Joe Bednarski: The Polish Hammer

Józef Bednarski (born January 21, 1941) is a Polish-American former professional wrestler and bodybuilder, best known by the ring name Ivan Putski. He was given the nicknames “The Polish Hammer” and “Polish Power”. In this article you will learn how Mr. Bednarski trained before he was bitten by the wrestling bug. As a youngster he used to play football and train very hard. Here’s Ivan Putski’s life story and workout routine, have fun – Mr. Berg

Joe Bednarski’s story begins January 30, 1941, in Poland; there Joe came into the world at one of the least promising times in history. Adolf Hitler’s Nazi war machine had marched over most of Europe.

While a small baby Joe and his family were sent to a labor concentration camp in Zolzburg, Austria. In this environment Joe spent the first years of his life. With the end of the war Joe and his family were set free. They stayed in Europe until 1950.

In 1950 Joe got his first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty as the ship he and his family were on sailed into New York Harbor.

But the big city, where most immigrants got their introduction to America, was not be Joe’s new home. In sharp contrast to the bright lights of New York, Joe’s home was to be a dairy farm in Smithville, Texas, a small town located a short distance from the State Capitol, Austin. Here Joe spent two years working on the farm.

In 1952 the family made the short move to Austin to live. It was at Fulmore Junior High School in Austin that Joe was introduced to the American game of football. Soccer had been the sport in Europe.

Football became Joe’s first love and it still is. He played for two years in junior high and then moved over to William B. Travis High School.

After three years with the Travis Rebels an event happened that was to prove of great benefit to his career.

It was Joe’s senior year and one day as he crossed the campus he saw a fellow student struggling with a heavy object. Joe crossed the campus to have a look. It turned out to be two wheels on an iron bar (not weights). The student engaged in lifting the cumbersome bar was Danny “Wildman” Hodnett.

He offered Joe a shot at cleaning and jerking the bar, and he made it on the first try. Danny suggested to Joe that he get on a program of weightlifting. Joe worked out on and off for about a year but by his own admission did not become a serious trainer until he went into the army.

Joe was naturally husky, weighing 185-190lb on a 5’9″ frame at the time he began lifting. But with the advent of his serious training schedule he built himself up over the next six years from 190 in 1959 to 220 pounds of solidly packed, well distributed muscle.

The results were rewarding. In 1960, while on duty with the army in Alaska, Joe was named to the All Army team and was All North of the Range (Army, Navy, Air Force League in Alaska) as well as receiving the Most Valuable Player award – All North of the Range.

Joe was a halfback in his army days, but with the added weight and power from lifting he moved to fullback in 1961 when he enrolled at Southwest Texas State College at San Marcos, a small town thirty miles from Austin at the edge of the rugged hill country.

Joe played the first half of the 1961 season for the Bobcats. In midseason he joined the reserve outfit he had entered upon leaving the service, which was part of Texas 49th Armored Division, in meeting the call of the late President John F. Kennedy to be prepared in case the crisis in Berlin became worse.

In mid-October, the 49th left for Fort Polk, Louisiana, where Joe spent the next ten months as an M.P.

Joe was out in time for the 1962 season and joined another Travis ex-weight-trained Gibbs Franki (All Lone Star Conference 1961-1962) in giving the Bobcats one of the best one-two punches a small college could ask for.

In 1963 with Franki graduated Joe took over as the top power runner in the Bobcat attack and helped his mates to a 10-0 season and a Lone Star conference Championship.

Joe made his senior year, 1964, one to bow out on. The Bobcats slipped to 8-2 (both losses by one point), but Joe was never better. He led the team in rushing with over 600 yards. Joe’s efforts did not go unrewarded. He made AL Lone Star Conference, the Dallas Morning News’ All Texas College (small college) team, and received honorable mention on the N.A.I.A. All American team.
Joe’s physique is worthy of a few words, for although he has never trained with bodybuilding as his major objective, he has acquired one of the most massively impressive builds in the world. Naturally blessed with a stocky yet graceful framework of the John Grimek type, he had added to it by his years of regular training and his participation in athletics. He exudes power. He is sturdy and thick from every angle without being fat. From his bull neck down to his 18 1/2 calves, he is herculean.

This is Joe’s training program in preparation for pro football!

ivan putski polish hammer Józef Bednarsk

Monday and Thursday 
1. Calf Raises 10 sets of 20 (190lb man on calf machine)
2. Push Press

1. 230lb – 5 reps
2. 230lb – 5 reps
3. 260lb – 5 reps
4. 260lb – 5 reps
5. 280lb – 5 reps
6. 280lb – 5 reps
7. 315lb – 3 reps
8. 330lb – 1 rep
9. 340lb – 1 rep
10. 345lb – 1 reps
11. 300 – 5 reps
12. 300lb – 5 reps
13. 275lb – 6 reps
14. 275lb – 6 reps
15. 225lb – 8 reps
16. 225lb – 8 reps

1. 230lb – 10 reps
2. 230lb – 10 reps
3. 260lb – 7 reps
4. 260lb – 7 reps
5. 285lb – 5 reps
6. 285lb – 5 reps
7. 300lb – 5 reps
8. 300lb – 5 reps
9. 285lb – 5 reps
10. 285lb – 5 reps
11. 260lb – 7 reps
12. 260lb – 7 reps
13. 230lb – 10 reps
14. 230lb – 10 reps
15. 230lb – 10 reps
16. 230lb – 10 reps

Triceps Press Standing
1. 135 – 8 reps
2. 135 – 8 reps
3. 165 – 8 reps
4. 165 – 8 reps
5. 185 – 7 reps
6. 185 – 7 reps
7. 165 – 8 reps
8. 165 – 8 reps
9. 135 – 8 reps
10. 135 – 8 reps

1. 260lb – 10 reps
2. 300lb – 7 reps
3. 300lb – 7 reps
4. 300lb – 7 reps
5. 300lb – 7 reps
6. 300lb – 7 reps

Sit Ups
1. 100 reps
2. 50 reps

Tuesday and Friday
Squats to bench
1. 500lb – 5 reps
2. 570lb – 5 reps
3. 570lb – 5 reps
4. 570lb – 5 reps
5. 570lb – 5 reps
6. 570lb – 5 reps

One arm concentration curls (standing)
10 sets of 10 – 110 pounds – each arm alternate

Neck Harness Work
100 pounds – 4 sets of 20 reps

Sit Ups
1. 100 reps
2. 50 reps

To keep his wind in shape Joe goes out to the track at the end of his Tuesday and Thursday workouts and runs four 220 yard dashes.

Joe rests on Wednesday and the weekend. As stated he has unbelievable recuperative powers and recovers after a good night’s sleep of 10 hours.

Joe comes by his ability in football naturally (his brother Fred was the first soccer style kicking specialist in the U.S., handling the kickoffs, field goals and extra points for the Texas Longhorns in the mid 1950’s), but he feels the weights have greatly helped his power. As he says, “Weights have helped me a lot in football. The power has given me confidence I can get that first down when there are only a couple of yards needed. The added power has helped my blocking, too.”

7 thoughts on “Joe Bednarski: The Polish Hammer”

  1. He also played semi-pro football for the San Antonio Toros. He was a nice man and was a pleasure to be around at the practice field or at functions that the booster club held for the players. “OLE Toros” , a great and powerful running back.

  2. I got to be around Joe while I was doing my weight training work-outs for track at Robert I. Lee High School 1970/71. Joe Bednarski was a very nice gentleman who used our high school weightroom to do his workouts while he was playing for the Toros in San Antonio at that time.

  3. As a pro wrestler, Joe Bednarski, A.K.A. “Ivan Putski”, at his peak development, had the greatest physique, by far, to step into the squared circle. While many others had huge arms, and massive, ripped upper bodies, their comparatively “Stork” legs highlighted the incompleteness of their development. Bednarski had the complete, dense development of a very powerful “block” of a man, with thick legs, massive calves, and the bull neck, which so befits a true wrestler, amateur, or otherwise. He was not built for show, but for GO.

  4. Joe was my trainer for two years at the Viewpoint Gym in 1969 and 1970. I went from being a scrawny little runt to buffed and fit. Still in the gym 3 to 4 ties per week. Now 68 and still buffed andfit. Look 50. Thanks for the training and the work ethic Joe.

  5. The first time I ever say Joe was in the summer of 1965 during summer school. The gym was closed when I first moved into Arnold Hall. But the first morning it opened I got there while it was still almost dark. There didn’t appear to be anyone else there initially. So, I found the weight room and started planning my workout. I had noticed that there was a squat rack in that room, and I was impressed to see that there was a 325-pound barbell on it! I thought, Wow! There are guys here that do 325-pound squats. Impressive. As I was sitting on the gym floor putting a barbell together, a fellow walks in the door … huge diamond shaped calves with a body that put tree trunks to same. And I thought, this must be the guy that squats with that 325 pounds. So I watched to see what he would do. And sure enough, he walked up to the wrack and grabbed the bar under his chin. And I thought, “Good night! He’s going to do front squats with that!”. But I was wrong. Instead, what he did was to lift the bar off the rack, back up a few steps, and then he ripped off 7 reps of front presses! And that was the first time I ever saw Joe Bednarski. I was absolutely amazed! And as the days and months went by, I never stopped being amazed at his exercise routines. Back in those days, he was legendary there at the college.

  6. These comments on Joe / Ivan Putski are amazing. As a kid growing up in the 80s, these pro wrestlers had that “Power Look” and damn, they were amazing! Ivan Putski never disappointed.

    My Grandparents were from Poland. They went to Russia and then Israel during these times. My Grandfather was very tough. Those times molded men into a different breed.


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