Health & Fitness

World's strongest man to kids: You gotta have heart

Bill Kazmaier, the World's Strongest Man, unfolds a pan after he folded it during a demonstration to students at Berkeley High School in Berkeley, California, October 16, 2007.
Bill Kazmaier, the World's Strongest Man, unfolds a pan after he folded it during a demonstration to students at Berkeley High School in Berkeley, California, October 16, 2007. (Ray Chavez / MCT)

BERKELEY -- The self-proclaimed World's Strongest Man bent a frying pan into the shape of a taco with his bare hands last week at Berkeley High School.

That's a feat Bill Kazmaier is pretty proficient at. In fact, he did the exact same thing 40 times in a row recently, injuring a shoulder so badly he's had to take a break from weightlifting and pulling things, such as buses and tractor.

But that doesn't seem to bother the 53-year-old Kazmaier.

He's too engrossed in his nationwide motivational speaking tour to high school students to care much about bench-pressing 661 pounds or deadlifting 887 pounds like he once did, he said.

"I still (work out) the most important muscle in my body ... my heart," he told about 150 high school students.

And he's encouraging young people to follow their hearts and use their heads while they finish high school and prepare for adulthood, college and careers.

"Every day there is a bar that is set for you guys when you get out of bed and head to school. You've got to make the decision if you want to get over that bar," he told the group.

The physical education students in the high school gym, sitting on the wooden bleachers in the middle of a rainy day, listened as Kazmaier gave his talk about focusing on goals and soaring with the eagles and leaving the turkeys behind.

But after the talk, a few students said some of the information probably wasn't absorbed fully.

"I think half the people listened and half the people didn't. The people who listened will benefit from it," said Saeed Strayhorn, a junior. What the students really wanted to know is if muscle man used steroids during his powerlifting career.

He did, he said. They weren't illegal then, he said.

Some of the students seemed to be interested in only the frying pan bending and the tug of war.

Using his left hand to grip metal handles attached in the middle to each side of a long rope, he successfully defeated eight students tugging on either side of the rope. They were trying to make Kazmaier break his one-handed grip on the handles, but they couldn't do it.

When a teacher was added to each side, the group overtook the strongman, who said he was impressed.

Born in Wisconsin, Kazmaier played fullback at the University of Wisconsin from 1973 to 1974 before leaving school to pursue powerlifting full-time, according to a Web site biography. In 1979, he won the American powerlifting championship and the International Powerlifting Federation world championship.

Kazmaier won the World's Strongest Man title three times, in 1980, 1981 and 1982.

Created in 1977, the World's Strongest Man competition combines a series of unique tests of strength to determine the World's Strongest Man.

Kazmaier, Jon Pall Sigmarsson, Magnus Ver Magnusson and Mariusz Pudzianowski captured multiple titles and each can claim to be the sport's greatest champion, according to background information on the event.

Kazmaier was the first person to bench press 661 pounds in competition, according to his bio. In recent years, he has appeared on ESPN as a commentator on World's Strongest Man broadcasts.

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