Art Montini

by John McKean

This is Art from his "younger days'. This picture is prominently displayed in the Ambridge VFW Barbell Club.

” I LOVE the aches and pains every morning! They tell me that I didn’t die in my sleep!!” Then, to assert this positive life-force, eighty four year old Art Montini heads to the gym every morning at 5 AM to lift weights. HEAVY ones!

You see, Art Montini of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania is perhaps the premiere Master (over age of 40) weightlifter in the world! He has been a competitor in olympic style weightlifting, powerlifting, and all-round lifting for 64 years and a master lifter for 44 of those years.He currently holds around 250 US national records in All-Round weightlifting for the USAWA which places him as first or second on the list for most records ever ( Art laughs at his good friend and record-numbers competitor, Denny Habecker, the USAWA national president. “He’s just a “kid” of 67!”,crows Montini.).But Art has proven that heavy training, rather than lightweight “over 50″ programs is the fountain of youth & vitality.

With no sign of letting up (Art has been known to leave a hospital from minor surgery and typical age related procedures to drive straight to the gym for a workout!),  Montini plans to compete in this year’s All-Round National Championships in Lebanon,PA , set a few more records in the World’s Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, and finish the year by lifting in his own , annual birthday meet in Ambridge,PA.These days in his age group division of 80+ , ole Art doesn’t have a lot of head-on competition, but is quick to reveal his current secret of success -”If at first ya can’t outlift ‘em, OUTLIVE ‘em!”

The Ambridge VFW Barbell Club

by John McKean

John McKean and Art Montini of the Ambridge VFW Barbell Club

Earlier this year the Ambridge VFW Barbell Club celebrated its 50th anniversary ! It was jointly founded by the USAWA’s own Art Montini and his long time friend, Harry McCoy, who went on to serve many terms as Western Pennsylvania’s Chairman of Olympic weightlifting. It was neat to see both men in attendance at the recent USAWA 3 man challenge meet!

Since the early 1960s the Ambridge club has been a hotbed of weightlifting competition. At one time or another, most of the top dogs in the Eastern US in olympic and power lifting, and physique competitors attended these exciting contests. Remember Phil Grippaldi, Tony Fratto, Hugh Cassidy, Frank Remschell, Mr America past 40 Jim Karas, Bob Weaver, George Crawford, Cal Shake, Roger Estep,etc,etc? -all attended VFW meets! Later, with Art, Bill DiCioccio, and me getting into the initial USAWA meets, it was just a natural to host annual all-round contests along with several nationals. Heck, Art’s birthday meet alone has gone on longer than most clubs last these days!

Part of the charm of the Ambridge gym is its old style “hardcore” decor -mostly older olympic sets and pegs chock full of plates, solid iron dumbbells, sturdy racks & benches, and multiple lifting platforms. Yes, there are a few heavy duty machines in the lower part of the gym, but even these “bodybuilding devises” only got in by heated screaming matches during rather wild club meetings!! Training here has always been geared to huge strength and lifting competition, so the well used barbells show more wear and tear than do lat machines seen in most health spas!

A key feature of many of the racks, supports, and odd gear seen in the gym is that they were mostly homemade, and one-of-a-kind. That is, during the 60s the local steel mills were thriving and most of the members were steelworkers – these guys were terrific at welding together all manner of heavy duty structures that would withstand an A-bomb! No one ever asked about the limits of a stairladder squat rack, for instance, because one look at it would quickly convince any user that its support limits would outdo even Paul Anderson’s top weights! If a member feels a piece of steel looks damaged or somehow unsturdy, or just needs modification, almost as his concern is expressed, ole Art Montini has his welding mask on and torch aflame! Believe me, it can make for a unique training session when sparks and superheated metal are flying around -even the rats run for cover (just kiddin’ , never saw a rat during my 43 year membership ,tho Art early in the morning and unshaven is close!).

All members dues,always quite reasonable, have been continually invested in new equipment. It may have been rather Spartan in 1960 when Art and Harry first pooled their own barbells and plates, but quickly evolved into a barbell club that would easily satisfy a healthy roomful of dedicated iron men. Regular clean-up and maintenance crews keep things tidy yet rugged looking. I well remember attending my first power meet at the VFW -it was the most impressive, well equipped “dungeon” I’d ever been in ; even the extensive solid dumbbells on the long rack had been freshly painted a neat shade of dark blue just for that contest! I immediately promised myself that right after graduating from college I was gonna join this group who took such pride in their facility!

I have to fondly recall the many big olympic, power, all-round, and physique meets held upstairs from the gym. This was in the large “dance hall” and stage behind the VFW’s bar on the main floor. Meets would begin at 9 am in the good old days, and last well past midnight! The place was packed with spectators, and even was often stacked 3 deep in the surrounding overhead balcony, and had all the noisy atmosphere that a big sporting event SHOULD have! Great food was sold (and sold OUT!) by the ladies auxillary upstairs, and the “occasional” lifter or official would sometimes sneak out to the front bar for a quick beer! The only problem was dressing downstairs in the locker room just below the lifting platform -when the olympic lifters dropped a big one the lights& rafters always threatened to bury those down below (never actually happened,though!)!

Nowadays, some of the old time trainees have departed, but current competitors, new barbell buffs, and student athletes still frequent this friendly old pit ! If you haven’t visited already, be sure to attend one of the upcoming USAWA meets that we’re planning!

Club Challenge

USAWA Club Challenge

by John McKean

Group Picture from the 2010 USAWA Club Challenge

It started as a rainy day, but with snow freshly gone, temperatures up, daylight savings about to begin (the promise of longer fun-filled days!), and lifters traveling in from Kansas, Ohio, Maryland, and Lebanon (the town, not the country!), we couldn’t help but begin the morning on a real high! Art & I got things opened up early and prepared at the VFW dungeon, after which Art drove the short distance across the bridge over a rising & fast moving Ohio River to his home to arouse the still slumbering Kansas contingent of Al, Chad, and Rudy!

Meanwhile Big Ernie Beath & his folks popped out of their motor home, parked right outside the VFW, and prepared for an early record assault! The long drive from Maryland the night before, through pounding rain, didn’t give ole Ern the best rest, but he looked all of his 400# worth of awesome power! He warmed up, and when officials arrived, he started the morning with an awesome push press, which unfortunately didn’t hit the groove, but sure woke everyone up when the 410# hit the floor! Passing the reload, Ern went to a few “easy” french presses (tricep extension, standing), ending with a strict, phenomenal 201 pounds! Now EVERYONE was psyched to begin lifting!!

Plates were loaded and we began our “round robin” (first “robin” of Spring? Sorry, couldn’t resist saying that!) approach to the challenge lifts of the 2 bar (2 inches thick) vertical lift,one arm dumbbell snatch, reflex clean & push press, and thick bar straddle lift. As Al noted, these particular lifts are not often contested and gave us all a chance to go for personal bests & records! And we discovered quickly that vertical bar lifts can be slippery on humid early mornings, though Chad offered a unique approach by lifting only his right vertical bar on the heavy attempts – maybe a new lift to be introduced will be his new “see-saw vertical bar lift”!!

Old Art Montini, at the high end of the age groups, was his usual efficient self – as astounded contestants noted “the ole man never missed an attempt!” He rarely does – a habit acquired from always training at 4 AM every morning & not wanting to wake everyone up! At the young end of the spectrum was Denny Habecker’s 15-year-old phenomenon, Kohl, who had his brother drive him cross state, starting at 4 that morning! Kohl made Denny proud (Denny couldn’t make the meet, being hampered with bronchial pneunomia and with strict orders from his doctor – and Judy(!!!!) – not to travel.) with new records in most of the events & especially impressive flair for the quick lifts. His explosive one arm snatch with long hair flying was a meet highlight for me (maybe if I trained that lift as well as Kohl, my own hair – all 3 strands of it – would regrow!!!). Talk about a young “Samson”!!

Man, was it neat to meet Rudy! This 70-some “youngster” really has the enthusiasm to lift and kept us all energetic with his passion for the sport! From what I hear, Rudy hasn’t been away from his wide open spaces of home much, so spending time in the crowded, old former steel towns of Ambridge/ Aliquippa must have reminded him “You ain’t in Kansas anymore!.” But his strength & form were awe inspiring!

Of course the old vets of olympic and powerlifting, Scott Schmidt from Cleveland and Big Al, did their usual efficient jobs with peak weights! Each captained their groups to team wins -Scott (and Kohl) took the 2- man team award (yeah, entering a 3-man team challenge with two people is like showing up at a gunfight with a knife!) and Al led the Kansas men to the overall 3-man challenge title!

The lifting concluded, the Ambridge & Kansas guys, who didn’t have to travel home right away, enjoyed the home cooking of Ambridge’s famed Maple Restaurant to ravenously devour the renowned roast beef. I believe Al & Chad set a new restaurant record, or would have liked to, on consuming their secret beef gravy! As we all said our goodbyes, they were still talking lifting, fishing, basketball, and looking just ahead to the ice cream store next where Art was leading them!

Results:

USAWA Club Challenge
Ambridge VFW BBC
Ambridge, Pennsylvania
March 13th, 2010

Meet Director:  John McKean

Officials – 3 officials used on all lifts: Art Montini, John McKean, Scott Schmidt, Al Myers, Chad Ullom

Lifts:  Snatch – One Arm, Dumbbell, Reflex Clean and Push Press, Vertical Bar Deadlift – 2 bars, 2″, Jefferson Lift – Fulton Bar

Results:

1. Dino Gym – 2715.08 adjusted points

Lifter Age
BWT DB Snatch
Reflex C&PP
VB DL
Jefferson
Al Myers
43 252 146 (R)
224 338 533
Chad Ullom
38 239 136 (R)
245 338 453
Rudy Bletscher
74 221 50 (R)
88 258 255

2.  Ambridge VFW Barbell Club – 2368.66 adjusted points

Lifter Age BWT DB Snatch
Reflex C&PP
VB DL
Jefferson
John McKean
64 174 51 (R)
103 283 353
Art Montini
82 174 35 (L)
65 178 210
Ernie Beath
28 400 121 (R)
251 338 323

3.  Habecker’s Gym – 1709.41 adjusted points

Lifter Age BWT DB Snatch
Reflex C&PP
VB DL
Jefferson
Scott Schmidt
57 259 92 (R)
198 358 303
Kohl Hess
15 272 96 (R)
138 313 407


BWT is bodyweight. All lifts recorded in pounds.

Extra Attempts for Records:
Ernie Beath  – French Press 201 pounds
Chad Ullom – Reflex Clean and Push Press 265 pounds
John McKean – One Arm Dumbbell Snatch 67 pounds (Right)
Al Myers – Reflex Clean and Push Press 250 pounds
Art Montini – Reflex Clean and Push Press 75 pounds

Strength Through Variety (Part 2)

(Webmaster comment: The following is part of an interesting article written by All-Rounder John McKean several years ago. John has won many All-Round National and World Championships in his weight class, and has written articles for Muscular Development, Hardgainer, Strength and Health, Ironman, Powerlifting USA, and MILO)

by John McKean

John McKean demonstrating the Jefferson Lift, which is also known as the Straddle Deadlift.

A brief look at weightlifting’s history will quickly show that many of the above-mentioned lifts were the basis of meets during the 1900-1930 era. Rare was it when an early contest didn’t feature a one-arm snatch, dumbell swing, or the amazing bent-press (yes, it’s once again being given its due – number 48 on our all-round list). Extensive record lists on about 50 events were kept in the US and Great Britain prior to 1940, with other informal local listings recorded in both countries during the sixties and seventies.

When serious interest once again picked up, officials from the two lands met in 1987 to write a constitution and promote the new-to-many concept of all-round competition. When these modern day founding fathers established the up to date rules and regulations, they insisted on pure body dynamics to do the lifting – no super suits or supportive gear, no wraps, and absolutely no drugs.

About now, I’m certain many will question the feasibility of training limit poundages on 10-20 big lifts at a time. Doesn’t this go against the grain of current advice to avoid long routines? No. In fact, the real beauty of our all-round sessions is that we’re actually forced to restrict quality training time on each individual lift to an absolute minimum. The necessity of these ultra-abbreviated strength routines has taught us how to reach maximum intensity for handling true top weights more often than ever before.

Although there’s a wide range of effective schedules used by our present crop of all-rounders, and highly specialized methods for handling some of our more unique lifts, here’s a sample training procedure used by 12 of us at the Ambridge VFW Barbell Club, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Essentially, we’ve achieved phenomenal progress over the past five years by doing single repetitions on each of about 6 exercises per workout. We switch lifts every day of our three weekly sessions so that a total of 18 moves are given a short, high-intensity burst once a week. After a special non-weight warmup (more on this later) we do just 3 singles per exercise, best characterized as heavy, heavier, and heaviest. The last attempt is usually fairly close to a limit. And, because this quick, brutal style of training seems to fuel our mental competitive aggression, we always feel motivated to try to up that poundage each week.

Sure, this is heavy stuff. Yet in all our collective time with all-round training, none of us has ever felt even slightly burned out, suffered serious injury, or even felt overly tired from a workout (contests are something else, however). It seems when gains keep coming as rapidly as they have, lifts are always being rotated, and workouts are over before we have a chance of even getting mentally fatigued, our sport always stays fresh, exciting, and ever challenging. After all, how hard can it be to perform a workout of only 18 reps? (Better wait to answer till you actually experience this unique form of intensity and variety).

Most all-round movements are complex by nature and work the entire body at once. Each exercise serves as a supplement to the others, so there’s absolutely no need to waste extra time on assistance exercises. This is also a big reason why we get away with training any particular lift but once a week; all muscle groups are pushed totally each training day, no matter what combination of exercises is employed. After all, why should we bother with, say, the highly overrated and widely overused bench press – very one dimensional when compared to the whole-body functioning of all-round’s dynamic pullover and push.

How well does all-round training serve the average person? Let me offer two rather extreme examples. On a novice level would be my 13-year old son Robbie. Beginning when he was 10, Robbie found immediate pleasure over his rapid strength gains. Thanks to the wide variety of moves and abbreviated training (yes, I put him on heavy singles immediately, despite dire warnings I’ve read by “experts”), he never experienced much muscle soreness nor ever any boredom with his quick workouts. In three years he has gained fifty pounds of muscle (puberty helped), tripled his strength, and has established fifty world records in the pre-teen division.

Recently, while on the way to winning his third consecutive title at 1992’s national championship in Boston, this 165-pound “little boy” performed a show-stopping hand and thigh (short range deadlift). I’ve never seen another youngster of this age who could match Rob’s grip strength to do a 250-pound one-arm deadlift, or the neck power to equal his 300-pound head harness lift. But early in his training, Robbie perceptively put me straight on what this sport is all about. Telling him to follow me downstairs to begin “exercising” one day, he firmly replied, “Dad, I don’t exercise, I lift.”

On the other end of the spectrum is longtime powerlifting and weightlifting competitor, 65-year old Art Montini. As is the case with all of us master lifters, Art discovered that no form of training or competition is as much fun as all-round lifting. Montini never misses one of these exciting workouts and seems to heft new personal bests each time he sets foot in a gym. Who says you stop gaining beyond 35? Art’s name is all over the current record book and he’s never failed to win the outstanding master award at any of our national meets. Seeing the agile oldster deftly upend a 300-pound barbell, twist and stoop to shoulder it then easily squat in the complicated Steinborn lift, or perform his mind-boggling 1,800-pound hip lift would convince anyone that Art drinks gallons daily from the fountain of youth.