Posted by in Dr Ken Leistner on April 1, 2017 Comments off

It would be rather difficult to believe that this is my 100th column for the TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEMS site unless the new and/or younger readers had perspective on my lifting and writing experience. I began to lift weights as a young adolescent in 1959, long before it was accepted as a mainstream activity. I fell in with older men who were involved in legal and illegal endeavors that were quite a bit beyond what normal teens did in that era, and of course, this included weight training. I saw all of it as “the usual.” It took the lengthy perspective of a few decades to realize that perhaps it was a big deal to train in a storefront gym frequented by a number of Mr. America and Mr. Universe competitors, class winners, and overall title holders. That if five men on Long Island could bench press 500 pounds in the early 1960s, I had access or trained next to four of them. It was “the usual” to train with a group of men ten and twenty years older than I was who loaded the bar to 400 – 600 pounds for squats and deadlifts in every workout and where I was literally dragged to various odd lift contests in order to hopefully pick up one or two team points with the lowest of placings, years before powerlifting became an official sport. To be clear and to repeat what I have written numerous times, I was not a particularly good lifter, the boxing parlance would have been “tomato can” as a descriptive phrase of my abilities, but I was enthusiastic and could at least demonstrate reasonable strength lifting and moving heavy objects in the course of a number of demanding manual labor jobs. Most importantly, I understood and accepted the sacrifices that were necessary to train to one’s limit and understood and accepted the many beneficial results that have led to a literal lifetime of lifting enjoyment.

The author would argue that no one’s love and respect for the sport of powerlifting, and selfless devotion to it, was greater than PLUSA founder Mike Lambert (on right)

I had my first lifting related article published in Strength And Health Magazine in 1969, had regular columns in most of the muscle magazines ranging from Dan Lurie’s publications to Iron Man and Muscular Development to most of the powerlifting related magazines, and often wrote pieces for the programs of the major lifting championships. I sold my soul at one point and spent a few years writing intermittently for Joe Weider, with a limited number of articles published in my name but numerous others written for and attributed to some of the champion bodybuilders of the era. When the impressionable and naïve realize that many champions of the 1970s and ‘80s could barely express themselves verbally and negligibly with the written word, the need for a Weider stable of ghost writers becomes evident. Kathy and I published our own successful training newsletter for a three year period that could have run much longer if the time was available to do so (and credit her with every positive aspect of it). I was fortunate to have articles published in “legitimate” professional journals related to my field of practice and study, and coaching magazines. The sum total of articles published in both print and on the internet would exceed 1600. Specific to powerlifting, some of the early issues of POWERLIFTING USA MAGAZINE contained my monthly column that ran for more than twenty-two or twenty-four years, and as Mike Lambert’s publishing effort was new to the sport and somewhat ground breaking, three or four of the six or eight features. Thus, agreeing to assist long-time friend and TITANfounder Pete Alaniz and provide articles as requested was a reflexive decision and reeling off 100 columns within the grand scheme of things is no great accomplishment. It is hoped of course that the historical perspective gained by those who have actually read the succession of pieces has been informative, beneficial, and entertaining.

Mike Lambert’s first two years of POWERLIFTING USA were mimiographed sheets cranked out in his mother’s basement. By 1978, although pocket sized, PLUSA was shaping up as a “real” magazine with photographs that reproduced well enough to be viewable! In time, Mike changed the sport with his unbiased, truthful, and balanced reporting and exciting photography. He remains one of the unsung and true heroes of the sport and its growth


With “politics” both mentioned and featured prominently in both this TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEMS article/blog and in last month’s edition, our readers are perhaps reminded that one cannot escape the word in daily life. Certainly politics, the polarization produced by politics, the reportage of politics, and the ongoing debates related to politics have become a central theme of life in our country over the course of the past two years. In addition to my monthly contribution to TITAN I have for many years provided a monthly column and numerous feature articles related to football, football uniform, and materials specific to football helmets and their history, for HELMET HUT, a website devoted to such matters [see http://www.helmethut.com/]. In the April 2017 column I wrote,


No matter where one stands on the political front or their interpretation of the days’ events, those of us who were in our twenties and early thirties during the mid to late-1960s frequently view the current demonstrations as “Protest Lite.” While avoiding statements of bias on social or political matters, while clearly stating that the staff of HELMET HUT takes a public position of neutrality on all issues, and while further opposing the use of violence and lamenting any physical harm or property damage that results in the formation of protests or as a result of any specific protest, the in-street shenanigans of 2016 – 2017 are somewhat lame exercises in comparison to the all- out hell bent lunacy that marked the protests of fifty years ago. As college students became involved in the quest for Civil Rights in the southern part of the United States, there was a “spillover” into other areas, perhaps best marked by the protests in the fall of 1964 at the University of California Berkeley. By New Years Eve of 1965, it seemed as if every socially aware college student could quote portions of the December 2, 1964 “Operation of the Machine” speech Mario Savio made at Cal’s Sproul Hall. The Berkeley Free Speech Movement took off, with Savio becoming a nationally known speaker and in the eyes of authorities, rabble-rouser.  As Civil Rights and Anti War protests proliferated, Savio eventually moved onto a life of study and teaching but Cal very much remained the spearhead of the protest movement, protests that grew in the degree and frequency of violence. Having hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage, numerous hospitalizations, the brandishing and use of firearms and bludgeons, and mad dog levels of zeal and passion on all sides of every issue seemed to be de rigueur for a period of perhaps six years of life in America.


If there is a problem related to the politics of Powerlifting as a sport, one could say the same; much of the protests have been “Protest Lite” in large part because there was usually an angle, usually a con, usually a personal motive to “get in right” so that money could be made from the sport. It should be obvious that those who would be willing to put the time and effort needed to run or administrate a sport on a national basis have an affinity for it and perhaps a true devotion and love for all things related to powerlifting. However, this does not obviate my cynical but long experienced perspective that almost everyone who at some point attempted to “run the sport” or head a controlling organization didn’t approach things with the thought that they could also profit from the position. The famous quote of John Dalberg-Acton, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” was actually taken from the context of a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887 in which he wrote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” This isn’t an indictment of those who have actually taken the reins of powerlifting administration nor to identify them as “bad men or women” but it does make the point that for many, once they assume a position of power, they often tend to do stupid stuff. There is no doubt that through the many decades of powerlifting’s growth into a recognized sport that some if not many, tried to direct the activities of a specific sports-governing organization or actually did so, for what appeared to be a desire to do no more than “run things.” Others began with good intentions but somewhere along the line, the “good of the sport” took a back seat to the “good of themselves.”

Gus Rethwisch was perhaps best known as an actor who portrayed large, strong, frightening men as in Running Man. Long before that he was a highly respected lifter with a huge deadlift and a passion for the sport that led him to promote his annual Hawaii Invitational contest that very much changed the perspective on meet promotion. At a later date Gus started his own organization but few would argue against his true love for the sport and its competitors

For others who fought hard to become the leader of one of the sport’s governing organizations, money was the motivator. I cannot even attempt to enumerate the conversations, phone calls, letters (prior to the advent of e mail there was something called a “letter” that allowed for long distance communication), and so-called official documents that were exchanged with me or that I was witness to that rather solidly linked “the sport” with “the organization” with “…and we can profit from this by doing this and that.” Frequently enough to produce what seems like a permanent fracture of the sport, when thwarted, the individual or individuals involved would start their own organization. The expectation of positive results from their actions were often rationalized with the belief, or stated belief that lifters were given a choice to compete in a specific manner not previously conceived or presented, that they would provide the best of anything and everything the sport is supposed to provide to competitors, coaches, and spectators, and every lifter in every gym would love their concept. I could opine that this is of course why we are, as it was in 1997, dealing with an overflowing fistful of organizations that offer “the very best” in local, regional, national, and world championships, “the very best” in officiating, spotting, platform equipment, and safety, and “the very best” relative to the best interest of the lifters. Sure!