Monday, October 22, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 33

Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead

The following article was posted on May 10th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 10 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 18, Issue 10

Armed for victory: Pioneer Valley High School teacher Riccardo Magni competes at Armlifting World Championships in Russia


There is nothing Riccardo Magni does half-heartedly. From teaching to training, Magni aims to compete and succeed, which is why he has the honor of being one of three Americans to compete in the Armlifting World Championships on May 12 through 14, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Magni, a science teacher at Pioneer Valley High School, has weightlifted for 21 years.

"When I started track in college I was really skinny and weak," he said. "To be a thrower, you had to be big and strong."

Pioneer Valley High School science teacher and competitive weightlifter Riccardo Magni qualified for the Armlifting World Championships last year during the Los Angeles Fitness Expo (pictured). He competes in Russia against 130 opponents from 18 different countries May 12 through 14.

And so his weightlifting journey began.

Before delving into armlifting (which works grip strength; more on that momentarily), Magni spent plenty of time competing in strongman and powerlifting. He started competing in armlifting just a year ago.

"A friend of mine, Odd Haugen, invited me to compete in a contest he was hosting," Magni said. "That's how I got started in it. I had good results and I enjoyed it."

Russian armlifting is best described as a unique hybrid between powerlifting, strongman, and grip strength. It involves traditional lift movements, and places more emphasis on using the strength of your hands to lift heavy objects or weights.

"I like it more than traditional weightlifting. You develop functional strength for everyday activities," Magni said. "It's fun to set goals and beat them, and I do things I never thought I could do."

Magni will compete against 130 armlifters from 18 different countries at the event in Russia. The teacher/weightlifter qualified for the championships last January at the Los Angeles Fitness Expo.

"I placed 10th in the Rolling Thunder world championships and qualified as a result of my finish," Magni said.

While he knew the meet was a qualifier, Magni hoped he had done well enough to place. But after his big finish in the Rolling Thunder event, Magni got an invite to the championships by Russian armlifting competitor Roman Penkovskiy.

"I'm the second American that's been invited to compete in this contest," Magni said.

Since then, Magni has been training every day, anywhere from one to three hours between teaching and helping raise his three children. Magni intersperses his training with cardio workouts and traditional weightlifting movements.

Magni said that armlifting applies several traditional weightlifting techniques at once, providing functional strength that he uses daily.

"Some of the training is trial and error, some of it's being coached by others who are stronger than you," Magni said. "And some of it is listening to your body and finding out what works for you."

Prior to entering the competition, Magni admitted that he was not really nervous. After training as hard as he could, he was confident in his abilities.

That confidence will be essential, since he'll compete against some of the best weightlifters in Europe, as well as last year's Canadian National Champion.

"Weightlifting is very mental; it's easy to get caught up in what weight other people are lifting and if they're doing better than you," Magni said. "Luckily being older and competing so much, those are non-issues for me."

For Magni, he is simply looking forward to the intense competition, saying he wants to compete against worthy opponents. Going into the contest, he stays focused on setting personal records and making improvements.

"I just care about competing at my best level," he said. "A sign of good competition is making your best lifts during a contest."

Aside from the competition, Magni looks forward to meeting with fellow weightlifters and friends in person at the competition.

"I've been blessed with this opportunity, and I feel very good," Magni said. "I've lost 42 pounds and feel as strong as ever; I'm excited for this adventure."

Sports contributor Kristina Sewell is also an English teacher at Pioneer Valley High School. Contact her via Managing Editor Joe Payne at

Weekly Poll
Do you want to see more or less enforcement on unlicensed cannabis cultivators in Santa Barbara County?

More, get rid of it!
Less, growers need time to comply.
Not sure.

| Poll Results