Imagine standing under a barbell, getting ready to squat - except you're not just going to squat the weight. You are going to walk or run holding not only the barbell but the entire weight rack too.
The exercise is a called a yoke walk, and if you're Jon Pietrolaj, you can do that carrying 1,000 pounds.
On Sunday, Pietrolaj and several other athletes practiced the yoke walk and other powerlifting feats at the York Fair to get audiences pumped up for the Ironmill Strongest Man competition coming Saturday.
Pietrolaj, 35, of Hellam Township, is one of approximately 50 people signed up to compete on Saturday, but anyone is welcome to stop by the Ironmill stand this week at the fair to sign up.
He has been training with other athletes from Ironmill, a Lancaster based gym, since 2007. He has gym equipment in his basement and also in a storage unit where he can train in hot and cold weather.
"It's brutal," said Pietrolaj. "If you want to get good, you have to find a group of guys and start training with the implements."
He trains at his gym three days a week and spends another day each week at events or training with other athletes.
"It's a fun sport, and there's a lot of camaraderie," Pietrolaj said.
Technique is crucial to advance in competitions like these, he said.
Just because someone can benchpress a lot of weight in a gym does not necessarily mean they have the strength or technique that is needed to compete, said Pietrolaj.
Strong man competitions got their start at old-fashioned fairs and carnivals, and the co-owners of Ironmill to set up at the York Fair for the first time this year to get back to that heritage.
"We're trying to make it an event more than a competition," said co-owner Lou Costa.
Audiences at the fair can expect to see men - and women - lifting Hummer tire deadlifts up to 1,000 pounds and lifting atlas stones that weigh up to 300 pounds to their shoulders, said Costa.
They will even be pulling a fire engine on Saturday, said Amanda Kulik, a trainer who co-owns Ironmill with Costa.
The mental aspect is often the biggest obstacle for people, Kulik said.
"People don't believe they can do it," Costa said. "It seems so impossible, and it seems like it should be too hard, but it lets people do the impossible."
Ironmill offers a weekly class for beginners, and Costa said everyone is capable of participating in the sport.
"We try to encompass everyone from housewives to athletes to strong men," said Costa.
Anyone interested in the event or training with Ironmill can visit www.ironmillstrong.com.
- Reach Chelsea Shank at 505-5432 or firstname.lastname@example.org