Thursday, June 27, 2024

Message from Doug Brewer - Training with Ralph Raiola

My name is Doug Brewer and I am 63 years old and recently retired and have lived in the Tampa area since 1992.  I grew up on Long Island and played football at Lynbrook High School and the New York Institute of Technology.  I started lifting weights in the eighth grade when LHS purchased a Universal Gym (about 1972) where you chose your weight using a steel pin inserted in the appropriate hole in the weight stack. 

Around 1981 while still at New York Tech, a friend suggested I check out the Jack LaLane gym in Inwood, NY (by Kennedy Airport) as he said some pretty strong guys trained there and I could learn from them.  It was a standard gym for the time period except for one room which was reserved for powerlifting.  This is where I met Ralph Raiola, who taught me and a New York Tech football buddy, Paul Grieshiemer, how to properly squat, bench and deadlift.  Other “name” lifters that trained there were Tony Pandolfo (Mr. New York State), Lyle Alzado, a former Mr. Connecticut (forget his name), Mike Taranto (held the Oklahoma bench press record in the mid - late ‘60’s in the 275 lb. class with a lift of 485 lbs. I believe) and Dr. Ken Leistner would occasionally make an appearance.  I remember Lyle telling all of us young guys to never take steroids as they will ruin your health and I remember being very sad when I learned of his passing.  I have the Sports Illustrated cover from July 8, 1991 framed and hanging on the wall of my home office with him on the cover after he announced he had brain cancer with the caption, “I Lied”.  I remember spotting him on the bench and watching him lift 505 lbs. for a triple.  Lyle had a lot to do with me never taking PEDs even though the temptation was there.


I entered three powerlifting competitions with Ralph in 1982/1983 including the first (and maybe the only) Long Island Invitational at Lawrence H.S. run by Dr. Ken.  The other competitions were in Fort Lee, NJ and Gloversville, NY by Albany.  At that time, there were only weight classes with no age groups so a 25 year-old was competing against a 65 year-old as long as they weighed approximately the same.  I competed in the 181 lb. class and was your typical middle of the pack guy with personal bests of 455 lb. squat, 303 lb. bench and 501 lb. deadlift.  


The training schedule Paul and I did with Ralph consisted of bench and squats on Monday and Friday and deadlifts on Wednesday along with accessory movements including good mornings.  At the competitions we wore thicker wrestling-like singlets and knee wraps and not the multi-ply suits used today.  I am sure these singlets provided some help in the squat, but not much.  They certainly didn’t help in the bench and deadlift.  I stopped going to Jack Lalane in probably 1984 after I moved to Oceanside and started a moving and storage business called Brewer & Son, Inc. but continued to train, not too seriously, either in my basement or at Tom Terwilliger’s gym in Bellmore on Merrick Rd.  until I moved to the Tampa area in 1992 and got into the commercial real estate business.


I started serious powerlifting training again in 2015 at the age of 55 and have entered 6-8 competitions since then with my best total being 1,055 lbs.  I hope to be able to continue to powerlift into my 80’s and maybe be invited to some national competitions at some point.  When I can make it to south Florida, I train with a group of guys at Iron Therapy Gym in Lake Worth who have the same lifting spirit as the men I used to train with at the old Jack Lalane’s in Inwood 40 years ago.  I am truly blessed to have known both groups.  


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