Chuck V came to our Westside garage around 1983. He was just a kid and Kenny Ried sent him over to watch us train. I could tell he was an intense kid to say the least as he could not stand still. Soon after I made the mistake of opening a commercial gym, but it was a good mistake as many of our current private gym members are still at Westside: Jimmy Ritchie, Joe and Mike Jester along with Mark Marnelli, Gino Cardy, Dominic Rotolo.
Mark owns strong style MMA in Cleveland and Geno is an oil engineer. Dominic Rotolo owns a great chain of restaurants in Columbus Ohio and Kenny Patterson one of our strongest and greatest benchers.
But back to Chuck.
Chuck started to train with Mark, Matt Dimmel and myself. I could tell he had unlimited potential as a lifter. I had just started to train the Soviet’s way two years before so Chuck was starting out right. He was both very strong and very powerful. He was thin at that time, about 180 pounds but started to gain weight fast. After two years it was off to Toledo Ohio for his first real meet and my attempt to get my fifth elite total, this time at 275lbs. I made the total and I saw Chuck was the real deal. He had it all, but would he use it.
Well, in 1987 Chuck was at the YMCA nationals.I told Chuck that everyone is strong at this level, but of course he was late for the warm-ups and took only one weight – 465lbs. His opener was 683, he blew it up and won the national title. Nothing seemed to upset him. I could tell that the deadlift was going to be his top lift, but things would change. He was getting stronger and stronger in all three lifts.
Mark Martinelli and everyone that trained with our group we liked to play around the gym, it as always boxing or wrestling. I told Chuck not to wrestle with Matt Dimmel. Matt was a real big and a lot faster than you could imagine, he almost killed me on more than one occasion. That did not stop Chuck from trying though, Matt got Chuck in a guillotine choke and broke his neck. This is not an exaggeration.
Well, Chuck’s bench went from 480 pounds to 135 pounds overnight. I told him to go to a doctor to find out for sure what was wrong. It only took him a year to go, but it was confirmed the neck was broken. It finally caused Chuck to get an operation, but that did not stop him. He saw me break my patellar tendon in half. Chuck then picked me up after the doctors tried to kill me in surgery and five days later made me max out in the bench with a hole in my throat and stitches in my side from chest tubes.
This is why he is such a good motivator.
Then recovering I wanted to box squat 500 pounds, which I eventually did causing me to hurt my other hip. Chuck was already loading 525 on the bar and you can’t say no to Chuck… I made the 525lbs. It took me two months to recover and when I came back I wanted to do 550 and the same thing happened again. Before I could say anything Chuck was putting 575 on the bar. There was no way but to do it.
Looking back Chuck must have got a lot of pussy because nobody could say no to Chuck, haha.
Next in our evolution of training was using chains. Dave Tate and Chuck jumped right in and made good progress along with heavy sled pulling, next came rubber bands. What this brought about was amazing. In many ways the gym was strong as hell. At the ’95 and ’96 WPC worlds, where they score the top six lifters, Westside won both worlds with four-first and two-seconds each.
Chuck took some time off from training for meets but was working on heavy band squats and just trying out a canvas suit. It was the year 2000 and his best squat was 865. Dave Tate was putting on the IPA nationals and Chuck opened at 900 pounds 35 over his best. I recall Dave saying: “Is he crazy?” I replied “what do you think?”. Well, he could not get to depth with 900lbs and went up to 950lbs. Again it was high, so now Chuck states give me 1000lbs. This was over the World Record and would make him the lightest to do a grand. He smoked it for a world record. What made it more impressive was he was in 2 car wrecks that week. One month later he squatted 1025lbs in West Virginia at mike hills meet.
Chuck was getting huge but kept trying to make 220lbs and this hurt his squat. After winning the light and heavyweights at the WPO which I think he was the only one to do that. He bombed due to no strength in his legs from cutting too much weight. I told him to go up a weight class as he was cutting from 255lbs to 220lbs.
6 weeks later lifting in Janesville at 264lbs he made an 1150lbs world record. He made it look like 135lbs. He had done two box squats with 835lbs and 885lbs bar weight plus 640lbs in band tension. This I saw but still cannot believe to this day. He may be the greatest geared squatter ever and still holds the world record with 1140lbs at 242lbs. Only Dave Hoff of Westside made a better coefficient squat.
I like to think that I taught Chuck a lot but in fact he taught me more about training than I ever did him. Chuck and I would train for 30 to 45 minutes before anyone else would show up. Being 18 years older I never let him do any training without me doing something. Chuck would do 1000 sit ups a day and lots of pull downs. I asked him what pulldowns did for him. Chuck said nothing, he just liked to do them.
Chuck always had thin legs but gained a lot of size during his training. So I said to him “what made your legs get not only bigger but stronger?”. He told me it had to be the bands. I would always ask even when I knew the answer, but wanted to hear it from one of the greats.
Chuck would also do 1000lbs rack deadlifts and he said after thinking for a while it taught him how to strain. I thought if anyone knows how to strain its him. Later I thought about what he said and I guess that is how he found out how to strain. Deadlifting with lots of bands on the bar made it very hard and slow, I asked him what this did for him. He said something very important: it taught him how to think while straining. This is very profound but with all his knowledge about training it was his ability to motivate others that made him an invaluable training partner. Some how he can make a dead man train harder. He also knew when someone could not cut it at Westside.
He would say Lou get his key and kick him out. He was always right. Being strong is very important in any sport. When Chuck was not at a top level he was almost nice, I said almost. But when he was at his strongest he was nasty and that was the way I liked him the best.
To close, there was and still is a lot of Chuck wannabes, wearing hats and looking fierce. Buts all they are, Wannabes.
There was, there is, and there will only be one Chuck Vogelpohl.