In the next room, labeled “The Story of Weightlifting,” I learned the distinction between Olympic weightlifting, a style that encompasses strength, agility, speed and muscular coordination, and powerlifting, which considers only strength. Panels showing the various U.S. Olympic teams and Olympic winners line one wall. The United States won its first Olympic gold in weightlifting at the 1936 Berlin Games.
The room contains two life-size sculptures, one a naked body cast of Sandow, the father of modern bodybuilding, whose impressive body is strategically covered for modesty. The other is a marble sculpture of Grimek. Also in this section are photos of great bodybuilders, including Steve “Hercules” Reeves, Arnold “The Terminator” Schwarzenegger and Lou “The Hulk” Ferrigno.
(Gene Thorp/The Washington Post)
Beyond the exhibits, the museum and Hall of Fame also host weightlifting competitions. Mark Chaillet, a member of the Hall of Fame who volunteers there once a week, showed me the bleacher-filled auditorium where the competitions are held. Hoffman originally built the facility as a center for Olympic-style weightlifting training, but today it’s a major center for competitive powerlifting. “The first world powerlift competition was held here in 1971,” Chaillet said. He also showed me an impressive weight room for serious training.
Leaving the museum, I walked next door to the York Barbell Co. to get a closer look at the spinning weightlifter. He’s 14 feet tall, made of Styrofoam and fiberglass. David Kogut, the company’s operations manager, said that the figure has to undergo maintenance every other month, because revolving 24 hours a day on the roof of a building takes a toll on both model and machinery.
Sometimes, emergency repairs are necessary. In 2010, the weightlifter cracked right at the small of his back. “He looked like he was mooning people,” Kogut said. They took him down and worked on him for three weeks, repairing the break and applying new paint before putting him back on his pedestal. The new paint job apparently made him look bulkier. “He looks ripped now,” said Kogut.
But more important to me, he’s still going around in circles.
Escapes: Details, York, Pa.
Lee teaches journalism at Bucknell University.