The Story of Sam Loprinzi – “Iron Man” Ed. (1963)

2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the classic Loprinzi’s Gym in Portland, OR, USA! Inspired by a recent visit to Loprinzi’s, today we feature a profile of the gym’s late founder and strength and physique athlete Sam Loprinzi (1913-1996), which originally appeared in the February 1963 issue of “Iron Man” magazine and was written by the editor.

We are also supplying a copy of the original article to the current staff of Loprinzi’s Gym, in honor of the gym’s 70th anniversary! Loprinzi’s is a rare and special kind of old-school weight training facility which has been in business since 1948. We will feature some of our recent photos of Loprinzi’s next week, right here at FOUNDATIONS OF IRON.

Loprinzi1946  Loprinzi1963

Photos of Sam Loprinzi which accompanied the article below; on the left at age 25 with his “Most Muscular” trophy from the Mr. America 1946 contest, and on the right displaying his physique at age 50. Click to enlarge (opens in new window/tab).

Sam Loprinzi and his brothers could be described as the American Pacific Northwest region’s claim to fame in the iron game of the mid-twentieth century.

The Loprinzis were a large Italian-American family, and many of their descendants still live in the area today. From the 1930s to the 1950s and beyond, brothers Sam, Joe, Gus and Phillip were very active in the iron game. The Loprinzi family’s physical culture legacy lives on, as the gym that Sam Loprinzi founded in 1948 with the help of his brothers is still an active and vibrant neighborhood workout center with an unbeatable old-school atmosphere.

The article below highlights how it is possible to remain in vigorous good shape even as we get older, including a glimpse into Sam Loprinzi’s nutrition and exercise program. His workouts included one day a week of heavy lifting at lower volume in a classic “5×5” schema, and two days of higher volume at lower poundages, as well as high-volume abdominal work every single day along with aerobic and flexibility work. Many of today’s fitness experts might deride so much abdominal exercise as “overtraining,” but the results of Sam’s exercise regimen speak for themselves in the accompanying photographs.

Further reading/reference on the Loprinzi family (opens in new window/tab): http://www.italoamericano.org/story/2016-3-9/loprinzi

Sam Loprinzi, 1913-1996 (opens in new window/tab): https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/928866/sam-d.-loprinzi

Further information on Loprinzi’s Gym, including hours and rates (opens in new window/tab): http://www.loprinzisgym.com/

Magazine excerpt:

As Good At Fifty As At Twenty-Five

The Story Of Sam Loprinzi

I first met Sam Loprinzi at the Mr America contest in Detroit in 1946 where this man with such an outstanding physique won first place in the “Most Muscular Man” contest and was second to Alan Stephan in the Mr. America contest. I was amazed at his magnificent physique, for he had tremendous size for his height and weight of 160 lbs., and he had unusual definition and shape. Sam probably would have won the Mr. America title had he continued entering. He preferred to turn professional and open his own gym, which he operates in Portland, Oregon.

Sam was born in Portland on January 22, 1913. He had a large family of brothers and sisters, all of whom were barbell trained and some of them were outstanding in physique and strength. His father owned a fruit and vegetable truck which probably contributed to Sam’s good health and robust physique. He became interested in barbell work and physical training when about 13. His father added a little room off their garage which soon became the training center for the neighborhood, including his brothers, cousins, and friends. Not having enough money for regular iron weights, they made their first weights out of cement filled cans fastened on the ends of pipes, brooms stcks [sic], etc.

At times the temperature would be 30 or 40 degrees and then they would wear sweaters to keep them warm, since there was no heat in their little gym. At 13, when Sam started his training, he was of average strength and weight, with measurements of 12 1/2 arms, 39 chest, 28 waist, 20 thigh and 13 1/2 calves. His training program consisted of curls, presses, chins, high pulls, supine presses, squats and dead lifts, and he never figures he had any training problems that time and hard work wouldn’t overcome. Sam exercised because he enjoyed it and he put his whole heart into his workouts.

He used to get up at 3 o’clock and go to the market to help his father buy produce, then run like mad back home and train from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., then run back to the market to help on the delivery route. You can see that this was a rugged life but one that Sam thrived on and it gave him a terrific constitution. He developed great endurance as well as strength and a fine physique.

While in high school he did quite a lot of amateur wrestling and also boxed, swam and ran. He still swims twice a week and runs three times a week, summer and winter.

During the war, Sam and his brother, Joe, taught weight training at Treasure Island. Sam has done a lot of hand balancing and, for a time, traveled as a professional balancer but did not like to travel, so quit.

When Sam first started his training he followed the only known system at that time, which was one set of 8 to 10 reps in each exercise. Later he followed the set system, doing three and four sets of each exercise for 8 to 10 repetitions.

Sam says, “My favorite exercises are the good old stand bys: presses overhead, squats, power cleans, bench press, two arm curls, and dead lifts. Of course, I do my abdominal work every day. I exercise every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. On those mornings I do 100 situps and 200 leg raises along with my regular exercises. Then on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday mornings I still do 100 situps and 200 leg raises. Sometimes I’m not in the mood, but I do them anyway. I also do hand-stand press-ups during my three training periods a week, four and five sets of 8 to 10 reps. On Mondays and Wednesdays I do 3 and 4 sets of each exercise with 8 to 10 reps. Then on Fridays (my heaviest day) I do 5 sets of 5 reps each exercise. After each training period I do a group of Yoga exercises and then I run a mile.

“As for my diet, I eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and lean meat. I take vitamins C and E every day. Before each training session I mix up a high protein drink made with orange juice, banana, honey, brewers yeast and 90% protein powder. I then take a large spoon of wheat germ oil.”

Today, at the age of 50, Sam has the same measurements that he had when he won the Most Muscular Man in America title–chest 47, arms 17, waist 31, thighs 23, calves 15 and neck 17. His weight remains the same at 160 lbs. at a height of about 5’7″. His weight has varied but little over the years, and his heaviest bodyweight, to our knowledge, has not been over 170. His best lifts are: bench press 310, military press 220, squat 425, dead lift 550, clean and jerk 270, and snatch 200.

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A photo of Sam loprinzi in his gym, which accompanied the article. Click to enlarge (opens in new window/tab)

Today Sam Loprinzi owns and operates one of the finest gyms in the country. Four years ago he built his own building and has since enlarged it and recently built an apartment for living quarters above it that he might be closer to his work, but still maintain his privacy. You will see photos of this beautiful place in this issue. The studio is located at 4110 S.E. Caruthers St., Portland, Oregon.

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A photo of Helen Loprinzi, Sam’s wife, which accompanied the article. Click to enlarge (opens in new window/tab)

Sam met Helen Smith in 1945 in the California Health Studio. She had been training with weights at the Baptiste gym for a year and so she and Sam had much in common and soon married, and now have two girls, one 12 and the other 8. It is a very happy and successful family and Sam has proven, as you can see from the photos with this article, that a man can maintain outstanding physical condition until 50 and after. He feels he is in just as good a shape as ever, and hopes to continue to keep in top shape for many years to come. Sam Loprinzi is one of the most respected men in the business today and we are proud to bring his story to our readers.

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Photos of Sam Loprinzi demonstrating his workout program, which accompanied the article. Click to enlarge (opens in new window/tab).

5 thoughts on “The Story of Sam Loprinzi – “Iron Man” Ed. (1963)

  1. Conor Heffernan March 16, 2018 / 9:00 am

    Very jealous you got to visit the current gym – looking forward to seeing the pics next week!

    Liked by 1 person

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