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History of Powerlifting, Weightlifting and Strength Training Part 66

I was very late entering the computer age and still do not own a cell phone. I have few skills beyond sending e mail and utilizing the computer keyboard as one would a typewriter to compose articles. When my computer and hard drive (patiently explained to me by my friend Phil, a true computer expert) crashed/burned/messed up and otherwise unusable was deemed beyond salvaging except by the most expert of specialists, this December 2013 column was swallowed and made to evaporate with the remainder of my extensive research materials. Rather than moan about it, I was focused on preparing for our annual, major Thanksgiving feast, hosting family and many friends who have come for this occasion for nearly thirty years. Some, like Pat Susco have an extensive lifting history with many records and championships under their belts. Others like former New York Giants defensive end Frank Ferrara are rooted in a football past and most would not know a bench press from a wine press but all enjoy the fellowship and tons of food. The holiday and loss of the computer allowed me to focus on so many things to be thankful for, including a few related to powerlifting.

As lifters, we should be thankful for competent spotters. Some, in both contests and during training, fall short of the minimal standard. One of our extremely strong trainees while at Iron Island Gym was Tom Metzger. Tom was an outstanding high school football player who has always trained because he enjoyed it, and probably needed to try to keep up with his beautiful wife who has won quite a few major, national level physique awards. We talked Tom into competing in an AAU meet in Pennsylvania for team points when we fell shorthanded but he was one of those non-competitive lifters that I have written about, and who some “experts” claimed “just don’t exist,” who could lift on the national level but didn’t care to. For approximately six months, Tom did not include twenty rep squats as part of his usual routine, but would, at the conclusion of at least one workout each week, load 400 or 450 onto the barbell, and squat for twenty reps, “just to make sure (he) could do it.” Yikes, most men at 220 pounds and 5’9” in height are not going to do that while focusing on the lift. Training prior to work, at 4:00 to 5:00 AM limited the available training partners Tom could seek out and one day, while I was occupied with a patient, Tom “needed” to complete his one set of twenty before showering and heading to his job. He asked one of our gym members to spot him, probably the only one remotely capable of doing it physically, but failed to note that this very nice individual was also on psychological medication that would either prevent him from, or cause him to, enter an alternate universe, known only to himself! Thus, with 450 pounds on his back and totally focused on the squat, Tom began grinding the reps while his “spotter” stood approximately fifteen feet behind him, silently chanting, swaying, eyes closed, and with no apparent awareness that he was supposed to be spotting a lifter doing a lot of reps with a lot of weight. Noting this, I rapidly and silently moved into spotting position, with absolutely no acknowledgement by the chosen spotter, that I was in position in front of him, ready to grab an errant barbell.

Even at contests, every lifter should be thankful for organized, competent, experienced spotting although it is useless if not implemented. At one of our Iron Island meets, a well known, arrogant lifter who resided in another state insisted that he would set a record but wanted to utilize his own spotter. I had no objection to this but noted that for significant weights, we utilized three spotters as was usual in any contest setting. We were told, “No, I take the spot from my guy, and don’t need or want anyone else around the bar.” Any attempt by the head judge or me to dissuade him was met with what can only be described as “an attitude” and I told our guys, “be ready, be nearby but as he insisted, off to the side.” Thus, with a lot of weight on the bar and a ton of fanfare, our aspiring national level bench press champion stabilized himself on the bench, called for his special personal spotter, took the bar and immediately dropped it across his chest. That he did not suffer fractured ribs, collapsed lungs, and/or cardiac arrhythmia was a testament to good fortune and a coating of protective body fat!

One can only be thankful both in training and during meets, for accurate loading. While it is ultimately the lifter’s or trainee’s responsibility to know what is on the bar, most leave it to their coach or handler during meets to insure that the bar is properly loaded. Those who are as compulsive as I am and who must count every plate on every set can make errors. Most of my regular, long time readers know that my wife Kathy was one of the pioneers of women’s powerllifting and a top ranked competitor in the lighter classes, posting the second highest total in her class at one World Championship and holding the American Deadlift Record. At a regional level meet in the mid-1980’s, travel, a lot of work and family responsibility, and last minute preparation for a meet she had not initially planned to enter left her warm-up room squats looking less than what we had anticipated. I immediately lowered her starting attempt and she was obviously called to the bar sooner than originally planned. She noted the weight on the bar, I counted the plates on the bar, she stepped under the bar, backed up, set up…and was immediately crushed attempting to come out of the hole! Needless to add, the newly requested, approved, and announced weight was not on the bar, and her originally requested ten kilo heavier opener was not on the bar but a full twenty five kilos more than her opening attempt was somehow loaded an none of us caught it. The platform manager, expeditor, head judge, and loaders could only shrug and apologize though I took responsibility for the misstep. It was a great lesson; if it could happen to experienced lifters and coaches with competent spotters, loaders, expeditors, and judges, it can happen to any lifter.

My wife reminded me that we always needed to be thankful for good, safe equipment. In my early lifting experience, which began in 1959, it was not unusual to find a lot of homemade equipment because the commercial market was quite limited, especially when seeking strong, beefy, made-to-withstand-powerlifting-weights type of equipment. I had the advantage of constructing my own racks and benches in my father’s iron shop but it was not uncommon to see and use squat racks, benches, and support equipment made from wood. Some was bomb proof, fashioned by carpenters who knew their craft and utilized very heavy pieces of wood, angled and fastened so that stress points were strong enough to hold up to powerlifting pounding. Most were not. In the town of Inwood near us, one of the older fellows who had just graduated from Lawrence High School and who possessed what could be called an “advanced physique” for the era, invited me to take a workout with him. His equipment was all homemade and constructed of wood. Some of it looked great, some of it appeared to be a bit suspect but he assured me that all of it would hold up to the three hundred plus pound squats we would attempt in our early attempt at becoming stronger. I was not taken by complete surprise when my set of five reps with 275 pounds was plunked back into the wooden squat racks and one of the uprights split down the middle, from top to bottom. We both could only watch as one side of the barbell dropped and in what was almost slow motion, both of the uprights splintered into many pieces that shot forcefully in many directions! This certainly rivaled one of our lighter but stronger competitors attempting a limit deadlift only to feel and watch one end of an expensive power bar literally break, with the overlying sleeve and weights tumbling to the platform, quickly followed by the remainder of the unbalanced load. Observing one of our national champions while living and lifting in Southern California take a huge squat out of the rack was exciting but that excitement soon turned to a bit of panic as the bar literally bent across his upper back during the time it took to descent and then arise from his first rep. Needless to say, everyone present sprang forward to grab the bar and place it back into the rack. The legendary Pat Casey always took his own heavily constructed bench to meets in the back of a pickup truck because he had experienced benches that he was told would “easily support” his 340 pound bodyweight and 600 pound bench press attempts, collapse beneath him long before he tried 600.

Some prototypes have remained prototypes and never saw the light of day, thankfully, and as powerlifters we need to be thankful for that. Imagine a rack that was bolted into a large wooden platform, one of the early “rack and platform” units, that to my eye, did not seem as if it was properly secured despite sixteen industrial quality, heavy duty fasteners. Sure enough, with no more than four hundred pounds across the racks weight saddles, the rack and companion barbell did a slow motion forward swan dive to the platform with the observing lifters scattering and jumping out of the way before suffering possible decapitation. Good equipment would include 100 pound plates that do not weight 112 pounds each as they often did in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, 45’s that did not range from forty-one to fifty-two pounds, and 20 kilo bars that did not weigh in at 49 pounds. Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for all of the obvious family and health related matters but as powerlifters, let’s not forget what we need to be thankful for.

Next month, concluding Diversity In Lifting with what shall be a new computer!

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History of Powerlifting, Weightlifting and Strength Training Part 65

Talking Diversity in Lifting Ability Part 2

Not everyone believes that watching a lifting contest is “a good thing.” I directed my first powerlifting meet in the late-1970’s and it was “de facto direction” if it was anything. My friends and training partners, highly thought of powerlifters on the verge of national recognition, decided to host a powerlifting meet which would be well attended due to the popularity of the sport in the St. Louis area. Because everyone planned to lift in the contest, their focus naturally remained on their training and the highlight of the competition for me, was being attired in a non-supportive wrestling singlet, buried beneath the announcing and scorer’s table, hooking up loud speakers, when my name was called for my first squat. Obviously there would be no time to change into the new-fangled, newly introduced supportive lifting suits, the ones that resembled skin tight burlap bags, and no time to actually warm up. I passed on my first attempt so that I could take rapid, non-stop warm-ups with 135 and 225, and ran out for my first attempt of the competition. There was no strong prediction that I would have placed any higher than fourth in a very good field of six or seven as I recall the competition, but it was a poor way to begin one’s competitive day and a lesson that one should either direct a contest or lift in a contest but probably not try to do both. When Mike Wittmer and I were asked to take over the Missouri State Olympic Weightlifting Championships, it was the first opportunity I had to design a meet tee shirt, not yet a commonly seen item. It turned out to be a popular and attractive model that displayed the state outline and all of the appropriate verbiage to demonstrate to onlookers that “I lifted weights.” Because St. Louis was in fact a rabid lifting area, there were meets within driving distance almost weekly between powerlifting and Olympic lifting and our group competed in them, assisted as spotters and loaders, or observed on a regular basis. When Kathy and I owned the Iron Island Gym, we held five meets annually; the New York State Powerlifting Championships, a deadlift only championship, two bench press contests, and what we termed a limited, “invitational meet” that insured that all of our gym lifters had the opportunity to go head-to-head against others of similar ability from out of state. For four or five of our seven years of gym ownership, we volunteered to host the New York Empire State Olympic Weightlifting Qualifying Contest for the area lifters. Stan Bailey, a very highly ranked lifter from the 1960’s, was the coach of the Empire State Team and was meet director but we would supply spotters, loaders, the warm-up and competition facility, and I would spend the day announcing, loading, and doing whatever it took to provide them with a successful venue.


Dr. Richard Seibert was on one of our U.S. Teenage World teams when he was my patient. Rich went on to Chiropractic college and to successful careers as a Chiropractor with a thriving Long Island practice and as an Olympic weightlifter who still competes into his 50’s. Rich brought a young, talented lifter to my office for treatment who became one of our country’s finest Olympic weightlifters. He was inspired to return to his home in Illinois and later pursue a career as a Chiropractor after attending Logan College Of Chiropractic in St. Louis. That lifter was the great Curt White.


Former Olympic weightlifter Curt White, one of the best we had for many years, now a successful Chiropractor in Mooresville, NC

One of the truisms I learned, was that for a lifting fan, there are few things as exciting or wonderful as watching “good” Olympic weightlifting and few things as horrible from a spectator’s perspective, as watching poor lifting. There is no doubt that Olympic lifters and fans will immediately state that “nothing is worse than watching powerlifting” with emphasis on the word “boring!” It obviously depends upon one’s perspective, lifting background, and interest but there is no doubt in my mind that the personalities attracted to each segment of the iron game sports are very different. These differences are often on display during the actual lifting competitions. As usual, allow me to make reference to “the old days” of the 1950’s and ‘60’s, or at least what I experienced. Once powerlifting was established as an official sport, many of the powerlifters were Olympic lifters. Many of the Olympic lifters were powerlifters. “Everyone” who trained did so to become bigger and stronger, not “cut,” “ripped,” or “to have abs” so that they were deemed to be “hotter” than some other guy. I believe any conversation that made reference to a male that was “hot” would have made most of the gym attendees of that era cringe. Our commercial gym ownership that spanned from our first construction day of November 1, 1991, through our official opening on February 3, 1992 to our sale date of October 26, 1998 forced us to understand that the driving force behind most gym memberships was in fact, a desire for both men and women to be seen as “hot” by the same and opposite sexes. “Getting bigger and stronger” lagged far behind “gotta have abs and pecs” and “I only want to train chest and arms” on the popularity scale. The previous generations of lifters were in it for a very different goal: pack on as much muscle as possible with most men cognizant that they wanted to be lean enough to at least demonstrate through their appearance that they had in fact trained to become stronger and weren’t just circus fat men.


Bantamweight Olympic weightlifter Charles Vinci, the last American to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games in the sport, obviously knew his way around a barbell curl and chin up bar. Vinci was cited by York Barbell Company owner and Olympic weightlifting team “owner” Bob Hoffman as an example of a lifter who had “too much” muscle. AT 4’11-3/4” Vinci was as packed with functional muscle as he could be but Hoffman would chide him about doing curls and bench presses, noting that “for every ounce of muscle in his biceps, he could have trained to put it into his hips or back to lift more weight.” As multiple time national and world champion, its debatable if Vinci could have lifted much better than he did.


The Cleveland, Ohio ironworker was one of the “old school” examples of men who did a variety of lifting and training movements yet were proficient at the Iron Game specialty they placed their focus on. As a deeply religious man Vinci often attributed his success to “the will of God,” but all of his training partners noted his willingness to train day or night, and a contagious level of enthusiasm and dedication. Vinci was a true champion!

Even hard core bodybuilders were focused upon packing on as much muscle and as being as muscular as possible, in every area of their body, not targeting “pecs, biceps, and abs only” which seems to be the obsession of every twenty-something year old male. What was also obvious was the goal of most bodybuilders, even competitive bodybuilders, to be strong or considered as “strong” relative to the average man on the street. Vince Gironda was perhaps the only known physique star and gym owner who flat out stated that bodybuilding was just that, building and displaying the muscular structures of the body and the accompanying strength of those muscular structures were not only very secondary, it need not be a consideration of the serious or competitive bodybuilder. He was ridiculed or seen as a radical by his bodybuilding brethren because for anyone of that era, lifting weights implied being strong, no matter what one’s ultimate goal was.

The technical aspects of Olympic weightlifting made it beyond the consideration of many who lifted weights. Some “just knew” they would not be able to master what appeared to be intricacies involved in the clean and press, snatch, and clean and jerk. To the uninitiated, it just looked difficult. After attempting the lifts, even with excellent instruction, most were convinced it was a task that would never allow them to fulfill their barbell oriented goals. For this reason alone, those attracted to the sport were different than those attracted to the sport of powerlifting. Since I began writing for the popular muscle related press in the late 1960’s, I have noted the technical proficiency needed to be an accomplished powerlifter and the very technical aspects of each individual lift. While my competitive days are long behind me, I am still at heart “a powerlifter” before I am anything else related to a barbell but I would never try to convince myself that the technical aspects of powerlifting and the technique needed to fulfill one’s potential on the platform, compare to that necessary for successful Olympic lifting.

More next month. Be sure to come back December 1st 2013 to read installment #66 of Dr. Ken’s “History of Powerlifting Series”

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History of Powerlifting, Weightlifting and Strength Training Part 64

Talking Diversity in Lifting Ability

Although the emphasis is always on powerlifting in our series of TITAN articles, very much like the features I wrote for more than two consecutive decades for the sorely missed Powerlifting USA Magazine, the related materials often roam far and wide. My two-part “series” on the CrossFit phenomena brought a tremendous amount of response, both positive and negative, though it was not my intention to stir the pot with that specific subject. With a similar lack of intention to raise the hackles of the Olympic Weightlifting community, allow me please to generally praise our weightlifting brethren, yet point out a few things that some may not appreciate. Going back to an ongoing thread that has run through this entire series of articles, in the “old days,” almost everyone who seriously approached the task of becoming muscularly larger and stronger utilized all aspects of the three accepted lifting disciplines. Bodybuilders often did heavy squats, deadlifts, and bench presses, especially in “bulking up” or “getting bigger” phases and squats were actually done with a barbell and not on a Smith Machine. They performed overhead barbell pressing, power cleans, and front squats at various stages of their development too.


Big Tony Scrivens, a good friend and one of my favorite people has utilized the lifts specific to each iron sports discipline as well as many years dedicated to various athletic events. The result very much illustrates the effect of utilizing a variety of resistance modalities and exercises to develop “a lot of muscle and a lot of strength.”

Powerlifters performed the same power cleans, front squats, and overhead presses to strengthen the muscles used in the three competitive power lifts while often including incline pressing with barbells or dumbbells, specific triceps and lat work that might call for the inclusion of triceps pressdowns and extensions, as well as a variety of lat pulldowns and chins. It wasn’t unusual to increase one’s competitive squat by increasing lower extremity strength levels with leg presses and Hack squats for those whose knees could handle the shearing stress. Olympic lifters did bench pressing for both overall upper body power and to specifically assist the overhead press and jerk, as well as barbell or dumbbell rows and deadlifts for increased strength and development in the upper back. A variety of shrugs were used by all. Thus, anyone who “lifted weights” seriously or competitively had a varied arsenal of exercises, many of which were found to be “acceptable” within the communities of their specific focus of lifting interest or specialty.


One of my early training mentors from the neighborhood, Tony Pandolfo. Known as a bodybuilder of tremendous longevity, his training background which dated to the late 1950’s also allowed him to produce very high levels of strength that resulted in Odd Lift contest success. The combination of heavy lifting and specialized bodybuilding movements gave him strength, vitality as noted in this photo taken when he was 60 years of age, and very high levels of strength.”

Of course, like football, where two way players have long been replaced by specialists who often play no more than a down at a time under very specific down and distance circumstances, each of the lifting disciplines has within themselves become ridiculously specialized. I have in past articles, noted that I have met many extremely strong men who could apply their strength to numerous endeavors and often almost any endeavor requiring the output of force. They may have participated as Olympic weightlifters for example, but they could if and when called upon, also lift the engine end of automobiles, carry iron beams up steep stairwells, or spend a day moving more sheetrock than three other men. I have also met hugely muscular competitive bodybuilders, Olympic or powerlifters who were extremely strong in their sporting disciplines who were, out of the gym environment, not much stronger than other athletic males of similar weight and experience who had never lifted weights at all. These men were strong in the specific planes of motion they trained and competed in but did not have anything close to the expected levels of strength doing demanding, daily activities. Certainly in all lifting activities, leverage factors come into play but past that, I have had the experience of dealing with many powerlifters who could squat, bench press, and deadlift a lot of weight, Olympic lifters who could press, snatch, and clean and jerk a lot of weight, bodybuilders who looked as if they could walk through walls, yet none could lift moderately sized “industrial objects” or do so for a sustained period of time over the course of a few hours. This observation provoked me to make the statement in print, as far back as the late 1970’s, that “The strongest man in the world isn’t necessarily competing in the Senior National Powerlifting Championships or Olympic Weightlifting Championships, he could be lifting in his garage in Cleveland.” I talked and wrote of men who enjoyed lifting weights as a recreational activity, might have toiled in a physically demanding job five or six days each week, and who handled the kind of weights that world champions lifted in their training but who also had no competitive aspirations or perhaps lacked the time, finances, and/or inclination to compete as a lifter.


Richard “Doug” Young, pictured on the right, was a world champion powerlifter with the muscular development of a huge world class bodybuilder. As a football player at Texas Tech University, he indicated that he could apply his strength in a multitude of ways.

One National and World Champion powerlifter, a man with a dedicated following of his training ideas at the time, was extremely offended at my remarks and noted that anyone “that strong” of course would compete so people like that just did not exist. Well, they certainly are out there and I’ve worked and trained with a number of them but family responsibilities, school, work, and temperament may have all combined to allow them to lift happily in their basements or garages while never setting foot upon a competitive platform and with no interest in the lifting accomplishments of others past a training partner, if they had one. The same known, aforementioned, champion level lifter also assailed my knowledge of physiology by stating that anyone strong enough to compete at a high level in powerlifting for example, “was strong at anything.” Again, both common sense and experience have taught me that there are men, and women who can lift what is “a lot of weight” by any standard, in the specific plane of motion of the squat, bench press, or deadlift or in the snatch or clean and jerk, yet are not very strong for “walking around on the streets.” If I state that this is even more applicable to Olympic lifters than powerlifters, it gives an entire sector of the lifting sports a month to gather their verbal knives and spears waiting for Part 2 of this article!

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History of Powerlifting, Weightlifting and Strength Training Part 63

Logic, Equipment, CrossFit (and that is a trademarked name)! One More Time For “The Other Side”

Of the many responses that were evoked by last month’s article that focused upon the CrossFit phenomenon sweeping the nation if not the world, one of the brief but insightful comments I received was, “NOT SCATHING, NOT DISRESPECTFUL, JUST ONE MAN’S OPINION I DISAGREE WITH.” That of course is fair as everyone, including me, is entitled to an opinion. Titan and I received a lot of comments regarding last month’s article on CrossFit, indicating that even for the powerlifting community, it is a big deal. As everyone who knows me understands, I have been molded, and perhaps scarred, by my upbringing, some of which was done in what I usually refer to as an immigrant Polish household. “I started at the Home For Unwed Mothers in Amityville, New York and then was taken in by the dopey Polacks” is my standard description of life. My grandparents spoke Polish, as expected, having emigrated from Poland, and cooked Polish. In the neighborhood and in others of skewed ethnic origin that I lived in over the decades, the English language as we know it was altered, butchered, and ultimately utilized to present very clear and concise meaning while not coming close to English or Literature class approval. Years ago in one of my articles I noted that respects were paid when “Old Walter was burialized.” A word or term that was rarely attempted in our circle was bona fides and when it was, it was usually one of the wise guys trying to sound “intellettual” as we would put it. Even when the mispronunciation came out as “bone-a-fydz” we all “got it” and knew that someone was vouching for another and the fact that they could be counted upon to get a specific task done, and had “the stuff” to get it done.






One of my long time trainees, training partners, and friends is Mike Senft who has the bona fides in both business and in training for all aspects of strength and health. A former Princeton football player, Mike took his 240 pound physique and utilized it to get what is arguably the best undergraduate education in the nation, completed his MBA work at Columbia, and moved forward to a successful career on the investment banking front. Using our “word for the month” once again, he earned his powerlifting bona fides less as a member of our group than from his time spent training in Chicago with Ernie Frantz in the 1980’s.


Mike Senft, # 70 in your program and number one in our hearts,” as the expression goes. Above, Mike leading a sweep against # 95 of Cornell

He’s done it all on the lifting front and it has allowed him to be very successful in maintaining a strong, youthful physique and tremendous energy levels that propel him through 90 hour work weeks. He’s lifted very heavy weights, incorporated a variety of modalities through decades of consistent training, and has continued to train with me and at a Manhattan CrossFit facility as his schedule allows. While, as noted, I received a lot of comment on last month’s Titan article, I specifically requested that Mike provide his own insights and these follow below.

“I have lived with the philosophy and ethos of your guidance for over 30 years now, and have been uniquely benefited by it. And of course I agree completely with all the foundations of fitness expressed.

Crossfit, like so many aspects of life, has gross imperfections. Chief among them are overtraining and risk of injury from inadequate supervision, complex movements, and mistakes made under exhaustion.

That said, I have witnessed its ability to create a “community” for large groups of people which serves to engage and motivate them like no other modality I have ever experienced. And perhaps most importantly, a sage once said, “People just don’t understand how hard one has to work to effect change” (stop me when this sounds familiar…..) [author’s note: the quote is mine!] . Crossfit, with it’s competitive/supportive environment and high intensity approach, incorporating a variety of movements and protocols, provides a uniquely inspirational environment for the trainee who does not have a Dr. Ken & Kathy, and does not have the personal background or capacity to train on their own at a similar level of commitment. Compared with what I have regularly witnessed at the Equinox and other gyms in NY, it is light years ahead and closer to what I believe we all embrace as the correct approach.

I miss 20 rep squats, Hussefeld stone carry, chain drag, warrior press, etc. But I doubt most people would understand what we do with you, yet they work very hard in the Crossfit environment. So I am glad for the “realism” I see from that level of commitment. I am not a big fan of half-assed effort and poseurs…..

As I mentioned after I met Greg Glassman, the founder of Crossfit, he totally gets the foundations of your beliefs and approach.

one trainers, is appalling. You enjoy a unique, idyllic environment in your facilities, and in the rarefied air of the elite training organizations where you have lectured, etc. The great sea of mediocrity I deal with every day is unnerving at best. So, during my “penance” here in NYC, I take small comfort from environments where people actually seem sincere and generally work hard.”

Allow me to add an additional comment from Mike Burgener. For those who have been out of touch from the legitimate world of lifting activity, Mike played football at Notre Dame and we first met in the late 1960’s while we both were visiting California to experience the training environment of the gyms we had read about in the muscle magazines.


Before he was “Coach Mike” Mr. Burgener was one of those football players talented enough to play under the leadership of Notre Dame’s great head coach Ara Parseghian

I finished playing football and my education and returned to New York. Mike finished and returned to California where he became a revered Olympic lifting coach and educator. Arguably, he has been the best Olympic weightlifting coach in the United States for decades. He was also one of the early advocates and what I will term “foundational members” of CrossFit activity. Two comments he sent to me can be incorporated with those above from Mike Senft:

I am proud to be part of the crossfit community and the coach that teaches proper form and technique of the Olympic lifts.

Coach b

And another, made after reading Mike Senft’s comments:

Enjoyed mike’s comments and share the same beliefs. We all fight improper technique, poor planning, non recovery….BUT WE CAN, we do, we have…..done it the correct way and the results speak for themselves!

Thanks ken for your leadership!


The commentary of Mike S. and Mike B. reinforce my opinion of CrossFit and highlight the problems as well as the positives. If Mike Burgener was teaching the Olympic weightlifting movements that are incorporated into most if not all CrossFit programs (I will repeat that I do not claim expertise regarding their system of training), the movements would be done correctly and as safely as possible. My “complaint” was made vis-à-vis the original Nautilus concepts and opening of Nautilus only fitness sites. I made the analogy to early Nautilus based training where a lack of competent, complete, and correct instruction resulted in many injuries and the participation of many who were either not ready for the type of intense training Nautilus offered, or who were not properly “fitted” to the equipment. I am in support of anything that allows individuals to enhance their levels of strength, health, and fitness. Nautilus based and Nautilus only training did that for those whose medical, orthopedic, and training history insured that they were ready for it. For those who were not, the “one size fits all” training routine presented significant health and orthopedic challenges. For those not instructed properly, the potential dangers and risk of injury were enhanced. Objective observation and comment from colleagues in the health care professions I believe supports my position. In a further comment from Mike Senft, he summed up my primary concern or criticism of the CrossFit phenomenon, and as a health care professional as well as a physical fitness and strength devotee, it remains the most meaningful:

“I would only note that, while I am perhaps uniquely driven and motivated by average standards, I benefit just as much or more from your coaching, guidance and governance than a less applied trainee. I gain both technical guidance and great perspective that is crucial to my progress. Crossfit suffers from an uneven consideration of workload and individual output and recovery capacity in many of its more intense ‘wods’ (workouts of the day), which, along with lack of critical supervision, can put the trainee at risk both during the session and over time. You have ALWAYS had a ‘sixth sense’ about my condition at the start of any session, and have then guided me to my ‘edge’ for the day, rather than set an arbitrary goal regardless of current conditions.”

I am respectful of Mike Senft’s comments because he has done it all relative to pushing himself to excel physically and intellectually. “Mental toughness” is a daily component of everything Mike does and we have joked that he is so intense that we would not want to witness any “psyching up routine” that might precede romantic activity with his beautiful wife! Re-reading his very passionate yet well considered statements notes what is very positive about CrossFit and again, there are similarities to what became available and the wholesale change in the fitness and strength building industry with the 1970 – 1971 introduction of Nautilus equipment. I will repeat that with the type of instruction and supervision provided by a coach at the level of Mike Burgener, the general criticisms and mine in particular, would not be directed at the CrossFit groundswell.