His gym friends call him the Iron Bro or Beast; his friends in his Herricks neighborhood call him Hulk. At 74 years old, Peter Ciraulo has earned the nicknames.
“How’d you do, Beast?” gym members yelled as Ciraulo shows off handstands and a workout called “windshield wipers” at New York Sports Club in Garden City.
Ciraulo, the oldest natural bodybuilder in the state, took second place in the British Natural Bodybuilding Federation British Championships on Oct. 1 in Birmingham, England. It was the fourth contest he’d entered and placed in this year.
“I’ve got 20 trophies and medals and this is my favorite,” Ciraulo said, showing off the large prize. “It means a lot and it’s a beautiful piece.”
Because of the honor he’ll represent the United States in the Drug Free Athletes Coalition Pro & Amateur World finals in Miami on Nov. 4.
“The moment they handed me that sweet, golden envelope, I was on Cloud 9. I was so happy I almost started to cry,” Ciraulo said. “I’m already ripped. I’ve got to get shredded now.”
Ciraulo started bodybuilding at age 60 as therapy to help get through a divorce. He entered his first show at 68 years old.
“Everyone at the gym is going through either physical therapy or are using exercise for emotional therapy,” Ciraulo said. “I’ve felt much happier since starting bodybuilding.”
The Iron Bro started competing at the recommendation of his friend Jeff Hanson, a New York City policeman. Hanson even helped Ciraulo come up with his routine and select his music.
“I do like a little strip to ‘I Don’t Know Why I Love You like I Do’ by Clarence Frogman,” he said. “I’ve gotten standing ovations for it. It’s very, very different.”
Bodybuilding has also “definitely helped” attract women, Ciraulo said. So he has no desire to give it up anytime soon.
“At least it hasn’t turned anyone away! As they say, you want to look good with your clothes off,” Ciraulo said. “I’ve had women from the audience rows grab my hand and try to kiss me after my competitions.”
Ciraulo said if he chose another song to replace the classic blues hit, he’d want “New York, New York,” but he said he’s a little reluctant to change the winning routine.
But as much as exercise, dieting helps Ciraulo feel and look good, he said. He cooks most of his own meals, which include fish, turkey or chicken with a salad or some other healthy foods.
“I didn’t actually have to learn how to cook because of the bodybuilding. That actually came because of the divorce,” Ciraulo said. “Now, I’ve perfected it. I can’t replace any chef, but for me, I’m very proud of how much cooking I’ve picked up.”
Ciraulo said he “never dreamed” of making it as has far as he has in the bodybuilding world, but couldn’t have done it without the support of his grown children.
“When my kids were young, I put them all in the limelight for whatever they wanted to do. They did very well in it, even playing Carnegie Hall,” Ciraulo said. “Now it’s my time to shine and they agree 100 percent and back me up.”
LESSONS FROM BIRMINGHAM
Patrick Martin, 45, has coached Ciraulo for two years. He said Ciraulo has learned not to follow the “stock bodybuilding-isms.”
“He’s inspirational, motivational, setting the international bodybuilding world on fire,” he said. “Coaching him is different. He’s obviously dedicated and not stopping.”
Martin made the point of showing off Ciraulo’s hard work by pointing things out on an image on his phone of Ciraulo from the Birmingham competition.
“You see how tight he is? There’s just no fat hanging off of there,” he said. “Look at this picture. He’s got definition, size, symmetry and balance of his muscles — everything the judges are looking for.”
Martin said the pair learned a lot about Ciraulo’s body in the England competition. Ciraulo learned that he needs two days to get as big as possible. The two days before the show, Martin said he will control Ciraulo’s carbohydrate intake so that when he steps onstage, he fills out as much as possible.
“He’s got three weeks to get ready for Miami. Not easy to do,” Martin said. “He knows what he has to do to improve. My job is to make sure he goes into Miami even better than he was in England.”