The Mighty Atom : the Life and Times of Joseph L. Greenstein; Biography of a Superhuman

ISBN; 0-670-47564-5

Published by The Viking Press

As the title says, this book is about the life of Joseph L.
Greenstein, perhaps better known by his stage name “The Mighty Atom”. 

As well as being a “must read” book for anyone interested in
strength training, it gives a view from one man’s life of some of the key events
in the history of the twentieth century, including the Great Depression and the
Second World War.

For those who haven’t heard of the Mighty Atom, he was born Yosselle
Greenstein in 1893.  He grew up in Poland
as a sickly child.  He wasn’t expected to
live for long, but under the training of a circus strongman (Volanko), he grew
into a strong and healthy young man.  After
moving to America, and changing his name to Joseph, he had a life changing experience
when he survived being shot in the head by the son of a friend.  This near death experience changed his
perceptions of life, and was instrumental in setting him on the path to
learning to overcome the unconscious mental blocks that we all have, prevent us
going beyond what our mind believes are our physical limits.

The Mighty Atom went on to become a vaudeville strongman,
performing in shows throughout America. 
His feats of strength included

  • Driving nails through a 2½ inch board with his bare hands.
  • Changing a car tire without any tools.
  • Breaking chains by chest expansion.
  • Bending an iron bar or horseshoe by holding one end with his teeth while one end of the bar was held fixed in a vice.
  • Bending half-inch steel bars with his hair.
  • Biting nails in half with his teeth.
  • Resisting the pull of an airplane with his hair.

(Not the sort of things you see in your
local leisure centre gym!)

These feats seem all the more impressive
when you consider that Joseph Greenstein was 5 ft 4 inches tall, 145 pounds
bodyweight, and was able to continue performing these feats into his eighties.  It just goes to show that you don’t need to
be big to be strong.

This book is gives a detailed account of
the methods he used to train himself for these feats, and talks about how he
developed techniques to draw on his mental energies as well as the physical to
achieve the “impossible”.

The book’s style of writing is very simple,
and it’s a joy to read on many levels – whether to hear Joseph Greenstein’s
life story, to learn about strength training, or just to be inspired to try
something we might otherwise think was beyond our capabilities.

Happy reading!

(This version of the book is actually
quite rare, but was also published under the title “The Spiritual Journey of
Joseph L. Greenstein”, which is easier to get hold of)