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Lion Heart Fitness offers Pinellas powerlifters a place to break records

Joe Zmyewski, 52, lifts 500 pounds at Lion Heart Fitness on Saturday.

ANGELA STEWARD | Special to the Times

Joe Zmyewski, 52, lifts 500 pounds at Lion Heart Fitness on Saturday.

PINELLAS PARK — About 40 spectators turned out Saturday to see whether American and world records would be broken at a bench press meet at Lion Heart Fitness.

Most of the day's competitors ranged in age from 52 to 70 at the gym that claims to be the only powerlifting gym in Pinellas County.

"Lion Heart Fitness is an old-school gym where you can hoot and holler — you can use chalk on your hands and you can lift really heavy weights," said owner Steve Byer.

"The people that come in here love it because they're tired of all the fluff in the (other) gyms."

Lion Heart draws a lot of the over-50 crowd, but it also has members in their teens and older. It even draws several women.

The gym tends to draw people who are serious about fitness. "People come here to train and reach their goals," he said.

Byer, 60, a competitive lifter for 15 years, has won trophies, but he never took a world record. He is now chair of the Florida chapter of the American Powerlifting Association, which lets him hold competitive weight-lifting meets at his gym or anywhere in Florida.

"It's a positive subculture," said Tom O'Donnell, 58, who was disappointed that he couldn't compete because of a recent shoulder injury. Instead, he served as a judge.

This time, three people broke world and American records in their class and weight categories: 69-year-old Leon Barry benched 360 pounds; Ron Corey, 66, benching 320; and Bobby Keys, 37, benched 410.

Lion Heart Fitness is at 11203 49th St. N, on the border of Clearwater and Pinellas Park. Meets are held at the gym three times a year. The next meet, the Turkey Push Pull, is scheduled for Nov. 13 and is a bench press and dead lift competition.

"I'll be back in November to break some more records," said Ron Corey.

Lion Heart Fitness offers Pinellas powerlifters a place to break records 08/31/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 6:17pm]

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