“I remember the first time I saw Terry Todd in Gold’s Gym after I moved here, lifting weights I couldn’t believe. He was such a monster – a true force, but also a kind heart and a great storyteller.”
– Arnold Schwarzenegger
On Saturday, July 7th, 2018, the world of Strength Sports mourned the loss of it’s greatest contributor and advocate not named Arnold, Texas’s own Terry Todd. He was 80 years old. And while the general public at large my know at least the required knowledge of Arnold’s contributions to fitness, Terry’s contributions, while clearly overshadowed were equally immeasurable, if not more. Athlete, educator, innovator, historian. My own introduction to Terry Todd was the same YouTube video in which I discovered the beast Doug Young. For this particular clip, Terry was co-commentating the 1977 IPF World Championships along side a young Bryant Gumbel, as seen below:
Terry started out as a weightlifter in 1956 and would win the Junior Nationals in Olympic Weightlifting seven years later. After that he switched to Powerlifting, where at a bodyweight of 335lbs, he made his mark. His numbers include a 720lbs Squat, a 515lb Bench Press and a 742lb Deadlift. In fact, it was at the 1965 National Championships that Terry squatted 710lbs at the previously mentioned bodyweight of 335lbs. I feel the need to mention his weight because this may not seem so impressive in the age where some of today’s strongest lifters are reaching for some incredible lifts at alarmingly lower bodyweights than Terry’s. But it’s important to remember that conditioning wasn’t as emphasized as it clearly is today.
Terry retired from active competition in 1967, but much like Arnold years later, he found ways to stay close to the sport he loved. For much like him, Terry viewed fitness and strength training as more than just a hobby, but a lifestyle. He became a professor, teaching in many universities throughout the state as well as Canada until his retirement in the 90’s. Starting in the mid 70’s, Terry became directly involved in the development of Women’s Powerlifting, alongside his wife Jan, who also happened to be a lifter (she would later be recognized as the strongest woman in the world for a time). For a few years the two of them would even coach the Canadian Women’s team. Terry also fought for the women’s committee of the United States Powerlifting Federation to become a self governing body, which he ultimately achieved. His contributions to this movement would earn him an induction into the USAPL Women’s Hall Of Fame in 2004, alongside his wife, of course.
Inside Powerlifitng, one of a few books written by Terry Todd, featuring the late Doug Young on the cover. This book is hard to find for cheap these days, as it’s no longer in print.
When Terry wasn’t coaching lifters or teaching at various universities, he was also a color commentator, as mentioned earlier, for Powerlifitng events broadcast on CBS, NBC, the BBC and ESPN. During the 70’s and 80’s you could find Powerlfiting events on NBC Sports and even Wide World Of Sports on ABC. Terry was also the author of Inside Powerlfiting. Released in 1978, it was the first book to truly cover all things related to the sport, including it’s history, the top lifters of the day, their training philosophies and their eating habits. It’s important to note that some of that material may now be considered dated in today’s age, and rightfully so. But it can also make a great historical piece, as it was the first book of it’s kind. He also would right multiple article for magazines such as Muscular Development, Iron Man, Flex Magazine and Sports Illustrated.
Perhaps his biggest achievement came in 1990, when Terry and his wife, Jan, founding The H.J. Lutcher Stark Center For Physical Culture and Sports. Located in the University Of Texas At Austin’s football stadium, the Center is a 27,500 sq ft, non profit museum and library dedicated to all things related to all things strength and fitness. You can find a wide array of books, journals, artifacts and videos of all sports – not just lifting – to lifestyle choices, to eating habits and dieting to self improvement. To just read what this place has to offer on it’s website, which I’ll leave the link to at the end of this article, is quite overwhelming. I’m at awe that one man was willing to put such a place together just to let the general public know the importance of such sports like Powerlifitng, which for the longest time was widely considered an underground sport. But more than that, it’s humbling to know that one man was this willing to keep physical sports and the fitness lifestyle alive for generations to come.
Terry Todd was man of multiple achievements in fitness. He was the first man to squat over 700lbs. He was a professor, an author, a historian. But the most important aspect of this article, is that Terry was the man who made it his life’s work to keep the flame alive for the rest of us, and for that alone he will be greatly missed.
RIP Terry Todd
December 31st, 1937 – July 7th, 2018.