Adrian Peter Schmidt was born in the Alsace-Lorraine region of what is now France in 1872. His genetics and circumstances did not point to a future career as a professional fitness trainer and strongman; he stood only 5’2″, and after contracting typhoid at age 15, his body was left frail and thin.
Schmidt turned his focus to less physical pursuits, like developing his talent for drawing and painting. But while studying and capturing the male physiques of ancient Greek and Italian statues in his art classes, he felt inspired to see how much he could strengthen his own body. He read all the information on physical culture available and embarked on his own workout program, which included a wide variety of methods from dumbbells to bodyweight exercises. Though his build would remain slight his whole life — his weight hovered around 126 lbs — through disciplined workouts he was able to put on ample muscle and build a surprising amount of strength.