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Gallery of Ironmen: Heavyweight Healer

Dr. Vladislav Krajewski believed weights could solve many medical maladies?back in the 1800s!

Ironically, the man who became known as the Father of Russian Weightlifting was neither Russian nor a serious weightlifter, but his effect on sport in his adopted country cannot be overstated. Dr. Vladislav (or Ladislas) Franzevich Krajewski was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1841, but in St. Petersburg, the elegant Russian capital, he became a successful physician. He trained many of the nation’s finest athletes in his well-equipped private gymnasium. The doctor believed that many medical problems could be treated by the effective use of weight training’a revolutionary thought in the late 1800s.

Krajewski began training with weights rather late in life. He was 41 when he first took up a dumbbell, but he was soon converted. He became one of the most zealous fans of weight training in the world, and he attracted a group of students and like-minded athletes who lived and trained with him in his palatial house. The doctor developed a set of rules for exercising and keeping fit, and he trained his charges personally.

He traveled around Germany and eastern Europe, learning the techniques that he would later incorporate into his system of training. At that time Russia was slowly awakening to the sporting revolution that had swept the rest of the world a decade or two earlier. Progressive weight training and regular exercise were new concepts espoused by only a few forward-looking people. Krajewski understood the importance of those ideas and refined them into a logical system that he taught young athletes.

Every professional strongman and wrestler who came through St. Petersburg eventually went to Krajewski’s home to demonstrate his prowess. The doctor also collected photographs of his athletic friends and virtually wallpapered one of the rooms in his house with them. He was very fond of showing the images to visitors.

When the great Russian Lion Georg Hackenschmidt wrote his autobiography, he was most careful to recognize the training that he received from one extraordinary man: Dr. Vladislav Krajewski. ‘I owe practically all that I have and am to him. It was he who taught me how to live and how to train, and it was he who launched me on my career.’ Many others owed just as much to the Polish physician. Thanks to his direction, an entire generation of Russian athletes learned to compete in strength sports. IM

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