Marvin Eder (b.1931) is an iconic bodybuilder who competed in the late 40s and early 50s. He is known for his remarkable upper body strength and thick musculature – both displayed at a very young age.
Eder’s strength accomplishments include a 515lbs/234kg bench press, weighted dips with 434lbs/197kg, loads of one arm pull-ups and a 665lbs/302kg deadlift done at the end of a training session as an “afterthought”.
Marvin Eder’s Body Stats
|Height||Weight||FFMI @ 10%BF|
|5’7” / 170cm||190lbs/86kg||26.782|
Note: Those were Eder’s stats at 19 years of age according to Muscle Builder October 1961 [source]
Some media put Eder at 5’8”/172.72cm and 203lbs/92kg. With the higher numbers, his FFMI jumps to 27.779 at 10% body fat.
In both cases, however, Eder’s FFMI is above 25 – a cutoff point for steroid use based on research conducted by Kouri EM, Pope HG Jr, Katz DL, Oliva P. [source]
The advocates of ultra-high natural limits consider FFMI comparisons inferior when determining whether someone is natty or not because people with a thick skeletal structure and overall “freak genetics” can exceed that threshold.
Nevertheless, the privilege of reaching an FFMI above 25 without being a sumo wrestler is reserved only for the elite 1%.
In January 2019, Lyle McDonald made three long posts explaining why only an insignificant number of people could acquire an FFMI surpassing 25. He says as follows:
“If less than 1% of everybody who has ever touched a weight has a chance to get to it much less past it naturally, with 99%+ certainty I can assume that anybody who does surpass it isn’t natural.” [source]
Conclusion: Eder may have reached an FFMI of 26.7 or even more naturally, but statistically speaking, the chance of an average natty lifter to approach that number is practically zero.
Somewhat ironically, most people who hate on the FFMI limit do not have mythical 1-percenter genetics and gain no actionable knowledge from proving that a handful of men on the planet invalidate the findings of the original FFMI study.
Having said that, the strength achievements attributed to Eder’s name suggest that he may be a part of the mythical 1%.
Genetics Designed for Barbell Sports and Muscle Construction
The pictures of Marvin Eder available online reveal the presence of genetic traits facilitating bodybuilding and strength achievements:
Long muscle bellies. If you look at Eder’s biceps, you will see that they insert straight into the elbow. There are no gaps. He is also showcasing incredibly long latissimus dorsi muscles descending to his lower back.
Bodybuilders do various exercises to bring their lower lats, but the truth is that you either have them or you don’t. Men with developed lower lats have low tie-ins like Eder’s – this property allows muscle constructors to acquire back thickness which men with high lats never replicate.
Thick bones and strong joints. Eder had wrists above the average (over 7 inches). This thickness combined with his short limbs and strong joints allowed him to exhibit great upper body strength and fill out his frame.
Marvin Eder certainly wasn’t an ectomorph. At 16 years of age, he looked more built than most brahs in the gym.
Were Steroids Available During Eder’s Peak?
Eder had a very short bodybuilding career as he didn’t see muscle building as a long-term path. His first major competition was in 1949 when he was 18. His last was in 1951 when he was just 20 years old.
Therefore, this question translates to – were steroids available in the late 40s and early 50s?
The answer is yes.
Consider the following timeline:
1935 – Adolf Butenandt and Gunicr Hanisch synthesize testosterone. Leopold Ruzicka and Albert Wettstein do the same. [Both groups worked independently.]
1937 – Immediately after its synthesis, testosterone became clinically available in the form of pellets (Deansley and Parkes 1937; Parkes 1965). It was used for the treatment of hypogonadism (diminished functional activity of the testes).
1950 – The first reliably documented use of testosterone in high-performance sports takes place. Axel Mathiesens, the physician of the Danish rowing team, prescribes the testicular extract Androstin to Danish rowers before the European Championships.
As mentioned in the latest post on TRT, the book The Male Hormone by Paul De Kruif was already talking about testosterone supplementation as a way to boost muscle power in the mid-40s.
Therefore, it’s not crazy to assume that dedicated athletes from the late 40s could have experimented with testosterone pellets.
The 500lbs Bench Press
Marvin Eder’s bench press strength was incredible.
He was the first man under 200lbs/90.9kg to bench press 500lbs/227kg. Later, he hit 515lbs/234kg weighing around 200lbs.
I don’t think that many dreamers understand what a 500lbs bench press stands for. During the 70s and 80s, a 500lbs bench press was considered exceptional even in powerlifting circles. Guess, what? It still is.
John Kuc’s best bench at 242lbs/110kg bodyweight was around 500lbs. And for those of you wondering, there’s strong evidence suggesting that the powerlifters from that era (70s & 80s) weren’t natural.
Some may say that Kuc wasn’t the ultimate bencher (he’s known for his deadlift). And while that’s true, he was a very balanced lifter. All of his three lifts were solid.
But let’s look at a number hit by a man who was more bench-oriented.
In 1986, Larry Danaher benched 565lbs/256kg in the 198lbs/90kg weight class. His record stood for 32 years.
The difference between 515lbs and 565lbs is huge, especially when it comes to the bench, but the example successfully illustrates that a 500lbs bench press is a monstrosity by any standard.
Interesting Fact: Eder Benched and Squatted More than Arnold!
Arnold’s best lifts are as follows:
Squat: 545lbs/247kg | Bench Press: 500lbs/227kg | Deadlift: 710lbs/322kg
Meanwhile, Eder could squat “550-pounds for 10 deep reps” and bench 515lbs. When you consider the fact that Eder’s 665lbs deadlift was done after a workout, it becomes obvious that he could have deadlifted a lot more with dedicated training.
Conclusion: Marvin Eder was pound for pound stronger than Arnold – a man considered one of the most genetically blessed bodybuilders in history. And as you know, Arnold didn’t claim to be a natural bodybuilder.
A Note on Performance
Eder’s bench technique was a little different than what’s considered optimal today. He was using a collar-to-collar wide grip which is illegal in the sport of powerlifting because it shortens the range of motion and increases the possibility of pectoral tears.
However, this doesn’t diminish Eder’s accomplishment as much as people think, or at all, for the following reasons:
- A wide grip doesn’t allow everyone to lift more weight. Some people feel weaker when benching with an “illegal” grip.
- Eder didn’t rely on excessive back arching which is the norm today.
- Eder used primitive benches with no upright supports. Two men were holding the barbell for him.
- He had a phenomenal weighted dip strength too.
If the circulating numbers are accurate, Marvin Eder possessed strength reserved for less than 1% of the population. The only steroids available during his peak were primitive forms of testosterone. No documents suggest that he experimented with the present medicine.
Nonetheless, the strength feats showcased by Eder are untouchable by average men in a lean condition unless PEDs are deployed. Natural common brahs could bench press 500lbs, but only if they are willing to become ultra-fat. Good luck finding a program and a nutritional regime that will help ordinary natties bench press 500lbs at the body fat levels of Eder in his prime.
Ultimately, it’s clear that Marvin Eder owes most of his strength and mass to a structure designed for lifting. Even if he wasn’t a full natty brah, his achievements remain just as impressive as the steroid chemistry at the time was in its initial stages.
Don’t Swim Against the Current
Many will try to derive wisdom from Eder’s strength biography, but I think the lesson lies elsewhere. [After all, training is always following the same pattern – lift, recover, lift more.]
I see a deeper message, namely – “don’t swim against the current”.
If Eder had competed in sports that do not favor his frame (e.g., basketball), he wouldn’t have had the same level of success. But he didn’t. He selected a field in which he was the strongest, trained hard and became a legend.