George Hackenschmidt was the first-ever World Heavyweight Champion in professional wrestling and pushed his ability to build muscle to the natural limit.
Workout Summary
  • Main Goal
    Build Muscle
  • Workout Type
  • Training Level
  • Program Duration8 weeks
  • Days Per Week
  • Time Per Workout45-70 minutes
  • Equipment Required
    Barbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, Machines
  • Target Gender Male & Female
  • Workout PDF Download Workout

Workout Description

You can turn on a pro wrestling show and see that many of the athletes competing are in great shape.

Some of them may even look like they could hold their own onstage in a bodybuilding show. Others appear so powerful that they look like they could do well in a strongman contest or weightlifting.

You can name examples of these incredible athletes depending on the generation of sports-entertainment that you followed.

Regardless of the examples that you come up with, all of them can be traced back to one man because he was literally the first to do it at a high level.

That man was the one and only George Hackenschmidt.

Who Was George Hackenschmidt?

Hackenschmidt was born on August 1, 1877 in a town called Dorpat, Livonia in the Russian Empire. That city is now called Tartu in the country of Estonia.

As a child, he stood out for his natural physique development which was credited to genetics, primarily his maternal grandfather who was alleged to be a huge man. The school he attended had a gymnasium which he used and excelled at. He would take part in cycling, gymnastics, swimming, running, and weightlifting. This was when weightlifting was just beginning to be recognized.

As he improved in these sports he developed strength that astounded anyone that saw him. One such feat was when he lifted a small horse off of the ground. He was also able to lift a 335 pound barbell from the floor to his chest and press it while in a wrestler’s bridge position. So, he would perform this lift while bridging on his neck.

After graduating in 1895, he continued to train at a local athletic club while working as a blacksmith’s apprentice. During this time a traveling Greco-Roman wrestler showed up to his town and made an open challenge. Hackenschmidt accepted but was defeated. This still inspired him to want to improve in this new sport and he decided to pursue it.

Wrestling’s First Champion: George Hackenschmidt as World Heavyweight Champion

In 1898, he would travel to St. Petersburg, Russia and train under Dr. Vladislav von Krajewski. Upon completion of his training for both wrestling and strength, he competed in a match against a French wrestler named Paul Pons and won. This was when wrestling was a legitimate sport and there were no pre-planned finishes.

Hackenschmidt would have to stop wrestling training to serve in the military in 1899 but after completion was able to win the Russian wrestling championship. He would then enter a 40 day wrestling tournament in 1900 and would win that as well.

Finally in 1901 he would win two world tournaments in both Vienna and Casino de Paris. This would culminate with Hackenschmidt being recognized as the sport’s first World Heavyweight Champion.

The champion would travel and take on challengers and showcase his stand-out physique as well. He had become a major sports celebrity at this point. The man who would be known as the “Russian Lion” would remain undefeated as champion until he finally met his match in the form of Frank Gotch, an American wrestler.

Gotch had superior endurance to Hackenschmidt and also was more aggressive. Hackenschmidt would last over two hours in his encounter with Gotch, who used tactics that Hackenschmidt found questionable and potentially against the rules, before finally having to submit due to not being able to break a hold his opponent had on him.

A knee injury while training for the rematch led made him less capable of competing and he would lose the rematch in 20 minutes. After this loss, Hackenschmidt retired with over 3,000 victories to his credit.

After retirement, he continued to train with weights and pursue other interests. His training with weights would not only allow him to attain records but he would contribute to the advancement of lifting.

He didn’t invent the bench press but his appreciation and advocacy for the move certainly popularized it. He also invented the barbell hack squat (named after himself) which called for him to pick up a barbell placed behind him on the floor and stand with it. He would write several books about both wrestling and fitness. When bodybuilding was in its early stages, he served as a judge for some contests, including the 1948 Mr. Universe which was won by another early icon, John Grimek.

Hackenschmidt would pass away while in a hospital on February 19, 1968 at the age of 90. He was cremated but there is a memorial plaque placed at West Norwood Cemetery in London.

George Hackenschmidt's Nutrition and Mindset

Hackenschmidt’s philosophy on food was pretty simple. He would include nuts, fruit, and vegetables and was a believer in eating raw foods as often as possible. “Man is born without a frying-pan or stewpot.”

He would occasionally include meat but it would never be the main course of his meal. He also wouldn’t eat anything processed or fried.

He also believed in being a strong believer in yourself. “The frequent employment of one’s will power masters all organs of movement and trains them to perform feats which otherwise would have been difficult, painful, and even impossible.”

George Hackenschmidt's Training Philosophies

Hackenschmidt’s philosophy was that his training with weights for strength was the foundation for his overall success. “It is only by exercising with heavy weights that any man can hope to develop really great strength.”

His physique was certainly a testament to this being true. At 5’9” he weighed 218 pounds and was revered for the look of his physique. He was also admired for his strength. One of his most famous feats of strength was his ability to perform the one-arm shoulder press with 214 pounds. He also performed the flat floor press with a top weight of 335 pounds.

He often took part in Olympic weightlifting. In one local meet, he successfully completed a clean and jerk with 251 pounds. He snatched 256 pounds in that same event.

Another event he liked was the Iron Cross where he would hold weights up to the sides, like a lateral raise, and hold them as high as he could for time. His top weights used for this hold was 90 pounds with his right arm and 89 with the left.

While he trained with heavy weights, he felt excess of anything could be too much so he didn’t train to failure. He also called for athletes and people in general to perform exercises such as skipping, jumping, running, and gymnastics.

George Hackenschmidt Inspired Program

This workout plan combines Hackenschmidt’s training philosophies and favorite movements with today’s modern technology and principles. Every working set you perform should be a challenge but successful. If you have one or maybe two reps left at the end, you’re using the proper weight. Rest for two minutes between sets.

Your cardio can be biking, swimming, running, walking, sprints, or a combination. Perform 20-30 minutes of activity 4-5 days a week either after your weight training or at a separate time of the day.

George Hackenschmidt Workout Day 1: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps

Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press 5 5
Clean and Jerk 3 4-6
Single Arm Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 6-8
Lateral Raise 3 8
Close Grip Floor Press 3 8
Triceps Pressdown 3 8

George Hackenschmidt Workout Day 2: Lower Body

Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Hack Squat 5 5
Romanian Deadlift 3 4-6
Leg Press 3 6-8
Lying Leg Curl 3 8
Seated Calf Raise 3 10
Standing Calf Raise Machine 3 10

George Hackenschmidt Workout Day 3: Back, Biceps, Abs

Exercise Sets Reps
Bent-Over Barbell Row 5 5
Pull Up 3 6-8
One Arm Row 3 8
Rear Lateral Raise 3 8
Barbell Curl 3 8
Dumbbell Curl 3 8
Hanging Leg Raise 3 10
Plank 3 30-60 Secs

Give the workout a try for yourself and if you have any questions, please leave them below.

Posted on: Fri, 03/26/2021 - 07:01

Hi, is there any alternating excercises fo
Barbell Hack Squat, Romanian Deadlift, Leg Press? I can do that because i have a hip joint cartilage damage. The only things i can do is hip thrust, hamstring excersise.

Posted on: Mon, 08/24/2020 - 21:59

Hello, I was curious If you have any alternatives to the pull-up and the hanging leg raise for a beginner just for the first few weeks until they're able to perform those exercises later on?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 09/22/2020 - 10:16

Hi Ethan - For pull-up alternatives, you can try different variations of pull-ups such as banded pull-ups, isometric holds, and eccentric reps. This article talks more about pull-up progressions:

Check out these alternatives to the hanging leg raise:
- Hanging knee raise:
- Lying floor leg raise: