physical Culture Renaissance Man' Logan Christopher, together with Personal Trainer (and Strength Athlete) Josh Hewett. Fantastic.
If you've got questions/comments for Logan or Josh, just swing by the event page for this Gymchat. And if you'd like to point your friends/colleagues to the discussion, just use the 'share' button at the top of that page. The more the merrier.
Thanks again to everyone who watched and sent in questions for the discussion Gymchat 236 - Programming for Strength vs Hypertrophy [with Strength Coach Jason Paris, joined by Personal Trainer (and Strength Athlete) Josh Hewett] - much appreciated. If you haven't seen it yet (or simply want to go over a particular point again), here's the entire video.
Görner the Mighty.This is one of the books that Logan mentioned in the Gymchat last week - Görner the Mighty. Good stuff.
Although I was lucky enough to read the original book many years ago, I'm extremely keen to dive in to this version - the 2012 reprint - as soon as possible. I suspect that things will look quite different now; after training for a number of years.
Görner the Mighty.
If you ever wake up with that 'just run over by a truck' feeling, you need a copy of Tim Hull's Functional Correction Manual. Not only will it help you to locate and repair the problem, it'll help prevent it happening in the future.
When it comes to body transformation - whether that's an increase in strength, packing on a bit of muscle or losing a bit of excess fat - this is the perfect place to start. Dr Berardi's Precision Nutrition.
If you've ever watched a Bruce Lee film and marveled at his strength, speed, agility, endurance, flexibility or muscularity, this book should take pride of place in your collection. Unlike many other writings covering everything from Lee's training methods to nutrition, this book is based not on the recollections of people around him; but on Lee's own notes. Brilliant.
For a full list of what we're reading and watching at the moment, just head over to the Recommended Books & DVDs page. See you there.