My Start With Weightlifting

By Tom Ryan

(Webmasters note: The following is a post the late Tom Ryan made to the USAWA Discussion Forum a couple of years ago detailing an interesting story about his early days of lifting. I found this story very intriguing  and humorous, as we all have stories of training mishaps when we started our pursuit of weight training. Enjoy!)

Undoubtedly many weightlifters have some strange tales about their early training, including me.

Although I started training when I was 13, it wasn’t possible to train regularly when I was participating in other sports, especially when I was running my legs off on a basketball court. After the basketball season ended during my junior year in high school, Bill Shaw, Bob Dial, Don Hallman, and I started training in the basement of Bill’s house, with me supplying most of the weights. Bill, a senior, had been my basketball teammate and the other two were a year younger than me.

Even though I was very skinny at the end of the season (maybe a shade over 6-2 and 165 pounds), I had enough strength to shoulder 470 from squat stands, back out with it and do a set of quarter squats. One day Mike Boling, a 10th grader who supposedly had benched 250 weighing 150 (not too shabby in 1962!) came by to watch us train. My training partners had said my depth on the quarter squats had been less than before, and since we had somewhat of a celebrity bencher in attendance, I went down further than I had previously on my first quarter squat rep.

Well, I went down too far and kept going down. Real fast, like falling down an elevator shaft since the weight far exceeded what I could have handled in a full squat. It took only a few seconds so there wasn’t time for my life to flash before my eyes, but when Bob saw me going down, he said he thought that was going to be the end of me! The bar went flying over my head and crashed to the floor, with the force catapulting me a few feet backward and I landed on my butt.

Then Bill’s life almost flashed before his eyes when he saw the chip that had been knocked out of the floor and he thought about his father’s reaction when he came home from work. So a quick repair job was necessary!

That was performed and then we started thinking about building a power rack so as to prevent any more accidents. I would bet that power racks were few and far between in 1962. I’m not sure when York started selling theirs, but I would guess around 1959.

We made ours out of wood and it was easily transportable. I ended up with it when our training gang broke up. Over time I had to replace parts of the rack, but I believe I still had the original base in 1993. Then I moved to Australia in January, 1994, where I spent the next 2.5 years. Untreated wood cannot be taken into Australia, so I had to say goodbye to my rack, which was a bit shaky by then anyway. Upon arriving in Australia, I had a carpenter build me a rack, and that is the one that I still use today.

I haven’t seen Shaw, Dial, or Hallman in 47 years, but if I ran into one of them today, I wouldn’t be surprised if he said “Hello TR 470″ because that was the nickname they gave me after my “near death” experience.