Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Bruno’s Health Club Powerlifting Team Tribute - By Chris Newins

Bruno's Dinner Photo: L-R Carl Calleca, Mike Duschette, Bob Sailor, Chris Newins, Dr Rich Siebert, Tommy Tedesco, Jimmy Duggan
Let me start off by introducing myself as this is my first article for Bob. My name is Chris Newins and I am a lifetime drug free powerlifter, strongman and weightlifter. Fans of Bob’s Mind Force Radio pod casts might recognize my name as Jim Duggan mentions me, as well as other lifters from our old “Bruno’s Health Club” powerlifting team during his interviews. We also had a thread on Bob’s old Natural Strength Inner Circle website about the old Bruno’s gym.

I first met Larry “Bruno” Licandro on June 1, 1979 when I joined my first gym, the old Olympic Health Club in Hicksville LI NY. I was 14 years old and weighed in at about 132 pounds. Bruno worked at the gym. Back in those days, employees at the gyms would actually instruct new members in proper lifting technique and set up a program for them. Now, all they seem to be interested in is getting a commission for signing up new members and selling “Personal Training” packages.

Every time I went to the gym (which was everyday) Bruno would say, ”Hey kid, where is your membership card?”, and I would have to show him my card to get in. Even though he knew who I was and that I was a member, he would ask for my card every day. On Friday and Saturday nights, he worked a local bar and would go straight to the gym after closing the bar to get few hours of sleep since he had to open the gym in the mornings. He would be sleeping on the couch in the lounge and I would wake him up to “show him my card”. This was the beginning of a friendship that would last until he was killed in a car accident in January of 1995.

Bruno became my mentor at the gym. He set up a program for me to follow and helped me every day. The basic concept was 5 sets of 5 of multi joint, basic exercises. Squats, dead lifts, bent rows, bench press (both flat and incline), shoulder presses, shrugs, close grip bench, and pull ups. He would also have me do ab work and yes, even curls. This was broken down as chest, shoulders and triceps on day 1, back and biceps day 2 and squats day 3. I would not take any days off, and would just repeat the sequence. Since I was only 14, and the gym was about 5 mile from my house, my cardio work consisted of me riding my bicycle to and from the gym every day, with the idea of doing it faster each day. The ride home after squat day was usually very difficult. All reps were to be done with strict form. Squats were to be done to proper depth (top of the thigh at the hip below the knee) and all benches, shoulder presses and close grips were paused. Dead lifts were not hitched and the weight was to be controlled all of the way to the floor. If the reps were sloppy, the set didn’t count and had to be repeated. I worked with Bruno every day that summer and by following his advice, on August 15, the first day of 10th grade football practice, I was 168 pounds. I had put on 36 pounds in roughly 10 weeks. Granted, my body chemistry was naturally changing at the time, but the program that he had me follow had an awful lot to do with it. The program was, on paper, simple, but it was a lot of hard work. For the most part, it consisted of several basic exercises. And it worked then, and still does today. One of the philosophies he taught me was “You can work out hard, or you can work out long, but you cannot work out hard for long”.
In October of 1980, Olympic Health Club changed hands and Bruno was always banging heads with the new owner, so he opened his own gym and Bruno’s Health Club was born.

As mentioned above, Larry “Bruno” was tragically killed in an auto accident almost 20 years ago. He was a true driving force in the world of Drug Free powerlifting on Long Island. Every year a group of us from our old team get together and celebrate Larry. This year was no exception. This past Sunday seven of us met up at Larry’s favorite restaurant. We still talk about numbers, but only now instead of squats and totals, the numbers we talk about are triglycerides and blood pressure. This year, Carl “Blowfish” Calleca, Mike “Wookie” Duschette, Bob Sailor, myself Chris “Natch” Newins, Dr. Rich Siebert, Tommy “the Thunder” Tedesco and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan were there. All of the nicknames were given by Bruno and most of them “stuck”.

One of the stories we rehashed was took place at a meet in 1985 or so. As a team, we were never much into the supportive squat suits, but some of us did wear them in the meets. Not crazy tight and we could get the straps up without help. Around this time is when we first got wind of this new bench press shirt that was supposed to add up to 15 pounds on your bench. Larry was a light 220 and I had to suck down to make 198, so we were about the same size across the shoulders, with Larry being a little bit bigger. We both chipped in to buy 1 shirt for the meet. Back in those days, the meets were run by “weight on the bar” like an Olympic style meet, not the rounds system that is popular today. We figured that we could both wear the same shirt, just switching off between attempts. Larry went first and missed his opener because the shirt threw him off. Since we both were opening with the same weight, I was next. Larry got up off of the bench, stepped off of the platform facing me. We both bent over at the waist and interlocked hands. Jimmy and Tommy, each on one side of Larry, grabbed the bottom of the shirt and pulled it off of him and right onto me. I then proceeded to miss my opener. Since the meet was run “weight on the bar” Larry was up right after me, so the shirt swap routine took place again, and again Larry missed the lift. I was then up for my second attempt, and yes, another shirt swap, and of course I missed my attempt. For our third attempt at what was our opener, we both went without the shirt and easily made the attempt. That was the last time we tried to use the shirt.

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