by Elena Bittinger
Weightlifting, body-building, and fitness — terms synonymous with Bob Hoffman’s York Barbell. Since 1932, Hoffman’s company has set the standard for Olympic weightlifting, training equipment and product design, while promoting health and wellness through books, articles and Strength and Health Magazine. Hoffman also produced the very first energy bar in 1966.
For decades, weightlifting champions trained at York Barbell. One is Leo Totten, a 2018 USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame inductee. “York Barbell was the place to train,” he said. “We had guys coming in from all over the country to train for the Olympics. Bob Bednarski, Rick Holbrook, Fred Lowe — all these guys I got to be friends with later.”
York Barbell Club dominated the Olympics from the ’30s to the ’70s. With over 40 national championships and numerous Olympic gold medalists, York Barbell was “the mecca of weightlifting,” Totten says.
It was, he continues, “very impressive” — especially to scrawny 12-year-olds who aspired to be strongmen.
York Barbell Today
“York Barbell is a York County Institution,” says Adam Smith, store manager of York Barbell. And even though it has not had any affiliation in the Olympics since the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, and the club has since closed, York Barbell still stands strong today.
Its training equipment lives up to its name as the “Strongest Name in Fitness,” according to the company’s mission statement. They “will develop, manufacture and distribute quality strength and fitness products that enhance athletic performance and improve quality of life.”
And, “while York Barbell was not the first to produce weight equipment, we were one of the first to mass-produce it and market it,” Adams says. “Our product can be found throughout training facilities in the country where athletes are aspiring to make their Olympic dreams come true. We have loyal customers who are directly involved with USA Weightlifting and use our equipment in their training regimen,” like Totten with his East Coast Gold Weightlifting Team.
Totten says, “York Barbell is known for its quality, for sure.”
But, Smith says, “To this day, we are conscious to understand the changing markets and needs, and we adjust as needed to stay competitive in a heavily diluted fitness equipment market.”
To stay competitive, York Barbell seeks out ways to improve its services for its customers. Smith says, “We recently added a new style of dumbbell that is a PVC-coated dumbbell. This is closely related to our rubber hex dumbbell, but the advantage with the PVC is that there is no rubber smell.”
Another way the company connects with its clientele is through the onsite Weightlifting Hall of Fame, which tells the story of the sport and its major figures, and tells aspiring weightlifters about the hurdles their predecessors went through to achieve their dreams.
York Barbell and the Weightlifting Hall of Fame are at 3300 Board Road, York. Visit www.yorkbarbell.com
Weightlifting Hall of Fame
The York Barbell Weightlifting Hall of Fame features information about company founder Bob Hoffman, and about athletes who made important contributions to the sport of weightlifting. “Statues and busts of men who helped further develop the sport, such as Steve Stanko, John Terpak and John Grimek” are also on display, says Adam Smith, York Barbell store manager.
Leo Totten, 2018 USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame inductee, says, “I got my first weights, and I bought them from Steve Stanko.”
The following are some museum highlights:
The Father of Bodybuilding (1867-1925)
Smith says, “Sandow was compared to a Roman god.” His life-size statue stands proudly in the museum, along with the barbell he used in exhibitions.
“Since 1977,” Smith says, “for recognition to his contribution to the sport, a bronze statue of Sandow would be presented to Mr. Olympia winners.” The statue is known as “The Sandow.”
1936 Gold Medal, First Gold Medalist in American Weightlifting
Smith says, “This medal was won at the infamous Olympic Games that were held in Berlin, Germany.”
Terlazzo set Olympic records in all three Olympic lifts (press: 215 pounds; snatch: 203¾ pounds; and clean and jerk: 270 — totaling 688¾ pounds).
Maurice Tillet “the French Angel”
Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, to French parents, Tillet resembled a prehistoric giant. With his massive build drawing crowds, he staged events in which he would prove his strength by pulling a bus or street car. Smith says, “His persona was fierce, and although he was sold as a heel, he was kind, gentle, educated, and well-mannered.” “He wrestled and won against all the greatest wrestlers of his day,” Smith adds.
There are four busts of Tillet in existence. The one is at York Barbell was given to Bob Hoffman by Milo Steinborn, a former owner of what became York Barbell, as a thank-you to Hoffman for assisting him in immigrating to the U.S. from Germany.
There’s also a rumor that staff of movie company DreamWorks visited the museum and studied Maurice’s bust as they were creating the movie Shrek.