Westside vs the World (2019) Movie Script

-[indistinct chatter]
Alright, let's go, Hoff.
[woman] There you go,
near the belly.
[Hoff panting]
[woman] Big air.
Chest, legs, hold it!
Squat, sit back, clear,
clear, three, two, one, up.
[man] Very nice, very nice.
Take a plate off on that side.
-[man] Take a plate off, yeah?
-A plate off. You got it.
I remember that feeling easier.
Usually this is the one
that feels like shit.
Then I get scared,
and then I'm alright.
[announcer] Shane Hamman
is your lifter.
-Dave Hoff, Dave Hoff,
you are on deck.
Greg Demina,
you are in the hold.
Dave Hoff,
1,135 pounds, 29 years old.
If this don't excite you guys,
I'm not sure why you're
here today.
[man] Come on, turn it up!
[announcer] Here we go, Dave
Hoff, show us how it's done.
[tense music]
-[announcer] He did it,
1,135 pounds!
-[cheering and applauding]
[man] Good.
I'm really trying not to puke.
Welcome to powerlifting.
[indistinct chatter]
[narrator] In the shadows
of Columbus, Ohio,
in the heartland
of the American Rust Belt,
lies the world's most
controversial gym,
Westside Barbell.
There's not a powerlifter
on the planet,
that doesn't know
the name Westside Barbell.
Oh wow,
they were like the crazies,
a collection of lunatics
with some fuckin'
crazy strength.
World record holder after
world record holder.
I've seen a lot of guys come in,
I've seen a lot of guys go out.
[Tony] People don't understand
what a hardcore attitude
you need to have in that gym.
It was go-time, every time
you walked through the door.
-[Coker] Westside was a cult.
-[Brandon] I mean, this place--
They would rise you
to the top, and break you.
It was literally
hell with weights.
They were gonna
talk shit to you from the time
you walked through that door
until the time you left.
[powerlifter] It's a bunch of
violent, mean motherfuckers
that aren't kind
and gentle in any way.
[Louie] Everyone lifts weights,
but we're the best at it.
You know, it's kinda
like Westside versus the world.
[music fades out]
[energetic industrial music]
[narrator] To understand
the madness of Westside,
you have to start with its founder, Louie Simmons.
The only member that has to be
at Westside Barbell,
is Louie Simmons.
I'm trying to fuckin' think,
man, how you can even put
Louie into words.
Louie's like Yoda.
He kinda looks like him now too.
That motherfucker's a million
years old. He's a dinosaur.
[narrator] These days, Louie
is known mostly as a coach,
but his story started long ago.
My name's Louie Simmons.
I live in Columbus, Ohio,
and I was born on October
12th, 1947. I'm the owner
of Westside Barbell.
We live on the West Side
of Columbus. And you know,
if they call you Westsiders,
it's kind of an insult,
but to me it's a badge of honor.
Not only do I have a lot of
tattoos that say Westside
for my gym, but also 'cause
I live on the West Side.
I got 13 teeth.
That's all I got left.
Fractured skull,
broken jaw, broken hand.
Just gettin' my ass kicked,
but it never stopped me.
You know, I think you've
gotta get your ass kicked.
It's what you learn from losing.
In the first grade, I got
kicked out of school
for an entire year.
I got in a fight
with a kid. The day before,
he took my shoe, and I asked
my father what to do.
And he said, "Well if you
tell me that tomorrow,
I'm basically
gonna kick your ass."
So I remember going back
to school, and the kid
tried to take my shoe,
and I got in a fight,
and the teacher broke it up.
I ended up hitting a teacher.
And long be told they kicked
me out for the entire year.
So I had two days of school,
and I was kicked out for
the rest of the year.
Believe it or not, at 12
years old, I was a block tender.
And I worked for a guy who drank
all the time, but worked nine
hours a day.
I was around masons. I mixed
mortar and carried block.
That's how I grew up,
nothing but hard work.
I was a loner for years.
I couldn't talk to anyone.
That's actually how weights
started to help me.
I got my first weight set
at 12 years old.
I was also a very good
baseball player.
One thing, I think, changed
my mental aspect about myself,
to believe that I could be
something a little different
than others.
For once,
I hit a ball over the fence,
and absorbed all the people
yelling and applauding me,
as I ran around the bases.
I Olympic lifted until I was 18
years old. I thought, you know,
I was pretty strong.
Well, I lived in an apartment
in Dayton, Ohio, and there was
11 men in my weight class.
I beat one guy out of 11,
he was 55 years old,
and I said, "This isn't my
sport." I decided right there
that I was never
gonna Olympic lift again.
There was no comparison
between who's the strongest.
Then I got drafted.
I have today ordered to Vietnam
the Airmobile Division.
This will make it
necessary to increase
our active fighting forces
by raising the monthly
draft call to 35,000.
[Louie] Right out of high
school, I was drafted
into the Army,
and I was going on my way
to Vietnam, but my father died.
I'm the sole surviving son,
and so I never went to Vietnam.
[narrator] The death of
his father meant that Louie
was the last male
heir of the Simmons family.
As such, he was reassigned
for Basic Training.
Instead of fighting communism
in the jungles of Vietnam,
he would be stationed,
eye-to-eye with it, in Berlin.
It was there that he came
across the writings
of an innovative gym,
nearly 6,000 miles away
in Culver City, California.
Right behind me there,
that's Bill Peanuts West.
He was an original of the
original Westside Barbell Club,
Culver City, California.
And he wrote
for Muscle Power, Bill.
Uh, you know, there's nothing
to do when you're on base.
You don't have to be
out doing all the stuff.
Here's my only training thing,
looking at magazines.
Their club had box squats
and board press,
and all these things that you
see in my club today actually.
They were light-years
ahead of everybody else.
It was always
my dream to go there.
That's why anyone that comes
here, I never turn 'em down.
'Cause my dream was
to go there, and I couldn't.
So anyone who wants to
come here, can come here.
I got out of the Army in '69,
so I started competing full-time
at the beginning of 1970.
And I had no training partners.
I'd go to meets,
and I would talk to the best
lifters in the world.
I was never afraid
to talk and ask questions.
As it went along,
it seemed like he was giving
a lot more information
than he was getting.
[Larry] He would just
open the floodgates
and just start talking strength,
talking bench presses, talking
squats, talking deadlifts.
He really loved
what he was doing.
[narrator] Louie
made quick strides.
In 1971,
I was already in high school,
meet record holder in a squat.
In February of '73,
I totaled 1,655.
No wrap of any kind,
you couldn't even wear
a wrist strap.
I had the highest total
in the world at that point.
And then I broke my back.
I thought my back was impervious
to pain. I-- I thought it would
hold anything.
But I lost my concentration in
good mornings, and broke the L5.
So I was on crutches for ten
months. Severe pain, couldn't
work, couldn't do nothing.
No doctor could fix me,
and this is 1973.
I had to set a goal,
I had to come back.
[narrator] With no
other options, Louie looked
to his training for answers.
[Louie] I used to do a lot of
hyperextensions and back raises.
I thought,
"What if I do it in reverse?"
So I built up a platform,
and jumped up and swung my legs
underneath and back,
and it-- it first, it didn't
hurt, and it pumped my back up.
This is a glimpse of hope.
And I thought, "Well,
what if I added weights?"
So I finally, uh,
we made a machine,
but no one had ever seen it.
[narrator] The reverse hyper
would remain a secret
for over 15 years,
until an unlikely event inspired Louie to introduce it
to the public.
[Louie] Larry Byrd,
he said he was gonna have to
retire 'cause he had a bad back.
So I said, "Well hell,
if he had a reverse hyper,
he wouldn't have a bad back."
I was obligated to get the thing
out in the general public, so
people don't have bad backs.
Alright folks,
now we're gonna perform some
reverse hyperextensions.
And Dave's gonna
demonstrate this.
Every time you use this machine,
it works as restoration.
This is one of the greatest
exercises for the lower back,
and the hamstrings
and glutes ever devised.
If you want to come in
second, don't buy one.
If you want to be
a champion, buy one.
[narrator] Thanks
to the reverse hyper,
Louie was back under
the bar by the mid-'70s.
His broken back
was as good as new.
That was enough to win
Louie the 1980 YMCA Nationals.
The YMCA Nationals was the best
of the best. All came there.
Anyone that was at
the biggest nationals
was at the YMCA Nationals.
[narrator] The '70s had
seen the introduction
of supportive equipment,
like wrist and knee wraps,
which helped lifters
to handle more weight.
But in 1977,
the game changed for good.
A company called Marathon,
released a singlet cut from
a stretchy canvas material.
It was called the squat suit.
[powerlifter] It looked like
a wrestling singlet, was just
two sizes too small.
You know, we all got them.
There was 50 lifters in,
there was 50 people
wearin' the squat suits.
[narrator] The squat suit
ushered in an era
of supportive equipment,
commonly known as gear.
[Donnie] Gear is nothing
short of compression.
So when you're performing
a lift, the flesh doesn't
have to bind up
around the joint
to stop everything.
The gear has that stopping
power due to compression,
and there's a lot
less danger, even though
the weights are higher.
[narrator] By 1984,
gear would be introduced
for the bench press as well.
[announcer 1] Notice the padding
under his shirt, or is that
padding? What exactly is that?
[announcer 2] That's just
an illusion, but it's called
a bench press shirt.
It protects you from getting
any tears or injuries.
The original bench shirt
was a tight polyester shirt
that took three people
to try to pull your head
through this little hole,
and to try to hold
your arms out like this,
and it was, I mean,
you can get the same results
with wearing,
you know, too tight T-shirts.
[narrator] Back in Columbus,
Louie's passion and prowess
had made him a key
figure on the scene.
But it was his belief in others that led lifters to join him.
When I met him,
I had never had anyone
tell me that I was
gonna be great at anything.
It was life-changing.
My girlfriend thought
I'd lost my mind,
so, you know,
I broke up with her, but he
invited me out to the garage.
[narrator] In the early '80s,
a gang of powerlifters was a sight few had seen in Columbus.
Louie's garage quickly became something of neighborhood lore.
A buddy of mine lived
pretty close to where
Louie Simmons lived at,
and he always talked about
these big guys that trained
out back in his garage.
When you first seen the place,
you lifted the garage door up,
and it was dirt and concrete.
It was different.
On the platform, and on
the bar on his power rack,
the 100-pound plates
were welded to the bar.
So if you couldn't
start with 245, you just
couldn't work out there.
There was no air conditioning,
there was no heat, there was
nowhere to run a fan.
You were either in dirt on
the floor, or you laid something
down to not be in the dirt.
I mean, you were gettin'
eaten up by mosquitoes,
'cause the windows were broke.
A lot of the guys at that time
were going to a World's Gym
or wherever they were going,
'cause it's nice. And I thought,
"Nah, you know."
So I finally got his attention,
and I wanted to talk to him,
and I finally told him I wanted
to lift weights, and he laughed
at me, and said,
"I got women stronger
than you, kid."
My first day in Louie's garage
was a Friday afternoon.
It was a squat day.
He comes rollin' up in this big
ironworkers welding truck,
and jumps out with the coveralls
on and a wife-beater tank top.
I was like, "This cat's scary."
He was looking for the
strongest people he could find,
and people that he
could make this thing.
That first group
did some amazing things.
[narrator] But Louie was about to go back to square one.
[Louie] Well then I had managed
to break my back again in 1981.
I tried a heavy squat
in the power rack.
I missed it,
but dumped it forward,
but I put the pins too low.
So it pinned me
between the box and the bar.
[narrator] He had broken the same L5 vertebra from 1973.
But at that point, I said,
"I'm not going to quit lifting,
but I'd better find
a better way."
[narrator] As he looked around,
Louie wasn't
the only one
fighting off injuries.
The lifters I saw, they were
startin' to get beat up.
A lot of very strong guys,
but they didn't last.
[narrator] The common
denominator seemed to be
the way that everyone
trained in America.
There was only one path to
follow: Western Periodization.
As the weights go up,
volume comes down.
They start with high reps,
build muscle mass.
Then you drop some reps, and
you start to build some power.
Then you do the big weights
before a contest.
Now you've really
dropped your volume,
so really, you're de-training.
Your level of preparedness
is going down all the time.
Then, when you're handling the
big weights, you have no base.
Your level of physical
preparedness is not there
when you're going to a contest.
It makes no sense.
[narrator] To find the answers
that Louie was looking for,
he turned to America's
most bitter rival.
They are the focus
of evil in the modern world.
[Louie] Back then,
you talk to Mr. Reagan, the
Russians were commie bastards.
Who's gonna do what
a commie bastard's gonna do?
The Eastern Bloc countries,
Russia, Bulgaria,
they worship strength.
[narrator] Louie knew that the Soviets had the science
powerlifting desperately needed, so he sent away for
Soviet textbooks.
[Louie] Bud Konekin in
Michigan, he has a lot of books,
and I called him up,
and Bud tells me, he says,
"Well, you know Lou,
this is classroom books."
And I said,
"Exactly what I need. I need
to understand my own sport."
[narrator] The Soviet texts
broke strength training down
into different methods for
developing what were called
special strengths.
The base of all strengths
was absolute strength,
which was built through
the Maximal Effort Method.
All max every day,
you're exerting all
the muscle units that you have.
That's what makes Max Effort
superior to all methods.
You use more muscle units.
[narrator] But as
Louie would come to realize,
you couldn't simply
max out every workout.
[Louie] And I'm thinking, well,
I'm getting slower and slower,
and all the guys that I'm
training with, are getting
slower and slower.
We needed to become faster.
You only have so long
to make a lift.
Anybody can hold their breath
so long, or take so much pain,
or strain so long.
So how could I lift larger
weights faster? I started using
the Dynamic Method.
You know, maximal speed
with sub-maximum weights.
Force equals mass
times acceleration.
In other words, use two days:
one day to become stronger,
the other day to become faster.
This set up
a mathematic formula.
[narrator] By rotating Maximal
and Dynamic effort workouts,
Louie devised a way to keep
strength and technique
consistently high.
To avoid any fall-off
in fitness or muscle size,
Louie followed these methods up with the repetition method,
using high-volume,
single-joint exercises.
The final, key element
of Louie's new system
was to rotate different
variations of exercises
to avoid
the law of accommodation.
[Louie] The law
of accommodation. Once
you do something repeatedly,
you actually have
a de-training effect.
You start to go backwards.
That's why you must
switch exercise.
[narrator] Together,
these concepts formed
what was called
the Conjugate Method,
meaning that the various
components of strength
were developed in conjunction
with one another.
Louie's methods weren't immediately met with open arms.
Louie at first with these
weird ideas, was thought of
as kind of a quack.
[narrator] It would
take something big
to prove him right.
Louie really didn't get popular,
even in the lifting community,
until Matt Dimel came along.
[Louie] One of the original
super heavyweight members
of Westside Barbell,
his name was Matt Dimel.
Just a big, fat, red-headed kid.
Says, "I wanna be the world's
strongest man. What do I do?"
I said,
"You get as big as you can,
you take all the drugs you can."
He says, alright, he did.
[narrator] That pudgy,
red-headed kid would grow
into a 380-pound sensation.
He was a large man,
he was very thick,
long red mane, big red beard,
kind of reminds you
of a 1980s Viking.
[narrator] Matt Dimel didn't
just look like a viking,
he lived like one.
I remember one story,
we were in a bar.
Matt was a little fucked up.
Kinda bumps into
one of the guys.
One of the men at the table
said something to him,
and he went around
and looked at me, and he goes,
"Be right back, buddy."
And he just takes the table,
and he stands it up
against the wall,
and just dumps all the guys on
the ground with the popcorn
and the pizza,
and the pitchers of beer, and
says, "Ha ha ha, motherfuckers."
I mean, that was your average
Tuesday night with Matt Dimel.
I mean, Matt Dimel tried
to kill me two or three times.
We were going to work out.
He kept talking about pain,
and I know it was in his head.
He starts putting
all this lotion on,
and all these knee wraps,
and we're benching.
I says, "Dammit, Matt, I told
you that stuff's in your head."
And he turned around at me,
and he grabbed me and
rammed me up in a corner,
and I got him, like in the Linda
Blair, I got his head turned
all the way around.
Somehow we stop, and I
immediately laid down to bench
and did my bench set,
like this is just no big deal.
So we ride home together,
that's the way it is.
Yeah, him and Louie
were thicker than thieves.
I think Louie becomes a mentor
and somewhat of a father
figure for people,
and I think he was
like that with Matt.
[narrator] In 1985, Matt Dimel
became Louie's first
all-time world record holder
by squatting
a historic 1,010 pounds.
Actually, I have had one
of a handful of men in the world
ever to squat
1,000 pounds, Matt Dimel.
[Coan] It's a thousand
fuckin' pounds.
That was unheard of,
you know, in those days.
So if someone does it, the whole
powerlifting world takes notice.
People really started
listening close to
what Louie Simmons had to say.
Those were big things for me.
I mean, that was the beginning,
and then it built, and it built,
and it built, and it built.
[narrator] To immortalize
the lift, Louie wrote it down
on what would become
one of Westside's symbolic traditions: The board.
I remember that chalkboard
from when I was a junior
in high school,
and I'm 52 years old.
That board at Westside's
everything. To say your name's
on the board
means more than, than coming
to the gym, I do believe.
[Louie] There's
a funny thing about my gym.
There's world record
holders over the years
that my people don't
even know who they are.
Because they've been
wiped off the board.
[narrator] By 1986, Louie's
gym had national champions
and an all-time
world record holder.
It wasn't long after, that Louie moved his motley crew
out of the garage
and into a commercial gym.
He chose the name
Westside Barbell,
after the Culver City gym
he had read about in the Army,
and hung the banner
of what would become
Westside's official coat of arms, a pit bull named Nitro.
[Louie] Westside Barbell's built
on dogs. Dogs never let me down.
You can lock your wife
in the trunk, and you can
lock your dog in the trunk,
and you can open up the trunk,
and your wife will be mad,
but the dog will
be glad to see you.
[narrator] The new space
attracted new lifters.
Among them was
a young Chuck Vogelpohl.
[Louie] He came to the
commercial gym, and, you know,
he wanted to be strong.
Next thing you know,
he's breaking world records.
[narrator] From the start,
Chuck fit right in
with the rough-and-tumble crew.
Come on, Chuck,
lift this motherfucker!
[powerlifter] The hardcore
precedence of Westside Barbell
was set by Louie Simmons,
and Chuck, and Matt Dimel.
[narrator] The new location also
brought in a couple of bench
press specialists.
Like Chuck, Kenny Patterson was a kid from the neighborhood.
[Louie] I started Kenny
at 14 years old.
He lived in the neighborhood,
he came to the gym. And we're
going, "Gee, this kid
looks like he's got potential."
Just the way he was built,
huge arms.
One of like, the most satisfying
things I ever done was
the day I actually
out-benched Chuck.
You know, so that was one of
those things where I was like,
maybe you've arrived.
[narrator] Across town,
George Halbert
had heard rumors about Westside.
[George] I was training
just out of a local gym,
and the gym owners
and everyone was always saying,
"You don't wanna go
to Westside Barbell.
That's a bad place to be."
But the first time I worked out
with them, there was
so much energy,
there was no way
I wasn't coming back.
In one year, George went
from 475 to a 628-pound bench.
[narrator] Louie ran
the front of his gym as
a paid commercial facility,
but his powerlifting club
continued in
a separate back room.
And he had the back area
which was kinda just
for the powerlifters.
He had police caution tape,
you know, on the racks, like,
don't use these racks.
[narrator] Regular
gym-goers were advised,
for their own good,
to leave the powerlifting
area alone.
At that time, I didn't really
know these guys that well,
and I was warned to stay
off the bench. Tons of times.
I'd laid down on the bench,
and I heard the door open,
and then Lou came in.
Matt Dimel was right
behind him, and Chuck Vogelpohl.
Before I could get off
the bench, they had piled
on me and beat me.
I had bruises down my legs,
on my arms. Oh my God,
I couldn't walk!
[narrator] By 1991, Louie
was 43. The gym was strong,
and his new style of training
had put him back in the game,
but the wear and tear
was starting to show.
I had a bad knee injury
since '85. I felt it
every once in a while
at meets when I'd get
around 800 in a squat,
I can just feel it sliding.
Well, I did 735,
low box squat in the gym,
and I felt my knee slide.
Chuck said, "Take another one."
I said, "Put it on."
So put on 760,
and I walked it out,
and blew my kneecap in half.
I had heard 12 patellas
break in half.
I heard 'em sound
like a broomstick,
and little did I know
I'd never hear my own
snap in half, but I did.
They operated on me
within two hours. I told them
I'm allergic to anesthesia.
It was a three-and-a-half hour
operation, awake the whole time.
I was off crutches in like,
seven, eight weeks,
walking around.
I was already
starting to squat again.
The second surgery,
see, is where they went wrong.
I went back in to get the wires
taken out, and I was supposed
to be home within four hours
of the whole episode.
They gave me a shot that calmed
me down for the surgery,
and when I fell asleep,
they came in,
and the anesthesiologist
gave me anesthesia.
And at that time
I went into convulsions, and I
didn't breathe for four minutes,
and I could just feel people
like, beating me up
on top of me,
sticking the chest tubes
in me and cutting my throat,
and you know, trached me.
I was in a medical induced coma
for three days.
And I finally come to,
and I'm looking around
at all these tubes in me,
and I look under the covers,
and my knee's not even operated
on. So I instantly get mad.
Finally get out,
my throat was taped shut,
and I had stitches in my sides.
My wife and Chuck Vogelpohl
to drive me out of the hospital
and to the gym, and Vogelpohl
says, "You're maxin' out."
So, I lay down, and I bench 350
with a hole in my throat,
chest tubes,
and my leg in a cast.
And I can remember
picking him up off the bench.
I mean, he's got a hole.
And that's when it tells you,
no matter what you've got wrong,
there's not an excuse.
There's never an excuse.
[narrator] Eventually, the cast
came off, but flat-lining
on an operating table
had wrecked Louie's mind.
My brain was destroyed
for well over a year.
I had to quit work.
I mean, I was a crane operator.
Basically couldn't
remember how to run a crane.
[narrator] To make things
even worse, the event
had left Louie
with a permanent complication.
Since 1991, I've never slept
more than an hour at a time.
My wife can vouch for this.
[Matt] That son-of-a-bitch
will not sleep,
and it's because when
they trached his throat,
when he falls asleep,
his esophagus closes,
and it causes him to choke
and wake up. You know,
it'd be like me gettin' ready
to choke you right before you
fall asleep. You're not gonna
sleep very long, right?
So I'm in severe pain
all the time.
I'm 43, and I said, "Well,
time for me to give this up."
[narrator] Injuries and
a brief case of death
had finally done him in.
If he couldn't compete,
Louie would build Westside
into the world's strongest gym. To do that, he needed
more bodies.
I remember Louie, right
when I went up on the platform,
stickin' his fingers
in my belt and sayin',
"Breathe into your stomach,
breathe into your stomach.
Show me how fat you are."
And I'm like, "What
the fuck's this old man doing?"
So then I get under the bar,
and that guy took the bar out,
and I'm like, "Oh my God,
this feels like nothing.
This guy's magic!"
It was after that that
we spoke a little bit more,
and I said, "Look, I'm one
semester away from graduating."
And he said, "Well, you should
move down to Columbus."
And I remember
leaving that day thinkin',
this is where I need to be.
[narrator] But even as Dave had
uprooted his life
to come to Westside,
he still wasn't
sold on Louie's training.
I didn't believe anything
Louie said for about a year.
And I trained in the afternoon,
and kept doing my old shit.
[Louie] He argued with me
about training. He must've went
nowhere for six months,
or eight months, or ten months.
And got to a point where
Louie was ready to throw me out.
So it was one of those
conversations where it was like,
"Okay, I understand.
Here's the deal. I will
change my schedule at work,
and I'll come in and train
in the morning. You tell me
what the fuck to do.
I'll do what you do. That way,
if I don't get better, it's your
fault, not mine."
And my total went up 200 pounds.
[narrator] Despite the new
faces, Matt Dimel was still Westside's resident alpha male,
but this didn't stop challenges from the up-and-coming
Chuck Vogelpohl.
I always told Chuck,
"Don't mess with Matt."
I said, "He's too big,
and he's faster than you think."
[Dave] Matt was probably
380, 385 pounds,
and Chuck was
a little 198-pounder.
[Louie] So Chuck decides
he's gonna wrestle Matt.
Matt gets him in the guillotine,
and broke his neck.
And Chuck had a neck.
And Chuck went from
the 485 bench to a 135 bench.
[Hoff] So he goes to the doctor
and gets his neck X-rayed.
Doctor comes, like,
running in, and puts him
in a fuckin' neck brace
like this, and said,
"If you'd have sneezed,
you'd have been a quad."
[narrator] Matt Dimel had been
a terror since he came
to Westside,
both in and out of the gym.
Matt was a crazy fucker.
He probably had a rap sheet
longer than probably
anybody in Columbus.
[Louie] I'd bail Matt Dimel out
of jail about every two months.
Get a call in the middle
of the night, $535, go
downtown, made the bail.
Wouldn't even let
him out of the gym.
When I first got there,
Matt was still in prison.
But when he came out,
he seemed like he really
wanted to do well again
and clean up his act,
and he started training,
and he won the Senior Nationals,
but then, somehow,
that kinda fell by the wayside.
[narrator] The years of living
hard and lifting heavy were
taking their toll on Matt.
Matt had injuries
that he should've been able
to come back from,
and it really bothered Matt.
That was the downfall.
You could see the start.
[narrator] The injuries
sent Matt into a dark spiral.
[Amy] Met this girl
that was a stripper.
She got him into heroin,
and that was that.
Lou tried to guide him,
and he did,
but you can't force
somebody to be sober.
At that time, he wasn't
goin' out of his apartment,
and was kinda holed-up and
paranoid and all of that.
[Bob] Matt got caught up,
and I couldn't stop it anymore.
I could control it for a while.
We were that good of friends,
that when I said something,
it mattered.
And after a certain point,
even I couldn't control it.
He died when I was 31.
He was 34.
He OD'd.
He OD'd on cocaine and heroin.
His girlfriend
loaded up an eight-ball
of cocaine and two grams
of heroin in one syringe
and shot up his arm at one time.
His heart literally exploded,
and when I found him,
there was--
had bled all over the bedroom
floor, through his mouth.
[Dave] I remember the day.
Matt had passed away,
and what I remember
more than anything else is
when we got into the gym,
you know, I don't know who
it did, or what had happened,
it just, you know, "This is--
this one's for Matt."
Somebody just fuckin'
cranked up the AC/DC
as loud as it would go,
and we just fuckin' benched
our asses off, and that was--
that was our send-off.
[Louie] He was our first
world record holder. I mean,
he was a good friend.
He was like my stepson.
[powerlifter] Louie didn't
go to the funeral.
[Louie] I didn't go
to his funeral.
He was just, he was gone.
But he was buried
with a Westside Barbell shirt.
[powerlifter] I don't think he--
he ever came into
how strong he really was.
I don't think he had--
I don't think he had
a chance to show it.
He'd have been right up there
with a lot of the guys now.
And that's why I always
wonder what it would've been
like if he was still around,
what numbers could he have
put up? I mean, no one knows.
[narrator] Matt would be among
the first deaths at Westside,
but certainly not the last.
Today, a quiet back wall stands as the only subtle nod to death,
and the ultimate price
of life under the iron.
[Louie] You go down to my gym,
you'll also notice, what
that's there on one wall.
Susie Benford,
world champion died of cancer.
She had cancer before
she ever came to the gym.
At 97 pounds,
she deadlifted 347.
And Tom Pelucci. Tom Pelucci
was a friend of mine since 1970,
and he died of
heart attack, but he'd
had a kidney replacement
for around 29 years
prior to that,
and his son's still at my gym.
And on the other wall,
you've got those men
from the original Westside
Barbell Club, and they're dead.
So if you wanna get a picture
in my gym of yourself, die,
and get famous first,
and I'll put your picture up.
If you're a suck lifter, you're
not getting your picture up.
[narrator] By the mid-'90s,
Louie abandoned
the commercial gym
and moved his lifters
into a small facility
in a run-down strip mall.
[powerlifter] Thankfully,
Louie found another place.
[Louie] We went to a gym on
the same road, Demorest Road,
800 square feet with the windows
blacked out in the ghetto.
[Amy] He wanted to have it back
like the old days on Larkham.
[narrator] Step one of bringing
back the old garage feeling
was dropping the membership fee and hand-selecting his lifters.
Here you are training at
the strongest gym in the world
with the best
coach in the world,
and it costs zero dollars.
[Matt] He keeps it free because
he puts the time and effort
into people
that he deems worthy.
[Kenny] As the gym grew,
Louie became more of the coach.
His focus became
everyone else and not himself.
[Louie] I thought, you know,
as I got older, I mean, I'd
broke every bone in my body.
I've almost died twice
in this sport, and I said,
"Well you know,
eventually I gotta teach
people how to train correctly."
I started makin' tapes,
'cause I still had all
these good lifters in the gym.
[upbeat synth music]
Hello, I'm Louie Simmons,
and this is Westside Barbell.
I made over 20 DVDs.
I made a DVD in the mid-'90s
with the Green Bay Packers.
I'm Kent Johnston,
strength and conditioning
coach for the Green Bay Packers.
When I was in college,
my roommate, he had
the Westside Barbell videos.
And there was a number
at the very end,
so I called the number,
and literally, he talked me
through the program.
[Mark] I hear on the other line,
"Westside, this is Louie."
And I'm like, "Holy fuck,
it's Louie Simmons on the--
why is he picking up his own
phone? What is going on here?"
[Welbourn] There was no, let me
get on YouTube and watch it.
If you wanted to know something,
you had to call somebody
on the phone
or get a Powerlifting USA.
When I started looking
at Westside, well, it was
through Powerlifting USA.
[Kenny] In the '90s, we had
a lot of teams used to come
and hang out with us
and strength coaches. You know,
going to the Green Bay Packers
training camp
to train them, you know,
or the Chicago Bulls
coaches coming in,
or whoever, all these different
people that are paid hundreds
of thousands of dollars
to coach million-dollar athletes
are coming to listen to,
you know, six guys on a Friday
morning during a squat workout.
[Gillespie] In the early '90s,
we showed up to Columbus, Ohio,
forgot to get Louie's address.
So I thought, well, I'll call
some gyms, and I'll ask around.
The first two gyms refused
to tell me where it was.
They said,
"We're not gonna be liable
for what happens to you."
Finally, the third guy says,
"Yeah, yeah, I know
where it's at,
but you don't know where
you got this information from."
[Kenny] First of all,
all of the windows
were painted black.
You don't know whether you're
walking into Westside Barbell
or whether you're walking
into some shady strip club
or something like that. [laughs]
I was lookin' for this big
neon sign saying Westside
and Louie Simmons, and you
show up, and it's just,
it's really a dump.
[Morris] But you see these
massive men lifting massive
amounts of weight.
You really don't know what true
strength is until you watch
these guys train,
but what really got me about it
was the competitive nature
of Westside.
[Kenny] Any given morning
could turn into
a full-blown competition
with cash in the chalk bowl
within minutes.
And then they just
messed with each other.
It got kinda violent.
I kept thinking,
"Well, are they gonna all start
fightin' here in a minute,
or is this just activity?
This is just how they operate."
[Louie] Let's get crazy, man.
We're not in church here,
we're liftin' weights.
Looking back on it, I was like,
well, what was the positive
quality of all it?
I don't know,
but I-- we all got stronger.
[narrator] By now,
powerlifting was evolving.
[Coan] In the late '80s,
that federation split.
Ernie Frantz developed the APF.
It started off at single-ply,
and then it developed
more into multi-ply.
[narrator] Multi-ply referred
to the thickness of gear
a lifter wore.
The original squat suit
and bench shirts
had been constructed
of a single layer of material.
Eventually, somebody
doubled up on the layers,
and a new breed
of extreme lifting was born.
[Donnie] Multi-ply is top fuel.
So you're already strong.
You put that on, you're
even stronger.
[Coan] But then they had
to learn how to train
with that equipment.
[Kenny] You gotta find that way
to be poetry in your gear,
and not looking like you
put clothes on a refrigerator.
[Coan] All of a sudden,
the crazy dudes jumped
into multi-ply,
and that took on a whole
different direction on its own.
There was a huge dominance
of all the multi-ply stuff.
Then the WPO comes along,
they're offering big money.
So where does everybody go?
We went to WPO.
[sounds of explosions]
If you like incredible
displays of strength,
then put down that remote,
you've come to the right place.
This is the first professional
powerlifting championship.
[narrator] The WPO paired
the aggressive nature
of multi-ply lifting
with the lights and spectacle
of professional wrestling.
[announcer] What were you
thinking just before
going up there?
They're bangin' your head,
what was that all about?
That's just getting the
blood up in there. [panting]
What it is,
I didn't wanna lose all sense
and go incredibly insane.
[narrator] The Federation
recruited the top lifters
in the world
to compete, head-to-head,
for big cash prizes.
[Donnie] The rise of the WPO
gave everybody a chance
to reach a pro level
in powerlifting,
which was multi-ply.
[narrator] With money
on the line, the innovation
of the gear really took off,
especially with bench shirts.
[Bob] One year, all of our guys
got their shirts on, you know,
we're all jacked
into these tight shirts,
and these two cats come over
here, and they've got
their shirts cut
clean up the back.
Louie's like, "What the hell?
How's that gonna work?"
We watched this guy in the
warm-up room, barely bench 405
and put this shirt on
and take 660
and ram it off the boards,
and I looked at Louie
and I said,
"I don't know, but
we're gonna talk to him
when the meet's over."
Sunday morning, Louie was
over there with a pair
of fuckin' scissors
cuttin' up
$200 Frantz men's shirts.
The modifications to the gear
would send numbers
soaring for years to come.
Through the years,
most of the names
Westside was known for,
had trained early
in the morning with Louie,
but as the gang grew larger,
it eventually spilled over
into a second,
less heralded shift:
the night crew.
Despite sharing a roof,
the night crew treated
Louie and the morning
group as hostiles.
The night crew hated me.
All I had to do was walk
in the place, and they were
ticked off at me.
But I always had a saying,
that the a.m. crew was 12
hours ahead of the p.m. crew.
[narrator] One of the first
major rivalries between
the two units
featured Kenny Patterson
and George Halbert.
When it came to the bench press, Kenny Patterson simply
could not be beat.
[George] Kenny was the
number one lifter in the world.
[Kenny] I was a world
record holder at 242 and 220,
along with 275,
all at the same time.
[narrator] He edged out
George at every turn.
[George] I knew that I wasn't
gonna beat him at 275.
I went down to 220, and I broke
my first world record,
and then I went up to 242, and
I broke my second world record.
Well, Kenny decided
he's gonna come down to 242,
and Kenny came down to 242,
and took my world record away.
[Kenny] If he walked out
of there with the world record,
the first thing in my mind was,
I need to get back to the gym
'cause I have to get that back.
With no way around Kenny, George tried a bold weight cut.
One of my training partners
was a former bodybuilder,
and I talked to him,
and I said, "How do I get lean?"
Came down to 198,
I went to a local meet.
Opened up with the world record,
I made it easy, and I left.
[Louie] Then the rise was on.
He broke eight world records
in a bench in a row.
[Kenny] That's when myself
and George, and Chuck, and Dave,
that's when
we kinda created our era.
[narrator] When Westside rolled
into a meet, the whole room
took notice.
[powerlifter] If you go
to a meet, and you see
the Westside crew, you know
this shit just got real,
'cause their names were
on all the records.
I can remember when I weighed
in at a meet, Dean Glick goes,
"Oh, you're the only
one here from Westside?"
And I went,
"No, the rest of 'em are coming.
I'm just the one
they sent in first,
and around the corner,
here comes the rest of 'em."
And he just put his head
down and went. [laughing]
he didn't like that answer.
Apparently, you know that,
you guys, are gonna get beat.
We would bring like a group
of 20 or 30 dudes to a meet,
and they all would be gigantic.
[Louie] That's when
we started dominatin'.
We won the APF Seniors
'93, 4, 5, 6, and 7.
And their world body, WPC,
in an international contest,
you scored six people.
You know, Americans scored six,
everyone scored six.
Well, Westside had
four firsts and two seconds.
We would've won
the worlds two years in a row.
We would've beat the United
States and everybody else.
That's how dominant we were.
And a lot of people don't even
know that, you know.
They didn't-- Now, people
who popped up in the 2000s,
they only hate us since then.
[narrator] Westside's ascent
was not built off of brutality
and testosterone alone.
[Bob] I mean, if you want
to know about the explosion
of the '90s and what happened,
what happened was
chains and bands.
[narrator] For years, Louie had chased an idea called,
accommodating resistance,
where the resistance increased
to meet the strength curve
of the lifter.
The Soviets had written about accommodating resistance.
But Louie had yet to find a way
to apply it to the barbell.
The closest he had ever
seen was a Soviet device
called, the weight releaser.
Weight releasers are apparatus
that the Russians started
years ago.
For when it went down,
it would hit the bottom,
and jump off the bar.
An old man called me up one
time, wanted to know the concept
of the weight releasers,
and I told him, said,
"That's like chains." I said,
"Well, explain what you mean."
They used to put chains
on the bar, they would go down,
the chain would unload,
the lengths would fall
to the ground, then come back
off when you lift it up.
And I go, "Wow, that's
better than what I'm doing."
So I started using chains,
and I never wrote about 'em.
Then we went
to three major meets.
I was reading
an article that he wrote
about how to use
the chains for resistance.
I said, "Man, I gotta
go see how he's doin' that."
I had already been
introduced to rubber bands,
so when I went out to see Louie,
I asked him
about the chains,
and I told him about the bands.
Dave Williams of Liberty
asked me about using bands.
I knew about 'em,
but I didn't know where to get
'em. I'd never seen any bands
that would do what we're doing,
so he told me
about Dick Hartzell,
jump stretch at the time.
So Dick came to Columbus, Ohio,
actually that weekend,
to do a basketball seminar.
So when I went up, and I looked
at his bands, and I go,
"What if I put 'em
on my shoulders?"
And I stood up. In the bottom,
I had no tension,
but when I stood up,
it turned into 250.
I realized right then,
I had to put these on a barbell.
The bands constitute
extra kinetic energy.
The barbell is going down
faster than actually gravity.
The key to strength
is overspeed eccentrics.
The faster down, the faster up.
Chains did not provide
over-speed eccentrics, bands do.
We got 'em,
went back, hooked 'em on
barbells, and lo and behold,
my gym took another
tremendous surge in strength.
[Bob] And we hung those fuckin'
things on everything you could
hang 'em on.
You'd look at it and go,
"Are you sure that's safe?"
And the first guy
would get fucking obliterated,
and I'd be like, "Whoa, way
too much band tension. Back
that one down a little bit."
We were pushin' the boundaries
of everything we brought
in there.
[George] What's really cool is
the reason we got the bands
was because people will
send him stuff, and be like,
"Hey, try this out."
[Louie] I learned these
concepts by accident.
Someone called me
to ask me a question,
and I learned something from
them. And a guy one time said,
"Well, Louie Simmons
never invented chains,
and he didn't invent bands."
And I said,
"That's right. I didn't
invent toilet paper either,
but I'm smart enough to use it."
[George] I took the bands
into the bench press arena,
and Chuck took the bands
into the squat arena.
He discovered the more
bands that he used,
the stronger he got.
On squat day,
when he walked in,
Chuck Vogelpohl was the man.
Chuck Vogelpohl, when he was
in the gym, he held court.
I'd get a bloody nose
just watchin' him.
[man] Come on Chuck!
Beat this motherfucker raw!
Come on, man!
He was an explosion.
You just didn't know
what was gonna happen with him.
[announcer] From Columbus,
Ohio, Chuck Vogelpohl
in the lead today.
When they would call Chuck
Vogelpohl, the fuckin' back row
would stand up
and fill the aisles.
He'd get out there,
and he'd sometimes,
he'd unrack it, and go down,
and just fall with it. You know
what I mean? You're like, "Aww!"
And then he'd come back out,
and fuckin' spittin' on it,
head-buttin' it, get under it
again, stand up with it,
go down, and sit down there,
and you think he's gonna
fall and fuckin' blast it,
like, somebody couldn't
take it faster than that.
[Louie] Chuck was never weak,
but the stronger he was,
the worse he was to be around.
But when he was just normally
strong, he wasn't so bad.
As he's getting stronger,
he was intolerable.
[Luke] And I remember somebody
comin' up to me and said,
"Be careful
trainin' with Chuck,
'cause he'll try to put you
in the hospital."
If you're in his group,
there's probably
a good chance
that you're gonna get hurt.
[Amy] He would try to kind
of haze people out of the gym.
He would just train 'em
until they snapped.
[Bob] When I tore my triceps
off, walk into the gym,
and Chuck's in there.
"Hey good, you're here,
I wanted to work with you."
"I can't do anything,
I'm in a brace."
And he said, "Well, come
over here and lay down."
So I laid down, and Chuck
goes over and gets a leg wrap
and ties my brace
to the power rack,
and ties a big ol' knot in it.
He brings the 80 over,
hands me the dumbbell,
and says, "Do a set of 10.
"We gotta keep your left side
strong so your right side
will stay strong."
And at that point,
we started to do about,
oh I don't know, 15 sets
of 10, before he would untie me.
It got to the point where,
if I would see Chuck's truck
in the parking lot,
I would just make
a U-turn and get right back
on the highway and go home.
[Hoff] He worked his ass off
to make you earn your way in
there. Don't leave before him.
[Matt] You weren't gonna
not do a set or skip an exercise
'cause you were afraid of what
was gonna happen if you did.
He was the one
that took your key from you.
[Louie] If someone was messin'
up, he'd say, "Lou, you gotta
kick him out,
you gotta get the key."
And I'd kick him out,
just so I wouldn't
have to put up with Chuck.
[Matt] Louie let Chuck
really delegate in that gym.
If you came in, and you
wanted to squat light that day,
and Chuck was squattin'
heavy, you're squattin' heavy.
It don't matter
what you want. He had
the ten world records
in the squat. Who are you?
[narrator] When the gym
started using bands,
no one benefited
more than Chuck Vogelpohl.
He had a 1,000-pound squat,
and we started using
tons and tons of bands,
and he actually went up
to 1,180 in the squat.
[Halbert] But I will tell you
that, that is not even close
to the level of strength
that he had.
[narrator] Chuck was posting
world records in competition,
but somehow,
what he was doing in the gym
was even more astounding.
I watched Chuck do 885
and 640-pound of bands.
This is insane.
What-- what would equate
to a 1,400-pound squat.
You almost realize
like, he may not be human.
[Louie] Chuck pulled 900
in the gym, but only 835
in the meet.
The problem was,
Chuck would never taper.
He would get too psyched up.
I knew it was wrong.
I went back and laid
three books out
to show Chuck
why he should do this,
and Chuck looked at the books
for 15 seconds and walked out.
I put the books in my truck
and never ever said
another word.
[narrator] Chuck would
become the greatest
pound-for-pound squatter
the world had ever seen,
but for Louie,
the thought of how much better
he could've been is one
that still haunts him.
Yeah, maybe 1,300-pound squat,
be the biggest ever,
and he would've done it
at 265 pounds, but
I could never get him
to taper down like everybody
else. He wanted to do more.
[narrator] Louie had
turned a ragtag bunch of kids
and criminals from
the West Side of Columbus
into a well-oiled machine.
But success bred complacency,
especially in younger lifters.
[Louie] Kenny Patterson,
he benched 712 for
the first world record
and then benched 728,
but then he didn't go anywhere.
And I says, "Kenny,
I'm gonna come out of retirement
and squat seven before
you ever bench seven again."
And he says to me,
"Old man, you'll never have
700 on your back again."
Well, I come out
of retirement right there.
[narrator] He was 43
when injuries had forced
him to retire before,
and now, at 50, the time off
hadn't done him any favors.
[Louie] I was just as bad
as ever, 'cause I'd never
really recovered.
I had so much neck problems.
And then sometimes, I couldn't
bench 185 pounds.
Felt like my arms were broken.
But somehow, miraculously,
I came back.
How I actually competed?
I lived on cough syrup
and Tylenol PMs.
And I about OD'd on Tylenol PMs,
so I dumped those.
When I was 50, no one had ever
benched 550, and I benched 600,
the sixth-best bench
in the country.
[narrator] Benching 600
was impressive, sure.
But Kenny had challenged Louie to put a bar on his back.
That meant squatting.
Louie started right
where he had left off.
[Louie] I tore my knee off
in the gym at 760.
So at my first meet back,
I could squat 760.
I did 16 straight squats
in a row, at sevens,
eights, and nines.
I never got one turned down.
And so I pushed over 50
to squat over nine, I did 920.
I was the third-best squat
in the world that year,
fourth on the total.
[Matt] Well, 900 in gear, it's
not that impressive anymore,
but back then it was.
[Dave] He was 50 years old.
How in the fuck he did
what he did is beyond me.
When I came back, my dream
was to total a lead total.
I go, "There'd be no way."
But when I came back,
I totaled a lead.
So like today's pro totals,
these kids like
in four or five years,
I did my pro total for 37.
Top 10 squat, bench,
or deadlift, with or without
gear. No one's ever done that.
That's the lifetime
achievement award, you know.
He'd get an Oscar for that.
[Louie] What did it was Kenny.
He made me take so much
cough syrup that
I shouldn't even have been
driving a car, but that's
what it took.
[narrator] Louie had always
said that if you run with the lame, you'll develop a limp.
Well, none of his guys limped,
and they didn't care
how old Louie was or what he was coming back from.
They were gonna push him
like any other lifter
who wanted to call
himself Westside.
[Dave] Oh, I purposely
would try to fuck with him.
And I'm not gonna lie,
there was times I'd
try to make him get hurt.
That was my goal,
to put him the fuck out.
He came in one day,
and said, "I gotta take it easy.
I'm just gonna do
accessories today."
And I just laid into his ass.
Like, "You fuckin' pussy!
I don't care
how fucked up you are.
Next week, I'll be fucked up,
are you gonna
let me off the hook?"
He got so fuckin' mad,
he ended up doing a pin pull,
and he hurt himself worse.
I was like, "Fuck yeah,
got that motherfucker."
[narrator] To keep up,
Louie embraced the pain.
[Kenny] He would compete
on one leg,
blood runnin' down
his face out of his nose.
I walked into the gym on the
West Side, and he had just had
his knee scoped,
and the next fuckin' day, he's
in there, squattin' with us,
bleeding everywhere.
It really looked like somebody
just fuckin' shot him
in the knee,
and I mean, I don't say shit,
but like, Chuck and them guys
standing there go,
"Dude what the fuck are you
doing in here? That thing--
You're bustin' open
the damn stitches."
"Ah, fuck that, you know.
They ain't gonna fuckin'
tell me what to do,"
and blah, blah,
and I'm like, "Oh my God."
He's just wired up different.
[narrator] The men and women
who trained in
that dingy strip mall
built Westside into a gym
that defined an entire era
of powerlifting.
And then, they're
just like old buffalo.
They just cut out of the herd,
and get cut down by lions, and
they're gone. Me being the head
of the herd, I can't look back.
You know, Satchel Paige said,
"Never look back, someone might
be catchin' up with you."
[narrator] By the early 2000s, Westside had outgrown the space on Demorest Road
and had moved into a unit
in a nearby industrial park.
Most of the gym's iconic members had either left or retired,
but Louie and Chuck
were still there,
and there were still
plenty of young lifters
willing to do anything
to make it at Westside.
I'd moved out to West Side
with 400 bucks in my pocket.
I was starving, I was homeless.
I was stuck living in my car.
I'd be on the phone with my dad,
you know, "Yeah, yeah,
my roommate's cool,
my place is awesome.
Yeah, we got a big TV in here."
I was sittin' there starin'
at the roof of my car,
like, "What the fuck?"
[Matt] The six guys that
I trained with at Westside,
two of 'em were livin'
in their fuckin' car
when we were training.
They were livin' in their car.
That's what it meant
to wear a Westside shirt.
You're gonna come and lift at
my gym, and I'm gonna make you
the baddest dude in the world,
but you're not gonna have
a normal job,
and you're barely gonna have
enough money to eat and sleep.
[narrator] Like many
that came before him,
Greg Panora didn't know
what he was getting
himself into.
[Panora] So when I went to
Westside, basically all I did
was change plates
and get people coffees.
Nobody gave a fuck who I was.
And one day John Stafford
goes, "Hey, change the plates."
So I'm putting the plates on,
and one of 'em I put on what
he deemed was the wrong way,
so he walks over,
pulls all the plates off,
and the bar goes flippin'
this way, the whole gym turns
around staring at me.
I talked to Louie,
who laughed at me. I said,
"Louie, I-- I can't
fucking do this all.
I can't change
people's fucking plates.
This is not how I work."
He goes, "Well,
do something." "What--
what-- what should I do?"
He goes, "Get
your name on the board.
People will respect you.
Once you get your name
up there, you're the man.
At that point the gym's yours."
[Tony] Me and Drew went
to watch that dude do things,
and we were like, "Jesus Christ,
this guy's gonna take
everybody's name off the board."
Every time he competed,
he would break a record.
You figure that'd be a positive
thing, everybody'd be like,
"Fuck yeah man, that's great."
No, not in there.
There's only room,
most of the time, in most gyms,
for one badass, for one guy
to tell everybody else,
"You're gonna do
what I'm doin'."
I mean, if you know Westside,
growing up at the time when
I did, Chuck V. was the man.
And Chuck's super,
super competitive,
and he was startin' to--
he was gettin' some
dings and some injuries.
[Greg] I think they were really
starting to take his toll on him
at that point.
I mean, he'd basically show up
to the gym wrapped in knee wraps
like a fuckin' mummy, you know,
and get through a workout.
You know, Louie playing Louie,
he's gonna be behind
the strongest guy.
[Greg] It sort of started
to become more and more
like my gym.
[narrator] Chuck had dedicated
his entire adult life
to the gym,
but now he seemed
unsure of where he fit in.
[Matt] One day we were all
sittin' and eating,
and Chuck's like,
"What are you gonna do
with the gym once you're
done with it,
or you're retired,
or you die, or whatever?"
And Louie's like, "I'm just
shuttin' it down, it's over."
And I think, once Chuck heard
that, I don't think Chuck wanted
to be a part of it anymore,
'cause he felt like he had put
20 years of his life
into something
that needed to be passed on
to him, and it probably did.
[narrator] Chuck began to stray
from the rest of the crew.
[Amy] After a while, he got
a job as a bailiff on Friday,
and we had these guys
that would come in and
help him, and train with him.
I would train
with Chuck on Saturdays,
and then Chuck brought in
two other guys that, you know,
really didn't train at Westside.
[Amy] Lou was like,
"You can't not train
in the mornings on squat day."
"I don't know what the fuck you
guys are doin' trainin' on
fuckin' Saturdays."
[Matt] You're fuckin' up the
whole training cycle, you know?"
Chuck was gonna do
his own thing anyways.
[narrator] Things came
to a head at a meet in 2007.
We went to a comp together,
and, uh, we-- we were,
I believe in the same
weight class at that point.
[narrator] Louie's familiar
nasal twang was calling
depth for both lifters.
Your coach can stand
by the side referee,
and he'll give you a tap
when you've squatted
deep enough to come up.
[Greg] And Chuck ended up
blowing his knee off.
And so I went on,
and I won, and I think Chuck,
in Chuck's mind sort of that,
Louie and I conspired against
him to get him out of the gym.
Chuck thought that
Lou made him squat too deep
after this guy had
already given him a tap,
and Chuck hurt himself.
Would he intentionally
make someone miss?
I don't think that he would
do that to Chuck at a meet.
I don't think
that Lou would do that.
Chuck had a lot of, uh--
a lot of resentment.
Realizing that the loyalty
of the gym was not there
in his favor,
Chuck left and went to a small
gym, down in Grove City.
[powerlifter] I don't
really know why Chuck left.
[powerlifter] I'd say
the number-one theory
is the Greg Panora theory.
[Greg] I was gonna be
the best lifter in there.
That was what was gonna happen.
And Chuck,
I don't think, liked that.
[Amy] I thought, he's kind
of a traitor, you know.
I know he might be mad at him
about one thing or another,
but that doesn't mean
you leave, this is your family.
[Hoff] When Chuck left,
a little piece of Westside died.
Much as anybody doesn't
want to admit it, it did.
In Louie's own way,
he was sad about it.
And that was probably
like a son to him.
He came out here
when he was a kid.
[Laura] I'm sure to this day
it bothers him, you know, 'cause
you have that whole history
with this-- this guy that
you've had longer than anybody.
[Hoff] When you thought
of Westside, you thought
of Louie Simmons,
and you thought
of Chuck Vogelpohl.
[Greg] I mean, Chuck
and Louie, that partnership,
really held
multi-ply lifting together,
and I sort of came in between it
and fucked it all up, you know.
And I don't think people like me
nearly as much as they like
Chuck, you know what I mean?
[narrator] With Chuck's exit, Westside was thrown into chaos.
Nearly half of the gym
followed Chuck out the door.
Amid the power vacuum,
Matt Wenning decided
to try and take the lead
of the morning crew.
[Matt] So I'm in the morning.
By default, I take the rein.
[Greg] Louie didn't like Matt
taking over his position,
as far as telling him what
to do. But the funny
thing is, Matt was tellin' me
the same stuff Louie was.
Matt was just making it easier
for me to understand 'cause I'm
not that bright.
[Matt] I think
everything started
to change after that point.
Louie's a great guy from
a distance, not if you're
around him all the time.
It's his way or the highway,
and it can be a rough highway.
[narrator] In a matter of weeks,
Matt was unceremoniously
kicked out of the gym.
It felt like your fuckin' dad
just kicked you out
of the house with nothin'.
I mean, those are the types
of things where you're like,
"What is that loyalty really?"
You know what I mean,
when somebody sits down
and tells you
that you're never gonna be
anything without Westside,
I don't know
if that ever is repairable.
So I left and went with Chuck.
[Greg] I went to Louie,
"What are you doin'?
Matt Wenning's
the best lifter in here.
He's gonna break a world
record at some point."
I went from seventh best
in the world at Westside,
to the best in the world
in eight months.
[crowd cheering]
I broke the total record
when I broke the squat record.
It was the best
thing in the world
that I took what I knew
and go to his meet and beat him
on his own ground
and take his money.
[crowd cheering]
From '08 to 2010, we went
to every one of their meets
and killed 'em.
That was probably
Westside's darkest time.
[Greg] I will always hold
a place in my heart
for Westside,
whether our relationship
ever gets kindled,
'cause I really
don't talk to him anymore.
I would rather see
Chuck and Louie
be on speaking terms again.
Because they had 20 years
more heritage than I did.
[narrator] As Chuck Vogelpohl
and Matt Wenning
were seeking their
vengeance across town,
a gym built in Westside's
own image was coming
for their throne.
You want to talk about
gyms that was like this gym,
there was one, Big Iron.
[Matt] There was a guy named
Rick Hussey that owned that,
and Rick Hussey was pushin' out
some badass lifters.
[Greg] They had guys there that
were beating our guys. Basically
Westside versus Big Iron.
It was like the good guys
and the bad guys. I mean,
Big Iron were the good guys,
we were the bad guys, no doubt.
That sort of caused a rift
in the sport, too. People
were like, you know,
these guys don't have
bands and chains and shit.
I mean, it was definitely two
totally different kinds
of training.
[Greg] I mean, people were sort
of starting to see that maybe
Westside's not the only way,
which is what Louie
basically made America believe.
So Louie was feelin' a lot
of pressure because Hussey had
a lot of guys
in the 198s and 220s
at that time that were
just destroyin' records.
[narrator] Big Iron looked
to be the gym that may finally
overtake Westside,
but right at the height
of their rivalry, Rick Hussey
was diagnosed with cancer.
[Coker] Rick died
when he was 49 years old.
If he hadn't have had
such an untimely, early death,
they'd still be goin' strong.
[narrator] Back at Westside,
Greg Panora had become
the top lifter in the gym,
but he was being chased
by another transplant lifter
from Indiana, Luke Edwards.
We had some brutal fuckin'
training sessions there.
[Luke] There were times that we
would train so hard
that we would be
limpin' out of here
because I wasn't gonna quit,
and Greg wasn't gonna quit.
I always look back
and I think that Greg
was trainin' optimally,
and Luke was training maximally.
I would see them do
the same numbers,
but it always seemed
effortless for Greg.
You know, for Greg, I think,
when you win all the time,
you start to not necessarily do
the things that you need to do.
I remember the day
Luke beat Greg.
[Greg] Yeah, floor in front
of the deadlift bar was just
drenched in blood.
I was barefoot.
I remember I stepped in this
pool of blood every time and
how gross it felt on my feet.
At every pull,
even more blood on the floor.
We just kept going and going.
[AJ] And then Greg missed
and Luke got the weight.
That was the moment
that I saw in his face
for the first time he didn't
know what the fuck
just happened.
I think that, for-- for--
for Greg, that day began to make
him question everything we did.
[narrator] The next squat
workout, Greg came undone.
-I mean,
the story was, basically--
-[AJ] And we're box squatting--
[Greg] Louie wanted to box
squat all the time. I didn't
wanna box squat all the time.
And in his mind,
he's like, the box is
why I'm not gettin' stronger.
[Louie] And I told him, I said,
"You either have weak hips,
or your form is terrible."
And he turned to me,
and he said, "There's no way
I got weak hips.
I'm a world record holder."
He reminded everybody he was
the world record holder. He kept
saying that over and over again.
And we were like,
"Yeah, we get it."
Like, he was
throwin' it in my face,
I think more than
anybody because he knew
that I didn't take
that record from him,
and Louie said,
"I don't give a fuck."
Then I blew up.
And that was it, he walked out
of the gym and left.
When I turned around to leave,
he goes, "Greg," he goes,
"you know what sucks?
You and I are the only people
that are ever gonna know
that you're the strongest
person that's ever lived."
[Louie] He would still be
the world record holder,
and I know he knows it.
He'd hardly scratched
his potential.
[Greg] I was like, I'll go to
Lex then. He goes, "I don't give
a fuck what you do."
And that was
the last time we talked.
"Fuck you, Louie,
you can suck my dick."
That's what it was.
[Louie] When Greg left,
I had no animosity towards Greg.
If we'd have got in a fistfight,
that would've been nothing.
That means nothin' to me.
What meant something to me,
a world record holder just
walked out of my gym.
World record holder,
I just lost a world record.
[Luke] Greg was the strongest
man in the world for
five, seven years.
[AJ] It happened so fast. He got
to the top, and he was gone.
You go back in history, this
happens over and over again.
I said to Louie,
"I don't fuckin' get this.
Who the fuck would
lead this gym ever?"
[Greg] I said, "I'm just so sick
of the whole fucking thing."
I didn't wanna train anymore.
I didn't wanna compete anymore.
I'm not sure what I wanted,
but it wasn't that.
And I think that's what happens
to a lot of lifters,
and that's what Louie--
Louie didn't quite understand.
You might be the greatest
lifter at Westside,
but when you leave that
place, no one gives a fuck.
[Louie] I like Greg,
but he's not comin' back.
What happened six years ago,
happened. Can't change it now.
I just gotta go on and get me
a new world record holder.
You know, it's like your
girlfriend leaves you.
Can't cry about it,
go get you another girlfriend.
One comes by every
20 minutes.
So do lifters.
Panora had just left,
and I remember there was
just three guys in here.
[narrator] Louie had weathered
the loss of Chuck and nearly
all of his top guys
in the span of just a few years.
To restock his ranks
after losing Greg,
Louie expanded
his recruiting efforts.
[Dave] He told me, "I am getting
too old to have to prove
that I can build
elite-level lifters."
He was gonna start
trying to recruit
the best lifters he could.
And I said, "Is that a road
that you wanna go down?
Because now you're
gonna bring in people
who already think
they have it figured out."
The reason he did it is
he wanted the best of the best.
Let's bring in the best guys.
Let's see what the body
really can do.
[narrator] Recruiting from
the outside was hit-or-miss.
Quick success was often
a precursor to an even
faster fall.
When I first started working
with Louie and talkin' to Louie,
I was a mid-21,
2,200-pound lifter.
My lifetime goal
was 2,500 pounds.
2,500 pounds was
like rarefied air for me.
Got that within
the matter of 10 months,
and then after that I was done.
[Louie] When Brandon was here,
he just couldn't do
the training.
It's high-volume training.
Brandon Lilly's having a problem
with his pec for the day,
and he's, you know,
he told Louie, he's like,
"Man, you know, I think
I'm gonna blow my pec off."
And Louie said, "Well,
we don't save pecs around here."
Basically sayin' like,
"You better fuckin' get
in the group, motherfucker."
We go through a lot of people.
I don't believe they know
what they're getting into.
You know, it's this romantic
thing to be at Westside Barbell.
Then they find out
it's training.
You gotta train.
[Brandon] I was there
just short of a year.
Louie was aware that
I was highly distracted.
He said, "The reason
that I have to let you go is
I just can't have distractions."
[George] Louie had a system,
and if he sees
that something isn't going
in the right direction,
he's gonna make the change.
I'm no different than any other
team. I'll throw a baby
overboard to keep
the ship from sinkin'.
Fuckin' hated him for it. To me
it was a death sentence,
'cause Westside was Everest.
What the fuck do you do
after Everest?
He put it on me, see.
He always made me the bad guy.
People don't understand.
Louie didn't kick
most motherfuckers out. Them
dudes kicked themselves out.
These guys are
in the Mecca of powerlifting,
the best gym in the world.
They couldn't
get out of their own way.
[narrator] As it turned out,
while Louie was making
a renewed effort
to bring in new guys,
the lifters who would
get things back on track
were already there.
One of those key guys
in the morning group
was AJ Roberts.
[AJ] After Greg left,
it was divided, it was split.
The morning crew
needed someone to follow.
[narrator] AJ picked up
Louie's methods quickly,
and came to serve
as a sort of translator
for him within the gym.
I had trouble because I couldn't
communicate with people.
A lot of the times,
Louie just expected people
to have this foundational
knowledge. Because I understood
what he was saying,
I was able to simplify it down
and go back to just the basics.
[Louie] AJ was pretty verbal.
He was able to communicate
with 'em like a player coach.
I think for him,
there had been other guys
in the gym like that,
guys like Dave Tate,
guys like Matt Wenning,
but that had been
missing for so long.
Me and Lou became very close,
as close as you can get to Lou.
[narrator] Twelve hours later,
in the evening group,
Dave Hoff was coming
into his own.
[Louie] Dave was special.
He's like the Floyd Mayweather
of powerlifting.
You know, the perfect storm.
[narrator] Dave had
come to Westside as a kid.
[Hoff] My first workout
in there, I remember
I met Louie Simmons.
He didn't say much to me.
He went in his office,
walked out,
and had this bench press shirt.
He threw it to me,
and he said,
"Put this on,
and see what you can bench."
I benched 400.
I was 15 years old.
And he said,
"There's a Circleville
Bench Meet comin' up.
If you impress us
there, you can stay,
and if you don't, you're out."
Well, long story short,
he took Kenny Patterson's
all-time teenage world record
and rode it to the fuckin'
two inches from lockout.
It was pretty impressive.
So I threw him in with a group
that no 16-year-old kid
has ever been with,
and the kid
just started to grow.
Weights got you respect,
and attitude got you respect.
Some of the shit that used
to come out of his mouth...
I mean, he-- I spent half
of my time keepin' him
from gettin' thrown out
of here when he was young.
It was hilarious.
He told me he was gonna
out-squat me his first meet.
And I was like,
"Come on, man. It just doesn't
work that way, buddy."
And he squatted 710,
you know, like fuck you, Bob.
And just started out, me seein'
what I could do with him.
[narrator] Bob Coe
was a master motivator.
[Bob] I can talk the talk.
If I think you're down, I know
how to reach into your soul and
get you where you need to be.
[narrator] Naturally,
he couldn't help but see
what that motivation
would do to Dave.
[Hoff] One of the first
full power meets I did,
Bob walks up to me, and he
goes, "Wake up, motherfucker,"
and then smacks
me across the face,
like hard, like man smack.
[Bob] That was
the first and only time
I hit Dave with an open
hand upside the head.
And I found out at that point
that I had to find
another way of getting
under the boy's skin,
or I was gonna get
seriously messed up.
And if you've
seen some of the videos
of after he leaves the bench,
and where I end up...
-...you understand.
[announcer] Holy shit.
Westside, yeah!
People get mad because
I push people, or people--
you know what I mean?
What people don't understand is,
like, I'm trying to
come out of like,
fight or flight, and somebody
jumps in front of me,
it scares the shit
out of me, so I push them.
You can always find Louie
in a crowd 'cause he always
wears striped shirts
and camo cargo pants.
You hear that?
"Let's go, Neutron!"
[Bob] That was Hoff's nickname
when he was comin' up
and younger.
I made them remember my name.
They gave me nicknames,
but they knew my name.
This is the meet I squatted
1,005 when I was 19.
[Bob] After Dave squatted
that 1,005 as a teenager,
I was kind of out of ideas.
[narrator] When the gym
splintered around Chuck's
departure, Dave went with him.
The best thing that Dave did
was when he left this gym,
and went to train with Chuck.
Chuck taught Dave how to
squat the way Dave squats now.
After six short weeks, Bob Coe convinced Dave to return
to the evening crew at Westside.
[AJ] And then me and Hoff
started a short rivalry.
At this point, it was like
morning crew versus night crew.
He had come back to Westside,
but him and Lou had
not really reconnected.
Lou never said it, but to him,
the morning crew were the guys
that wanted to be with Lou,
and the fact that Dave
chose to train in the evening,
he saw it as almost like Dave
was afraid to train with him.
[narrator] AJ and
Dave brought Westside
back to the forefront
of men's powerlifting.
But on the other
side of the board,
the women of Westside
had never fallen off.
Even in the earliest
days of Louie's garage,
the women had been phenomenal.
I think the women put
Westside Barbell on the map.
They all just dominated.
[narrator] Two of Louie's
most famous lifters
early on were Laura Dodd
and Mariah Liggett.
Mariah and Laura
were as good at it got.
Mariah ended up winning the most
WPC world championships
for a female in history.
[narrator] Then, in the late
'80s, Amy Weisberger came in
and raised the bar for everyone.
[reporter] Amy, how did you
get involved in this sport?
I always wanted to be strong,
and I always wanted to
put more weight on the bar.
[Louie] Amy came
from Cincinnati in 1987.
[Amy] I went up there
and visited.
Pretty quickly I got the
total that I needed to stay.
[Louie] Amy came here
for 714 total,
and Amy went on to total 1,440.
She's totaled 10 times body
weight in two weight classes,
and not many women can do that.
Only woman ever to qualify
at the time, for the WPOs.
[announcer] She is the
strongest female powerlifter,
pound-for-pound, in the world.
Amy made it to the WPOs
by beating the men's
qualifying numbers.
It made sense, since in the gym,
she had been beating
men from the very beginning.
What got me kicked out
is Amy Weisberger.
Amy beat me, and Lou couldn't
believe it, and he goes,
"Get the fuck outta my gym."
I said, "I'll be back." Couple
of months later, I came back.
I'm like, "She's not gonna beat
me this time." She damn near
beat me every time.
[narrator] Amy would become one of the most accomplished female lifters of all time.
But in the late 2000s,
she passed the torch
to the next queen
of powerlifting, Laura Phelps.
[Matt] We were tryin' to get to
Westside as soon as possible.
Westside is invite-only,
so Laura's new to the sport.
No one knew who she was.
[Laura] And at that time,
the WPO was the biggest,
the biggest show around
in powerlifting.
Went there, and ended up opening
higher than the world record.
I just remember hearing
Louie cheer for me.
I think he just said,
-"Come on, new girl!"
-[Matt] Then we got
invited to Westside.
[Louie] I mean, Laura Phelps,
I believe, broke 34,
35 world records.
I'm a stat person. I mean,
Laura, just, there's no one
could stack up to her.
[Laura] I have world records in
four different weight classes.
[Matt] You can't really
put anyone against her.
She's got a 775 squat.
There's not another woman
that's within 20 pounds of that.
As it stands now, she's heads
and shoulders above everybody.
Laura dominates women greater
than any man dominates men.
[narrator] Between
Laura, AJ, and Dave Hoff,
Westside looked
to be back to its old form.
[AJ] And it was almost
like that was the new bond.
[narrator] By 2011, Louie was 63
years old and still competing.
For 45 years,
he had been a powerlifter.
He had overcome broken backs,
a ruptured patella,
and even death.
But finally,
one day on the platform,
Louie Simmons came
to the end of the road.
I was back spotting him
the day he decided to
never compete again.
We were at a meet,
and I could see he was
right back where he was,
you know, 20 years ago.
He was there to
break some records.
I was actually intending
on squatting 800 pounds
at 63 years old.
And then we go out for
the squat, and he gets
red lights on depth.
Louie with his age,
and everything, going super-deep
is never his goal anyway.
He wants to get it in, get out.
So he goes a second time,
and in the hall, he passes out.
And we pull him up, told him
what happened, he passed out.
He said, "Get me out of this
shit." And he just sits there,
and he's just silent.
And he said, "I'm done."
And I just thought he meant
he's done for the day.
He goes, "No, Westside's done."
And I didn't really know
what to say to him,
so I kinda just left him.
[Louie] I came back over and
over and over and over and over,
and I kept wondering
how many generations
am I gonna go through
until one of them gets me?
I realized this is it.
I'm gonna end up past
the hospital in the grave.
[AJ] I didn't know
what was gonna happen.
Showed up Monday
like nothin' had happened?
We never spoke about it again.
It's just a moment that he had,
and I'm fuckin' glad he didn't
quit. [laughing]
[narrator] As AJ
worried about Louie quitting,
he had no idea that his own days at Westside were numbered.
[AJ] Everything I said
I was gonna do, I did.
The only thing I wanted to
do now was squat 1,200 pounds,
and I was willing to push
myself as far as I could go.
I was 320 pounds,
severe sleep apnea.
I would just stop
breathin', wake up choking,
scared that I may die
in my sleep.
I knew that I was
pushin' shit to the extreme.
I just had to fuckin'
make it to my last meet.
March 2013, I stepped up,
hit that 1,200-pound squat.
And I remember eatin' breakfast
with Lou the next morning.
Lou said, "If you could just get
your weight to 350,
I think you could go after
the all-time record."
And for the first time ever,
I looked at him
and thought he was
just fuckin' insane.
And in that moment,
I knew that mentally,
I didn't have
what it took anymore.
The dilemma that AJ faced
of trying to square
his own health and mortality
with the price of the iron
was nothing unexpected.
Embrace of that risk was
the only way to make it
to the top.
[Louie] If you wanna die to do
this, you shouldn't do this.
[Tony] We're fuckin'
thoroughbred horses.
If we break our leg, take us
out back and fuckin' shoot us.
That's how it works.
[AJ] The idea of gaining
one more pound on your lift,
and losing a year on your life,
you'd trade it in all day long.
[narrator] No one knew this
better than Luke Edwards.
His whole life,
he had dreamed of pulling 900.
Just as he was on the doorstep
of making that dream into
a reality, fate intervened.
[Luke] I remember the day
that I pulled 840.
It felt like 315 in my hands.
And they always say,
you know, there's another meet.
Well, for me, when I pulled 840,
I was in the hospital
about three weeks later.
[Louie] He came there and said
he had the same disease
as Alonzo Moynihan.
[Luke] When I was 17, I started
pukin' every morning.
By the time I was 24 or 25,
I was in stage two
kidney failure.
After my first
transplant, I came back,
and I squatted a thousand.
About two and a half years
into my transplant, I rejected,
so that's when
I started dialysis,
and even while on dialysis,
I didn't miss a workout,
I never missed work,
and I took pride in that.
I never let anybody feel sorry
for me, no matter where I was.
[AJ] Luke, sicker than shit.
And the only thing we noticed
is just him getting weaker.
[narrator] For Luke,
the hardest part was how Louie
looked at him
after the transplants.
It was almost
heartbreaking to come in,
and Louie not messin'
with you or talkin' to you,
because he knew that you didn't
have the potential to break
a world record anymore.
[narrator] But the warrior
inside of Luke wasn't ready
to put the bar down.
[Louie] He planned on
going to another meet.
Will he die? I don't know.
If he does, it's on Luke.
He knows what it's like
to be there, then, all of
a sudden, you can't do it.
[Luke] It always eats at me
'cause it's like,
I shoulda tried 900
that day because it was there,
and maybe that's why
I'm still in the gym.
Maybe, had I pulled 900,
maybe I woulda left too.
[narrator] In 2013,
Dave Hoff finally did it.
At only 25 years old, he posted
a 3,005-pound total,
the highest ever.
[Hoff] In the history of
Westside, Westside never had
the biggest total of all time.
If somebody asked me what was
the greatest thing I coulda ever
given to Louie Simmons,
it'd have been that. That's
the one thing. He wanted
the biggest ever.
He wanted the all-time highest,
He's you know, recruiting
people in from around the world,
and Dave just happened
to be a local guy.
[Louie] Dave's pretty much
broke about every record
there is to break.
[narrator] But instead
of praise, Hoff became
a lightning rod for criticism.
The minute you get to the top,
everybody's pickin' you apart.
[narrator] Hoff had climbed
to the top of the mountain
just as the sport was crossing
paths with social media.
"His arms are so short
he can't even jerk off."
Man, I think my arms
are pretty normal.
Thank you for your concern.
[narrator] Across multi-ply powerlifting, cell phone cameras
were calling judging
standards into question.
Let's just face it.
A lot of multi-ply
squats, me included,
are slightly at
or above parallel.
Well, the knee has
to be above the hip crease.
When I look at Dave
and that 3,005-pound total,
we have that blemish
that was the squat.
Everybody trashed that lift.
Rewind, Dave hit
like a 29-45, or a 29-55
with what I thought was
a very, very good 1,140 squat.
Wouldn't you rather
have that on the record books?
I go by what those
three judges give me.
You motherfuckers
aren't gonna get me
to discredit
a fuckin' thing I did.
I got under it, and two
out of at least three people
thought it was good
that were sittin' right there.
It's an opinion after that.
[AJ] Hoff's timing was
kinda unfortunate for him.
He's operating in multi-ply gear
in a day where there's
a big exodus to raw.
The future of powerlifting is
gonna change, like it already
has, to completely raw.
And the reason it's going to,
is 'cause of CrossFit.
Millions and millions
of people are seein' this on TV
with no equipment,
and people can relate to it
because that's
what you see at the gym.
[AJ] And when you get
an influx like that,
it shifts people's focus.
They want to see
something they understand.
If you put me
on the video with
this big-ass diaper suit on,
you're like, "What is he
wearing? Is it a diaper?
Is he gonna take a shit?"
[narrator] The shift to raw
emptied out the ranks
of geared powerlifting.
[Tony] So now, Westside Barbell
goes to a meet, and who's there
to compete against Dave Hoff?
Powerlifting has changed.
Where in the fuck
is Westside Barbell?
Where is Louie
Simmons in all this?
I think it's cowardly,
is the only way I could put it.
He's always talked about his gym
being the strongest gym in
the world, and they were,
but he no longer has
the strongest gym in the world,
because people are liftin' raw.
Anyone can lift raw, it's easy.
I lift raw all the time.
[AJ] People think that the guys
there are choosing to avoid raw.
They have just
no desire to compete raw.
They don't wake up
obsessed with the raw numbers.
I don't, I don't train
to have a big raw squat.
I train to have
the biggest squat.
-[man 1] Move!
-[man 2] There, there, there!
[narrator] While Westside
never truly embraced
raw lifting,
Louie did have a trio
of supersized raw
competitors: Burley Hawk.
[Louie] Burley Hawk
squatted 900 like that,
with no gear, 615 bench.
-[narrator] Nick Winters.
-[Greg] I'm not sure
there's ever been
somebody as strong as
Nick Winters on the planet.
He benched 700 raw,
and he died
of an enlarged heart.
[narrator] And Chris Spegal,
the first American
to deadlift 915 pounds raw.
Between the three men,
Westside became one
of the only gyms on the planet
to produce
a 900-pound raw squat,
a 700-pound raw bench press,
and a 900-pound raw deadlift.
[Louie] Who's got one
of those in this country?
We'd say, "Oh yeah, we do."
[narrator] Despite
their success,
Westside's raw lifters
went mostly unnoticed, both
inside and outside of the gym.
In the years
since losing AJ Roberts,
Louie has had to reinvent
his morning crew
for one last ride.
I'm 70 years old now.
This is my last hurrah.
Your life's in chapters.
In the beginning,
it's a long chapter.
You get into the last chapter,
it's a short chapter.
I've only got so many years,
and that's why I realize
I have to pick up the pace.
I can't slow down.
Right now, I mean,
I think my gym's down,
but I still have four people
who are capable of
all-time world records,
and I think it's down.
I mean, you go knock on any door
in the world, you're gonna be
hard-pressed to find someone
who's got two all-time
world records in that gym.
But we got four,
and I think we're down.
There's times
where he seems super-happy
and super-excited at
the direction the gym's going.
And then there's
times where he's frustrated,
because he has all
the talent in the world,
but they're not producing.
A lot of the times,
what he's really doing
is he's-- he's going
into his mind
to figure out
what needs to happen,
and sometimes it takes him
longer than most people realize,
and so there'll be months
where he seems off his game.
But then he gets through that,
and he gets back to the Lou
that you thought you knew.
So he's always assessing
where we're at, what we need,
who needs to be brought in,
who needs to be taken out.
He's a lot more calculated
than most people realize,
and I think that he
essentially, you know,
knows ultimately what he wants.
What you're lookin' at
is a brand-new group, so I have
to start with new soldiers.
[narrator] The loudest
and most veteran of those
soldiers is Jason Coker.
[Coker] I bring a little
attitude to the morning crew.
I'm loud, I'm obnoxious.
[narrator] Jason is
a retread from Big Iron
with major miles on him.
[Louie] Coker's about on the
last legs. He's just, maxes out
all the time, you know,
he's his own worst enemy.
[Coker] Anyone can train when
they're 100%. That's not hard.
But let's see what
happens when you get tore up.
It's you against the weights.
You're either gonna
move the weight,
or that shit's gonna
crush you or hurt you,
and it's done both to me.
It's crushed me,
and it's fucked me up.
If you look on YouTube,
there's a video of me dumping
900 pounds right on my face.
It knocked me out.
Literally, it came down
right on my fuckin' head.
[narrator] Louie and Coker
understand each other better
than most in the gym.
We fuckin' argue and bitch
at each other all the time.
A lot of times, I know he's
right, but I'm not gonna fuckin'
tell him that shit.
I'm not gonna give
him the satisfaction.
He doesn't want somebody in
there that's gonna fuckin' just
put their head down
and say yes sir.
He wants to be able
to talk shit to you,
and you're gonna pop
right back off at him.
That's one of the issues
he has now with some of the--
A lot of the guys at the gym
are very introverted and quiet,
and it drives him crazy.
I try to get my guys
to go down there
and have that competitive
thing where we did,
like, "I'm gonna win
or I'm gonna die."
I can't get them to do that,
and I think that's
the difference why,
they keep them from being great.
[narrator] Every now and then,
Louie turns back
the clock to teach
Coker a lesson.
No church music!
[Coker] It's not even so much
him tryin' to prove a point,
I think to anybody else,
it's him tryin' to prove
a point to himself.
Every fuckin' week just about,
he'll start doing rack pulls.
How many ancient
motherfuckers like Louie,
can do what Louie does?
He can handle more
than most youngsters can.
Oh, he loves to talk shit.
If you show him that
somethin' gets to you,
he's like a fuckin' lion.
He's gonna push that button,
whatever one
makes you fuckin' click,
that's the one he's gonna do.
He's gonna use it.
[Quint] He said he's embarrassed
that he only pulled 615.
If people saw
the pathology in his spine,
they would say, "You probably
shouldn't be doing that",
but it's Louie, he's gonna
do whatever he wants to do.
[Tom] Louie's problem
is he's too strong.
Like, for an old guy,
he is too strong for his body.
Like, you get him pissed off,
he will do somethin',
and he will just--
He'll hurt himself.
What else have I got? I'm hooked
onto that white whale.
I got nowhere to go.
What else am I going to do?
I'm gonna go down
with that whale. [chuckles]
He's gonna drag me
to the bottom eventually.
And I don't care.
You know, that's what I want.
It kills him that he can't
train the way he wants to train.
You can see it every day,
there in his eyes,
like it just drives him insane
that he can't output as much
horse power as he wants to.
It kills him that he has to do
accessory work for health,
not for strength.
It drove me crazy to this day.
It fuckin' pisses me
'cause I can't compete.
I go down and look at my guys,
they're not doin' nothin',
and I can't relate to 'em,
you know, so I'm screwed.
I'm in the middle
of heaven and hell.
Most of the lifters in his gym
have no connection to the world that shaped Louie.
[Louie] I can't go up there
and get in their face.
I can't give 'em a shove.
I can't do shit, you know,
that they'd do to me,
and I used to do to them,
and they'd do to me.
It just seems
like society's changing.
I mean, maybe it's my fault
that the world has changed,
because I didn't change with it,
but I can't change.
It's often the smaller things
that remind him
of the distance between them.
[Louie] My guys, they can't do
a fuckin' thing without a phone.
I said, "I mean,
I used to play with my dick.
You play with your phone,
there's a big difference."
This is the most chaotic
generation for him.
Technology, social media.
He fuckin' hates havin' phones
at the gym, people recordin'.
You know, like doing
this interview right now,
this is like, not very easy
for me to do.
But he just accepts it.
And he's like,
this is the age we're in.
[narrator] As his frustrations
with powerlifting grow,
Louie has broadened
his attention to other sports.
If I was to guess,
he's kinda split
between a couple
different worlds right now,
and from what I understand, he's
workin' with a lot of athletes.
I think that the athletes
that he's workin' with,
that you know,
are the non-powerlifters,
are a different challenge
for him.
A lot of people think,
Westside Barbell, powerlifting.
Well, Westside Barbell's
5% powerlifting and 95% sports,
but people don't know.
He's done the same thing
with those sports
that he did with powerlifting.
Today, there is hardly a sport
that hasn't been
touched by Westside.
Our guys have
performed really well
these last several years,
and I attribute Louie
to a lot of that.
Louie's influence has definitely
been felt around the world.
He's taught me more
than anybody else has,
to be honest with you.
The system that Louie has
in place, works. I mean,
it's what I used
for the majority of
my NFL career
and what I still do to this day.
[Prinzi] Back in 2003,
the off-season, I started
to integrate it.
We went to
the World Series that year.
We've been there
four times and won twice.
[Louie] This gym's got
more to offer than squat,
bench, and deadlift.
[narrator] While ball
players, track athletes
and crossfitters
are common visitors,
the athletes that have
always held a special bond
with Westside are the fighters.
[tense music]
What this all stems from is
Louie is a humongous fight fan.
He always had boxers.
They had a boxing ring,
I think, in the gym,
but it got too dangerous,
so they had to take it out.
And I think MMA
was introduced by then.
Really, Kevin Randleman came in.
I worked with
Kevin Randleman who was
the UFC heavyweight champion.
[Tom] And when
I came here, Matt Brown was
just started coming in.
I-- I assumed it was probably
just a low-level gym,
some guy just rentin' out
a place in the back of
this industrial park.
Louie came up to me.
He had been lifting,
and he had a bloody nose,
and blood comin' out of
his ears, and he just
wiped his face like this,
and said,
"I'd love to have you."
And that was when I realized
this is my kind of place.
[Tom] I think if MMA
was around back then,
I think Westside may
have steered more to MMA.
[Louie] My buddy Marc Marinelli,
he patterned his gym after us,
Strong Style MMA.
[Tom] Marcus trained here for
about, uh, 10, 15 years.
He's one of the OGs of Westside.
He has one of the most
successful MMA gyms.
[Louie] He's a very
successful MMA teacher now.
He's got Stipe
and Jessica Evil Eye.
[Tom] When they first
started off before
the stars they are now,
they came at a real early age,
and that's 'cause of Marcus.
[Louie] And he is the same
as I am. I look at him,
how nutty he is,
he's just like me, except
he can't kick people's ass.
[narrator] It's not a stretch
to think that if Louie were
born today,
he'd have been
a fighter instead.
On a cold morning in
late 2015, Chuck came back.
[Tom] He showed up at breakfast
at Bob Evans, out of the blue.
I don't think
from what I understand,
him and Louie had even spoke.
The first thing me and Tommy
did, we looked at each other,
and we were like, what the fuck?
Nearly a decade removed
from his dramatic departure,
he returned without a word.
No one knows quite
what brought him back,
but it's easy to think
that perhaps, like Louie,
he was now a relic
of a bygone era,
a ghost tasked
to haunt the walls
he had defined for so long.
That's a Westsider.
You know, once a Westsider,
you're always a Westsider.
Some people might not wanna
admit it. It's hard for
a Westsider to leave.
[narrator] With his return, Chuck seems to have resurrected
a host of old and broken souls
from Westside.
[narrator] But Chuck's
most valuable contribution
to the gym thus far may
have been his least expected.
In 2017, Dave Hoff
returned to the platform,
four years removed from
the pinnacle of the sport.
I walked into that meet.
I remember I come
around the corner,
and, uh, he was glowing
right there by the monolift.
It was Chuck, Chuck Vogelpohl.
If he hadn't have been there,
it wouldn't have happened.
Him being there
brought something out of me
that like,
people like Bob Coe did.
I felt like I couldn't fail him.
It really had nothing
to do with anybody else.
With the assist from Chuck,
Dave Hoff did it again,
3,010 pounds.
Four years for five pounds,
that's what I did.
I had to go through
four years of hell
just for five fuckin' pounds.
But man, I didn't, I--
I wanted that fuckin', that--
If you do it twice,
it's not an accident.
If you do it once,
it might be an accident.
Do it twice,
that ain't an accident.
That was the start of whatever's
gettin' ready to happen next.
[narrator] From a distance,
Westside is callous
and unforgiving,
an iron hell
for self-loathing sadists.
Its legacy is steeped in blood
and broken relationships.
For every memory
and moment of glory,
there has been a profound cost.
[Hoff] There is nothing
easy about this gym.
You're not gonna come in there
and take from that place
and not give anything.
We busted our ass
and gave up 15 years,
some of 'em 20 years, you know,
some of 'em 20% of their life.
My son was
a State Champion swimmer.
I never saw none
of his swim meets.
'Cause they were
on Wednesday night,
and Wednesday night was bench
press night, so I was here.
[emotional music]
And for all their troubles,
there is no applause
for Louie, only the next task.
In all the years
I was there, I was told
"good job" one fuckin' time,
and it was on a floor press,
that I beat my record by
five pounds and did 520.
Alright, that's how
detailed I can remember it.
No matter how good
the guys are, they're good,
they're not good enough for me,
they're just not, I'm sorry.
I was never good enough for me.
So if you're seeking
approval from Louie Simmons,
you're gonna be
highly disappointed,
'cause it's not there.
Louie has created this
environment where his guys
will literally die for him.
You wouldn't think
this guy who is this like,
ringleader of these badasses,
would be able to
get such admiration,
but he's honestly
done it with love.
[narrator] Louie's
affection for his athletes
may go unnoticed
to the outside world,
but in truth, it's always
been his secret to success.
I think that that's
why the gym is so successful
because there's
so much invested.
I mean, they gotta
realize, I actually care.
[Kenny] When he's in
the gym, he's hardcore,
but when you pull him
to the side and say, "I need
help," he's gonna help you.
[Coan] Louie would'a done
anything in the world for me,
and I know this.
There's stories where
Louie has picked people up,
bailed people out of jail,
paid for attorneys.
Louie's always been
a really good guy to me.
The first, worst injury I had
when I blew the fuck
out of my knee.
I had a sponsor back then.
Sponsor didn't contact me
for seven weeks.
By the time I got home,
Louie already had
sleds, chains, bands,
at my house, with a call,
"You need anything, call me."
[emotional music]
That's why I always
support Louie Simmons.
'Cause that's the side
that people don't see.
[Bob] It's hard because
my father just passed.
But if I had a second father,
it'd be Louie.
But he probably taught me
more about being a man
than my dad did.
[Tony] As far as powerlifting
goes, those-- I don't--
I don't think there's anybody
gave up as much as Louie has.
Louie's whole life is that gym.
All my memories and all
my friends are in that gym.
Every one of the guys
at my gym is a brick
that went into
the wall of Westside.
I had the ideas,
but they had to prove my ideas.
They're always gonna be
a part of me 'til the day I die.
There's a tattoo
on my arm right here.
It says,
"Born 10-12-47. Died never."
I mean,
in my lifetime, it'll be true.
[narrator] The future
of Westside may not be clear,
but its effect on the world
of strength and athletics
will be felt
for a long time to come.
Westside Barbell and Louie
Simmons changed powerlifting,
and whether you liked it
or not, it happened.
[Matt] I don't think
there'll ever be
another Westside Barbell.
I am Westside.
Before Westside Barbell,
there was never a Westside,
and after Westside,
there'll never be a Westside.
As far as a friendship goes,
yes, I consider him a friend,
but I also know
that when I'm no longer
puttin' up good numbers,
I'm dead to him.
Now, my dream is to find another
guy, find another big guy.
There are some real
strong guys right down,
not far from here,
real strong, real young,
let's get 'em in here.
[energetic industrial music]
[narrator] Until then,
it's Westside versus
the motherfucking world.