Interview With Strongman Barry Von Perkins Interviewed By Ben Tatar - April 2009
CRITICAL BENCH: Critical Bench is here with Barry Von Perkins today. Barry, welcome to Critical Bench. Before we get started what is your height and weight?
I'm 6'-2" about 290'ish.
CRITICAL BENCH: Barry, do you have any recent triumphant stories that you would like to tell us about?
Well, most recently after I had knee surgery, I competed in NAS Nationals. I had much concern about competing due to the current condition of my knee and I was doubtful. The event that scared me the most was the yoke, farmers and tire events because I figured these events would be the hardest for me to complete and could potentially re injure me again. Well, I opened up with the yoke, a short 65 feet! I then warmed up and prepared myself to try and complete the course. My knee felt good, the whistle blew I picked it up and slowly, but surely walked the course without any drops. A long treacherous 34 seconds later, I completed it to my amazement. I hadn't touched a yoke in 5 months. I was totally stoked!
CRITICAL BENCH: Do you have any other very happy strongman classic memories that you would like to tell us about?
Well, I drive a mini cooper S...yes...a Mini. The license plate reads "Lift Ths" ..although I had yet to lift the car doing a dead lift rig. It's around 700-800lbs in hand and it's a low and wide "pick". One day in training...I finally was able pull it. I was pumped.
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your best lifts?
My worst are easier to identify…LOL! I'd say 550lbs axle dead for 9 reps, no straps and 322lbs log press at Liberty Classic Strongman. I think these are my "best" even though they are my worst lifts due to the fact that dead lifts and overhead presses are my "worst" events and I was very impressed that I was able to do well in these events. I mean come on...I beat my good friend Gavin Westenberger in a dead lift event on the axle. That's like Andre the Giant winning Dancing with the Stars!
CRITICAL BENCH: What made you choose strongman over bodybuilding and power lifting?
Have you seen my body? I've always watched strongman competitions since the beginning. I was always interested in it. Once I realized there was an actual strongman "circuit" I signed up and did my first competition.
CRITICAL BENCH: Have you been on TV for doing strongman competitions? What is it like being known in the strongman circle?
For TV, as a spectator at 2007 Worlds, yes. Local television stations aired some contests, one being Fresno California where I did a Pro Am. Additionally, in Philadelphia at the Liberty Strongman Classic I competed with Phil Pfister and that was aired on Fox Sports locally.
In the strongman family/circle, I am well known and I know a lot of people all across the world that are involved in strongman. From being friends with the likes of Magnus Ver (4 time WSM), to Don Pope, to Phil Pfister and the late Jesse Marunde.
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your favorite things about being a strongman competitor?
It's an extreme sport for all tense and purposes. The training is my kind of training. Low reps, sets, and heavy weights, which are perfect for a lazy man such as myself.
It's a great conversation starter due to the fact it's unusual. The people that are associated with this sport are amazing people and all around good souls even though they can be some of the most scary and intimidating looking people.
It's a sport that not necessarily pits you against the other competitors as much as pits you against the event, the stone, that tire, that chunk of steel...will it own me or will I own it?
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your 5 favorite strongman events? And why?
This is tough. The tire flip, I can flip anything I am just good at it. Farmers walk, I think because it was the first piece of equipment I received. Stones, because I love them. Truck pull with harness and arm over arm truck pull. Again, I think these are favorites because I'm actually competitive at them.
CRITICAL BENCH: Give us your strongman routine:
My routine is rather simple. Due to my age, my body doesn't recover as well. So I train 2-3 days a week. Events on Sunday's and two gym days. Usually Tuesday press day and Thursday dead lift day. Monday's I'll do spinning and/or yoga. That's pretty much it. My routine really depends on how my body is feeling. I have extremely bad arthritis in my knee. So recently I've been going real easy trying to see if I can get my knee to feel better. The basis is warm ups then heavy weights with low sets, singles and doubles. Grow stronger.
CRITICAL BENCH: What competitions have you competed in?
I've competed in almost 30 contests in the past 5 years. Competed in Fresno, Texas, Florida, Jersey, Wisconsin, Utah, Carolina's...all over. My career favorite would have to be the Liberty Strongman Classic, promoted by Al Thompson and held in Philadelphia. I got to compete with Phil Pfister, Josh Thigpin, Gerard Benderoth and Steve MacDonald...some great strongmen of our time. That was an amazing competition and 8 weeks post knee surgery! I paid for it after the second day of competition though.
CRITICAL BENCH: With all of your strongman experience and the wisdom you have picked up along the way, what would you like to tell the younger generation of strongman competitors?
Listen to your body and be patient. You are young and have lots of time to get stronger. You don't want to push it and by the time your 28-29 yrs old your body is a wreck. Train smart and be smart.
CRITICAL BENCH: Give us your most hardcore and your funniest strongman story?
As you can tell by some of my answers, I'm not really hard core. I like to have fun with this sport and I don't have much time left to do it. I want to enjoy it as much as possible.
Another hardcore story was when I was in Philadelphia at the Liberty Strongman Classic when I was competing only 8 weeks post knee surgery. After the first day the body felt good. After the second day not so good. My knee was a mess and I was finding it hard to even walk. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I had already planned and paid for my trip to Utah for NAS Nationals. I figured I would just end up going out and supporting some of the guys I know and not competing. About 2 weeks before Utah (6 weeks after Philadelphia) I went to my Orthopaedic to have them give me a cortisone shot to see if that would help the knee and make it possible to compete in Utah. After the xray, the doc came into the exam room shaking her head and pinned the xrays on the light board. "See this, right here, those lines? Those are stress fractures, she said! She said they were about 6 weeks old and very bad ones. She then went on and said "what were you doing about 6 weeks ago?" I thought and was like "OH wow...that was the Liberty Strongman in Philly...no wonder my knee was killing me afterwards!" So, yes, I was in pain but didn't know why.
As for funniest? There are lots of those. I was doing a contest in Texas, light log for reps. At one point in my training I started getting into the unfortunate habit of placing the log on my head during the lifts. Not a smart move. During the log for reps event, the second to the last lift I of course, put the log on my head then continued to press it and lock out. As I had the log on my head NAS Vice President Willie Wessels told me no rep, can't put the log on my head. I proceeded to argue with him, while I had the log locked out over head! When I looked at the video, I wasted about 20 seconds arguing with Willie that he didn't say anything during the rules meeting about using your head, again, all the while I had the log locked out over my head. What a bonehead I was!
CRITICAL BENCH: Away from strongman training what do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy spending time with my two favorite women, my spouse (who is a triathlete, oh I mean swim-bike-run, not bench, deadlift and squat) and my daughter Trudy (who by the way came in 3rd at school age nationals in Olympic Lifting in 2008). We are quite an active family.
CRITICAL BENCH: Very interesting! What are the adversities that you had to overcome?
My age, I'm 42 most of who I compete with are much younger and stronger. My arthritic 90 yr old knees...ha! I've learned to train around them and still be competitive.
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your future goals?
To soon retire from strongman. Maybe focus my energy on my daughter and see how far she can take Olympic Lifting. England 2012….maybe??
CRITICAL BENCH: Let me ask you, "why should all men be strong?"
I think all men should be strong. Strong leaders through their life examples. Strong in their confidence in themselves so they can know when to put their egos aside and say yes darling you are right. Have strong character, to set a good moral example for the women in your life so they know what a real man, a good man is. If you are not confident enough in yourself to let your daughter see you cry, or cannot tell the woman you love how much she means to you...then you are not very strong. But that's just my opinion.
CRITICAL BENCH: Tell us about your diet and what are your favorite supplements?
Whey Protein and Revenge Vixen Revamp are my supplements. Plus anything that is rumored to help arthritis and joint issues. My diet consists of a lot of brown rice, cottage cheese, chicken breasts. I'm not always good, I eat my share of extravagant dinners out.
CRITICAL BENCH: What makes you different from everyone else?
My age and experience, which is my edge. Some young guys have some incredible numbers and are amazingly strong, but if you don't show up game day then all those amazing training days and PR's don't help much. You must train the mind as much as the body. I just want to have fun and a good day at a contest. If I have a few PR's, finish the contest and are able to walk off the plane the next day, it was an amazingly successful contest to me.
CRITICAL BENCH: What makes you happy, what makes you tick and what are you blessed for?
Just being able to do strongman makes me happy. My family makes me tick. Seeing my daughter growing up and being a good kid..I am blessed with that.
CRITICAL BENCH: What goes through your head before attempting a big lift?
"You have to do this Perkins...it's yours...you own this..don't let it beat you...DON'T LET IT BEAT YOU!..."
CRITICAL BENCH: What drives you to be the best?
Getting better at what I do, that drives me. The next lift, the next event. Can I do it better...stronger...faster?
CRITICAL BENCH: What are you going to remember most about your strength journey?
All the great people that I befriended because of the sport.
CRITICAL BENCH: In closing who would you like to thank?
God, for allowing me to be healthy enough to do this sport. Those in the armed services for serving this country...a country that allows me to do such a great sport! To have the freedom to do something like this, while those men and women are over there serving this country. Of course my family!
CRITICAL BENCH: Thanks for taking the time to do the interview. Your story was very interesting and best wishes to you and your family.