10 Essential Strength Books Part 10: The Mighty Atom

Picture a man who can loosen the bolts and nuts on a tire, lift the car, put the new tire in place, and then screw everything back together with his bare hands.  What does he look like?  If you’re like me, you might be picturing someone like The Thing from Fantastic Four.

Joseph L. Greenstein, aka “The Mighty Atom,” stood 5’4″ and weighed between 140 and 145 pounds. He could also keep airplanes from taking off with his hair attached to them, bite nails in half with his teeth, and resist the advances of the many strumpets who threw themselves at his feet during his reign as a leopard-skin-clad strongman.

Humble beginnings

Joseph was a sickly child, nearly to the point of death.  During an unlikely stint with a traveling circus, he became apprenticed to the performing strongman.

When he returns to his hometown, nobody can believe the change.  After problems which involve being a Jew and living in turn of the century Europe, he  gets married and heads off to America to make his fortune.

The Mighty Atom

I don’t want to spoil too much of the story, but here’s what I can say.  Joseph becomes The Mighty atom.  Ed Spielman’s tale of how he begins his training and the feats of strengths he conquers one by one is an absolute joy.

My favorite part of the book is when his long-suffering wife enters the kitchen to find him standing there with the kitchen table in his mouth as he bites one corner and lifts it off the ground.

“You’re ruining my table,” she says.

Who this book is for

The Mighty Atom is for anyone who has ever lifted a weight. It is strength training 101 for anyone who needs some motivation. Anyone who loves the underdog.   Anyone who loves the world of strength.  Anyone who admires the working man and still believes in the American Dream.  Anyone who loved Rocky.

Anyone who enjoys testing and defying their limits.  Anyone who loves to read.  I could go on and on and on and on, but you probably already know if you’re interested.  It is a true story that reads like fiction.  Truly, truly incredible.

Sadly, The Mighty Atom is out of print and can be hard to find.  It is still found in many libraries, but so far I can’t get any of them to lend it to me via inter-library loan.

If you can find it, please read it.  You’ll be glad you did.  If you’ve already read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Joseph Greenstein’s book about Joseph Greenstein may be the most inspiring thing I’ve ever read.  I loved every page and I really, really want them to start printing it again.

If you are a publisher, please print this book!


PS: Speaking of strong, Adam Glass and Brad Nelson have released an incredible DVD of their Grip N Rip 2010 workshop. I was there. It changed my training and it changed my life. Highly recommended!

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