Barbell club wants to reclaim York's Muscletown mantle

Christopher Dornblaser
Lifters from White Rose Barbell practice the clean and jerk movement Monday, Nov. 30, 2015 at Crossfit York. (John A. Pavoncello - The York Dispatch)

These days, York County is probably best known for its snack food production, but 60 or 70 years ago York City was the undisputed Weightlifting Capital of the World.

"Muscletown, U.S.A." was home to Bob Hoffman and his York Barbell Co., now in Manchester Township, where its rotating weightlifting statue still gets double-takes from Interstate 83 drivers. Many consider Hoffman the father of world weightlifting, an entrepreneur and publisher whose gym and magazines such as Strength and Health helped inspire generations of champion bodybuilders in the mid-20th century.

Then just kind of dropped off.

In this file photo, workers leave the York Barbell roof after performing maintenance on the statue of the lifter above the plant in Manchester Township. (Bill Kalina

"I'm not entirely sure what happened, but this is our roots" said Madeline Mirasol, a trainer with the White Rose Barbell Club, based out of CrossFit York at 147 W. Philadelphia St. in York City.

Mirasol and her husband, Rusty, director of CrossFit York, hope the club can help York reclaim its former physique — and they point to strides it has made since it was founded five years ago.

"Bigger than a hobby": Mirasol said the club has gotten more popular and grown organically over time. She said its trainers have worked with some lifters who now compete nationally, and they also are looking to bring some competitions back to the area.

"As it grew, we realized it was getting a little bigger than a hobby," she said.

Mirasol said she and her husband started with only one lifting coach, but they now have four, with about 20 people lifting with them regularly.

"We have a fairly large list of people who lift with us exclusively," she said. .

Mirasol said the club has a wide variety of ages, with kids as young as 8 participating.

Getting bigger: The club recently received designation as a nonprofit organization, which Mirasol said is good because they are now able to get the necessary funds for equipment and travel.

"It's expensive to buy equipment," she said, adding the money raised also could be used to send the nationally ranked lifters throughout the country to competitions.

Competitive: Bailey Druck, 18, a freshman at York College, has been involved with the club for three years, and he competes. He will participate in a national weightlifting competition this week in Reno, Nevada.

Druck, formerly a wrestler, said the club helped him stay in shape after he left the mats for good. It turns out, he said, he enjoys weightlifting more than wrestling.

"It's been kind of something like a stress reliever," he said.

Druck competed in the Youth Nationals competition, where he placed 12th out of about 70 competitors.

"I was pretty happy," he said.

Benefits: Druck said being involved with the club helped for his diet, as he was surrounded by people who ate well.

Rusty Mirasol said athletes put themselves at an advantage when they get involved with the club.

He said the people involved typically train four to five times a week, working on strength, technique and speed.

Back to its roots: The Mirasols said they hope they can bring high-level weightlifting competitions back to York City.

"We're trying to honor that history and trying to create a space where York can have that distinction again," Madeline Mirasol said.

Her husband agreed the goal is to reclaim the Muscletown mantle.

"We're in this neat little era, a time where it's starting to build again," Rusty Mirasol said.

How to get involved: Madeline Mirasol encouraged all who are interested to come into one of their training sessions and see how they like it. She said they may observe and speak to a coach there.

"The mode of entry, whether you're 8 or you're 60, it's going to be exactly the same," she said.

Rusty Mirasol said the coaches there will ensure the weightlifting procedures are done properly and safely.

The training sessions are at 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Crossfit York.

The club is affiliated with a Crossfit York membership, which Rusty MIrasol said can cost anywhere from $75 to $100 per month.

— Reach Chris Dornblaser at