The Bruno Sammartino Technique
During my early days in pro wrestling, I was blessed with the opportunity to work with both "The Living Legend" Bruno Sammartino and his eldest son David, who was a terrific wrestler in his own right.
Growing up on the East Coast, you didn't even need to say his last name. When you said, "Bruno," everyone knew who you were talking about. Not only was he our incredibly popular wrestling champion, he was one of the strongest men on the planet. He bench pressed 565 pounds and was 100 percent steroid-free. Bruno never touched steroids and frequently cautioned his fellow athletes to avoid them, as well. Early in his career, he received considerable attention by lifting the 600 pound "Country Boy" Haystack Calhoun off the mat. I don't believe another wrestler ever duplicated this feat. Interestingly, Bruno once told me that Paul Anderson, generally considered the strongest man in history, had tried and failed to lift the giant Calhoun. Always the humble sportsman, Bruno quickly added that Anderson could have done it too, except that his own size (along with Calhoun's) made it near impossible to maneuver close enough for a good grip.
Among wrestlers, Bruno was known for being friendly and gracious to the fans. He always found time for pictures and autographs. He was far more accommodating than most of his contemporaries. Sometimes, though, pictures and autographs were not enough. Many fans asked Bruno to show them how strong he was. They wanted to see some monstrous feat of strength. This was not easy to do while traveling. It's not like he could carry a set of barbells around wherever he went.
A further complication was that Bruno was a very dapper man. He usually wore a jacket and tie in public. He had a curiously formal manner of speech and conduct on the road too. Bruno was an old-school European gentleman. I believe this was a reaction to his early past – and a show of respect to the sport that brought him worldwide recognition. He endured a terrible childhood, living in hiding from the Nazis during World War II. My own parents were Holocaust survivors, and Bruno felt I could (somewhat) relate to his stories about eating snow and dandelions in the mountains of his native Italy to survive.
As a boy, he was weak, sickly, and undernourished. As an adult, he became known for his prodigious strength. But how could he show it off and accommodate his fans – particularly when overdressed? Bruno created a simple technique that worked well.
Push-ups. Whenever asked to "do something strong," Bruno, in his signature off-hand style, would respond that he didn't have anything with him. Hmmm ... what to do? Bruno would look around, select a large man – or several ladies – and ask if they would assist. Then he asked the person requesting the exhibition of strength to hold his jacket. Bruno would do push-ups with a good-sized man (or several females) sitting on his back. He did this often enough through the years that fans began to request it.
Realistically, this was an astonishing feat of strength, and one most people had never seen before. Bruno knew that wherever he went around the globe, there would always be a floor and people willing to sit on his back! The champion was smart enough and shrewd enough to use this nifty little stunt regularly – and it soon developed into one of his favorite exercises. I call this The Bruno Sammartino Technique. It's the ability to anticipate a potential issue or challenge – and then reverse engineer a winning solution so you're never caught unawares. It's a way of preparing yourself –and staying prepared – for something you know is always going to come up for you in the future.
Find a way to apply this strategy daily in your own life. Nobody knows you better than you. Prepare yourself with the personal tool kit you know will serve you best. If you write, make sure you always have a notebook. If you draw, keep a sketchpad handy at all times. For actors, find a way to access your contact information, marketing tools, and body of work instantly – so they are always available to serve you best.
A final thought: Bruno had no tolerance for complainers. Zero. Whenever someone complained about how tough things were, Bruno responded with, "You don't know what tough is." That's an important reminder for all of us today. Most of us, fortunately, never experience war, pestilence, and starvation. We cannot share Bruno's perspective. We don't know what tough is.
Rest in peace, Bruno Sammartino.
Tough was never half as tough as you.
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