Sunday, April 14, 2019

Tribute to Dr. Ken - By Linda Jo Belsito

Kathy, Sol, BariAnn, Bari, Doris, Greg, Kevin, Family and Friends.

As I sat down to write about my memories of Ken, I wasn’t sure how or where to begin. My mind has been flooded with 40 plus years of so many memories. How can I put all of this into words? As I read the tributes over the past week the recurrent themes I read were: He was a Dr. of Chiropractic, dedicated father, husband, son, brother, grandfather, friend, mentor, motivator, coach, great man, real, honest, smart, author, gentle, brilliant, motivator, pioneer & historian in the iron game and strength world. He was all of those things and more to me, as I called him my brother from another mother.

I received a call last Saturday afternoon on my way home from my gym which he helped me build.
All of us have some piece of equipment from his home gym or had something donated from someone he contacted to help us build his legacy. We will carry on his traditions of paying forward in the world of strength training.

Nothing made his chiseled face light up more than when he would give you a new piece of equipment, t shirt, steak, or slip you some cash as you walked out the door. Paying it forward was something he did constantly. He still is by asking us to donate to the kids in his community he has helped for so many years.

Beth and I worked for Ken and Kathy in his Chiropractic office from 1986- 1992. We were reminiscing, about the basement gym, the juke box, where he and Kevin allowed us to pick a song to train to after everyone else was done. 60 minute Man comes to mind. What he did for so many was taught us how to find that inner strength, mentally and physically. He lived that life, he had this charismatic way of making you want him to bring you to that next level. He would not give you any leeway, he would not ask you to do anything he had not done, or wasn’t willing to do along with you. If your goal was to get stronger, he was going to get you there.

I was blessed when he came into my life over 40 years ago at a local powerlifting meet on Long Island. I have to be honest, I was a little afraid of this guy with tattoos, who was running the meet. I guess he saw potential. He introduced himself “ I’m Dr. Ken”. He gave me his information in case, I wanted to get serious. I had no idea that in a short time I would be calling on him for help. I took him up on that after a squat work out when I attempted 225 lbs., pulled something in my low back. I went to the ER, where the physician said, “ women don’t lift weights! They gave me pain meds, told me to sit on ice and heat, rest and don’t lift.

I called Ken and told him what happened, and in Ken fashion, he said, “F**K that, get in here, I will adjust you and you will be back in the gym this week. “ And I was.

He has helped athletes of all walks of life. Many came to Ken wanting to train. But he gave us so much more. He made us all stronger, not only physically but mentally. He could explain the how and why, we needed to do something, due to his knowledge in the Iron Game that goes back so many years. But we all remember the experiences of those high rep workouts, where we either hit the bucket, or would attempt to stop, and his words were “ I didn’t tell you to F** ing stop”.

We did HIT training back then, which I incorporate every now and then with my athletes.

I traveled with Ken doing lifting exhibitions on Hammer equipment, did seminars, visiting colleges, and he also would take me to competitions to get the experience I needed in PL since he believed I could be a champion one day. He taught me how to find that inner strength. He let me figure out what it meant to be a mentally and physically strong in a world that did not yet accept female strength athletes.

Something he always demonstrated was unbelievable stamina, resilience, and a never quit, positive attitude to a degree where we questioned if he was human? Does he eat? Does he sleep? I could never figure that out. But believed in him and he would always greet me with a big hug and That great smile.

What I do know is, when he did eat, it was for the masses and he loved good food. He introduced me to Peter Lugers, steak tartar. He invited me to Thanksgiving dinner and asked me to help make smashed potatoes, which was a back and tricep workout. He would have summer strength events and BBQ’s, and pudding pie fights with the kids in the backyard of valley stream. We would train in the cold garage fully clothed, but completed the workout only to come inside and have Kathy waiting with something great to eat. His legacy will live on in everyone he has touched, mentored or trained. From local high schools, college, pro teams to helping produce an Olympic Champion Derrik Adkins.

He made us mentally and physically strong. He gave me unconditional love, friendship, guidance, and always followed through on anything I asked of him. He made me a better person and my successes in life and lifting I can say are because of him.

I find myself doing what he did for me with my athletes, young kids, children, and most recently the wounded warriors, marines, and Army soldiers who come into my gym to find that strength. I make it a safe place for all. I expect as he did that you train well, stick to the program and make the most of that training time.

All of us who have had the opportunity of training under Dr. Ken, know the lessons we have learned from him. We all can probably recite the stories he would tell about back in the day, when strength training for him consisted of lifting steel beams, sand buckets, in his garage, and the stories of trips he took to York Barbell to pick up equipment in a massive snow storm back in the 60’s.

What amazed me about this when I read it, is that the rack he picked up on that trip, he gave to me for my home gym back in 1986. I have it in my gym now. Beth and I worked for Ken and Kathy as their rehab nurses, in Valley Stream and it was some of the best times of our lives. Not only did we get great experience and learn, but he would always have perogies, cheesecake, steak, or Graters Ice Cream, to help us get stronger, after a workout.

Ken was real. He said what he felt. He was misunderstood by many, but to those of us who he loved, you knew you were loved. This man would give you anything to help you succeed, or put you in touch with those who could help you.

If he is listening now, just hear this. We didn’t tell you to Fucking STOP!

To say I will miss Ken, is an understatement. I will miss his hugs, calls, emails, that great laugh, and of course the events he held at his home. His absence is felt by us all. Our hearts are broken, But I know every time we step in the gym, now more than ever, we will be living his legacy and paying it forward as he taught us to do. I know we will meet again someday at his “Iron Island In the Sky”.

In Strength, LJ your sister.



Editor's Note: A Great Tribute to Dr Ken Lindo Jo! 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Much Respect and Rest In Peace Dr. Ken - By Bob Whelan

I really only knew Dr. Ken in a professional way, mostly in the 90's when we both wrote for some of the same magazines and he contributed a chapter for my book IRON NATION. I also got the idea of having a puke bucket in my gym after watching a few of his training video's! It sure beat cleaning the mess! If I had lived in the New York area, I believe we would have been the best of friends. I met him when I visited Iron Island Gym with Drew Israel in the mid 90's and had a chance to speak briefly to him and see his great world class gym. I wrote about this visit in Hardgainer. A few phone calls and emails pretty much sum up our personal relationship. We really did not know each other well, but I always had the greatest amount of respect for Dr. Ken. He was a unique personality and the people who knew him best absolutely loved him. I loved reading his articles and always wish that I had the chance to go to one of his epic Thanksgiving dinners. I heard so many great things about them from many of our mutual friends. I consider him to be one of the greatest and most influential writers in the history of physical culture. He will be missed. Much respect and Rest In Peace Dr Ken.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Dr. Ken Remembered - By Jim Duggan

    It would be difficult to overstate the impact that Dr. Ken Leistner had on the world of Powerlifting, and Strength Training.   As a chiropractor, strength coach, writer, and gym owner, he influenced countless Lifters, and Iron Game devotees over the years.  Earlier today, I received the sad news that Dr. Ken had passed away, at the age of 72.
     Several of us from Bruno's discussed the impact that Dr. Ken had, not only on us, but on the world of weight training.  Chris Newins put it best when he said: " He was a mentor and friend to so many."  Truer words were never spoken.  He certainly had an impact on my life insofar as it relates to training.  There will undoubtedly be numerous tributes to Dr. Ken over the coming days, and rightfully so.  I think it is accurate to say that he was one of the most influential figures in the world of Strength and Lifting.
     My first introduction to Dr. Ken was through the pages of Powerlifting USA Magazine.  His column, "More From Ken Leistner," was a regular feature.  It was also one of the first things that I would read.  His no-nonsense, straight forward, no bull style of writing was perfectly suited for those of us who love to lift.
     Dr. Ken wrote for many magazines over the years.  Just about every Muscle/Lifting/Strength publication benefited from his expertise.  And readers like me were all the better for it.  His own publication, "The Steel Tip," was years ahead of its time.  I'm glad that I have a complete set of back issues,  which he generously gave to me.  One of my favorite articles of his appeared in Muscular Development magazine.  It was titled "Unorthodox Power Builders."  It described how one can become brutally strong by lifting odd objects.  Back then, lifting I-Beams, Anvils, or Torpedoes was not something that was generally done by trainees. This particular article was focused on lifting heavy anvils.  It must have made an impression on me since I am the proud owner of nine ( yes, nine) anvils ranging in weight fro 50- 206 Lbs..
     The first time I ever met Dr. Ken was in the Winter of 1992, when he opened the world famous Iron Island Gym.  I had the pleasure of speaking with him for about twenty minutes. At the time, I was 27 years old, and I thought I knew a lot about lifting.  Boy, did I have a lot to learn, and I could not have have picked a better place to learn, nor a more knowledgeable person to learn from.  You could just feel his passion about all things strength related, and he wanted to provide the very best facility for those who shared his passion.  I think if you ask anybody who trained at Iron Island, you will get the same answer:  It was the best lifting gym that any of us had seen.  The atmosphere, equipment, environment, and energy of that place could inspire anyone.  I have often said that if you couldn't get motivated at Iron Island, then you ought to be embalmed.  Dr. Ken and Ralph Raiola created a gym that was second to none.
     My first experience with High Intensity Training was through Dr. Ken.  At the time, he was writing articles for "Hardgainer" magazine. He was kind enough to give me a stack of back issues.  Looking back, Hargainer was one helluva training magazine.  And, just as with PL/USA magazine, his column was the first thing I would read.  Incidentally, during the mid 1990s, Hargainer could boast of having Dr. Ken, Bob Whelan, and Brooks Kubik as regular contributors.  Imagine, three of the most knowledgeable and talented Iron Game writers on the same magazine at the same time!
     I can't begin to imagine just how many lifters and Strength coaches have been influenced by Dr. Ken.  I certainly learned a lot from him.  I still have his monthly "Iron Island Insights," that he wrote for the members of the gym.  As I've often said, quality training information never goes out of style.  In fact, I still have a hand-written Deadlift program he wrote for me in 1993.  It was a program that helped me to a personal best of 688 Lbs., which I pulled at a meet at his gym.  The trophies he gave out were made from actual I-beams.  I cherish the program, and the trophies I received to this day.  More importantly, I will forever cherish the memories of a great gym, and a man who made a difference in the lives of those who benefited from his talent, passion, and wisdom.  I would like to offer my sincere condolences to his family, relatives, and many friends.
Rest in Peace, Dr. Ken. And Thank You. 


Editor's Note: Thank You Jim for the great tribute to Dr. Ken. I had a great deal of respect for him. He was an Iron Game legend and one of the best strength/ muscle writers in history. He will be missed but his influence on weight training will long remain with us.
Does modern bodybuilding make you sick? You should write for Natural Strength! I always need good articles about drug-free weight training. It only has to be at least a page and nothing fancy. Just write it strong and truthful with passion! Send your articles directly to me: bobwhelan@naturalstrength.com
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Bob Whelan

Bob Whelan

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