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Legacy of Iron

A Novel Based on Weightlifting in 1930’s America

(See below for the story behind the book)

Attorney Brooks Kubik, author of the 1996 book Dinosaur Training and a serious student and practitioner of functional weight training, has done something ingenious and new in Legacy of Iron. He wove historical facts into an appealing narrative about weightlifting in America before World War II. Most of the action takes place in 1939, with flashbacks to the turn of the century. The plot is a clever upgrade of the ubiquitous Charles Atlas ad where the scrawny kid takes up strength training and gets revenge on the bully who kicked sand in his face at the beach in front of his girl friend. Kubik’s principal characters are fictional, but the transformation and redemption are accomplished with help and encouragement from legendary Iron Games personalities that most of today’s weight trainers know little or nothing about.

Kubik’s no Ernest Hemingway or Ivan Doig (who is?), but he is a good story teller. His tale is made better, more important and meaningful, because the supporting characters are real people. Assisted by Bill Hinbern, purveyor of the world’s largest collection of old time strength training publications, Kubik has done his homework. He knows the history of the era. Hinbern sets the stage in a fact-filled Foreword.

Kubik told us in an email that his goal is to “help preserve what was good about American weightlifting for many years.” He includes details that were new to me, but I know enough about the people and the era to say with confidence that they ring true. He presents an engaging history lesson that most everyone can identify with in one way or another. I certainly can.

As a teenager, in the ‘50s, I spent two weeks in York, Pennsylvania, training in the legendary York Barbell Gym and experienced the refreshing comradery that Kubik depicts throughout the book. I can identify with young Jim Miller, Kubik’s protagonist. I too was basically a “nobody,” and John Grimek, Steve Stanko, and others I had admired from afar in the pages of Strength & Health welcomed me. They treated me like one of the gang.

Embarrassing (funny now) story: York Barbell manager John Terpak, a former world champion lifter, was impressed enough by my lifting to ask Bob Hoffman to come in and watch my last workout--which was a disaster. Burned out by lifting heavy almost every day, I missed most of my lifts. I'll never forget Uncle Bob’s parting words: "You'll win many local contests." He was trying to be kind, I suppose, but that was the last thing I wanted to hear--after I had made PRs right and left in my earlier workouts. As Terpak had told me earlier, the walls of that old Broad Street gym inspired many a great lift. It sure got the best out of me, until Bob Hoffman showed up.

Many people have heard of John Grimek http://cbass.com/GRIMEK.HTM , Bob Hoffman http://cbass.com/MUSCLETO.HTM , and perhaps John Terpak and Steve Stanko, but Kubik brings to life many more wonderful old-timers, notables such as Milo Steinborn, Sigmund Klein, Warren Lincoln Travis, Harry Paschall, John Terry, Louis Abele, Dave Mayor, Tony Terlazzo, John Davis, and many more. It was real treat--uplifting--to read about these lions of depression era strength training.

Looking back on my own long experience in the field, I do have two important caveats. Wonderful as they were, the old-timers fell short in two critical areas. First, many of them believed that hard training made it okay, even desirable, to stuff yourself at every meal. That may have worked for Grimek and a few others, but it’s a bad idea generally. Secondly, they didn’t fully appreciate the need for rest. When it comes to training, you can get too much of a good thing. They weren’t alone, however. As Kenny Moore wrote in his biography of Bill Bowerman, most early coaches subscribed to “the more you put in, the more you get out” philosophy; see http://cbass.com/Bowerman.htm . Some coaches and athletes still believe that, of course.  

With that off my chest, I have absolutely no reservations about saying that Brooks Kubik has written an important and inspiring book. I recommend it to everyone who lifts or wants to start. To learn about what many consider “The Golden Era of American Weightlifting, truly a wonderful time in the history of weight training, read Legacy of Iron. (Brooks is now working on a sequel.)

Legacy is available from Ripped Enterprises: $24.95 plus $6.60 priority shipping or $4.60 media rate. Order your copy now, while they last. If we already have your credit card information and address, you can order by email: cncbass@aol.com . If not, call us at 1-505-266-5858 or fax your order to 1-505-266-9123

Editor: We asked Brooks Kubik what kindled his interest in the early days of American weight training and how he found the wealth of historical information included in the book. Kubik's story is rich and wonderful, full of good humor and character. The story behind Legacy of Iron is a heartening complement for the book itself. If you haven't been moved to read Legacy, you will be headed in that direction after reading the story behind the story.

Kubik's Story

The Story Behind the Book

I was born in 1957 and began lifting weights around age 9 or 10. I got into lifting seriously at age 11, and began reading Strength and Health, Muscular Development and Iron Man. Also, old books by Bob Hoffman. Every once in awhile, I would find an old mag in an old book store. For some reason, even as a kid I always enjoyed reading about the old-timers.

In 1990 or 1991, I began writing for Stuart McRobert's Hardgainer magazine. A few years later, I wrote and self-published (in March, 1996) a book called Dinosaur Training: Lost Secrets of Strength and Development. It became an overnight best seller, and continues to be a very popular even today, twelve years later. 

From 1996 through 2002, I edited and self-published a hard-copy newsletter called The Dinosaur Files. It covered strength training and Iron Game History. I also wrote for Milo and for Osmo Kiiha's wonderful magazine, The Iron Master.
The genesis of the Dinosaur Files was as follows:
Kim Wood, then strength coach for the Cincinnati Bengals, called me one day to tell me that the world's largest dumbbell was for sale. (He had heard about it from Dr. Ken Leistner and Jan Dellinger, I believe.) The dumbbell had been made for Warren Lincoln Travis and he used it for hip lifting in his strength show. It weighed something like 1400 or 1500 pounds empty -- maybe more. The little monster was the size of a small car.
After Travis died, the dumbbell went to Harry Shafran, who owned a gym in Brooklyn. Shafran later sold his gym and moved to upstate New York, where he started a new gym in an old barn. There's an article on this in Muscular Development circa 1969-72. 
After Shafran died, his old equipment sat in the old barn ... and then, one day, one of his heirs saw a documentary about the York Barbell Company ... and saw the big dumbbell that Bob Hoffman had ... and it was the twin of the one out in the barmy, so he figured it must be worth something, and that's when he put out some feelers to sell the thing.
I would have loved to have bought it. But (1) I didn't have the cash, (2) where do you put it a 1500 pound dumbbell? Besides, I had two very playful golden retrievers at the time, and they would have abused it horribly if I left it out in the back yard.
It eventually ended up being purchased by Bill Pearl.
Anyhow, I felt so virtuous for not having spent my life savings on the world's largest dumbbell that I decided to reward myself by expanding my collection of old books and magazines. And over the years, I built a nice library of lifting lore. My brother is an antiquarian bookseller, and he found a great library of old materials at an estate sale -- an old farmer in Southern Ohio had a terrific collection of books and magazines going back to the 1920's, and my brother bought the entire collection along with 20,000 other books (the old man loved to read and apparently saved all of his books) and then I bought all of the lifting and physical culture items from my brother. 
In addition, I corresponded with readers of Dinosaur Training or the Dinosaur Files, and this led to other opportunities to purchase old books and magazines. It also led to lots of letters and emails (and a few phone calls) where guys told me stories about the old time champions. One guy, for example, used to drink coffee with Doug Hepburn -- another worked on the docks with Karl Norberg -- one was in the Army with John Davis -- Jan Dellinger shared an office with John Grimek -- Bill Hinbern knew lots of things about the old-timers -- Kim Wood had lots of information -- one guy trained in New York City and remembered seeing John Davis and Doug Hepburn train -- several guys had trained at Sig Klein's gym -- and so on. So I learned lots of oral history over the years. 
In addition, I purchased all of Bill Hinbern's modern reprints of old books and courses. 
In writing Legacy of Iron, I worked hard to capture the personalities of the different champs of the era, using all of the written and oral history gained over the years. Whenever possible, I used contemporaneous accounts of lifting contests to "set the scene." Sometimes I described things that you could only learn from old photos of contests back in the 1938-1940 period. Bob Hoffman's books, and articles by Hoffman, Harry Paschall and others, provided much useful information. 
Legacy of Iron hit the market a few days before Christmas, 2008, and already I've received many comments from men who knew the Golden Age champs. To a man, they all say that the book captures the actual personalities of the champs. That's a tremendous compliment, and well repays the long hours it took to research the book and the character of the men you meet in its pages.  
Thanks for helping to promote the book, and by so doing, to keep alive the best traditions of the Iron Game.
Yours in strength,
Brooks Kubik     

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