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I doubt that one in a thousand powerlifters has ever considered the “issue” of equipment certification. It has been difficult enough, through the sport’s growth as chronicled and critiqued in our lengthy TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEMS series, to procure safe, durable equipment. Certification with an organizing body at the national or international level has been the least of any competitive lifter’s or trainee’s problems or concerns. However, answering the question “Should my product be officially certified?” is a question that must be addressed by powerlifting equipment, barbell, plate, and attire manufacturers and the results often affect the lifter and the consumer’s cost for these various products. One must first understand that it is a prevailing misconception that “being certified” guarantees quality. It may in some cases but in most, certification means little more than “the guy paid a fee we requested, thus we certified him.” Having official certification may allow use in an organization’s contests, advertising, or related business but in no way offers the consumer a declaration that “this product is now better than one that is not certified.”


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A photo from the archives, circa early 1980’s, of Memphis lifter Steve Baldwin, always a top competitor at 181, with one of his typically super heavy deadlifts. Never a deterrent to Steve, the barbell is made up of a mix of different manufacturers’ plates, typical for the era.


Throughout my commentary related to certification, I am going to pick and choose where and whom I identify and I will be clear when I won’t. I am not looking to put my sources of information, meet directors, or others in a difficult position talking about corruption in the sport for example, as many of these long time powerlifting veterans still have to deal with specific individuals in some organizations or have contracts with equipment manufacturers. However, the history is compelling and explains much of “why things are the way they are.” Regarding quality, many lifters assume that a product is “very good because it is certified with the IWF or IPF” or another international organization. Well, at a World Championship held within the past three years, what is arguably the world’s best known barbell brand was to be utilized on the main platform. Their barbell, plates, and squat/bench press rack were in place the day prior to the competition and a cursory examination of the rack revealed enough sharp edges and burring on the weight saddles and uprights that one of the workers had to use a hand grinder to smooth out the edges to prevent potential cutting of lifters’ and spotters’ hands. The bar, long lauded as “the best,” was so smooth and devoid of decent knurling, that the meet director contacted the manufacturer to thank them for their donation specifically for this one contest, but that they would in fact utilize an older gym bar for the main platform to best protect the lifters and allow for their most productive performances.


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Certified with the IPF, Ivanko Barbell was always a popular choice among powerlifting meet promoters and lifters. A high quality product, many meet promoters gave the lifters what they wanted and for years, Ivanko was the powerlifting standard. PLUSA’s Mike Lambert can be seen in the background striving for the great photos that made his magazine the best ever


First is the consideration that at some meets, large and small, national and/or international, some meet directors will utilize their own equipment, some will agree to accept or request a loan from a specific manufacturer for their one specific contest, and others will either agree to accept or request a donated barbell set if the meet has enough importance and exposure. If the use of one’s product at a specific meet will result in a definite increase in sales and/or exposure that will later become sales, a manufacturer may wish to loan or donate equipment. It has been this way for years and one of the best known “loaned products” was the beautiful Ivanko chromed powerlifting set that was seen on a multitude of PLUSA Magazine covers. The set would be shipped to the meet site or meet director’s address, utilized for the contest, re-crated, and shipped back to Ivanko. While this was an exceptionally considerate gesture on the part of Tom Lincer, owner and founder of Ivanko, it was also positive from a business standpoint and there were a number of years where lifters judged the legitimacy of a contest based upon the presence or absence of the Ivanko set on the meet platform. That said, the facts described above, with what was obviously substandard equipment donated to a major international contest,  and they are facts, begs the questions:

“Because the equipment was donated for this specific meet, was sub-standard equipment sent and did it not reflect the usual quality or current standard for their equipment package?”

“Was this more or less, what they were churning out of their factory at the time?”

“Was the donated bar one that otherwise was not sellable and thus a convenient way to get it out of inventory?”

“Was the lack of quality control on the rack’s finish typical or typical of one bad run of racks?”

In either case, long held certification certainly was neither guarantee nor protection against poor quality and one would think that if equipment was to be showcased at a world championship, the manufacturer would want to display their very best products.


First, from the organization’s perspective, why demand certification? As it is in most sports, there is a history to every large and small aspect of its growth, acceptance, and participation levels. Certification is very much part of barbell history, though not always for positive reasons. Let’s take two different perspectives on certification and let’s assume that the certifying bodies, meaning the lifting organizations that we support, actually demand certain minimal standards of quality and conformity. If equipment is certified, a lifter or meet director can have a certain expectation relative to the use and performance of the rack, bench, barbell, plates, lifting suit, bench shirt, knee wraps, or other certified product. The organization is allowing for a very narrow variation on a minimal standard so that equipment and attire is standardized. All of this is positive. However, for many decades, of course beginning with Olympic Weightlifting, certification was no more than a “Pay To Play” process; “pay us, we will certify your product, and it’s all good.” For those that pay the National Football League licensing fees to utilize their logo or be named, “The NFL’s Official Cream Cheese” (I don’t think they have that one yet), does anyone truly believe that the quality of that cream cheese actually makes it more desirable to those in the NFL or its corporate offices? Of course not, a fee was paid to become, “The Official NFL…Whatever It Might Be.” A manufacturer of one of the well- known brands of barbell products in conversations with me, were always very adamant that their resistance to certification came from “real or perceived corruption in certain organizations.” Ivanko and TITEX for example, are both products certified by the IPF and one can expect a quality product with predictable manufacturing standards. However, there is no doubt that the history of many in the leading lifting organizations has made the entire process seem like a legal shake down. Again, without naming sources, allow me to paraphrase what I believe is very accurate and revealing information.

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Nico Louizos lifting with the new TITEX barbell and plates


Olympic weightlifting, at least into the 1990’s which would mark the end of my inside knowledge of the many dealings that occurred, had A and B categories for equipment certification. Category A in those days meant that “you gave us what we asked for.” Category B was left to those who could not afford to pay the amount requested for Category A certification.  The equipment manufacturers would be required to pay a certification fee of $50,000.00 and donate approximately fifty top-of-the-line competition sets that would be distributed by the international organization to the athletic governing bodies of fledging Third World countries. This of course would insure that these ever-grateful emerging nations would remain in the fold of the international body, no matter what other organizations were formed. It also guaranteed the vote on any membership related matter the organization dealt with, insuring total control of the organization by those in power. In the 1980’s, both Schnell and York Barbell Company requested to have the specific requirements for the different levels of certification published and when this was not done, they failed to make their usual “certification payment or contribution.” Both sets, among the best in those days, were immediately dropped from Category A to Category B status, limiting their use in certain world and international competitions. York lost business because the international organization would not allow a Caribbean nation to purchase sixty Olympic lifting sets as these needed to be Category A sets. To John Terpak’s credit, he did not back down despite the loss of business.  Terpak did exact a bit of revenge when the York Barbell set was used on the competition platform of the Los Angeles based 1984 Olympic Games, despite having Category B classification, especially since a promise was made to a “fully paid up and thus certified Category A” major foreign manufacturer that their set would be featured. However, “host nation makes the call” won out.


As an aside, I want to repeat a comment I have made publicly and in writing, about John Terpak. He did “the right thing” in standing up to one of the powerful lifting organizations and he did the right thing for me when I was beginning my high school coaching career in the late 1960’s. As the football coach at Malverne High School that was responsible for doing everything from striping the helmets, to designing blitzes out of our 4-4 Stack Defense, I installed a weight training program. The high school had a multi-station Universal Machine and nothing else and there was no organized program for the student body or athletes. I brought my own Olympic set and weights into an unused room, spent two weekends in the family iron shop fabricating benches and a power rack, and then drove up to Holyoke, Massachusetts to see long-time acquaintance Ed Jubinville. Ed was very gracious, no surprise to anyone acquainted with a true gentleman, in giving me a discount so that I could purchase an incline bench, decline, bench, and a few other pieces that were literally sticking out of every window and door of my van, and hanging from the roof when I drove home. A week later I drove to the York Barbell Company after having had a number of conversations with Mr. Terpak and must have been the only one in the United States who was allowed to drive away with a van full of plates and new Olympic bars with his permission to “pay it off.” He understood my mission and supported it and I know that it was not company policy to allow a high school coach to buy equipment without paying for every bit of it. We had one of the first organized programs and “real” weight rooms on Long Island, and though it would pale when compared to what is typical today, it was and today would still be functional, useable, and effective. I have never forgotten John Terpak’s understanding and kindness.




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I should have been prepared for the obvious after the word got out locally and our TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEMS column of last month was published but was still surprised at the number of inquiries asking, “When are you holding another contest?” For some of those in attendance, their first thought was “This is just great! I should have been a part of it.” Forgetting that we held the meet only to accommodate six of our young, completely novice athletes, there was no meet for them to enter but I am gratified that a number of lifters were motivated to resume their competitive careers. If I had been an outsider or an observer not sure what to expect, I too would have been inspired to either train harder or compete. That our TITEX and ER equipment was so enthusiastically received by those who had not had previous exposure to it, was a bonus.


Our “driveway contest” fulfilled its goal of providing an inspiring venue that brought many of our former lifters to assist and visit, and motivated a few to once again consider being involved in competition

To complete our discussion related to the equipment utilized at contests, it is a given that one should not take on the responsibility of hosting a meet if they cannot safeguard the well-being of the competitors and spotters by providing adequate equipment. Allowing our readers an opportunity to learn a bit more history related to our sport, Jan Dellinger brought his lengthy experience and tons of wisdom from his years with the York Barbell Company to this issue and stated,

“I read your latest installment regarding benches/squat racks and the early days of powerlifting. A few comments: Training equipment, especially at military facilities (and prisons where it was allowed at all) was a hit-or-miss affair. Typically, the quality of available equipment mirrored the emphasis on progressive resistance exercise that the base commander (or someone else high up in the food chain) personally possessed. In contrast to the Marine meet you mentioned (Author’s note: at Base Camp Pendleton), George Otott was a well-placed Leatherneck, possessing rank and a love of lifting, even heavy lifting. I suspect you will recognize his name (pronounced O’ Tot), as well as the fact that he was tight with Hoffman, York Barbell, Terpak and others….frankly, I think John Terpak Jr. might have been the pipeline here. Jr. was also a well- placed Marine in the diplomatic corps and was close personal friends with Otott. [Author’s note: Major George Otott wrote a very well received fitness book in 1968, The Marine Corps Exercise Book].


Coeds at the University of New Hampshire performing military drill in freezing weather. They are the first organized college group in US to undergo pre-graduation training like men's ROTC which will fit them for service in the armed forces.

  Old school military nurse training included walking and jogging


The modern female military warriors have earned everyone’s respect with no-holds-barred training procedures and preparation

Historically, you mentioned York’s ‘massive’ success with the introduction of the power rack, pure isometrics and partial rack movements where both were combined (Bill March’s style). In the early 1960s, it is often overlooked that York was also scoring commercially with the military, especially the Marines in general, as that branch was renewing their interest in all manners of acquiring strength and above-and-beyond conditioning. This Leatherneck interest in progressive resistance exercise was showcased on an S&H cover around 1960 which depicts a ‘company’ of Marines en masse exercising with weighted tin cans attached to makeshift bars. They might have been shown doing overhead presses, if memory serves. However, there was no question that they were engaging in standard resistance exercise on a regular basis. My broader point is that it is either unknown or forgotten that York Barbell did a lot of good commercial business in the late 1950s- 1960s timeframe with the United States military.

As to the ‘prevailing standard’ of equipment quality observed by rank and file power meet directors back-in-the-day, many of these fellows came from garages/ isolated YMCA weight rooms and the like where it was do-the-best-with-what-you-had kind of environment. No excuses being made, just a lot of us trained under these conditions without giving thought to the amount of personal danger we were subjecting ourselves to, and especially as we got stronger. Using myself as an example, the first barbell course I followed was the Bruno Sammartino Barbell Course. One of the unique things about this course was its inclusion of schematics to build your own bench and squat stands…OUT OF WOOD! By the same token, even in the 1980s, the York Barbell Company still had a product or two originally introduced in the 1950s or ‘60s, which possessed heightened possibilities for personal injury. Why were some power meet directors early on so oblivious to risk of injury by mediocre equipment? First, to them the bench press, squat and deadlift were generally viewed as assistance exercises in their time, implying that they were done sparingly in juxtaposition to other recognized lifts, specifically the Olympic lifts. When lifters began focusing on the three power lifts, more or less exclusively and the poundages quickly rose to levels these established meet directors did not foresee, the equipment was now unsafe.  And, yes, gear additives like ACE bandages, ultra tight cut-off jeans and tennis balls behind one’s knees, and don’t forget rule changes, helped drive up the contest poundages unduly. And equipment manufacturers of the time didn’t react until gym owners, lifters and meet directors beseeched them for heavier equipment. Clearly, Pat Casey, who was so precocious strength-wise for his time, was smart to have his own personal bench and taking the trouble to bring it with him to meets. You can do that if you are that elite, meaning in a class by yourself. The meet directors just want you at their meet as a drawing card, so when you tell them you will be using your own bench, they salute. As you know, the 1960s were PRE-litigation days (generally) in our culture.”

Jan’s final comment holds a lot of power too, for the prospective meet director. In a very litigious society, it is imperative to provide equipment to both warm-up on and compete with, that meets minimal safety standards and in truth, minimal just isn’t enough. I believe most meet directors do in fact provide decent and safe equipment on the meet platform, it would be too obvious not to, but many still are scrounging to put a warm-up room together, forgetting that this is where most of the meet’s actual lifting is done.

Certification of equipment is a topic that few lifters, even those that compete regularly, give thought to but should. There are advantages and disadvantages of meeting certification standards and then paying the officiating organization for it, for both the lifters and equipment manufacturers and that is next.


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One of the regular readers of my ongoing TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEMS series of articles, the “blog” in modern parlance I still seem to struggle with, stated it better than I could have when he wrote, “I get it. You wanted to make the points about certification and the one about really unsafe equipment in the warm-up rooms but I guess neither is easy to get through with so much history to go back to.” I would agree and I won’t yet be moving out of the warm-up room so to speak because there were so many comments sent my way regarding the last installment. I have written, and emphasized that much of the equipment we used in the 1960’s and into the mid-1970’s just wasn’t safe but we were, as a group of athletes, oblivious to that fact. If we had any awareness and certainly some men did, we were accepting of whatever was placed before us. If one did not live through the era where Olympic weightlifting was “the” sport in the Iron Game and powerlifting was viewed as a leftover activity for those not athletic enough, flexible enough, quick enough, or smart enough to pursue the press, snatch, and clean and jerk, it is difficult to convey how appreciative we were to even have a sport to call our own. Having an organized meet to go to, despite any deficiency in equipment, was accepted as a bonus and privilege. Emphasizing this point were the many comments I received from “older” or more experienced lifters, enough to fill two or three columns.


The very best in equipment including the new TITEX POWERLIFTING BARBELL SET, in combination with the effort of young lifters like Will Martorana of North Shore High School, gave us a fantastic driveway meet 

                          (Photo by Barbara Cittadino)


I have quoted Hercules, California lifter Dan Martin a number of times in the past. Dan is easy to quote; he was a good competitor who has been at it for decades and was always smart and insightful enough to have analyzed what he and the lifters around him were doing. His career as a firefighter has given him a logical perspective that has been applied to his lifting and served to successfully coach and advise others. Dan noted, “There is no question that the equipment now is light years ahead of the 60’s and early 70’s, (although Zuver’s equipment was certainly choice, but as you know, if you didn’t know about Zuver’s you just didn’t know) but we certainly didn’t let that get in the way. The first Fireman’s Olympics I lifted in was held at a gym in San Francisco (1976) and was one of about three (the other two being the Sports Palace and West Coast Fitness Center) that hadn’t turned into foo-foo, less than hardcore gyms. The venue was such that we had to walk forward and away from the squat rack towards the audience. The squat rack was attached to the wall and not adjustable. Certainly solid enough because it was made of 1.5″ pipe and bolted to the wall and floor, but obviously dangerous when racking the bar.”


As described by Dan Martin, the equipment used in “the old days” could not compare to our ER Rack and new TITEX barbell and plates that Smithtown West High School standout athlete Daniel Savino utilized to set personal records

(Photo by Peter Frutkoff)


Allow me to interject that to appreciate Dan’s observation, one needs to work up to a heavy squat while facing away from the squat racks and do so while walking forward away from the racks, rather than using the customary procedure of facing the barbell, settling the bar on one’s back, and then stepping back. After expending a major effort, then walk backwards and blindly try to rack the bar! Dangerous is a mild description. Dan then made reference to Tom Eldridge, a fire captain and pioneering figure in California powerlifting and a man with a somewhat legendary temper and the physical toughness to back it up.


A legend among LAFD lifters and motivator extraordinaire, the late Tom Eldridge built his own equipment to insure the safety of other lifters


“At that meet was the first time I met Tom Eldridge. He went sideways when he saw the bar that was to be used. It was bent, smooth and rusted. Perfect! He started to tear the ‘meet director’ a new asshole, which in turn brought the gym owner out of his ‘office.’ The gym owner obviously spent a lot of time doing the ‘big three’ at the time (bench, pullover and curls) and was not about to take any of Tom’s nonsense. He simply said, ‘a bar’s a bar and if you don’t like it go back to LA.’ Naturally, the gym owner was able to tell Tom was from LA because he and two other lifters were wearing their matching ‘Los Angeles County Fire Department Powerlifting Team’ warm-ups.

 After the dust settled, everyone lifted, nobody bombed and no one got hurt. When we went to a bar post meet to have a beer or two (I was the only one asked for ID) Tom made a declaration that, ‘we are never going to lift on bullshit equipment again’ and the modern California Fireman’s Olympics powerlifting was born. And I have to say, Tom and his Lincoln arc welder came through for the 1977 meet and for many years after. Tom made two sets of raised platforms, one he kept at his house and one stored in Santa Clara to be used for the Northern California meets.”

 This is a rather typical tale. Through the years, some of us would travel into Manhattan or Brooklyn, to New Jersey, Connecticut, or Massachusetts, and lift on what we knew to be marginal equipment. Bars that were bereft of knurling, bent, and beat up were the warm-up room standard and as Dan notes in the above paragraphs, often on the platform too.

 Saul Shocket’s name will be familiar to long time lifters and to the regular readers of our column. Saul has been a premiere trainer as well as a title holder and record setter for many decades. Having seen it all, Saul also had a few salient comments.

 “Good article, Ken. The pic of Pat C brought back some good memories. As you might remember, I used to train with Pat around 1964. This was at Bill Pearl’s Manchester Ave gym in LA. Pat was a very soft spoken and humble guy…a great training partner and inspiring person. As I was penniless, Bill also helped me out by providing lunch every afternoon for me, Jerry Wallace, and himself. As I recall, it usually consisted of tuna, & an assortment of fruit. ”

 Allow me to interject that all of my references to Bill Pearl’s Gym were to the Manchester Avenue address in Inglewood, California. When I first arrived in the Los Angeles area with my training partner and friend Jack, Pearl’s was our initial stop as chronicled not only throughout our TITAN SUPPORT series, but in the six part mini-history I wrote for Mark Rippetoe’s STARTING STRENGTH site

 [ ].

Saul continued, “The mention of a wooden competition bench also sounded all too familiar. I’m remembering the late 60’s or early 70’s, At that time, I trained at the Boston YMCA on Huntington Ave. A funky basement gym to be sure. I benched from time to time with pro wrestler Ivan Putski, The bench we used was also wooden, with rickety uprights.  Someone had attached a cover to make the bench a bit more ‘functional’ and comfortable(?). On somewhat regular occasion, someone would place tacks under the bench cover and in diabolically chosen locations. It wasn’t unusual for us to lie back on the bench, prepping for a strong set, when a loud scream followed by a string of swears, would echo throughout the gym.  Another tack found its mark. Although we tried, the culprit was never found, nor was his/her motive discovered.


No tacks on this bench as per Saul Shockett’s tale! 3rd Place finisher Nico Louizos of Manhasset High School enjoyed his first contest so much that he entered another scheduled for September, just days following our event

                           (Photo by Jamie Rozansky)

PS: Ivan ‘Polish Power’ Putski would bench 315×10 for 5 or more sets.” For those interested in the very eclectic and entertaining life history of Saul who has been a world class musician and world class lifter for decades, look to Amazon for his new book: . Jan Dellinger also had a number of very interesting and important comments but first things first!


Meet venue, two hours prior to the start of the fun and maddness!

                                   (Photo by Kathy Leistner)


I made reference in the TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEMS blog of May 26, 2015,  

mentioning the fun and day of fellowship we shared with a few lifters who needed a legal, qualifying meet to compete in. My wife Kathy, a much better lifter than I ever even dreamed of being, has competed in a number of National Championships, posted the second highest total in her weight class at the World Championships, was a former American record holder, and has been through YMCAs, hotel banquet halls, basement gyms, college gymnasiums, and most venues between all of those while competing and directing contests. She agreed that our so-called Driveway Meet was one of the most fun and comment-provoking contests we ever hosted or were involved with. Thus was planted the seed and the very rapid fruition of the purposefully glorified in name 2015 TITEX EAST ROCKAWAY SUMMER POWERLIFTING CLASSIC.


We wanted our young novice lifters exposed to the best of everything PLing can give them: TITEX bars and plates, ER racks on the platform and in the warm-up room, a great crew, and former champions. The crew and judges included Randy Colon, Tom O’Riordan, Pat Susco, Linda Jo Belsito, Joey Almodovar, and Craig Portee

   (Photo by Kathy Leistner) 


My long time trainee and former Hofstra University All American defensive tackle Frank Savino who allows me to maintain a piece of the action at his very successful Gridiron Fitness athletic training facility in nearby Mineola, N.Y. had the same dilemma I faced. Both of us trained young athletes who were interested in competing in a “real” powerlifting contest but had never even seen a contest. Some play high school football, two were interested in pursuing powerlifting as their primary activity, and we wanted them to enjoy the sport and garner its many benefits while avoiding some of the negative aspects and craziness that are in fact, part and parcel of the entire meet scene. Kathy’s solution of hosting another “driveway contest” resolved the issues as the youngsters could lift in a safe environment while utilizing the best equipment. They could also enjoy the security of one of the best platform crews to ever work the sport. That last statement is obviously very biased but our Iron Island Gym platform crew which among others, included Tom O’Riordan, Adrian Arav, Brian Daly, Mike Schmeider, Craig Portee, and Joey Almodovar, were skilled enough to be taken to various venues throughout the U.S. under the auspices of the different powerlifting organizations, to man the platforms for their biggest contests.


2nd Place finisher Tom Touhey cracked the 500 deadlift mark in rather easy fashion to complete his first contest

                       (Photo by Barbara Cittadino)


Of course, once the word was out, the small meet that would invite the family and friends of only six of these novice lifters to a raw, not-big-lift contest, became a lot larger. We were very fortunate and blessed to dedicate the meet to raising money and awareness for our local Ruff House Rescue animal shelter and adoption facility and have the unlimited support of the Rockville Centre Starbucks, the Applebaum Family Provisions company, Hammer Strength, and of course, TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEMS. I can lay claim to being TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEM’s least talented, but longest sponsored lifter since their founding and as always, Pete, Isiah and the staff came through for us. Our platform crew saw this occasion, as quoted in Animal House, as an opportunity for “putting the band back together” and we had many of our former gym lifters in attendance.

 Our two fifty-five gallon drums cut into grills were fired up by 8 AM, food was cooking at 10, and the lifting began at 11 with former champion Pat Susco giving a terrific squat exhibition, using the venue for what would have been his normal training. His 505 with 45 pounds of chains added X ten reps motivated the young lifters and got the crowd going as the young guys moved into the squat.


The truly giving and great Pat Susco, 63 years young using a Buffalo Bar to protect his surgical shoulders, chains to incite the crowd and keep pace with his regular training, and our beautiful new TITEX powerlifting plates

(Photo by Kathy Leistner)


We promised everyone, “No big lifts but there will be great effort and enthusiasm” and that’s exactly what we got. The lifting, with results of what was truly a “raw” meet where the youngsters wore no more than wrestling singlets and a tee shirt with two in knee sleeves, was a lot of fun and the positive introduction to the sport we wanted.


W.Tresper Clarke HS halfback and track sprinter Justin Melkin like the other novices, had a “personal best” day

(Photo by Peter Frutkoff)

Personal records and all-out effort were the order of the day with Schwartz Formula results based upon bodyweight related performance finding Ramiz Dani first, Thomas Touhey second, Nico Louizos third, Daniel Savino fourth, Will Martarana fifth, and Justin Melkin sixth.


Our novice lifters earned their Beastmetals Hammer trophies the old fashioned way; they earned them! All were gratified to receive their awards from sixteen time world champion Linda Jo Belsito

(Photo by Kathy Leistner)


Some of the youngsters missed a lift but came back to make it; others went nine-for-nine or eight-for-nine only after letting it rip for new personal records on the final attempt deadlifts. Great lifting, great poise by all of the athletes, and a tremendous crowd response made this as exciting as one of the year’s major contests. The great “Hammer Trophy awards made possible by Beastmetals of Sacramento and award plates from old friend and industry standard Siegel Engraving of Clearfield, PA added true flair.


Winner Ramiz Dani was inspired by 63 year old Pat Susco

(Photo by Barbara Cittadino)

Our friend Pat Povialitis, “The Human Vise,” gave one of his strength demonstrations that included his unique talent to bend, twist, and distort short steel, break baseball bats over his head (without the batting helmet worn by Bo Jackson), and stick his hand in a couger trap, one that severed a pig’s femur prior to snapping down on his hand. Of course, attaching the trap to a 275 pound engine block and lifting the block by means of the trap that was tearing at the flesh and ligaments of his right hand needs to be personally witnessed to fully understand the awe and nausea that gripped the crowd!



Cougar trap clamped on his hand, 275 pound engine block strapped to the trap, and Pat Povialitis “enjoying” a day of lifting and food with fans and admirers. Other than tremendous mental focus, there is nothing normal about what Pat is doing!

                       (Photo by Jamie Rozansky)


The display of physical and mental strength needless to say, just delighted the crowd of what turned out to be approximately 120 spectators that choked the driveway. It also stimulated donations in excess of $600.00 for the animal shelter which was one of our goals.


(Photo by Kathy Leistner)

Of course we went all out, with our personal expenses and the donations of time, effort, and food seen as part of what the shelter received. There were as many eating highlights as there was lifting excitement, with some of our guys proving that you can safely and efficiently load and spot while consuming a dozen burgers and two fistfuls of Starbucks salted caramel squares while on the platform! The unusual and absolutely stunning trophies were fabricated by my friend Ralph at Beastmetals in Sacramento, California, a relatively new and upcoming name in the equipment industry. We went to our former Iron Island trophy supplier Siegel Engraving in Clearfield, PA where founder, the late Al Seigel who gave so much to  the sport, has had his legacy carried on by his wife Brenda and son Jay, for the engraved trophy plates. With six lifters and six awards, obviously, everyone walked away happy. Wow! Kathy summed it up best with her statement that, “This was like a huge cookout but instead of music or other entertainment, we had lifting!” Few things could be better and we had guests, both invited and uninvited, who just “showed up” from New Jersey, upstate New York, and Maryland, which made the day stressful for the Porta Potty but a lot of fun.


        Behind the smoke, former University Of North Carolina offensive guard Rich Applebaum and his family turned out a lot of great food                               (Photo by Kathy Leistner)


Our “Driveway Meet,” very much like the one we hosted many years ago at our former residence, was a great success. Frank, Kathy, and I had very specific goals in mind and we were able to meet all of them:

1.   Insure that the novice youngsters learned what it was like to compete in a properly managed contest where everything was done according to the rules, on safe equipment, and with an experienced platform crew.

2.   Enhance the self-confidence of the young athletes by allowing them to give great effort while performing in front of family, friends, and strangers who would be supportive.

3.   Provide whoever wandered up the driveway with a lot of food that by any standard was of high quality and good-tasting. You just can’t have a really good contest if you don’t have food that everyone wants to eat!

Thanks to many friends, we were able to do it. Though the list is lengthy, we have to thank our carpenters who built a very large and very sturdy platform, Jim Eicher and his son Greg. The Rockville Centre, N.Y. Starbucks store manager Ryan Francisco and store partner Mike Wroblewski pushed hard to not only serve the company’s great iced coffee and salted caramel squares, but were of great help in encouraging donations for Ruff House Rescue. Richie Applebaum, his son Joe, his beautiful daughter Carli, and their friend Joe donated and prepared 250 hamburgers, 250 frankfurters, a lot of Italian sausage and provided all of their Boar’s Head products with enthusiasm and professional cooking expertise. My frequent sponsor, Hammer Strength through Tom Proffitt and Ralph Reynaga at Beastmetals both get an A+ rating for their assistance as does Jay Siegel. My sponsorship by TITAN SUPPORT PRODUCTS that dates literally to the day of their founding is undeserved and we were able to “wow” the lifters, crew, and spectators with our platform and warm-up room presentation of TITEX plates and bars and of course, the great ER Racks. I gained an even deeper appreciation for being allowed to put my two cents in when Pete has needed advice, criticism, or development of a new product seeing how much the TITAN and TITEX brands are viewed by the powerlifting public. Our “luminaries” who of course remain normal friends and extended family that gave exhibitions to hype things up and garner donations for animal rescue and adoption, and served on the crew are always appreciated. Of course, everyone would be disappointed if I did not fully credit my wife Kathy for always being the guiding light in what gets done around here. I joke about it but I’m hired help, as it’s been for decades as she remains the brains of the operation.






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The two primary points I attempted to make in last month’s column were certainly made if the number of e mails I received is any indication. Most of the older, experienced lifters included a tale, one that became humorous through the prism of time, about inadequate warm-up room equipment and/or the subsequent mishaps that resulted at a meet because of the equipment used. If one was a self-designated powerlifter in the 1960’s, they competed on and with inadequate equipment because, as this series of articles should have made clear, almost all of the equipment was inadequate relative to the weights and stress it was subjected to. I wrote that Pat Casey was forced to have his own bench fabricated so that as “the” biggest bench presser of the day, he could compete and feel safe from injury. Pat would bring the bench with him to various competitions and not one other lifter believed that it provided him with an unfair competitive advantage. Instead they were glad to see him, knowing that they too would be utilizing a piece of equipment that was predictably safer than anything the meet director may have been providing.

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Pat Casey competing on his personal bench, completing what was obliviously a huge lift for the era.  Note the absence of the three to six spotters most often utilized at any of today’s meets.

Coincidentally, I can recall sharing our early contest experiences with Mike Lambert, the founder and “do-everything maestro” of Powerlifting USA Magazine. The conversation took place in the late 1970’s and referenced meets in the late ‘60’s through early ‘70’s. At that time most of Mike’s competition experience had taken place in California and Hawaii and most of mine in the New York metropolitan area and Northeast. Yet our stories overlapped regarding the shaky squat racks, rickety benches, smooth and bent bars, and forty-five pound plates that weighed anywhere from thirty-nine to fifty-two pounds. We conceded that we were certainly powerlifting soul mates when he referenced a contest at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Lifting there years apart in separate contests, Mike was first to mention that a major California contest there utilized what was actually a wooden bench with a flimsy pad thrown on top of it. I laughed as I noted that I recalled lifting on what had to be the same bench, even though the contest I was in occurred a few years before his experience at the locale. Although the readers might be surprised that the government did not spend the money on an iron, and presumably stronger Olympic bench for a major contest, such was powerlifting reality in the sport’s formative years.

The power rack craze brought on by Bob Hoffman and the York Barbell Company’s push of Isometrics and Bill March’s partial range of motion rack work had lifters everywhere scurrying to find, build, or buy a rack of their own. Certainly March became a premiere lifter utilizing this method of training but York’s introduction of anabolic steroids to many of their lifters just as certainly moved the muscle and strength building process forward. That Bill also developed one of the most striking muscular and athletic appearances using what was a new and exciting training method sort of sealed the deal in the minds of many trainees. “If March could be this strong and look so great training like this, it’s the way to go.” Many authors have noted that the pushing and pulling through a partial range of motion or while going the route of the “immovable” Isometric exercises on the rack may have helped, but March was March and few others could be pointed to as examples of tremendous development due to the training technique or the use of the specific equipment. I enjoyed rack work and always felt it had an appropriate place in a program for some but there was a definite craze that led to the development of numerous “Rube Goldberg” types of racks. The least expensive way to go was wood and many built wooden power racks and this augmented the number of wooden squat racks that enterprising lifters had built for themselves through the decades. Predictably, most did not hold up well and may have served as the introductory squat piece in one’s beginning stages but common sense dictated that once significant weight was being hoisted, wood was a rather poor choice of materials for this application.

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Although the great Bob Peoples spent years lifting on his homemade wooden rack in the basement of his rural Tennessee home, most did not hold up as well.

As late as 1965 or 1966 I recall lifting in a meet in the New York City area that presented the lifters with the standard York Barbell Company bench press with narrow-spaced uprights, the “usual” bench of choice for competitions, but a wooden squat rack for the second of the three lifts. There weren’t many lifters in the meet but predictably, all mumbled their concerns and complaints. Just as predictably, despite the meet director’s expression of confidence in his carpentry abilities, it took no more than the typically hard and explosive racking of five or six 400 – 450 pound squats to vertically split one of the uprights. I should interject that as a former iron worker and grandson, son, and brother of iron workers, I am rather biased towards the use of iron and steel for all lifting related construction but admire those skilled enough to produce viable lifting equipment made out of wood. Various links on the Internet provide plans, blueprints, and many photos of wooden squat racks and power racks that appear as if they would stand the test of time for all but the most advanced lifters and trainees. However, especially in the formative years of the sport, this choice of material proved to be a safety hazard.

I noted that the wooden bench used in the Camp Pendleton contests had no more than a thin pad placed on top of it. Obviously, the pad moved when the lifter attempted to settle into the bench press lift and once the set-up techniques stressed an exaggerated low back arch, it became impossible to safely anchor to the bench. In a creative way to better secure the lifter to the bench, Purdue University’s innovative coach Pat Malone was the first to cover his bench press pads with suede. Lifters oohed and aahed at the exceptional appearance of the various colors presented by the suede coverings and Pat gets an “A” for creativity and “fashion sense.” Unfortunately, a majority of lifters would pull themselves high onto the bench surface, anchor their feet firmly to the floor, attempt to slide into an extreme high-arch position, and literally stick to the bench top! The suede was a more slip-free surface but often to an extent that it was a detriment. Additionally, as it is in the competition of many sports, one expects to lie in some or a lot of their opponents’ sweat but the suede seemed to pool the sweat into puddles that were barely absorbed by the end of the contest, but as meet directors and owners of the suede covered pads found later, eventually became permanently stained markers. While Pat has remained extraordinarily successful manufacturing quality barbells for a variety of distributors and direct retail sales outlets, and utilized his multiple Purdue University degrees in physics and biomechanics as a terrific powerlifting and gymnastic coach, the suede covered bench press pad was a very good idea that did not play out as expected in the reality of the sport.

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Pat Malone with some of his 1979 Purdue University powerlifters. 

Most meet directors were sincere in their attempt to hold meets that allowed the lifters they knew or who lived in their locale to compete. Little thought was given to “making money” because there was little or none to be made. There is no doubt that most had to scrounge equipment in order to host a meet of any consequence and this often meant utilizing substandard items. The obvious query would be, “If the equipment the lifters used on the competition platform was perhaps unsafe and underbuilt, what then was the state of the equipment utilized in the warm-up room?” Needless to state it outright, the warm-up room equipment was usually whatever else the meet promoter could put his or her hands on. As the sport moved forward, meets became larger and garnered more publicity and attention, competition platform equipment improved, often with the use of chromed barbell sets that were loaned to the promoter by suppliers like Ivanko Barbell, handsome benches utilizing oversized tubing frames, and adjustable squat racks of various types. However, and despite the upgrade of equipment on view to the audience and to be featured in magazines via photos, most warm-up rooms were still thrown-together affairs with “whatever was left.”

Part Three to follow: