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No this is not one of your eleventh-grade English novels that you were forced to read in school, this is how a man with dwarfism is living and lifting among giants at Westside Barbell.
Hello, my name is Jeremy Smith. I am a dwarf powerlifter from West Grove Pennsylvania, a small town about forty-five minutes south of Philadelphia. I grew up in your average blue-collar working family, with both my parents and younger brother being average height.
Growing up, my mother and father never treated me any differently than any other kid around town. At a very young age, I was taught what hard work was and how nothing was ever given to you no matter what your “disability” or excuse was it always had to be earned.
Through the years, my life did not differ from any other average kids I was disciplined when I spoke out of line and was praised when I accomplished something worth praising “not a participation trophy.” Even though I lived a reasonably normal life, one thing that I had other kids beat was doctors’ visits.
I was a healthy kid but because of my dwarfism, I had to see a specialist occasionally. While I was lucky for not having too many surgeries I did have one major one when was a kid and that was a spinal decompression surgery to allow fluid in around my neck so I could turn my head left and right without any complications.
Since I started lifting my doctors despises me putting a bar on my back and squatting… they told me this when I told them my PR was 355 a couple of years ago.
Other than a few doctors’ visits my life was normal as normal can get like any kid growing up I was bullied in school, but I ended up just getting used to it and learned to have thicker skin because of it, something people don’t have today.
At a young age, I got involved in sports like soccer, wrestling, baseball, and football. Wrestling was one of the sports that I competed in all the way up through high school having some success but nothing really notable in fact wrestling is what got me into lifting.
The story goes in high school my freshman through junior year I was wrestling behind two of the best wrestlers to come through our school district Edgar and Kevin both placing in the state tournament and went on to wrestle in college.
Coming into my senior year Edgar graduated and Kevin got heavier and the hundred and six-pound spot was vacated. At the time I was not even a hundred pounds soaking wet. So, what decided to do was to start lifting in hopes to just to put on some mass before the season sticking to the basic squat, bench, and deadlift.
I ended up being able to fill out that one hundred and six-pound weight class and have some success. Following that season, I ended with a record of twenty wins and eleven losses and qualified for the district meet.
After graduating I had to leave my competitive wrestling days behind but I still had lifting weights to keep me busy, and this is where I fell in love with the idea of always shooting for a number to break in whatever lift it was.
As the numbers grew I became more and more addicted to that total and how big it could get. This all stems from having supportive parents to not put a limit on my just because I have a “disability” teaching me that there is never a ceiling on what you think you can do.
So many of you are wondering, “How in the hell did this little guy get into the strongest gym on planet earth?” It all started when my girlfriend Savannah and I were talking about gyms I would love to visit if I ever got the chance and Westside Barbell was top on my list.
Savannah is from Cleveland Ohio, said: “Why don’t we just take a road trip down to Columbus to go to Westside Barbell?” I chuckled and told her that you cannot just go to Westside Barbell and show up.
I then explained it to her that Westside is a very elite club of lifters that only a very select few ever make it into that gym guys like Chuck Vogelpohl, Dave Hoff, and Louie Simmons.
By this time a blank stare came across her face, and the response she gave was “So…?” I explained that I couldn’t be invited there because I didn’t have the total I thought I deemed acceptable and in my mind, my numbers were not good enough to even be considered for that gym. Just a few weeks prior in a meet I set the world record for the 59kg weight class raw squat in sleeves with a 550lb squat.
Even then I still felt like I didn’t deserve to be at Westside Barbell. So, what Savannah did next is something I cannot even fathom, she emails Tom who is the General Manager at Westside telling him who I was and a little bit about my lifts and so on a so forth.
Next thing you know I am getting a direct message on my Instagram account from Westside Barbell saying, “Hey Jeremy we would love to have you come over and train.” I right then shit my pants, I called her, and she was like I know then she explained to me what she did, and it was just incredible.
Fast forward to me coming to Westside Barbell for the weekend for a Friday and Saturday training session. I arrive at the gym on Thursday afternoon in order to just make sure I can do everything in the gym.
Thanks to Joe and Sanjay we were able to make accommodations to the reverse hyper and other pieces of equipment so a shorter body person could use just like myself.
Friday morning, they tell me the day prior to be at the gym before 5 am, I got there at 4:15 am I could hardly sleep the night before all these things were rushing through my head. As I pull in the parking lot sitting in his Jeep the man himself Louie Simmons.
All those books and articles that I read all have been written by this guy and now he is just a car next to me. I get out of my car it is still dark out so I barely can make out his face and all I hear is “Wazzz Up.” I introduce myself and he does the same like if I don’t know anything about this guy who many call the godfather of powerlifting.
We head inside to this palace of strength, and as soon as I step through that door it just hits me. That smell of rusty iron and rubber from the mats, mixed with the smell that I remember from the wrestling room just that sweat aroma to it. It was like walking into Willy Wonkas Chocolate factor but it was Louie’s Strength Factor.
Every were I looked I saw something to make you stronger, there to many bars to count, and equipment I have never even seen before till now. Then as I turned from one bay to the next I saw it the most notable piece of Westside Barbell… the board!
The board is the most historic piece of Westside Barbell and as I stand before it I am standing in front of greatness, world record holder after world record holder it sent chills down my back. We then begin to squat we used as SSB that day with a green and purple band the equivalent to 230lbs of band tension.
We begin to squat and squat and squat, if you have used this type of volume you understand what I am talking about. Louie then says, “Hey Junior we are gonna see what you really got, this is basically your try out. At that moment, I was like oh shit things just got real.
We stick three plates on down up no problem. Then three plates and a quarter down up no problem. Then four plates down up still good. Then we go to four plates a dime and a five, first try I tried good morning it out of the mono lift no good I thought to myself you idiot.
Next try I get it out down touch the box and get it back up with a little grind. Then he says let’s call it there in my head I am kicking myself in the ass pissed as if he didn’t approve.
He goes thats a lot of weight their kid, still unsure about if that was a good thing or bad thing we proceed through the training. As we go further and further in the training these giants start rolling in left and right.
Giants that will make normal people look small you could only imagine a freaking 4’5 132lb dwarf like myself next to a 6’5 6’7 400lb monster. Guys like Burley Hawk who rep a 500lb bench for 3, JP Carrol who squatted 975lb, and Peter Bremer who was over from Ireland at the time pulling 1095lb on a pin pull like it was nothing.
It was freaking insane to watch and even more motivating to want to do in myself. One thing people don’t know about me is that when I compare my lifts to someone else’s lifts that other person is not even in the same weight class as me.
I oftentimes will compare them to either people in 198 or even SHW to remind myself what I am lifting is not that heavy compared to their numbers.
Come Saturday Lou tells me to me him at Bob Evans for breakfast at 6am, like usual I hate being late so I arrive early. Sure enough who is waiting in the parking lot but Lou.
He rolls down his window and says get in, so I climb into the jeep and just have a normal conversation as Fox news is playing in the background. He goes some squat yesterday man he then continues to say I bet we could get that number up drastically if you were to come back and train here.
Those final four words in that sentence just sunk in Come back and train here… I just zoned out for a second and then came back as he is asking if I ever wore a bench shirt.
I went on to say no, so poof he grabs a shirt behind him and there is a bench shirt in my lap he goes try to put this on. I try to put it on but it won’t fit over my forearms.
Much to like everything else in my life we needed to make a modification to the shirt. This wouldn’t be the last modification to the gear or equipment as I am emersing myself into a new form of powerlifting that I have been exposed to. By this time its 6am and they opened Bob Evans we go in and sit down at the table.
In comes the Giants any normal person would be quaking in their boots if they saw a crew like this walk into their establishment, but the people at Bob Evans knew exactly what everyone wanted and just came to check if there was any changes.
After breakfast we started benching and again another modification needed to be made. While laying on the bench for one I could not reach the bar to un-rack it out of the j-cups, and secondly my feet did not touch the floor. To second problem the lesser of the two to worry about we just put boxes under my feet to help.
The first problem how every is the sketchier of the two, since I cannot reach the bar I literally need it handed from the j-cups into my hands. On speed day it wasn’t that bad, but when we are working max effort and they weights get heavier, yeah there is a little cause for concern but what the heck you die you die. So speed bench was again same volume style as squats the day prior and it went very well.
A month goes by since last being at Westside Barbell and I make my journey back to Columbus Ohio. The first day back we are taking a max effort free full squat gear, something that I have never done in my life.
There were no ifs, and's, or buts if you were in that gym that day your squatting it didn’t matter what your plan was for that day you are squatting.
So, I did full gear and wraps and squatted just like everyone else. We have made more modifications in the meantime, such as actual boxes for my feet when I bench, as well as a huge box for me if need when I squat out of the mono-lift. My time here so far going on almost a month here has been nothing but extraordinary.
As an exercise science major, I felt like I learned more things with in the first week, then I did in the classroom just from Lou. I can also feel the wrath of the haters of Westside as well, and damn does it feel good.
I don’t get how so many people could hate on a gym and a man for wanting to improve the sport. But it’s just more fuel to the fire that keeps motivating so many of us. In August I plan on competing not in raw but in my first multiply powerlifting meet in Newark, Ohio, hopefully, to get my name up on that board as well.
Want to see a bit of what Jeremy goes through on a regular here? Click this pic...