Modern-day strongmen achieve awe-inspiring feats of strength. Even the most dedicated of gym rats would cringe at the thought of deadlifting over 1,000lbs in one shot, or trying to lift a 560-lb Atlas stone.

Today, there’s an entire sport dedicated to this mind-blowing style of lifting, but it wasn’t always that case. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, strongmen more often exhibited their incredible power as circus performers and entertainers than as competitive athletes. And long before bodybuilding, competitive weightlifting, or CrossFit, strength athletes found fame under the big top.

Here are some of the best, most entertaining photos of strongmen through the ages.