Posted on


The guys who grew up in Long Beach, N.Y. in the 1950’s and ‘60’s had a reputation for being knuckleheads. Not all obviously, that would be an oversimplification and of course, broad-ranged stereotyping. Thus I will more accurately state that many of the guys I grew up with or hung out with in Long Beach, N.Y., fellows who grew up in the city, (and the politicians are very quick to point out that “Long Beach is only one of two actual, official cities on Long Island,” making it ripe for political shenanigans that have plagued it for decades), were knuckleheads. Although I was an athlete who was obsessed with my lifting and pursuit of football success, many in the crowd drank alcohol and most of us viewed street fights as adjunctive fitness training. My background has given me a compact grouping of reflexive responses when I am asked, “Can I speak to you for a minute?” that range from taking a step back and assuming a defensive body posture to the verbal jab of “Whatever it is, I didn’t do it.”

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.23.07 AM

Known locally for its beaches and surfing, Hurricane Sandy’s devastation placed Long Beach into the national consciousness  


When I speak with those I knew from Long Beach where we attended school and played sports together, it’s like viewing or listening to a mirror image and long-time friends like Richard Landsman and I often laugh about this phenomenon. Of course there are more well-known and actually famous individuals from Long Beach who claim all of the same stereotyped traits even though they haven’t been “home” in perhaps forty years! The one thing all of us received however was a very strong foundation in the educational fundamentals, gratis of the Long Beach Public School System, and a huge dose of common sense. Examining any field of endeavor, I am often struck by the lack of common sense displayed by so many, even those who have been successful. Extending this into the powerlifting arena, I have, since 1964, attended and competed in both Odd Lift and official Powerlifting competitions that displayed a lack of clear thought, foresight, or vision. It would be laughable if the safety of the lifter was not put at risk in so many meets. I am specifically referring to warm-up room and platform equipment and what occurred in the late 1960’s is still on display today.


I competed in the Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, and Central States areas of the U.S. As a former, long-time meet director, with experience ranging from the late 1970’s through 1998, and national and world championships announcer and coach, I have witnessed contest venues both large and small in different parts of the world and in most regions of the United States. I know how difficult it can be to scrounge and gather up enough equipment to have a decent contest and make it as comfortable and safe as possible for the competitors. Like most “older citizens” I have a bias, one that I have freely and often expressed in my writing, that I have a preference for the former days of powerlifting relative to the trajectory I witnessed in the sport from the early 1990’s to today. Allow me to state as I have in the past, that powerlifting is not a mainstream sport, will never be a mainstream sport, was not meant to be a mainstream sport, and attempts to dress it up as a mainstream sport have done little but weaken its initial premise which was to place the competitors’ skills and courage on display for their families, friends, and training partners. One can “do it” in the gym or garage but few have the gumption to actually leave home base and place their abilities in public view. There is value in this relative to character development and for the boost in training the entire process demands. Preparing for a contest in almost every case enhances the level of enthusiasm of the entire group of training partners that the competitor is with. It demands extra attention to diet, planning, and all of the little things that go into taking the next step on one’s ladder of self-planned improvement. I can go to the oft-used quote of former President Theodore Roosevelt to reinforce the point:


“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”





Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.23.16 AM

Pat Susco, one of New York area’s best lifters for decades, shown lifting at an early Iron Island Gym contest



We held numerous meets at our Iron Island Gym from 1992-1998. We also held meets at New York City hotels, local Knights Of Columbus halls, high schools, and junior high schools. We even held contests in our driveway, and in every case, the meets were fully and legally sanctioned. Even in our two driveway meets where the garage was equipped with multiple warm-up platforms and a competition platform was built on the driveway in front of the garage, every judge was a national or international card holder with lengthy lifting, competition, and judging experience. I hate to burst the bubble for those who don’t believe that there is, or at least has been corruption in the sport of powerlifting but we held our driveway contests because one of the local competitors or group of lifters we were acquainted with needed to qualify for a national contest. We purchased the sanction, procured the services of the judges, insured that the weigh-ins were done in accordance with the rules of the organization the meet represented, and as one world meet experienced lifter remarked afterward, “The judging here was stricter than I’ve had at the nationals, any nationals. Man, it’s a driveway.” Kathy and I always believed that a meet was a meet and that everything needed to be done correctly with the provision of safe equipment and excellent spotters. We even wrote up the meet results and a report and sent it to the governing body and Powerlifting USA Magazine. When Kathy and I were visiting California, a world record holding powerlifter was talking about the record lift he had made a few weeks prior to our meeting. I told him that there was much conversation and speculation about his preparation for the prestigious invitational contest he made his world record at. It did not seem possible that he would have had time to qualify with the requested minimal total, and then recover on time to lift record breaking weights again only two weeks later. This highly respected world record holder looked at me as if I had two heads and said, “Are you serious? Of course we didn’t have a meet, no way could I lift that heavily to qualify, and then come back so soon to set the record. We just made up the meet results after we paid for the sanction.” I hate to state that I was naïve but this I came to learn, was done by a number of lifters. Our meets, large and small, were done correctly. The driveway contests we had were followed by burgers and chicken off of the grill and all of the food brought by the training partners, friends, and family members of the six to ten lifters we had in those meets as the instructions were for everyone to “bring enough food to feed two.” We had water and fruit too during the actual lifting and we carried that tradition on at Iron Island. More importantly, the equipment used to warm-up on if not identical to that on the platform, was at least of the same quality, safety standard, and accuracy and that’s where the emphasis must be for any meet, big or small.




In attempting to package and present powerlifting as a mainstream sport or make it more palatable to the general public, there was and continues to be the necessity of giving them “a show.” The music blares and I have seen lifters, only an hour prior to their opening attempt, still agonizing over their decision to come out for their first attempt squat to the screeching of Iron Maiden instead of Metallica. Some of the meets have included swirling colored lights, explosive devices, and fog machines. Needless to add for those who have witnessed this grand design to catapult powerlifting into the Olympic Games, onto television, or into the forefront of sporting events, none of it has worked! Powerlifting was, is, and will remain an activity that tests one’s mettle, one’s planning, one’s courage, and one’s will to do one’s best on a specific date and at a specific time but that really is it. It also happens to be enough and one shouldn’t need more than that. With all of the bells and whistles in the presentation, the audience at every meet is still primarily comprised of family and friends of the participants. The meets that claim huge spectator numbers are also the meets with twenty to forty different weight, ability, experience, and age classifications that guarantees numerous competitors and thus, numerous friends and family members. In short, this is not an activity that most of the public wants to see and we don’t need them to.


Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.23.25 AM

The late Ed Gillie who won multiple titles in the early 1980’s, lifts just as officially in the park as he would have on the biggest of stages


Anyone at any bodyweight that has placed 400 pounds or more onto their backs has a certain degree of courage and confidence. This is a heavy weight by any standard and can damage one’s body if not handled carefully and properly. I would explain to non-lifters, at a time when I was regularly squatting in the mid-500’s, that 225 “was heavy.” The usual response was, “How can 225 be heavy if you can squat over 500?” Again, by any standard 225 pounds of weight, in any form is “a lot of weight” and can, stated in the most direct way possible and with no offense intended to those uncomfortable with street level language, “fuck you up.” That’s why it’s heavy, 225 can still produce damage and even to a strong man or woman, it’s heavy. Despite the frame of reference, 225 pounds translates to a lot of pounds! Few non-lifters can relate to any amount of weight and what it takes to push, pull, squat, bench press, press, or deadlift it. If a 125 pound woman states, “I deadlifted 303 at Saturday’s meet,” it’s very much like the John McCallum article from his 1960’s renowned Keys To Progress series in Strength And Health magazine. In this specific piece, McCallum had returned home one evening after setting a new personal record in the gym, a milestone as he had squatted 500 pounds for the first time. His excitement was such, that to quote the article which of course was written in the very famous and humorous McCallum style,

      “I never even stopped for a shower. I bolted home, bounced through the door, threw both arms overhead, and flexed dramatically in front of the wife. ‘I did it!’ I shouted. ‘I did it!’ I was a little out of breath. She was reading. She didn’t look up but she smiled politely. ‘Did you dear?’ she said. ‘That’s nice.’…

My daughter came into the room and said goodnight. I picked her up and put her on my knee. She had her pajamas on. She was a real cute little girl even then, with big dark eyes and thick hair and already starting to act like her mother. ‘Honey,’ I said, ‘Take your hand out of Daddy’s pocket and pay attention. I want to tell you what I did tonight.’ She reached up and pinched my nose.

‘Now,’ I said, ‘Get the picture.’ I was getting kind of choked up with emotion. ‘There’s this gym, see? An’ it’s full of weights. Tons of weights layin’ around all over the place. And…’

‘And you lifted them all. How nice.’ She slid off my knee. ‘Goodnight, Mummy.’ You’d probably like to impress your family too.”


Do our readers understand that unless your friend, family member, or co-worker actually lifts weights, they don’t get it and will never get it? It’s not done for the money, the glory, the fame, or the adulation of others. We do this for ourselves and in part, when it’s contest time, for each other. Thus, it is the lifter, not the audience that is the focus. Professional, and now collegiate sports, market to an audience but it has always been a mistake for meet directors to “market” their meet and place the lifters and the lifters’ safety and needs behind anything else. With that strongly held opinion being stated, why then, is the very best, strongest, sturdiest, and newest equipment placed upon the competition platform while at so many meets, the warm-up room is filled with junk? More lifts, most of the actual lifting, and the more careless lifting will be done in the warm-up room, yet many if not most meet directors scrounge for racks and bars to fill that vital need, forgetting the importance of providing the safest of equipment for the lifters as they prepare for the main platform.



Posted on


I began last month’s column, Part 78 in our series, with the statement, “Very few individuals awaken and begin their day with the thought that the world needs another barbell set.” I was clear that at some point in time, TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEM founder Pete Alaniz had that exact thought and over the course of approximately eighteen months, the result was TITEX. We have had a quite a bit of reaction and response to the announcement of the product release, the appearance of the set, and commentary on the performance of the new barbell and plates by some of those who utilized them in their debut at “The Arnold.”


One of my lifting partners who frequents the powerlifting forums also passed on a comment that someone had “called (me) out” for writing a piece that was “too commercial in nature.” Allow me to say “guilty as charged” with an explanation. For those who have read the TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEMS series of columns since their inception seventy-nine columns ago, recall please that the series began under the banner of Eleiko. Pete Alaniz had worked very hard to become “the” distributor of Eleiko powerlifting products in the United States, had established a nationwide distribution system that utilized his Corpus Christi importation and transportation networks, and was in fact granted the rights to proceed. It was, despite what will no doubt be their “outrage” and denials, Eleiko’s proposition to include the sales and distribution of the Eleiko Olympic weightlifting products also as they expressed dissatisfaction with their existing United States network. This was not Pete’s idea or the intent of TITAN, it was Eleiko’s and Pete responded in the most professional manner while trying to be fair to everyone involved. Part of my job and the intent of the columns as I chose to write them, was to spread the word that TITAN would handle the Eleiko products. Thus, “yes,” there was, woven into the extensive history of powerlifting, equipment evolution, and personal journey, a push to give exposure to the TITAN-Eleiko connection. For TITEX, absolutely I want to get the word out!

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.19.31 AM

Regarding Eleiko, Pete remains too much of a gentleman and polished individual to utilize the language I would, but the summary can be stated that Pete was screwed over and instead of moaning about it, decided to produce his own barbell set specifically designed for powerlifting and one that could be certified by the major organizations. This ushers us into a list of questions that I have fielded since the posting of last month’s column. The two most frequently asked questions were “Why TITEX instead of TITAN?” and “Why get certified?”  I have at times described myself as a street guy with a very good education. As a former educator, coach, and school administrator dating to 1969, I was already made acutely aware that the level of basic, common sense, and broad ranging education offered by public schools was poor and lacking relative to what I had experienced only a decade before. Much of the dumbing down came from the debilitating influence of a very definite and strong liberal flavor given to the curriculum by those in charge who believed that the “new, hip, modern” alteration in the culture as personified by the “do your own thing” attitudes needed to be incorporated into the school experience. As the general level of common sense, emphasis on the basics of reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, and fundamentals related to living in a courteous, considerate, and compassionate manner have further eroded within the boundaries of the educational system, it is accepted that our current generations cannot compare to former ones when it comes to having a wide base of general knowledge, history, “everyday math” (with computations made within one’s head or manually as opposed to the use of a calculator , computerized cash register, or cell phone app), and what used to be called Civics which provided a blueprint on how to live successfully within one’s community. I received an excellent public school education but none of it was relevant to trademark and copyright law.


The legal system is often counterintuitive to the application of common sense. “Well, it’s the law” is a very frequently utilized explanation to a lot of questionable situations but all too often it is often counterintuitive to everything that seems to be “right.” TITEX was a result of a foreign country having a barbell product that was using the name “Titan.” Relative to the powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, bodybuilding, and general fitness industry, the “other Titan” is hardly known and certainly unknown in the competitive arena. Common sense would dictate that the name, owned and used by TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEM with all of their products connected to and associated with the TITAN name since 1980, would be allowed use of the name for a specific powerlifting competition and training product. This is where common sense is trumped by “legal” and because the Titan name for a specific barbell product was “already taken,” an alternate was needed. That was left to the Creative Department which of course consists of Mr. and Mrs. Alaniz! The original TITAN displaying molds had to be scrapped but TITAN + TEXAS = TITEX made a lot of sense and the bottom line is that it did not alter the quality of the product.


Another area of comment, and one that all of us at TITAN were most gratified to hear, was the overwhelming approval of the appearance of the barbell and TITEX plates. An additional comment I made in our last column was “In use, on a moving bar, this is just a very cool set!” Up close and personal, the set looks terrific. Many give no thought and put absolutely no energy into thinking about the appearance of their plates. If they need to squat 352 x 5, they want to be able to load 352 pounds onto the bar and just go, with the desired and planned upon level of resistance to exercise or compete with. Allow me to interject that I have some very old equipment and some very odd equipment. In the early 1980’s, MUSCULAR DEVELOPMENT Magazine requested that I provide a few years’ worth of articles and all were related to training hard and intensely. Almost every one of those articles was illustrated with photos taken by my wife Kathy and all featured our children, our group of trainees, and/or our training partners. It was perhaps the first inkling and first illustration of much of the “odd lift” type of equipment we had been using for many years both in our family’s training and what we applied to the training of our clients and patients. Sewer covers, I-beam sections, classic globe lead-shot loaded barbells, thick handled barbells and dumbbells, and my original-training-equipment flywheels and truck gears used as plates were routinely featured.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.19.40 AM

The author’s garage has always been the center for lifting activity in the community, especially among the powerlifters and “football guys.” In a dated photo, former CFL and St. John’s University standout Ken Cobb deadlifts a “tire bar.” Fashion and style never mattered, it’s always been about the equipment and actually lifting it


The equipment was “cool” to some, “crazy” to others, and even inconsequential to a few. For me, I wanted equipment we could utilize to become muscularly larger and stronger and all of it was. I also wanted to enjoy my training and utilizing the odd-ball equipment, knowing I was lifting on a “really good” bar, and pushing and pulling on resistance that I was confident weighed accurately made my training more enjoyable and exciting. At the same time, and unlike many, I never cared what I was wearing while I was training as long as I could in fact train without restriction from the clothing. Some have to wear their “lucky” tee shirt or insure that the shorts and sweatshirt match in color or emblazoned logo while others can only squat in “this one pair of squat shoes.” I have trained in sweats, jeans, overalls, shorts, hooded sweatshirts in warm weather, and two or three tee shirts and an “everyday jacket” if that was all I had at the moment. My equipment however, was viewed with more concern, not only for the sake of safety but also, based upon what I “just liked.” Thus, I often painted my 45 pound or 20 kilo plates to mimic a specific national or world championship meet, or to utilize a color I was temporarily attracted to or thought would look great on a barbell.


The unique “stripe” pattern of the TITEX plates provides something different, and to me, something exciting and enjoyable to train with. It also allows powerlifters to know that this is “their product,” one provided by a “powerlifting company.” Pete, myself, and all of the others, some at the level of Brad Gillingham (with Brad pretty much in a class by himself,thus allow me to restate that as “some who lift at a very high level”), and the engineers involved know what works and what powerlifting performance should be and one glance at a distance allows identification of the TITEX product.


The other major question among lifters was “Why get certified?” and does it affect pricing or compromise of the development, or actual manufacturing of the product? The answer is “No” to both questions and the explanation will come in our next column.

Posted on


Very few individuals awaken and begin their day with the thought that the world needs another barbell set. In our ongoing TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEMS series of articles, we have explored, discussed, and dissected the evolution of barbells as they have been utilized in our sport of powerlifting. There are a number of quality barbells on today’s market, and some perfectly suited to the needs of the powerlifter. Ivanko, Eleiko, the original Capps Texas Barbell, and others manufacture bars specifically for powerlifting. There are many “older” bars floating around the training community, used but in exceptionally functional condition. Dependent upon the year and series run, some of the York barbells can be depended upon to give continuing good service past the decades they have already been in use. Should one be fortunate enough to stumble upon one of Jim Sutherland’s Hastings Barbells manufactured in the early 1980’s, they will have an underrated model that had limited distribution, that still has every advantage of the newest barbells on today’s market. Our facility utilizes a seventeen year old Leoko bar that has seen daily service without complaint. There are companies that make Olympic weightlifting bars that are very applicable to powerlifting and while I would not own, use, or “gift” any of the junk imported bars that claim “1500 pound test” for example, almost all non-competitive trainees could spend a lifetime under one of these barbells with little risk of injury or product failure.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.14.11 AM

In brief, there are a lot of good barbells out there with a favorite usually due to personal preference, the brand of bar one first used when starting training, a specific product that resulted in many successful contests, or one given as a gift that has paid dividends. Thus, we are back to our original thought: does the world need another barbell set? Titan’s Pete Alaniz must have awakened with the thought or otherwise had this exact idea because he now has brought TITEX barbell and plates to the market. Think: TITAN/TEXAS = TITEX!  What Pete truly wanted was the feeling and excitement all of us experienced when we first began training and competing, forming a bond with our equipment, our training partners, and our sport. This new set has all of the advantages that modern design, materials, and manufacturing allow for, but that also brings the enthusiasm of starting anew in the sport.

There are, among barbell manufacturers, two camps; those who literally and figuratively buy into the concept of being officially certified for competition, and those who do not. Obviously, one has to begin with the actual product. If the barbell and/or plates do not meet the standard of the official/certifying organization, the conversation ends, there is nothing to certify for competition. If the barbell and plates can be officially certified because the plates weigh to exacting standards and the features of the barbell meet the criteria of the organization, then there is a choice to be made by the manufacturer. For many if not most, there is a dilemma because money is involved and money is the bottom line when one is in business. Some in the industry believe that being certified by a specific organization, and having to pay an official, organized, governing body money to attain that certification, to use the term stated to me in this very conversation, is “bullshit.” The argument is, “Why spend a significant amount of money being certified when your product is already of high quality, does in fact meet the standards of any official powerlifting organization, and there is little benefit to be had in being certified?” If one believes they sell a great product and many lifters and non-competitors will purchase and utilize their equipment because it is a terrific, high quality product and having the equipment either seen in a major competition or associated as being “XYZ Organization approved” will not affect sales, then this is a legitimate stance. Others, with TITAN and TITEX being among them, believe that there is in fact an advantage being associated with, and being certified with a particular organization.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.14.20 AM

One fact beyond argument, remains a fact; if the longest existing world organization in the sport, the organization with more participating lifters than any other and perhaps more than all others combined approves and certifies a barbell and plates as “official” and meeting every standard of the organization, that barbell and those plates can be used any place, in any competition, and by all lifters knowing that the equipment is “right.”  TITAN made the choice to fill a void and have an American company bring an officially IPF certified set to the marketplace. Having some input during the prototype stage, something I have previously done for other barbell manufacturers, I know how painstaking and carefully completed, every step in the design and manufacturing process was for this specific set. While some of the forums have revealed “dueling opinions” on the appearance of the plates, a great deal of thought was given to the design, appearance, and performance of the TITEX product.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.14.28 AM

I am not that computer savvy but my daughter is the coordinator of media affairs for a large, national corporation and she gathered various forum based information for me and it seems that the majority of those who believe the appearance of the plates is “odd,” are bodybuilders! Powerlifters, and especially those powerlifters who either used the TITEX set at the recent Arnold event or saw the bar and plates in the warm-up room or on stage, absolutely raved about the appearance of the entire set. In use, on a moving bar, this is just a very cool set! That they also raved about the performance of the bar, one that meets all of the demands of the IPF and their affiliated world-wide organizations, is more important and more gratifying. In part this comes from the input of a number of TITAN team members, world class and world record holding powerlifters who were solicited for their opinions during the ongoing design process. I believe it’s great that we have a new, American company entry to the certification list, and meet directors and gym owners, as well as garage based lifters like myself, will want to utilize the TITEX bar and really great looking plates in training and competition. Yes, a void has been filled but more importantly, a terrific option has been presented to powerlifters everywhere.    

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.14.36 AM

Posted on




Our ongoing series of articles has been very much focused upon the development of the sport of powerlifting, the unfortunate growth of specialization in the distinct and different aspects of the Iron Game, and the evolution of the equipment utilized in powerlifting. There can be no complaint about the evolution of equipment. We have moved from large, cumbersome, and very heavy pieces that were in fact necessary to preserve the safety of participants both in training and in competition, to better designed, lighter, and while being lighter, stronger equipment. We have spent a great deal of time discussing squat racks, an obviously central piece of equipment to the sport of powerlifting and how it is now possible to load a pick-up truck with enough squatting and bench pressing equipment to supply a competition platform and four warm-up platforms. Equipment breaks down, is light enough to handle by one individual, and yet can provide absolute structural safety. One of the key features on any squat rack apparatus is the ability to adjust it. While the reduction in overall or absolute weight of the product has been a major improvement, the ability to quickly and safely elevate or lower the stand safely while it is supporting weight, is in my opinion, the most important step forward.


Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.08.49 AM

Former Michigan State defensive back Richard Brown trained with Dr. Ken for ten years and had a successful college football career at 5’11”, 198 pounds. At our former residence and garage training area, he is shown standing with one of Doc’s ATOMIC ATHLETIC custom barbells supported by a squat rack that meets many of the requirements for safety and ease of use. These are bolt together, hydraulic cylinder height adjustable racks that are lightweight but structurally strong. Difficult to see but present are welded hooks that are stationary and not height adjustable, for bench pressing. Not as “user friendly” as the ER Racks, these were our designated “Outdoor Racks” used for squats and presses, racks that lasted many years.



If one takes a moment to examine the many photos “from the old days” that have illustrated the previous 76 installments of this series of articles, it should be obvious that the only way to lift or lower squat rack height was through the process of manually moving the barbell and then the rack height to the desired position. During the course of a contest, there were competitors, their coaches, spotters, and friends filling the warm-up room. Thus, there was plenty of assistance available when height changes were needed. On the competition platform, spotters and loaders could lift one end of a 700 pound bar, hold it for a moment until the rack was also lifted or lowered to the desired height, and then replace the barbell end in the weight saddle. Once the procedure was completed on the other side of the bar, the two squat stands or racks were ready to go. Tedious, time consuming, a bit dangerous, and perhaps archaic in retrospect, but that’s how it was done. Training however, was another issue.


If two or three training partners were approximately the same height, the squat racks could be set, and then remain at a fixed position for the entirety of the squat workout. Certainly, even slight differences in height from one individual to another would make it a bit “less than perfect” for at least one of the trainees, but workouts could be efficient and safe. When the training partners were of differing heights, and of course the problems were magnified when there was a significant height difference among the members of the training group, the squat segment of the workout could drag on interminably. Changing the rack height would in fact become a significant aspect of the workout if numerous alterations were needed. Even with two partners, the necessity of changing rack height over the course of three or four warm-up sets and three to six work sets, could be brutal. Made worse by the use of very heavy weights, this aspect of training became another exercise in itself. One trainee lifted the end of the bar, held it, and hoped that his partner could quickly pull the pin out of the rack upright hole, and rapidly shove it into the one needed. The procedure was repeated, and the squat set was completed. When the next lifter came up to take his turn, the process was repeated. Now, picture this with heavy weights, very cold hands in an unheated garage when there was snow and ice on the ground and winds were howling through the doors, and the hour was either exceptionally early or late. These conditions made for less than optimal and often, less than safe training conditions.


Our series has reviewed the step up to the use of car or truck jacks, hydraulic cylinders, and Jim Sutherland’s electric/motor drives for rack height adjustment. Erik Rasmussen’s pin-and-lever system of adjusting rack height was a step forward that eliminated the heavy manual work, the possible slippage or failure of jacks, the leakage or inability to create pressure within the closed hydraulic cylinder, and a lack of electricity or other electrical or mechanical problems that were potential pitfalls with the electric racks. This ability to quickly, safely, and efficiently adjust rack height was rather brilliant in its simplicity, and one of those “Why didn’t I think of that first?” type of alterations.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.08.57 AM

The height adjustment lever system developed by Erik Rasmussen on his ER Racks is the industry leader in safety and ease, especially with groups of lifters in trainng or competition. The side-to-side adjustment rollers are an “added bonus” to the total equipment package


My father was a craftsman, typical of his generation and typical of the immigrant population that arrived from Europe in the early 1900’s. He insisted that the most minor job be done as well as possible and that the work, even if insignificant, be completed as well as anyone could do it. Some of my early attempts at fabricating squat racks or power racks were less than successful but in a day before computer controlled laser cutting and drilling became standard, every drilled or punched hole was clean, every weld was ground to smoothness and often a “glass-like” finish, and the work area was left cleaner than it was prior to the start of the project. In the ER promotional materials, it states “Every product he (Rasmussen) creates carries over a thousand years of heritage and national pride with it. Products from ER do not leave his factory meeting minimum standards. His products reach for the highest standards of craftsmanship. Not only are his products extremely functional and durable but they are also visually appealing.” I have a full understanding of this statement because I grew up with it. Our three ER Racks with Bench Press and spotters’ safety stands do in fact look the part. Heavy duty without being ridiculous (like one of the 5” X 5” tubing Olympic bench presses I encountered in a contest, a bench that caused the inside plates of the loaded barbell to continuously strike the outside of the uprights on almost every lift), yet beautifully crafted, make for good looking as well as functional equipment. Having done my early lifting on a truck axle with flywheels and gears as my barbell and plate substitute, I am not seeking “elegant” equipment but like anything else that one depends upon as a tool of their trade, one wants the tool to be “inviting” when it’s time to lift. ER Racks and benches fulfill the requirement.


The most important aspect of squat racks will always be safety and structural support. Will they cave in, will they tip, will they slide across the floor, and will the pin remain in place when the bar is slammed back into the saddles after a completed lift? These are the obvious questions and of course, the ER products have been proven in national and international competition while exposed to the heaviest of loads. For contest promoters, spotters, and loaders, one of the less obvious advantages of the ER Rack is the fact that one piece of equipment can accommodate the squat and the bench press. Most of the early squat racks, even with the addition of a welded on piece of angle iron for example, could not adequately accommodate the bench press if one utilized a flat utility bench. I tried a number of times and if the rack uprights were cut so that one could also bench press off of their lower attachment while using a legal height bench, they invariably would not adjust high enough to fulfill the squatting needs of a tall lifter. There was also the problem of safe bar recovery. Even if some sort of welded attachment to the standard squat racks would also allow for bench pressing, one was not taking or replacing the barbell from a standard or safely configured weight saddle as they would in the squat. As bench press records and usual contest attempts began to move up, this became a dangerous situation. The ER Racks allow for bench pressing off of full weight saddles that allow for safe contest or training lifting.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.09.04 AM

The ER Rack can be utilized as a squat rack that accommodates tall or short lifters and as an official Olympic bench press useable for any organization’s contest, complete with spotter safety racks that are, like the primary barbell uprights, adjustable for height



The spotters’ stands are a nice addition, especially for the lifter who trains alone or at home. Having a piece of equipment that accomplished the job of two is an obvious space saver, especially as the changeover from squatting to bench pressing takes less than a minute, at least in our garage. My wife and I can complete any training or rehabilitation task in our home/office facility. The equipment we use in the garage area includes the three ER Racks and three distinct platform areas as well as an outdoor lifting platform. Our ER Racks serve as the obvious centerpiece and dependent on what has to be accomplished on any specific training day, these will be set as squat or bench pressing pieces. Again, the changeover is rapid and easy so no task is a problem. I have sung the praises of this piece of equipment because we use it and truly enjoy using it.