Vintage Covers of Powerlifting USA
Specialty newsletters like LADY ATHLETE featured lifters and bodybuilders but typically, did not last over the long haul. PLUSA did, and prospered, guiding the sport through its most difficult of times. Featured on the cover of this issue of more than three decades ago is the very beautiful and powerful Kathy Leistner
Cover of Muscular Development 1964
For those who have never seen the early issues of MD, take my word for it that there was not a lot of powerlifting information offered but any was better than none and as powerlifters, we were used to none. Joe Weider “expanded” his primary bodybuilding publication of the few he always had on the newsstands at any one time (and this does not include the homosexual magazines under his publishing banner, magazines that were almost always displayed on the corner newsstands of Manhattan, placed directly adjacent to Iron Man and Strength And Health) to include a powerlifing section but that usually included a few blurbs about the West Coast lifters and very infrequent mention of meet results. By 1965 – ’66 we were usually offered one article per issue that featured the original Westside Barbell Club of Bill West but the news, the information about the real training techniques and programs being used in the basements, garages, and storefront gyms was just not out there.
Attempts at “powerlifting only” publications met limited success and ultimate failure with Les Cramer and Dan DeWelt providing the most notable editions and both were short lived. DeWelt’s Powerlifting News however did inspire an enthusiastic powerlifter who was employed by the United States Navy in a civilian capacity. It seemed, at least to this young, motivated lifter, that powerlifting, as a sport that was organized and run by the Amateur Athletic Union, had enough interest to support a monthly newsletter or magazine. Mike Lambert of course was that young lifter who supplemented his long work hours with his new “second job” of contacting lifters throughout the United States for contest results, traveling when he could to take photos at different meets, and who learned how to grow a viable, professional publication through “on the job training.” The 1978 Collegiate National Powerlifting Championships hosted 180 registered lifters from seventy-eight different colleges and universities. From Mike’s perspective, the interest was there, the potential subscribers were there, and he took his shot. It was always very meaningful to me that I could write a monthly column for twenty-two consecutive years and had Carte Blanche to do so for as long as I wanted. From the early days of contributing one to four articles per issue, the sport itself unveiled enough information and a number of contributing writers who could fill the magazine’s pages without the need for Mike and I to do the majority of articles. Through the inclusion of a “real” magazine format, color photos, color covers, and all of the technological advances that enhanced print media, PLUSA grew. Despite the occasional appearance of a competing newsletter or magazine, PLUSA remained the most important voice in the sport and that’s because Mike always was the voice of reason.
Especially with so little powerlifting news available prior to the growth of the internet, each new issue of PLUSA brought excitement and motivation.
With all of the competing organizations that have fractured powerlifting into a rather forgotten, powerless, disrespected, under financed, inadequately supported, and disenfranchised activity relative to almost every other organized sport in the United States, there actually was a time when things were much worse. From one organization that governed the sport to what seemed to be new organizations that were crowning themselves as “the true governing body for the lifter” springing up on a monthly basis, obtaining a meet sanction and setting a “world record” became every weekend’s activity. Through the inclusion of drug testing and “drug free” organizations to the sport, Mike always stayed above the politics. He knew all of the players and every one of them respected Mike and understood that before anything else, he was for the good of the sport and the individual lifter. Nothing done by Powerlifting USA or Mike was self serving.
A previously published photo from the mid-1980’s of Mike Lambert visiting the Leistner household. Many forget that Mike, in addition to all he did for the sport through PLUSA, was a very good competitive powerlifter,
I at times chided Mike that he was being “too nice” and giving too much voice to certain individuals who were blatantly self serving or politically motivated but he always chose the path that he believed was fair to all involved and best for the sport. One of the reasons, perhaps the primary reason, that Powerlifting USA Magazine lasted so long as a niche or almost “boutique” publication while defying all odds to do so, was Mike’s integrity. Almost all of the other powerlifting-only or powerlifting oriented publications have not made it and one of the key features that always distinguished PLUSA from others out there has been what can only be described as the self serving interests of these other publications. When Mike was thinking about “selling” certificates to those who had been named to PLUSA’s Top 100 monthly lists, we spoke about it and he was so clear that he wanted to fulfill the requests of the numerous lifters who were proud of this accomplishment and wanted some sort of verification to display. Mike’s only desire was to cover his costs and insure that the lifters benefited and got even more enjoyment out of their participation in the sport. The editors, publishers, and/or owners of most of the other publications were and are indeed selling “something,” be it tangible product or their own exposure to either benefit themselves as lifters or as entrepreneurs. Mike sold the sport, period. There was never any guile, any secret agenda, or some vague scheme to make money or put his name out in front of the lifting public. Mike Lambert never put himself before the sport. Powerlifting USA Magazine was a way to support his family while remaining involved with a sport he loved to participate in and later, a sport he loved and wanted to prosper. It’s a sad day as the magazine ends its publishing run but a sadder day when someone like Mike Lambert is no longer actively involved in the sport of powerlifting.