By Peter Yates, HOPC Editor-in-Chief
Hi Steve. First of all, thank you for agreeing to this interview. While your name is known to many in the world of strength there may be others browsing the site who may not know much about you and your exploits so i hope this interview will in some way remedy that.
- CAN YOU TELL US WHEN, WHY AND HOW YOU FIRST STARTED TRAINING AND DID YOU HAVE ANY MENTORS/INSPIRATION AT THAT TIME?
I started back in 1980 aged 15. The first pros that caught my eye were Bertil Fox, Tom Platz, Mike Mentzer and Dorian. And, of course, Arnold.
- ALTHOUGH YOU HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN VARIOUS TRAINING METHODS YOU ARE MOST FAMOUS FOR YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS IN GRIP COMPETITIONS. WHAT DREW YOU TO THAT ASPECT OF STRENGTH TRAINING AND WHEN AND HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
An article in the UK issue of Iron Man magazine by Randall Strossen entitled ‘Captains of Crush’. Not only did it provide me with a focus I realized I might have some talent in it too.
- WHILE YOU HAVE WON NUMEROUS UK AND WORLD GRIP COMPETITIONS AND HOLD SEVERAL UK AND WORLD RECORDS HOW DID YOU FAIR IN YOUR FIRST CONTEST? WHEN DID YOU WIN YOUR FIRST CONTEST AND WHAT WAS THE FIRST RECORD YOU BROKE?
I can’t remember the date, but it was one of David Horne’s. I came in 3rd (of three) in the pro class and I was in that class because all three of us had closed an Ironmind CoC3 gripper officially (indeed we were the first three Brits to do so).
4. AMONG ALL YOUR RECORDS WHICH DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR BEST ACHIEVEMENT AND WHY?
An interesting question. I’m surprisingly neither one way or another about my records. I work hard to get them, get them, get very excited at the time and then move onto the next thing. If you said feats of strength I’d say the 3 and 4 gripper closes (more so in competition), then the Inch and Millennium Dumbbell lifts.
5. IN 2004 YOU WERE AWARDED THE OSCAR HEIDENSTAM AMBASSADOR AWARD WHICH IF I AM NOT MISTAKEN IS AWARDED TO INDIVIDUALS WHO THROUGH THEIR EFFORTS HAVE HELPED PROMOTE THE HEALTH AND FITNESS LIFESTYLE AND PHYSICAL CULTURE. WHAT WERE THE MEDIUMS YOU USED TO SPREAD THIS MESSAGE?
I was, to some degree, an early adapter of ‘being on the net’- so pushing the sport then via forums. But, and I’d say this was the biggest, by being involved in then later editing and publishing Muscle Mob. I also networked via the magazine a fair bit.
6. YOU HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN PRETTY MUCH ALL ASPECTS OF THE INDUSTRY INCLUDING SUPPLEMENTS, GYMS AND TRAINING GUIDES. COULD YOU TELL US SOMETHING OF THESE AND IF YOU STILL HAVE INVOLVEMENT?
Two parts which were directly connected: The Whey Consortium (one of the first bulk amount selling of whey protein companies) and the gym we had in the company warehouse. The gym was aimed at and focused on strength and we put on competitions. In the early days we were one of only a few strongman / grip type gyms and as such people drove 4 hours to train there. Most of those that were that dedicated are big names in their own fields even now. Shawn Kenny (MMA) and Laurence Shahlaei (WSM) and Nick McKinless (stuntman) were among the more well-known (or became so).
7. HAVE SEVERAL ISSUES OF MUSCLE MOB MAGAZINE AND WHAT STRIKES ME MOST IS THE ALL INCLUSIVENESS RATHER THAN FOCUS ON JUST SAY POWER LIFTING OR BODYBUILDING. WAS THAT THE ORIGINAL PURPOSE OF THE MAG?
David Gentle and one other writer (I forget the name) both came up with the idea of people working together around the same time. Outside of the gym we have talents which might be useful to each other. Dave called this loose group of like-minded lifters and gym users – the Muscle Mob. Thus, the magazine came into existence as a means of promoting the ideal and allowing space for articles as diverse as wrestling and grip. Not what Muscle & Fitness etc. would promote but we could.
8. BESIDES GRIP FOR WHICH YOU ARE WELL KNOWN HAVE YOU TAKEN PART IN OTHER TYPES OF STRENGTH CONTESTS OR DONE NON-GRIP FEATS OF STRENGTH?
I only competed in our friendly gym contest around Christmas time and my best lift there was a touch and go 190-kilo bench press (light elbow sleeves only).
9. YOU HAVE ALSO BEEN AN AVID COLLECTOR OF STRENGTH MEMORABILIA. WHEN DID YOU GET STARTED AND WHAT WOULD BE YOUR MOST PRIZED POSSESSIONS?
I started around the same time I began lifting, so 1980. I’ve a few 1900 or so bits (I’d love more of course). My Millennium dumbbell has to be el numero uno. Yet I keep it at a local gym ha ha.
10. COULD YOU TELL US SOMETHING OF THE MILLENNIUM DUMBBELL AND HOW IT CAME ABOUT?
Being brief… it followed Alan Radley and I managing to pick up the original Inch one handed and wanting a bigger challenge and, to a lesser degree, wanting a legacy too in it’s very creation.
11. YOU WERE FORMERLY A RESIDENT OF LONDON BUT NOW LIVE IN WALES. WHAT PROMPTED THE MOVE AND HOW ARE YOU SETTLING IN TO YOUR NEW HOME?
In between came Gloucester with the gym and the business. Moving here was part of winding that down and a bit of a mid-life crisis. I love it here and probably get more time out in the hills than many a local armed with my camera and several worn out and replaced walking shoes.
12. NOW OVER 50 YOU ARE IN THE MASTER DIVISION AND STILL COMPETING. HOW LONG DO YOU SEE YOURSELF CONTINUING WITH COMPETITION?
This is a big question for me and has been so since I hit 50. The simple answer is, for now, ‘while I can and remain competitive in doing so’. I’m not, currently, big on winning my class or age group. I still wanna (at the very least) place in the top 3 regardless of the class. Truth be known I compete less and am more selective now.
13. WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THE STATE OF PHYSICAL CULTURE AND ITS FUTURE?
The future, to quote a movie line, is ‘up to you’. I’m not one for moaning about stuff and doing nothing. If you sit and wait for others to ‘fix things’ you’ve missed a chance. Be involved and become what will be the future of Physical Culture.
14. WHAT PLANS DO YOU HAVE FOR THE FUTURE REGARDING PHYSICAL CULTURE IN GENERAL?
See the above. I’d say most days I’ve half an eye on what I want for myself and the other half on the bigger picture -which I also benefit from – as do you.
15. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG FELLOWS STARTING OUT AND ALSO FOR THOSE IN THE 40 PLUS CATEGORY WHO ARE SEEKING TO GET BACK INTO SHAPE?
Basics, hard work and stick at it. It’s a long game not a five-minute miracle wonder.
16. ANY OTHER WORDS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH US?
Only my thanks for this interview. Ask whatever questions you like.
THANKS AGAIN STEVE FOR DOING THIS. I KNOW YOU HAVE HAD A RECENT INJURY WHICH THANKFULLY IS NOW RESOLVING SO I WOULD LIKE TO WISH YOU A COMPLETE RECOVERY AND BACK TO FULL STRENGTH.
THANKS MATE, PETER
©Interview with Steve [The Mobster] Gardener by Peter Yates