(WEBMASTER’S NOTE: The following was written about Howard Prechtel by Bill Clark in the February, 1990 issue of the Strength Journal. It is the BEST STORY I have ever read concerning the life and lifting career of Howard Prechtel. It is worth sharing again for those who missed it the first time.)
by Bill Clark
An All-Rounder is a person who gets a thrill out of lifting anything that isn’t attached – and some things which are. Possibly no individual in the USAWA more truly personifies the all-round mentality than Howard Prechtel. The 64-year old Cleveland native has been picking up iron for 45 years and seems to be enjoying it more now than ever before. Training is even made easier by coaching Noi Phumchaona, his wife and fellow all-rounder. That’s them in the picture.
When Howard lifted at John Vernacchio’s Valley Forge open last November 11th and finished off the day with his exhibition of the Travis Lift, it was simply another chapter in the rather amazing saga of Howard Prechtel and the iron pile. Howard was born in Cleveland and grew up there, dropping out of school to join the service when he was 17. He fought at Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima and was awarded two Purple Hearts for wounds that eventually were the reason he’s still lifting iron at the age of 64. After war service, Howard returned to Cleveland, bounced from job to job for a decade, went thru a marriage, and wound up in a hospital with shrapnel from an old war wound threatening his future.
Along the way, Howard had become intrigued by strongmen, such as Warren Lincoln Travis and Louis Cyr. At age 31, Howard started to work on the things the old-time strongmen did. Now, 33 years later, he’s still at it. At the Valley Forge meet, Howard banged out 108 reps in the Travis Lift with 1027 pounds in 75 seconds. When Travis was at the top of his game, he did 100 reps with 1000 pounds in 75 seconds. And he was far short of being 64 years old. That effort, which was done under careful scrutiny headed by USAWA President John Vernacchio, currently is not an approved USAWA record – but the effort is on the table – not dead.
It also is the extension of a remarkable lifting career. Howard’s efforts have been aimed at three Travis specialties – the Roman Chair Sit-Up, the Hip Lift, and the Back Lift. He also has returned to Olympic lifting and has captured national and international honors. He’s lifted in two world masters meets and numerous national competitions. Howard’s record surge goes back to 1961 – not long after his stay in the hospital. He came up with a one-hand effort of 1020 pounds in the Hand and Thigh. That was on January 12th, 1961 – more than 29 years ago. In November, 1963, he broke the mark of Travis which had defied those who tried… he hip lifted 1025 for 105 reps in 75 seconds. It was 16 years before Howard would beat the mark again. In May, 1979, he did 108 reps with 1109 in 75 seconds. That effort remains his personal record.
In the Roman Chair Sit-Up, he started in 1973 with 713 pounds and today has raised the mark by over 200 pounds to 932. His efforts in the Back Lift border on the frightening. Travis had done 1000 pounds for 3000 reps in 101 minutes, and a total of 5,000,000 pounds in three hours, nine minutes. In 1980, Howard did 3547 reps with 1070 pounds in 85 minutes to erase Travis from the books with 3,795,290 pounds. Then, in June, 1982, he made 5460 reps with 1111 pounds in three hours, nine minutes to obliterate Travis’ mark with 6,066,060 pounds. Travis had done 1000 pounds for 5000 reps in the same time period.
Who knows what Howard will do next. He still keeps an active schedule as an Olympic lifter. After all, he was third in the 198-lb class Olympic Trials back in 1956 and loves the overhead lifts. Plus – he has Noi to train in those lifts as well. He’s become a leader in the USAWA, both on the platform and in the meeting room. He’s the chairman of the Ohio chapter of the USAWA and a member of the USAWA board of directors. he holds 60-64 age group records in the bench press feet in the air (90 kg), RH C&J (45 kg), Continental Clean (100 kg), RH deadlift (100 kg), Hack lift (127.5 kg), Hip Lift with traditional bar (648 kg), Jerk from Racks (90 kg), Neck Lift (115 kg), Two-hand DB press (62.5 kg), Two-hand Military Press with BB, heels together (72.5 kg), Pullover and Pushup (82.5 kg), RH Snatch (45 kg), Front Squat (127.5 kg), Steinborn Lift (92.5 kg), and Zercher Lift (137.5 kg).
Howard’s sincerest hopes for 1990 are that repetition records will be approved by the USAWA and that his mark set at Valley Forge will be accepted by the USAWA as a true record. If the rep records become a reality, look for Howard to load up the back lift again and see if he can get 7,000,000 pounds next time. If he does, you’d best bet on Howard. The barrel-chested, short-haired military determination of the 17-year-old fighting a man’s war on Guadalcanal has not diminished one bit.