Fred Glass is 72 years old, stands 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs only 151 pounds. But he routinely hoists barbells twice as heavy -- 300 pounds, or, on a good day, 400 pounds or more -- into the air.
His calves are spindly, but on his small frame are muscles of steel: the backs of his thighs look armor-plated, his triceps are spectacular and when he flexes, the muscles encircling his chest and back are peerless. Younger and taller men may have bulkier muscles, but Glass' strength is world-class.
Last year, Glass set an International Powerlifting Association world record for his weight and age, squatting 400 pounds and dead lifting 380 pounds in a competition at the York Barbell Co. in York County. In 1990, Glass was named best powerlifter in the world at the World Powerlifting Congress Masters Championship in Italy. He's been competing for 35 years and has a wall of 200 trophies, including 16 world championships, in his garage to show for it.
To squat lift, he'll stoop to put his shoulders beneath a barbell, a long steel bar with several 45-pound round weight plates at each end, resting on a metal frame. As he slowly stands up, his face contorted with exertion, the barbell rises, too. Then, he squats to a seated position and comes up again.
To dead lift, Glass reaches down to grab a barbell resting on the floor. With a mighty effort, the laws of gravity are suspended and he pulls it upward for a brief moment. When he releases, heavy metal crashes down and Glass exhales. The back of his T-shirt says "Pain is temporary, pride is forever."
We visited Glass in the basement gym of his Allentown home.
Q: How did you start lifting?
A: In 1962, I was 26 years old and weighed 107 pounds. I had a big inferiority complex about being small and skinny. I heard that lifting weights was a way to get bigger and stronger. Today, being able to lift 426 pounds puts me in the top 1 percent in the world.
Q: Your equipment looks old. Where did it come from?
A: I used to have a gym called Fred's Gym at 811 N. Jordan St. in Allentown for 16 years. Now I have a few training partners who come here a couple times a week. One of them is Dan Reph from Danielsville. He's 67 years old, weighs 270 pounds, and squats and lifts over 500 pounds with two artificial hips. If you want to get results, this is the place to come.
Q: What's your training routine?
A: I work out five to six days a week, about 1 hour and 15 minutes a day. I squat once a week, dead lift once a week, bench-press twice a week and body build once a week. I bowl twice a week, too. I throw a 16-pound ball, between 14 and 16 miles per hour.
Q: What's your diet like?
A: Basic American, but there are some things I stay away from. Caffeine blocks nutrients. I don't drink alcohol except maybe once every two or three years. No deep-fat fried food, and no charred meat. I take a lot of mineral supplements. I spend about $250 a month on nutrition.
Q: You're retired now. What were you doing before?
A: I served in the Air Force from 1954 to 1958, I was a hydraulic mechanic. During the Suez Crisis, I was stationed in England. When I came home, I worked as a truck driver. I delivered for Pepsi-Cola for 13 years until I got hurt, then I was working for a company delivering printing paper for 11 years. The only job I could get was a limousine job, then I retired at age 62.
Q: How long do you plan to keep lifting?
A: My goal in life is to be 100 years old and squat 400 pounds. That sounds ridiculous unless you look at my progress. I'm still getting stronger. I can run 40 yards in under 5 seconds, I have the bones of a 20-year-old, and the body of a 40-year-old. I play tackle football with the kids, 170-pound 20-year-olds. They can't stop me from making a touchdown.
Q: Are people going to remember you?
A: They'll say, "Is he still alive? He lifts weights? You got to be kidding. He was old then."
BODYBUILDERS OVER 50
Bodybuilding can be a sport, or a way to look good and stay healthy. Two Allentown men, one 54 and one 64, have different goals, but both use a regimen of weight training, cardiovascular exercise and nutrition to increase muscle mass and lose fat.
Charles Brown, 64
Five years ago, Allentown resident Charles Brown, 64, started to have trouble breathing. It was a symptom of a serious heart problem, and the solution was open heart surgery. As he recovered, no longer able to work as a truck driver, he became depressed.
"My wife told me to find something to do and not stay home feeling sorry for myself," he says. He decided to turn his rehab exercises into regular workouts at a nearby Gold's Gym.
"I started putting on a little muscle and taking off fat," he says. A trainer noted his progress and asked if he was interested in bodybuilding.
Five years later, Brown has a shelf of 10 trophies, but he's not actively competing anymore. "The dieting part is too much," he says. He continues to work out regularly, however, just to stay in shape and stay healthy.
He also has other plans. Originally from Alabama, Brown started singing in a gospel group with his seven brothers. After some unsuccessful attempts in the 1960s to record an R&B hit, Brown is singing again with a local group called Notorious Groove.
? Accomplishments: Won Mr. Lehigh Valley Over 60 title in 2006, and a second place in Allentown Sportsfest Bodybuilding competition. Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Physique Committee.
? How do you feel? Like I'm about 35, half my age.
? What he eats: I eat healthy, no cheeseburgers or hamburgers. My wife usually makes baked fish or baked chicken breasts. I didn't eat cauliflower or broccoli before, but I eat it now.
? Exercise routine: Three mornings a week, he spends 2 1/2 hours at Gold's Gym in Bethlehem using workout machines and lifting weights.
Jeff Moser, 54
Jeff Moser, 54, has been lifting weights since age 9, when he saw an ad for exercise equipment called a "spring set" and asked his mother to buy it for him. By the time he was 11, he was a junior counselor at the Allentown YMCA. A 1972 graduate of Allen High School, he was in the Navy for 25 years as a diving and salvage officer. When he retired in 1997, he returned to Allentown to settle down and joined Gold's Gym. "This is the hard-core training facility for bodybuilding and heavy weight training," he says.
He's been actively bodybuilding for the past eight years, first winning National Physique Committee bodybuilding contests at the Lehigh Valley level, then at the state. In July, he'll try for a national championship in Pittsburgh.
"For me, it seems to be getting easier as I get older, because I know what my body can handle, and I know more about the sport." Being strong and healthy is also his job. He's a nutritional counselor at a chiropractic office. "I try to get people eating very clean, healthy, anti-inflammatory diets. Getting all your nutrients from food seems to be the healthiest way."
? Accomplishments: Won Pennsylvania Masters Over 50 Body Building Championship in 2007 and 2008. Won Lehigh Valley Masters Over 45 Championship in 2003.
? Exercise routine: Trains for two hours per day, including weight lifting plus a 45-minute, fast-paced, fat-burning walk at about 4 miles per hour.
? Machines vs. free weights: Machines let you isolate the body part you are working on. With free weights, your body needs to balance, and you can't isolate muscles as well.
? What keeps you going: Bodybuilding becomes a very healthy lifestyle. It's the ultimate sport for looking better. It's like the artist who keeps putting brush strokes on a painting until it's the way he wants it to be.
? What he eats: Lots of chicken, yams, tuna, asparagus, broccoli and oatmeal, foods with a very, very low glycemic index [and the least effect on blood glucose levels]. I eat five, very lean, small meals a day. At night, I'll have what I call a negative calorie meal -- a mixed green salad with balsamic vinegar. I use a few basic herbal or organic supplements, but I try to keep it to a minimum.