Hail to the Dinosaurs!
Two men huddled in front of an old
fashioned, wood-burning, cast-iron
The men wore double sweat suits, dark
gray fisherman's knit hats, and thick
One of them pulled his gloves off and
held his hands close to the top of the
"If my fingers were any colder, they'd
be icicles," he muttered.
The other man nodded in silent agreement.
The first man reached down and picked up
a York Olympic barbell that lay close to
"It's ready," he said.
The other man laughed softly.
"Meaning it's not frozen," he said.
"Meaning it's not frozen," said the first
He carried the barbell to the lifting
platform, and performed five quick reps
in the clean and press.
"Your turn," he said.
The second man stepped onto the platform
and began to do his warm-ups.
That was the South Phillie Weightlifting
Club in 1940. A neighborhood gym on the
second floor of a garage. The only source
of heat was the old wood-burning stove,
and the lifters kept one barbell close
to the stove so they could do their
warm-up sets with a barbell that didn't
feel as cold as ice. After that, they
used one of the other barbells -- one
of the cold ones. But after you did your
warm-ups, you could stand the cold.
That was in winter. In the summer, the
gym was so hot it felt like you were
training inside a blast furnace.
The gym was spartan at best. There were
a few wooden lifting platforms, some
homemade wooden benches and squat racks,
a pull-up bar, and some barbells and
dumbbells. That was it.
The men trained on basic exercises. Most
of them practiced Olympic weightlifting.
Many of them did plenty of squats and
bench presses, as well. They did lots of
dumbbell pressing, and plenty of high
At the 1948 Olympic Games, six gold medals
were awarded in weightlifting.
Two of them went to men from the South
Phillie Weightlifting Club. John Davis
and Frank Spellman.
The little neighborhood gym had out-lifted
And that tells you something very important
about what it takes to be a champion --
and about the kind of gyms that build a
As always, thanks for reading and have a
great day. If you train today, keep your
fingers warm -- and make it a good one!
Yours in strength,
P.S. You can read more about John Davis and
how he trained in BLACK IRON: THE JOHN DAVIS
STORY. It covers his life and lifting in a
big (almost 500 page) epic, with special
insights from his friends, team mates, and
training partners -- and many never before
published photos. It's a great tribute to a
great champion -- and a tribute to the
greatness in all of us:
P.S. 2. My new book, DINOSAUR DUMBBELL
TRAINING, is in stock and ready to ship.
You can grab your copy right here:
P.S. 3. My other books and courses are right
P.S. 4. Thought for the Day: "Luxury is for
cruises, not lifting." -- Brooks Kubik