Joseph Greenstein: The Mighty Atom

mighty atomJoseph L. Greenstein, better known as Mighty Atom, is widely considered as one of the greatest strongmen of all time.

Greenstein was born two months premature in 1893 in Poland. For most of his youth he suffered a very poor body constitution, and his body was significantly frail. 

At the age of 14, the Issakoff Brother’s Circus visited his town, and Joe Greenstein saw a poster of the Russian strongman “Champion Volanko” which mesmerized him immediately.

The strongman struck a relationship with the sickly boy offering to train the boy in his circus trade as a means to overcome his physical limitations. 

Joe Greenstein accepted that offer and a legend was born!


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Just few years later, Joseph was unbelievably strong, and his diminutive 5’ 4” body looked like it was chiselled from stone. 

He started his career as a wrestler in which he gained minor success in Poland. But, he finally gained his prominence when he emigrated to the United States after he got married, and there he finally became a legend a few years later.

In Texas, he started wrestling professionally while holding down jobs in the oil fields and as a dockworker.

He wrestled under the stage name of ''Kid Greenstein'' and started to gain success. But it was in 1914, when he was shot in the head that his journey to public recognition really began. The bullet didn't enter the skull; rather it flattened itself against it. 

After being released from hospital on the very same day, he became increasingly convinced that his physical conditioning and mental strength from his early strongman training that had saved his life.

That made him determined to show rest of the world all of the marvels of the strongman lifestyle, and he seriously undertook his career as a professional strongman.

His show became increasingly popular.

mighty atom

He was fully able to break chains with his bare hands, and by chest expansion. He was also popular for bending horseshoes and iron bars with his teeth. He could even change a car tire, without using any tools. 

He was treated as a pseudo-superhero, and quickly gained the moniker ''Mighty Atom'' for which he will evermore be associated with. 

Joe Greenstein was also known for his intolerance of anti-Semitism which gave him an even bigger legend.

In 1938, after he tore a ''No Jews or dogs allowed'' sign from a public building. He then beat and hospitalized 18 men who decided to take umbrage with his view. He was arrested for the assault, but he was eventually released when court refused to believe that he done it all by himself.

It is not surprising then, that the Mighty Atom was very supportive of the U.S government during World War II.  Joe Greenstein volunteered at Uncle Sam’s bond drives generating thousands of dollars of sales through strength demonstrations. 

He also taught jujutsu techniques to the New York police force during the war and encouraged civilian enrolment into a force depleted due to enlistment. He received public accolades from Mayor LaGuardia for all of his efforts in a time of war.

Greenstein’s life was not only devoted to strength but to civic service and public duty

mighty atom

He continued to perform his strongman act into his eighties – an age where most men are weak or infirm. His last public performance was in May, 1977, when he was performing at Madison Square Garden, still driving spikes with his bare hands and bending horseshoes, at the age of 83

He died in 1977 at the age of 84 from cancer, but he remains remembered as one of the greatest strongmen of all time.

Strength Feats

  • Driving nails through 2  ½ ” board with bare hands
  • Changing a car tyre without tools
  • Breaking up to three chains via chest expansion
  • Bending iron bars and horseshoes with his teeth
  • Biting nails in half
  • Resisting the pull of an airplane with his hair
  • Lying on a bed of nails whilst supporting the weight of 14 men
  • Bending ½ “steel bars with his hair

Don't believe it? Watch the video below!