Interview with Strongman Barry Von Perkins Interviewed by Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com – July 2011
CB: Today we are here with strongman competitor Barry Von Perkins. Tell us about yourself.
BVP: I'm Barry Perkins. I've been in strongman since 2002. I'm 45 yrs old, and I have an amazing 15 year old daughter who sings, does Olympic lifts and flips some huge tires. (laughs) I'm 6-2, 295'ish, and I work as a construction estimator in Washington DC. I live and train in Reston Virginia.
CB: Barry, I heard you opened a new gym. What is it called and where is it?
BVP: The gym is called The Edge 2.0. It's located in Reston/Herndon, Virginia. The address is 310 Victory Drive Herndon, Virginia at CrossFit Reston.
CB: If you're in the Virginia area, make sure to check out Barry's gym. Barry, how did you get started with this new gym?
BVP: We used to train at my house on Waters Edge Lane (hence the name The Edge Crew) but the neighborhood didn't like it. It began with letters. I finally got one that read, "Homeowners are frightened when their houses shake when you drop those heavy weights." So I figured I'd better stop. I was a strongman with a crew and had no place to train. When I started looking, the receptionist where I worked suggested contacting CrossFit Reston (2 miles from my house). I was like, "Yeah, you're silly, girl" However, I figured it couldn't hurt. So, I sent an email with some videos of what we do, and asked if we could come out and train there. They said YES!!. So I share a space with Crossfit Reston. I keep my stuff in the corner, and on Sundays, when they are closed, we get to use the whole 8,000 square feet of space. They have been amazing to us and so accommodating. Maggie and Jeff are so awesome! They own the CrossFit. As word started to spread, we grew. There are a lot of people interested in strongman. I put on a contest in March. I made it newbie friendly and it was a blowout!! I am hoping soon to get my own space because we are growing and so is CrossFit Reston. We just need to figure out the finances.
CB: Great story, Barry. What type of equipment is in your new gym?
BVP: We have the typical barbells and bumper plates, but we also have every strongman toy you can think of, except Fingal Fingers and Power Stairs. We have logs, atlas stones (I made a 530lbs 20" stone for Mike Jenkins who was training for the Arnold last March and pulled 2nd place.) We also have frame carry, farmers, 6 tires, an axle, a hummer tire deadlift rig (I keep it for Al Thompson), a Car Deadlift rig (with bleachers) and some other sundry items.
CB: Wow, that's a lot! It sounds like your gym is a great place to be. What type of music is played in your new gym? Do they play your favorite Mariah Carey? (laughs)
BVP: Well, as you know Ben, the boys and girls don't like my music (Mariah, Christina, Sinead, the sad songs) so I let them put on what they want. They bring in their iPods and get to it.
CB: (Laughing) We know you have set plenty of personal Strongman records while listening to Whitney Houston. Tell us 5 interesting things about your new gym.
BVP: 1) There is no other gym like it in the Metro DC Area.
2) We have all ages and types, men, women, big, small, some who've never been to a gym to those that are avid strongman competitors.
3) We could do an 80' truck pull inside if we needeed.
4) It's set up for contests.
5) It's more like a "club" than a gym.
CB: Sounds like the place to be! You can pull trucks inside your gym and have strongman competitions! That's every hardcore athletes dream! What do you think makes a gym hardcore?
BVP:Deadlifts, if you can deadlift in your gym (or fitness center) then it's hardcore. At The Edge 2.0 we get filthy dirty. I joke with some of the women who train as they leave, "If you go into the grocery store on the way home, they're gonna think you're a homeless woman." They're usually all covered in chalk and filth and sweat. (laughs)
CB: Your gym is beyond hardcore! You can pull trucks in your gym! Barry, tell us 5 more interesting things about your gym/strongman facility.
1) People love the atmosphere. It's like no other; fun and hard working.
2) We don't care what level you are. I had a guy in that had knee replacements and shoulder replacements in his late 50's. Heck, I had a guy last week with only one leg! At each event he trained he's say, "Hmm...think I'll try my other leg on this." What a great guy.
3) We can train rain or shine, snow or sleet.
CB: You competed with strongman names like Magnus Ver (4 time WSM), to Don Pope, to Phil Pfister and the late Jesse Marunde. Tell us about what it has been like knowing each of those names one by one and what they are like!
BVP: Maggie Ver – Is a great person. He showed me how to pull a truck while I was testing the truck pull at the Liberty Classic in 2005. I got many reps with the truck with Maggie there coaching me. I met Mags through my mentor Mark Samson Keshishian.
Don Pope – Is quite hilarious, and I beat him in the hummer tire deadlift in 2009 at the Liberty (laughs). You gotta give an old man some props.
Phil Pfister -- Is a fellow West Virginian. He has huge hands. He's very funny and a mountain of a man. He's also a good friend of Mark Keshishian's. I always say, "West Virginia has only two things WVU football and Phil Pfister."
Jesse Marunde – Was an amazing athlete, a great man, always ready to help someone out and one big hunk of handsomeness. Woo Hoo!!
CB: Comment on these names: Josh Thigpin, Gerard Benderoth and Steve MacDonald.
BVP: Josh Thigpin – I beat him as well in the dead lift in 2009. He's almost 20 years younger than me. (laughs) He's another great athlete, amazing, very strong and explosive. He's also humble; another good soul.
Gerard Benderoth – He's the White Rhino He won his pro card at my very first contest. One helluva dead lifter.
Steve MacDonald – Yummy cheeseburgers. He's a great dead lifter and good all around strongman. He owns a bar in Pittsburgh that has amazing burgers.
CB: How do most people respond when they hear that you re strongman!! Talk about the different responses.
BVP: That's a funny question. I was laid off for about 7 months. Finding work was tough. So I put all my energy into The Edge 2.0. For the last 2 years my resume looks like crap because of the jobs I had and getting laid off time and time again. So I changed it. I took everything off from the past 2 yrs and put "The Edge 2.0, founder and mentor, DC Metro's only Strongman training facility." I referenced my website. It looked like I stopped working 2 years ago and started the Edge thing. I sent that resume out and was working again within 4 weeks. People are very intrigued by the sport and find it fascinating. However, you always get annoying questions like "How much you lift?" Huh? I lift? Annoyed, I say, "Chicago" or if I get, "How much you bench?" I say, "New York."
CB: You are definitely one hell of an original character, Barry. (laughs) How are you going to remember your strongman journey?
BVP: Unfortunately, I'll remember it every morning when I wake up and snap crackle and pop in all my joints. I have horrible arthritis. Overall, though, it's been amazing. You know, all the wonderful people I've met throughout my journey. The people in this sport are like no other. No egos just lift heavy crap, everyone helps everyone succeed. We all get excited when we see someone get a PR at a contest or in training no matter what the weight, be it a 185lbs stone, 90lbs overhead press or 1000lbs yoke.
CB: Barry, give us 10 great Strongman moments during your career.
1) Liberty Classic 2008 (with Pfister)
2) Liberty 2009
3) Nationals 2008
4) Capital Classic Strongman Challenge. This was the first contest I put on. It was like planning a wedding but seeing it happen was like watching your child grow up.
5) Doing stones in front of 10,000 screaming fans
6) Going to Anaheim to watch Worlds in 2007, I had such a blast.
The rest of the "great strongman moments" will have to be of me and the boys training back in the day at the original Edge…those were some amazing, fun, awesome times.
CB: Give us a FUNNY lifting story, CRAZY lifting story, and a lifting MOMENT that changed you.
BVP: Training at The Edge 2.0 and using the dry erase marker board to have a discussion about 3 dimensional calculus, vortex theories and whether or not silicone is a carbon based life form, and despite all this we couldn't figure out how much weight was on the log.
I have a habit of putting the log on my head occasionally. I was training, went to press and put the log it on my head. Mark Kimener came after me to lift and did the same thing (he never does that). He then proceeded to YELL at me for "making" him do the same thing! It was so hilarious.
As for changing me…it just makes me have more fond memories of this sport.
CB: How did you get interested in being a strongman competitor in the first place?
BVP: As with most of us we all watched it when we were growing up. Maggie was my favorite. I'd say, "that dude is the same size as me! But I could never do that!" Then I found out in 2002 that I could actually participate in a contest. I thought about it, and figured what the heck! I entered and now here I sit.
CB: Yup, getting interviewed in the midst of a great Strongman journey. How do you want to be remembered?
BVP: As a good man, a good father, and hopefully one day, a good husband.
CB: Tell us about your family.
BVP: I have 3 amazing daughters, twins, 23, and a 15 yr old. I also have a grand daughter. My 15 yr old daughter lives with me and is a very accomplished Olympic lifter as well an amazing singer. She grew up around strongman over half her life. So for now, its just me and her.
CB: Say a 21 year old wants to be a strongman competitor and he is a decent lifter. Say he benches 365, power cleans 320, deadlifts 550 and squats 600. What's your advice?
BVP: Work on your presses and deadlifts. Find a training crew and start working on the events! Sign up for a contest.
CB: Like your quote goes "don't train to workout, start training for something." Barry, what are your words for the following people?
a) A person who is inspired by you and gets fired up by seeing a man lift big like you.
Anyone can do it, it's all smoke and mirrors!! (laughs) If you really want to do it, then start training. Anyone can do big lifts…its all relative.
b) Someone who fears you.
That's funny, if you knew me, you'd know I am not one to fear. I'm very nice, as are most strongman athletes. "You're a strongman if…you're the scariest looking person in the room but really the nicest."
c) Someone who wants to see you fail.
We all fail at some point, the key is to not quit.
CB: What's the most important thing you try to tell the younger, up and coming strongmen/women?
BVP: Listen to your body. Recovery and rest are more important than training. You will not get weak by taking time off--only stronger, it's human physiology, it's fact. Give your body time to heal, rest, it will make you a better strongman for sure!
CB: What is the best and worst advice you ever received?
BVP: Best advice "Train smarter not harder--Jesse Marunde"
Worst "Put on these knee wraps…" (laughs)
CB: Barry, in closing who would you like to thank?
BVP: I would like to thank my family and friends who have helped me... encouraged me…picked me up dusted me off…and those that have cared about me. I want to thank my daughter Trudy who puts up with my strongman stuff. I want to thank my good friend Mark Samson Keshishian (of Samson Power), who was my mentor and introduced me to strongman, as well as some great names in the sport. Also, I wish to thank those young men and women who serve our country. I thank the armed forces for affording me the opportunity to live in a great country where I can pursue my passions and desires...and most of all, God.