by Al Myers
When I was at Frank Ciavattone’s place for the Heavy Lift Championships, I was extremely impressed with his gym and his setup for the competiton. The meet was held outside in Frank’s backyard, just outside of Frank’s Barbell Club gym. Frank’s gym is located in the basement of his house and contains decades worth of history and collectibles. I love home gyms – and Frank’s is one of the nicest I have ever seen. Another thing about home gyms is EVERYTHING is used for training. Even pieces of equipment that probably should be in a trophy case because of the collectible value. I noticed several Berg Hantel plates that Frank was actively using!
But back to the topic of the day – Frank’s backyard! It is an All Rounders paradise playground – with numerous “challenge items” positioned throughout the yard. My wife Leslie commented to me right away by saying, “THIS looks like our backyard!” Yep honey, there are actually a few other passionate iron-heads who don’t mind having their yard cluttered with human torture devices. I was most impressed with Frank’s GIANT set of train wheels that he uses for hip and harness lifting. Their weight is clearly painted on the side – 1 TON – in white lettering. They even sit on a section of iron train tracks! I also have a set of train wheels on a heavy bar, but mind are slightly smaller and weigh in at 1400 lbs. – so Frank has me topped when it comes to train wheels. He told me that he has often used these train wheels for strength exhibitions that he has performed thru the years for many causes, mostly charities.
Frank also has a pair of smaller train wheels on a heavy bar that he uses for Hand and Thigh lifting. I asked him what they weighed, and he said somewhere between 600 and 700 pounds. I took that as he has never actually weighed them, but just knows from the “feel of the weight”. Frank said he has lifted those wheels hundreds of times in the Hand and Thigh lift, and mostly use them for rep work. I say that is part of the reason for Frank’s “picture perfect” hand and thigh form.
Another classic challenge lift of his is his challenge red and green railway wheels. They both are fastened tightly (so no rotation) to a 2″ diameter solid shaft that is roughly the length of a barbell. The total weight of the green wheels is 190 pounds, and 145 pounds on the red wheels. . I first became aware of this challenge implement several years ago when I seen a picture of Steve Angell performing a one arm jerk (two hands to shoulder) with the green wheels following the 2000 IAWA World Championships, which were hosted by Frank. After the Heavies, James Fuller really enjoyed using these old railway wheels to Bent Press. I enjoyed seeing such an old time all round lift like the Bent Press being performed with this awkward lifting implement. It was reminiscent of an Old Time Strongman circus act.
The “ambiance” of Frank’s back yard was complemented with the presence of his heavy work equipment, used to move dirt and snow. The size and power of Frank’s “work machines” just leave you in awe. But those can be the topic of another day’s story! After the meet, Frank “fired up” his fire pit and we sat around it telling stories into the night. Great times are had in Frank’s backyard.