One recent evening, Steven Proto strapped almost 200 pounds of steel to his waist, raised his hands to a bar in his garage in Edmond and made
Proto, 29, set a new world record for “weighted pull-up” — a total of 402 pounds. That's his weight of 205.2 pounds plus 196.8 pounds in steel disks he had chained to a “dip belt” around his waist.
“It was hard to believe at first it really was a record,” Proto said.
Actually, it was the second time in one week that Proto had set the record. The first time he lifted a total of 399 pounds.
To most of us, weightlifting conjures images of barrel-shaped Russians grunting at the Olympics and neckless guys in tights flipping truck tires in strongman competitions. But there's also a parallel universe of “odd lifting,” as the United States All-Round Weightlifting Association calls such offbeat feats of strength.
Odd lifting includes weighted pull-up, along with many other obscure maneuvers, stuff like the “Zercher one-arm,” the “half Gardner” and the “Steinborn.” But they're lifting all the same — humans challenging themselves to lift incredible amounts of weight in various ways, and challenging others to lift more.
Proto's feat, documented with video and statements from witnesses, was cited on Strengthospedia.org, which called it a “new Strength & Speed world record.” The previous record apparently was held by Tim Ferguson, who in 1983 lifted 380 pounds (his weight, 178, plus 202 pounds of steel.)
Proto, a bank cashier, never really cared for running or other recreational sports. He traces his interest in pull-ups to his two-year stint in the Marines. Back then, he could do 20 pull-ups. When those pull-ups became too easy or boring, he started adding weight — by attaching steel to himself rather than the more common method of eating of too many chili cheese fries.
“For about six years I have slowly built up,” he said.
Proto follows progress of other extreme pull-up practitioners through various websites, “just a friendly way to compete online against one another.”
“That's what motivated me a whole lot,” he said.
He hopes his success motivates others and “gets more people to try things like this.”
Proto even has a sponsor, a nutritional supplier who provides supplements like protein. However, Proto strictly avoids illegal or banned substances like steroids or hormones. “I have a family and a son. I'm not a competitive body builder,” he said. “I just do this mostly for fun.”
His wife, Michelle, has just begun working out with him. Proto has even tried to get his 4-year-old son to complete a pull-up, but Michael has a ways to go.
“He has a hard time breaking that dead hang,” Proto said.