Louie Cyr’s Dumbbell

by John Grimek

John Grimek prepares to lift the famous Cyr Dumbbell.

The Cyr dumbell we had was always a bone of contention.  Men from all parts of the country came to see if they might get it overhead.  It weighed “only” 202 pounds empty but it could be loaded with lead shot to over 270.  We never loaded it over 269 ½ pounds, and even then it defied most men who tried it.

One time, Milo Steinborn and four or five other wrestlers stopped by on their way to Baltimore.  Milo had Primo Carnera with him – truly an impressive individual.  When Carnera shook hands you could feel your whole hand being swallowed by something that felt like an octopus.  Because all the men were wrestling that evening none of them cared to train that afternoon, but most of the lifters kept on training.  In the center of the gym was the awkward Cyr dumbell that seemed to be in the way of everyone.  Without thinking I picked it up off the floor and tossed it aside so it wouldn’t be in the way.  I remembered the huge hands Carnera had when he shook my hand, and knew if anyone could handle this weight it was him.  I called out to him to try it. He smiled as if to say, “that’s easy,” and no one would doubt him.  He came over, very casually gripped the stubby handle and made a half-hearted attempt to lift it.   A look of surprise came over his face as the weight slipped from his grip.  I offered him some chalk to absorb the moisture of his hand.  With some disdain, instead, he grabbed the handle and though he lifted it a little you could see that the weight was a great surprise to him.

The Cyr Dumbbell now resides at the York Barbell Museum.

I tried to explain that there was a slight technique to handle this weight.  He just kept looking at me and the awkward hunk of iron mass that was defying him.  I chalked up, especially the heel of my hand, gripped the weight and tossed it a few feet to one side.  Carnera only growled.  However, I feel sure that with his banana-like fingers he could have done things with that Cyr dumbell that no one else could do.  Others felt much the same way about this big man.

I must point out that many men who tried to lift the small clumsy dumbell failed.  This awkward hunk of iron required lots of practice before one learned the little details needed to be successful at lifting it.  No one played around with this weight more than I did; and eventually I was the only one who lifted it off the floor to an overhead position using one and only when it weighed 254 pounds.  Stanko was the first man who picked it up off the floor in one sweeping movement.  Unfortunately, I do not remember how much it was loaded to at the time.  The weight of that dumbell was always being changed.  It always looked formidable and defying. Those who tried it remember that only too well.

G.W. Rolandow’s Challenge Barbell

by Al Myers

The Rolandow Challenge Barbell now resides in the York Barbell Museum.

G.W. Rolandow was a Swiss born strongman who came to the United States and became an American citizen in 1896. He lived his entire life in New York City. His Challenge Barbell had a thick handle, and weighed 175 pounds empty, but 299 pounds fully loaded. He was able to Bent Press his Challenge Barbell fully loaded – and lifted it in his nightly strongman performances. The Rolandow Barbell was purchased by Professor Attila, and later owned by Sig Klein. Sig Klein often used it when he was demonstrating the Bent Press.

Sig Klein demonstrating a Bent Press with the Rolandow Barbell.

This was written by Sig Klein shortly after lifting the Rolandow Barbell in 1937.

“It was Saturday, April 10th, on my thirty-fifth birthday that I lifted the Rolandow Bell again. It went up on my first attempt. So pleased was I with this accomplishment that I have not up to this present writing lifted this weight since. I have never tried to lift more in the Bent-Press than 209 pounds. It seems that no matter how much weight I would ever lift again in the Bent-Press, I would never again have the pleasure or satisfaction that I derived when I first succeeded with this ponderous weight. This was in 1937. It was about this time that I published “How to Bent-Press”, feeling that such a booklet was needed for the thousands of weight-lifters whose interest I had now aroused in this lift.”

My trip to the York Barbell Museum

by Al Myers

A Bronze Bust of the founder of York Barbell - Bob Hoffman

Following the IAWA World Championships last month, I got to do something I have always wanted to do – go see the famous York Barbell Museum in York, Pennsylvania.  It only took Chad and I a hour or two to make the trip from Lebanon – and it was worth it!  The museum contains the entire history of York Barbell, photos and equipment of Old Time Strongmen, and the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame.  We met up with Mike Locondro, who is the retail manager of York Barbell, and got insight into York Barbell beyond that normally seen by a normal museum tour.  As some of you know, Mike has competed in USAWA competitions in the past and was very good, placing 10th Overall in the 1993 & 1995 World Championships.  He was very gracious to us and gave us a tour of the York Gym, which is off-limits to the general public.  He spent over two hours visiting with us.  Chad and I thought we must have been receiving special treatment because we were All-Rounders, but the truth is Mike is just an outstanding salesman and treats all customers that way.

Chad posing with the full-size sculpture of Eugen Sandow

Now back to the York Museum – I can’t even start to describe everything that we seen.  A highlight for me was seeing the Travis Dumbbell, which Warren Lincoln Travis used in many of his strength shows.  It weighs 1500 pounds empty!! It seemed much bigger to me than the prior impression I had of it from pictures.  The York Museum contains the Challenge Barbells of Eugen Sandow and G.W. Rolandow.  Just getting to put your hands on a barbell with so much history is an amazing feeling.  The museum has the Challenge Dumbbell of Louis Cyr.  It weighs empty 202 pounds and fully loaded with lead shot weighs 270 pounds.  Cyr could easily take it one handed and Side Press it.  These are just a few of the museum items – there is much more!! The museum details  the complete history of York Barbell, and tells the story of how Bob Hoffman built York Barbell into a weightlifting empire. If you ever get the chance to go to the York Barbell Museum – make sure to give yourself at least a half day to see it all!

But give Mike a call first – and tell him you’re an All-Rounder.