Barbells & Bios: The Peoples’ Deadlift Bar

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Weightlifter Bob Peoples using a wooden barbell, with a wooden power rack that Peoples invented.

Lifting in his prime during the 1930s and 1940s, Bob Peoples boasted a strength impressive even today. At his very best, Peoples deadlifted over seven hundred pounds at a body weight hovering around one hundred and eighty pounds. Born in 1910 in Northern Tennessee, Peoples’ training program was conducted almost entirely in ‘The Dungeon’, the name given to Peoples’ home gymnasium.

As anyone with a home gym will attest, you often have to improvise when training away from a traditional or commercial gym. Training at a time without the large-scale commercial gyms of today, Peoples’ innovation was often put to the test. His Deadlift Bar is physical proof. Devised during the 1940s out of local wood, Peoples’ Deadlift Bar is simultaneously strange and inspiring at the same time. Built with two large wooden baskets at each end of the bar, the Deadlift Bar allowed Peoples to keep adding weight to the bar using stones found in the local quarry. To me, the idea that one of the strongest men of the early twentieth century trained using a wooden barbell and stones from the quarry highlights the passion and imagination of many of the early lifters.

Peoples’ Deadlift Bar is a wonderful reminder that an archive is not just old records and magazines. It is also about physical artifacts which act as a link to a faded past when exercisers had to rely on themselves to pursue their passion.

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