Tag Archives: Dino Gym

A good POWER RACK is hard to find

by Al Myers

This is the custom-built Power Rack in the Dino Gym, which I made many years ago. It has many unique features (like hydraulic jacks attached to the bar hooks for easy adjustment of a loaded bar) that benefit lifters and lifting!!

I’ve spent a good part of my adult life in the gym training, and with that experience comes exposure to many different type of power racks.  Some good, but most have deficiencies in my opinion.  There always seems to be some feature that is less than optimal on each one I have used.  But Power Racks (or often called Power Cages – same thing, different name) have come a long ways since the early York Cages or Iron Man Power Racks.  I consider a good power rack as the SECOND MOST IMPORTANT piece of equipment in a gym (behind bars and plates).   A good power rack is the centerpiece of any serious gym, and often the most used piece of equipment in a free weight based training facility.  Up to 50% of my training time is spent in the “rack” each week doing a multitude of different lifts.  Having a good power rack to fulfill your training objectives goes a LONG WAYS to making continued strength improvement.  Today I’m going to go over power rack features that I feel are very important in having the ultimate power rack, from most important to least important. 

1.  Sturdy construction and Size

There are many racks on the market made out of lightweight tubing, with bolt-on construction.  A Power Rack should be heavy duty and not “bouncing around” every time a squat is racked in it.  A frame made out of at least 2.5″  11 gauge square tubing is necessary.  Also – the side frames should be welded and not bolted together.   Most commercial racks that are sold will use bolt-on construction to minimize the shipping costs – but in turn will cause inherent weaknesses in the power rack.  Bolts will loosen up with time, and bolted construction allows “wiggle room” in the joints.   Depth of power racks is also important to give plenty of room for lifting.  The depth of a power rack should be at least 36 inches.  The power rack should be high enough to not interfere with any type of overhead lifting you want to do – but this is often limited by ceiling height.

Power Racks have come a long ways since this "top of the line" power rack advertised in a 1966 issue of Iron Man.

2.  Bar Hooks (or J-hooks as they are normally called)

I think the bar hooks (which holds the bar in the power rack) either “makes or breaks” a good rack.  They are the most functionally used piece of the Power Rack, and should be of the highest quality, yet often good racks have junky bar hooks.  A bad bar hook will be an ongoing frustration and will soon completely overshadow all other aspects of your power rack.  Most bar hooks are made by utilizing bending, which often gives an inconsistent product.  Most  bent- type bar hooks I’ve seen have a sloppy fit on the rack.  The reason for this because of the bending a good consistent tolerance can’t be maintained – and thus manufacturers make them loose to insure that they will fit in all cases.  I just hate bar hooks that “swing in the breeze” on a rack.  Every time the bar is moved the bar hook will slide to the side.  Bar hooks should also be of adequate length, but at the same time not too long as to catch the bar as a lifter comes up from a squat.  Short bar hooks are a bigger problem.  A bar hook should be of length to allow a lifter to rack the weight easily.  Another important feature is NO SHARP EDGES.  I have scars on both of my shoulders that occurred as the result of bar hook injuries in the gym.  Both times I wasn’t paying attention and caught the edge of my shoulders on bar hooks attached to the front of the rack.  Add in the number of times I’ve cut the outside of my palms from sharp edges on hooks as I was racking a heavy squat, and you can see why I think this is an important feature.  Bar hooks should also be easy to adjust to different heights, and not require specialized wrenches or tools to do this.  

3.  Elevated bottom cross member

Most of the commercial power racks available DO NOT allow a wide based squatter to get proper foot placement.  A floor cross member interferes with the feet when trying to take a wide stance squat  (often limited to 43″ or 44″ at width).  This problem is easily addressed by raising the bottom cross member  up 12 inches.  That’s it – but for some reason power racks often are not designed that way.   A good power rack should allow for “sumo stance” lifting.

4.  Multiple adjustments

A good power rack should allow for any spacing of the bar hooks or safety supports.  I’ve seen some manufacturers go way overboard with the number of holes they place in their uprights (and make a holey looking rack, haha), but most have hole spacings that are too far apart, thus making it more difficult to get the correct setup for the hooks and supports.  Most serious lifters like their bar height setting for unracking a bar down to an inch of being correct.  I think anything over 2″ spacing is too much.  But placing more holes in tubing is an expensive manufacturing cost – so this is often compromised in providing a top quality product.

5.  Safety supports

A good power rack will have quality safety supports.  Safety supports are the adjustable cross members that will catch the bar in case of a failed lift.  Think of them as your safety net.   They should adjust easily, yet be very sturdy and secure.  Often you will see a rod inserted through the holes of the rack for this.  That is a poor design in my book as no rod is going to stay straight after dropping a loaded bar on it.   Some manufacturers have a pipe that you insert the rod through for the safety supports.  Again that is a cheap poor solution to safety supports.  Safety supports should be strong enough to lift off of – like doing rack pulls.  For this they need to be well made.   Having them lined with rubber to protect the bar is also a good idea, yet most all of them don’t have that.  They should be easy to adjust to different height as well.

6.  Able to take Add-ons

Add-ons for power racks are the new thing amongst the leaders of manufacturers of power racks.  However,  I prefer a power rack that “looks like a power rack” and not cluttered with unneccesary appendages hanging off it at all angles, but I know I’m in the minority on this.   As for the add-ons I’m talking about here – chin up bars, plate storage, bar racks, band/chain peg attachments, land-mine attachments, chain/band storage, dip attachments, front safety supports, med ball bounce plates, etc.  And there’s even more!!!  Before long the  power rack doesn’t even look like a power rack anymore.   Gyms and training facilities like to keep a “clean house” and with all the new training devices being used nowadays, it is hard to find a place to store them so the solution seems to be to just hang them on the power rack.   The important thing here is to have a power rack that has the capability to utilize whatever add-on YOU WANT.

I know I’ve covered a lot here – but Power Racks are something that I’m passionate about.  If anyone ever wants to either discuss power racks, or has specific questions about them just drop me an email (amyers@usawa.com) .  I’m always glad to hear from other power rack enthusiasts!

Introducing the DRAGSTER

by Al Myers


I’m constantly thinking up new ways to impose self-induced torture on my training partners.  It’s the DINO GYM mentality!  We have a 150 foot cement “runway” in front of the gym that is perfectly level – that we use for pulling sleds, walking with yokes and farmers implements, carrying kegs,  and the like.  It’s a great way to get in a little “cardio” after a lifting session, and after a few runs, you are totally “wiped out”.  Plus doing these activities are WAY MORE fun than sitting like a puppet on the stationary exercise bike or walking  aimlessly to nowhere on the treadmill.  That type of cardiovascular training bores me to tears.  Actually, I can’t even stand it its so boring.  I just watch the clock constantly – waiting for my 30 minutes to elapse so I can quit.  Training is suppose to be fun!!!!!

Al "the DINOMAN" Myers giving Darren Barnhart a fast run on the DRAGSTER.

Well – NOW IT IS!!!  I’ve pushed on all types of prowlers, and love them.  But I always felt like the prowler could be improved, so thus, the invention of the DINO GYM DRAGSTER!  You can think of the dragster as the “ultimate prowler”  – it takes the prowler to a whole nother level!  I’ve spent a lot of time on this design, and after much prototype redesigning, it finally is perfected. 

Last weekend was the BIG TEST DAY for the final design of the dragster. I gathered several of my training partners for this grueling experiment, and we spent a couple of hours being test subjects.  I had no idea how exhausted I was becoming because I was having so much fun!  The next few days I paid the price with my front quads being so sore I couldn’t go up steps. The unique thing about the dragster is that it can take “live weight” along with added plates.  Of course, when I say “live weight” I mean one of your training partners.  Actually, I had as much fun riding the dragster as pushing it.  Sorta made me feel like a kid again riding my sled down the hill when it snowed.  This “live weight” added a whole new dimension to the training as when you were the one pushing you wanted to give the other guy a fast run – thus the reason for the name DRAGSTER!!!

This is the perfect training implement for everyone – lifters, athletes, strongmen, etc.   I’m going to take the Dragster to production. If anyone is interested in one – send me an email and I’ll give you a quote.

Dino Gym Record Day

by Al Myers


Group picture from the 2013 Dino Gym Record Day: (front left to right) Dan Wagman, Ruth Jackson, Denny Habecker (back left to right) LaVerne Myers, Al Myers, Dean Ross, Mike Pringle

The Dino Gym had a very good Record Day the day following the Grip Championships.  6 lifters took part – Ruth Jackson, Dan Wagman, Dean Ross, Denny Habecker, LaVerne Myers,  and myself.  Ken Glasgow performed a record lift the day before which I added to these results.  I was surprised by the efforts that were displayed, especially considering that most all of these lifters had competed the day before. The current IAWA Womens OVERALL BEST LIFTER Ruth Jackson stole the show with her setting USAWA records in 30 different  lifts!  Just watching RJ max out in one lift after the other made me tired!  Dan Wagman had the lift that impressed me the most – doing a Pull Up with 120 pounds attached to his waist. The rules of the Pull Up call for the chin to be ABOVE the bar at completion, and the lifter must hold for a down command.  This makes doing a USAWA Pull Up MUCH harder than commonly performed pull ups by lifters in training sessions.  To properly judge this lift, it requires the official to stand on a chair to have a level view of the bar and the chin.  I made sure Dan reached the proper height.  I made a point to tell Dan that his big handlebar mustache was providing him an advantage, as it was obstructing (and distracting!)  my view of his chin! LOL.  The second most impressive lift I seen was my Dad, LaVerne, performing a PULL UP!!  I had no idea that he could do that!  However, I made him do another one with 5# so he could get a record.  Doing a lift with no weight doesn’t get you in the record list.  I bet there are VERY FEW  men over the age of 65 that weigh 250 pounds who can do a legal USAWA Pull Up. 

Dean Ross performed the Carter Lift with 433# pounds for USAWA Record.

Dean Ross picked a couple of odd lifts to do for records.  He performed a 1200# Back Lift, which is a lift that is not available to be done in most gyms. He also performed a Carter Lift, of 433#.  This lift is one of the strange, unique lifts of the USAWA.  It requires the performance of a Hip Lift and a Squat in the SAME LIFT!  Only one other lifter has a USAWA record in the Carter Lift, and that is Bob Maxey.  Dean told me the reason he wanted to do this lift was in Bob’s memory.  I remember the day that Bob did his Carter Lift and I also remember how nervous I was spotting him.  Dean had me worried as well when he started as he fell down a couple of times and I didn’t want this meet to be added to Dean’s list of head injuries that he has suffered in his life.  But eventually he got the balance right, and did a perfect executed Carter Lift.

Denny Habecker performed 10 lifts for record which will expand his lead over Art in the Records Race.  Last year at this record day Denny “took it easy” on the record book and only did a few records.  But this year he really went after it, and I don’t blame him as Art seems to be getting stronger with age.  Denny, Dean and LaVerne had a little “mini competition” in the 3″ bar deadlift.  Denny held with these two who are much bigger than him, and finished with a great lift of 280 pounds.

Afterwards, we all went out to eat together at a local Mexican restaurant in Abilene.   That has become a tradition of meets held at the Dino Gym.  I always enjoy getting to spend time with “fellow lifters” over some good food in a relaxed environment after a day of hard lifting, because that’s when I hear the BEST STORIES!


Dino Gym Record Day
Dino Gym
Abilene, Kansas
February 10th, 2013

Meet Director:  Al Myers

Officials (1-official system used):  Al Myers, Denny Habecker, LaVerne Myers

Loader: Mike Pringle and lifters

Lifts: Record Day

Ruth Jackson – Age 51, BWT 108#, Female

French Press: 25#
Pullover – Bent Arm: 63#
Bench Press – Fulton Bar: 130#
Bench Press – Reverse Grip: 95#
Gardner – Full: 15#
Gardner – Half: 45#
Abdominal Raise: 25#
Allen Lift: 15#
Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Right Hand: 68#
Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Left Hand: 68#
Deadlift – 3″ Bar: 153#
Continental to Chest – Fulton Bar: 63#
Deadlift – Trap Bar: 207#
Clean and Press – Middle Fingers: 25#
Snatch – On Knees: 45#
Clean and Press – On Knees: 55#
Clean and Press – Fulton Bar: 63#
Maxey Press: 73#
Clean and Push Press – Fulton Bar: 73#
Curl – 2 Dumbbells, Cheat: 70#
Curl – Dumbbell, Cheat, Right Arm: 40#
Curl – Dumbbell, Cheat, Left Arm: 40#
Pullover – Straight Arm: 35#
Weaver Stick: 1#
Pullup: 25#
Chin Up: 25#
Snatch – Dumbbell, Right Arm: 45#
Snatch – Dumbbell, Left Arm: 45#
Saxon Snatch: 25#
Snatch – 2 Dumbbells: 50#

Al Myers – Age 46, BWT 241#

Deadlift – Ciavattone Grip, Right Arm: 231#
Deadlift – Ciavattone Grip, Left Arm: 198#
Deadlift – Fulton Bar, Right Arm: 170#
Curl – Dumbbell, Cheat, Right Arm: 85#
Curl – Dumbbell, Cheat, Left Arm: 85#

Dan Wagman – Age 50, BWT 183#

Snatch – Left Arm: 125#
Pull Up: 120#
Snatch – Dumbbell, Right Arm: 110#
Snatch – Dumbbell, Left Arm: 110#

LaVerne Myers – Age 68, BWT 247#

Bench Press – Left Arm: 50#
Bench Press – Right Arm: 50#
Deadlift – 3″ Bar: 255#
Press – Dumbbell, Right Arm: 45#
Press – Dumbbell, Left Arm: 45#
Deadlift – Ciavattone Grip, Right Arm: 170#
Deadlift – Ciavattone Grip, Left Arm: 170#
Deadlift – Reeves: 185#
Pull Up: 5#

Denny Habecker – Age 70, BWT 196#

Anderson Press: 175#
Clean and Jerk – Behind Neck: 143.3#
Deadlift – 3″ Bar: 280#
Clean and Jerk – Dumbbell, Left Arm: 55#
Clean and Jerk – Fulton Bar: 113#
Clean and Press: 137.8#
Deadlift – Dumbbell, Left Arm: 125#
Deadlift – Dumbbell, Right Arm: 125#
Swing – Dumbbell, Left Arm: 55#
Swing – Dumbbell, Right Arm: 75#

Dean Ross – Age 70, BWT 269#

Deadlift – Trap Bar: 321#
Back Lift: 1200#
Deadlift – 3″ Bar: 280#
Deadlift – Ciavattone Grip, Right Arm: 148#
Deadlift – Reeves: 235#
Carter Lift: 433#
Deadlift – Dumbbell, Right Arm: 125#
Deadlift – Dumbbell, Left Arm: 125#
Snatch – Dumbbell, Right Arm: 55#
Snatch – Dumbbell, Left Arm: 55#

Ken Glasgow – Age 76, BWT 217#

Deadlift – Trap Bar: 302#

NOTES: All lifts and bodyweights recorded in pounds.

Dino Gym Shooting Competition

by Al Myers

Dave Glasgow won the Handgun Division, as well as the Small Bore Rifle Division.

I’m sure everyone is wondering how the shooting competition following the Dino Gym Challenge turned out.   Well, it ended up taking about as long as the meet to complete!  I had several entrants in each shooting division, with some outstanding marksmanship taking place. Luckily, we had a perfect day of weather with very minimal wind.  Four divisions were contested, and each person could enter whichever division they wanted, depending on what their shooting expertise was.  Darren Barnhart was the only one to  enter all four divisions.  The four shooting divisions were:

1.  Shotgun Trap Shot
2.  Small Bore Rifle (.223 caliber and smaller)
3.  Large Bore Rifle (above .223 caliber)
4.  Handgun

Darren Barnhart entered all four divisions, showing his diversity as a shooter. He's indeed an All-Round shooter!

The TOP THREE in each division are as follows:

Shotgun Trap Shot  – 25 blue rock targets were throw from an electric trap thrower, with each shooter getting one shot per target.

1.  Darren Barnhart – 18/25
2. Thom Van Vleck – 16/25
2 (tie). Chad Ullom – 16/25

Small Bore Rifle – 5 shots at 100 yards and 5 shots at 200 yards.

1.  Dave Glasgow – 61 points
2.  Darren Barnhart – 58 points
3.  Chad Ullom – 36 points

Large Bore Rifle – 5 shots at 100 yards and 5 shots at 200 yards.

1.  Thom Van Vleck – 71 points
2.  Darren Barnhart – 16 points
3.  Dan Wagman – 0 points!

Handgun – 5 shots at 3 yards, 5 shots at 7 yards, 5 shots at 10 yards

1.  Dave Glasgow – 176 points
2.  Dan Wagman – 152 points
3.  Chad Ullom – 96 points

World Champ Dan Wagman takes aim - I just don't know at what!!!

Now for a little commentary on the days shooting.  First, I didn’t compete, but instead acted as the official to make sure everything was done on the “up and up”.  I was most surprised by Chad  Ullom.  Chad continues to show everyone that he seems to be a natural at everything.  He doesn’t even own a gun, and very rarely has ever shot one, but wanted to compete so he borrowed a shotgun from Darren to enter the shotgun contest.  He started off miserably – missing his first half dozen shots. At this point – he made a newbie mistake and jammed up Darren’s gun so it wouldn’t work anymore.  I then had to let him borrow one of mine to finish his shoot. At this juncture I gave him a few shooting tips and reminded him of the value of my shotgun, and that I would hold him accountably for it if he broke it.   Well, this motivational talk of mine must have got him focused and he seemed to “get on fire” and started hitting every target!!!  Thom was solid as expected in the Trap Shoot, but still ended up with a tie with Chad for second.  Darren won the event with a very good 18 out of 25.  Next up was the small bore rifle competition.  Again, Chad was up against a couple of seasoned shooters in Darren and Dave, but made a fine showing to get third with again a borrowed rifle, edging out John O’Brien who scored a 27.  Darren had the lead after round 1 at 100 yards, but sharp-shooter Dave eclipsed him in round 2 at 200 yards to win the small bore.  The large bore rifle had three entrants: Thom, Darren, and Dan. A controversy immediately resulted as Dan was going to enter using his 5.56 M4 Colt Carbine.  A discussion ensued that this division was for .223 caliber and above, but after a group consensus, it was determined that the 5.56 caliber was indeed just slightly larger than the .223 caliber, and thus within the rules to be entered.  Thom was one hand with his trusty 6mm Remington rifle.  I could tell by the way he carassed his gun that it was a trusty ole friend of his, and that he had an intimate relationship with it.  I want to mention something here about rifle shooting.  Long distance rifle shooting requires a steady hand and a silent concentration – not exactly the mindset that most  weightlifters have.  Most of us that have been around Dan in the weightroom know that he gets about “as jacked” as any lifter could before an attempt.  I could see his jugular pulse beating away as he set up for his shots.  I thought for a moment that he was going to pull an ammonia cap out of his pocket to give him more of an adrenalin rush.  Add in the fact that he was shooting “open sights” and that the M4 Colt is designed to be shot as “accuracy through volume”, it was not adding up well for him.  I was slightly embarrassed to tell him that not only did he not hit the target once – but that he wasn’t even on the paper!!!  Now Thom was another story.  He destroyed the target with each shot using his bolt-action rifle in systematic fashion, and won by a HUGE MARGIN.  But Thom told me afterwards that his years in the Marines trained him well for distance shooting, and that paid off in his victory in this division.  We finished the day with the handgun division.  We conducted the event under the rules established for qualifying for the Kansas concealed license.  Darren was shooting a ultralight handgun that looked like it would fit in your front pocket without being noticed.  Chad borrowed a .22 pistol from Darren, Dave was shooting a 9mm semiautomatic, and Dan was shooting a huge 45 caliber.  Quite a diverse set of handguns for this competition.  Dave showed his years as a policemen training on the 9mm that he was in a “class of his own”.  His shooting technique was superb and hit the center on practically every shot.   Dan shooting his huge 45 made it about impossible for me to tally his score as he shot the entire center of the target out, and Chad really surprised me by hitting the target on every one of his shots.  Overall, this was a great competition and a fitting ending to a great day at the Dino Gym!!!

Hoghton Barbell Club Victorious!

by Al Myers

Mark Haydock, the leader of the Hoghton Barbell Club, performing a 272.5 kg Squat at the 2012 IAWA Gold Cup in Glasgow, Scotland. Spotters include Chad Ullom (left), Alex Rigbye (center), and Steve Angell (right).

The Dino Gym was issued a challenge from the Hoghton Barbell Club of Preston, England in last weekend’s Dino Gym Challenge. Well, the results are in and have been tabulated and the Hoghton Barbell Club has came out victorious! Congratulations to the Hoghton Barbell Club!  This “challenge” was mentioned several times on Saturday and I’m sure it pushed the Dino Gym members to greater lifting numbers.  I’m very proud of the Dino Crew and their lifting in the Dino Gym Challenge, however, it just wasn’t quite enough to overcome the powerful Hoghton club.  The finish was pretty close though:  1. Hoghton BB Club 4287.7 points, 2. Dino Gym 4126.3 points.  The only “consolation prize” the Dino Gym got was that in total pounds lifted the Dino Gym had 5237 pounds to Hoghton’s  4961 pounds.

It was agreed beforehand that the points of the top three performers of each club would be added together to form the TEAM SCORE.  The Hoghton Club consisted of Josh Haydock, Alex Rigbye, and Mark Haydock.  The scoring members of the Dino Gym were Alan English, Scott Campbell, and Mark Mitchell.  Other Dino Gym members that competed in the Challenge were Darren Barnhart, Scott Tully, Dean Ross, Ben Edwards, and Chuck Cookson.

The leader of Hoghton Barbell Club, Mark Haydock, sent this note to me when he sent me his club’s results:

A brief report on todays lifts, the squat went really well, all three of us hit personal best lifts I was 6kg up on training, Josh was 30kg up, and Alex was 90kg up!! The press was a bit of a damp squid and we didn’t really feel it was much different to a normal bench press. Josh and Alex were slightly up on the deadlift poundages and finished their days lifting with a smile on their faces, but with sore bodies! I only took 2 deadlift attempts, both were very strong pulls but I am currently nursing a strained finger injury and my grip is compromised at the moment, I made both lifts with a double overhand hook grip. We will be waiting with baited breath to see how we drop into the total set of results…     Thanks Mark H

I think it is worth pointing out that Mark Haydock performed a 917 pound Anderson Squat!  That’s a big lift!!!!  Again, congrats to the Hoghton Barbell Club for winning this challenge.   The next time I see ya Mark, I’ll have those Dino Gym T-shirts to “pay up” the bet!!!!!


Lifts: Anderson Squat, Hackenschmidt Floor Press, Peoples Deadlift

1.  Hoghton Barbell Club – 4287.7 points

Josh Haydock 22 80.0kg 642 264 440 1346 1293.8
Alex Rigbye 24 92.0kg 751 313 610 1674 1484.2
Mark Haydock 37 118.0kg 917 341 683 1941 1509.7

2.  Dino Gym – 4126.3 points

Mark Mitchell 52 316# 672 365 624 1661 1329.4
Scott Campbell 38 287# 881 325 654 1860 1378.8
Alan English 29 231# 694 320 702 1716 1418.1

NOTES:  BWT is bodyweight.  TOT is total pounds lifted.  PTS are adjusted points corrected for age and bodyweight.

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