Alexander Zass
(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 dumbells 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

Many of today's bodybuilders follow specific nutrition counseling advice to increase their muscle strength and improve their performance. In the early days, some bodybuilders consumed too much heavy protein and developed serious health issues as a result. Eating only nonfat or low fat protein is now recommended to build muscle and maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

Samson's System & Methods
Explanatory & Instructional

24 Page Booklet describing his
No.1 & No.2 Courses.
Published c.1924

Contributed by Gordon Anderson

The Amazing Samson
As Told by Himself

Published in 1926
with a Foreword by W.A. Pullum

Contributed by Gordon Anderson

download as

Isometric Muscle Work
extracted from 'Developing
Grip Strength'
by David Gentle & David Webster

Illustrated with pictures of
Alexander Zass

Contributed by Gordon Anderson

Alexander Zass - The Amazing Sampson
by W. A. Pullum

From Health & Strength - Early 1950s

Contributed by Gordon Anderson

His Final Resting Place

Alexander Zass was buried in the Churchyard of
St. Peter & St. Paul's Church in Hockley, Essex.

These photos of his grave were kindly contributed
by Paul Shaw

The Alexander Zass Statue

Erected in 2008 in Orenberg, Russia

Photos courtesy


Website & Contents & Gil Waldron