Williams has held records both nationally and provincially for his age category.

Frank Williams’s at-home gym isn’t typical; it’s packed from wall to wall, floor to ceiling, with medals, posters, memorabilia and memories from decades of fulfilling a passion.

Named the McNeily Barbell Club, it’s also the place where the 70-year-old Williams, from St. John’s, recently deadlifted 400 lb., becoming the first person his age to ever do so in Newfoundland and Labrador, as far as he knows.

It was a journey that started in 1971, when Williams walked into a friend’s garage one August afternoon, he told CBC Radio’s Weekend AM.

“They were deadlifting and I had half a dozen beer,” he said with a laugh.

“I sat down and was watching them deadlift, and I asked them, ‘Can I try?’ They were a little bit hesitant, and they said OK. So I deadlifted 305 pounds and then they stopped me. I’ve been at it ever since.… I got hooked from that afternoon.”

That addiction to the sport brought Williams to countless competitions. At the 2011 World Masters Powerlifting Championships he won a bronze medal in the deadlift, lifting 523 lb. He was 61.

“That was the highlight of my 50 years of training,” he said. “There’s lots of memories, but that will probably be the best one.”

frank williams
Williams’s club, the McNeily Barbell Club, has produced several world and Canadian champions. (Todd O’Brien/CBC)

His recent lift of 400 lb. is among several other records Williams has held over his lifetime of training.

He said he was the first 50-year-old and the first 60-year-old to deadlift 500 lb. in Atlantic Canada, and has a handful of national records to go with those achievements.

“One thing about me, I’m modest,” he laughed.

These days Williams trains four days a week, about a two-hour session each time.

The McNeily Barbell Club

Williams said the world of weightlifting brings with it camaraderie and, especially, competition.

But his club, like much everything else, was closed in March as the COVID-19 pandemic began to hit Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Only I’m working out here now. We closed it down March 16. So that’s bad,” he said. “I’m here alone, and it’s not easy.”

frank williams
Frank Williams keeps his board updated with weights recorded from those who train with him. (Todd O’Brien/CBC)

He said about 10 people usually come to work out in his tiny space, and they’re dedicated to putting up big numbers and helping people reach their maximum potential. He said he figures about 2,000 athletes have trained in his space over the last 40 years.

And while he calls it “working out in a submarine,” his club has produced some top-tier athletes along the way.

“We’re after having … three world champions training at one time, and on this platform, the lowest over here was Canadian champion,” he said.

“I love this sport and I love the people in it.”


Article first published on 12th October on CBC News.

Find out more about weightlifting at the Masters Games.


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