Thomas Inch: Britain’s Strongest Man

thomas inchA native of Scarborough in the north of England, Thomas Inch was born on December 27th 1881.

Inch's interest in strength and bodybuilding began at a young age, when his parents told him that manual labour would help him to grow up to be big and strong.

 This lead to Inch using the family garden as his initial training ground, repeatedly digging ditches in an effort to build muscle mass. 

Inch's passion for strength increased steadily from there, and at the age of 16 he was crowned Britain's Strongest Youth. Later he went on to win the title of Britain's Strongest Man on June 11th, 1910.


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By now Inch was a fixture of British strength training culture, known as much for his publications on the topic as he was for his own achievements in the field. 

Writer and Teacher

His first publication, 'Scientific Weight Lifting', was released in 1905. The book was a massive success, selling over 40,000 copies. This success spurred Thomas Inch to continue writing further articles and publications throughout his lifetime. 

His influence as an opinion-maker arguably culminated in the 1930s, when he became a household name for his exceedingly popular series of mail order strength training courses. 

Much of Inch's output drew upon the wisdom of the strongmen of the Victorian era, and he is often seen as a bridge between the classical strength performers of 19th century music halls and circuses, and the modern bodybuilder culture that arose during the 20th century. 

thomas inch

Inventor and Innovator

Inch is also credited with the spread of adjustable plate weightlifting equipment, which he grew to favor over the more cumbersome weights which had previously been the norm.

 His promotion of bodybuilding seeped into the field of mainstream medicine, which was then of the opinion that weightlifting was detrimental to the health, and could lead to heart difficulties.

 Inch sought to disprove this in what became known as 'The Great Heart Experiment'. With this, Inch successfully convinced several leading medical professionals that not only was weightlifting not a danger to the health, but it was in fact highly beneficial. 

The Thomas Inch Dumbbell Challenge

Another famous aspect of Inch's legacy is what became known as the Thomas Inch Dumbbell, or simply 'the 172'. 

thomas inch

As its various names infer, this was a 172 pound, 9 ounce dumbbell. As well as its tremendous weight, this particular dumbbell was made even more daunting due to its extra-thick handle, which measured 2.38 inches in diameter. 

Ever since its inception, this dumbbell has proved itself to be an insurmountable challenge to countless budding strongmen and bodybuilders. 

Inch himself took particular delight in demonstrating the relative ease with which he could lift the 172 in comparison to the struggles of some of his contemporaries.

 Indeed his own strength remained largely consistent right through his later life; in 1949, at the age of 68, he was still capable of dead-lifting some 540 pounds.

The Inch Legacy

Thomas Inch passed away on December 12th 1963, just weeks before his 82nd birthday. Tragically, his family did not place much interest in a life’s worth of bodybuilding memorabilia which he had saved over the years. 

The entire collection was unceremoniously discarded. 

This unfortunate fact aside, Thomas Inch's immeasurable contributions to the cultures of strength training and bodybuilding are sure to endure for many years to come.


Thomas Inch Dumbbell Challenge Video