Pumping iron with the stars

What do Larry Johnson of the Kansas City Chiefs, Tiki Barber, formerly of the New York Giants, and Ronde Barber of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have in common?

Along with being multiple Pro Bowlers, they all work out with famed strength trainer of New Jersey Joe Carini.

Carini has been a strength trainer for 28 years, but he has been working with weights much longer.

“When I was 13, my cousin gave me my first set of weights and that was it for me,” Carini said. “All I’ve ever wanted to do was be a professional trainer.”

His dream came true with the opening of his gym, Joe’s House of Iron, which he currently runs in Montville, N.J.

Carini has the knowledge and experience to be one of the best at his job. From 1981-1987, Carini won New Jersey’s World Strongest Man competitions in three different weight classes.

In 1986, this monstrous man was the fifth-strongest man in the world in his weight class.

Some of Carini’s other records include being the first man in New Jersey to officially have a power lifting total over 2,100 pounds or to squat 800 pounds.

The strongman also had a short stint as a professional wrestler. He was known as Joe Strong of the tag team The Executioners in the National Wrestling Alliance. After wrestling, Carini got back into training and has been doing that ever since.

One of his most famous trainees was Tiki Barber, formerly of the Giants.

“In 2003, I got a call from Tiki’s agent, who I was training at the time,” Carini said. “He (said that Tiki Barber) wanted to work on getting some upper body strength. I said he was coming to the right place.”

Barber started working out with Carini following the 2003 season in which he led the league in fumbles. After training with Carini, that would never happen again.

With Carini’s help, Barber went on to have his three best seasons statistically.

“Joe Carini is the savior of my career,” Barber said in a Nov. 6, 2005, interview with the New York Post.

Barber and Carini are collaborating on a book about weightlifting which is scheduled to be released in 2008.

While training Barber was one of the highpoints of Carini’s professional career, it was only the beginning.

After word spread about his ability to make stronger, faster and all-around better athletes, several other players asked for Carini’s help, including Barber’s fellow Giants Gabril Wilson, Sean O’Hara and Brandon Jacobs, as well as numerous other college and professional athletes. According to Carini, he trains about a dozen professional athletes during the offseason.

While Carini is busy being one of the most renowned trainers in the business, he has also continued to weightlift. At the age of 48, he recently squatted 1,210 pounds for two repetitions on a hammer squat machine using only a weightlifting belt and without any assistance from knee raps.

He also recently shrugged 1,300 pounds for three repetitions on a hammer strength machine.

Many people believe lifting such heavy weights for so many years could be detrimental to the body. Carini enjoys proving this myth wrong.

“(My age) hasn’t stopped me from doing anything yet,” Carini said. “I keep strengthening the tendons, ligaments and muscles. How could it be bad? It’s good for the psyche. To me, there is nothing else.”

“A lot of people ask me when my strength is going to start winding down,” he said. “I tell them the Earth will go first.”