Chad Walker: The Unassuming Giant

The term “Gentle Giant” is widely overused in our industry. It pretty much refers to anyone that is big, but not an A-hole. Chad Walker, however, is the real deal. Despite his big totals and even bigger potential, Chad seems to (almost reflexively) downplay his accomplishments and abilities.

The Beginning

Among those accomplishments are a 1,100 squat, 755 bench press, and 800-pound pull for a big 2,655 total and third-place overall at the recent XPC meet. This is only scratching the surface of his potential. His goal is to become the top multi-ply super heavy weight (SHW) in the sport, and he seems well-positioned to make this happen.

Growing up in Michigan, Chad had the usual introduction to strength training. His father had a weight set in the basement that he started to toy with as a young teenager. Upon entering high school, Chad became involved in football, wrestling and track and through these sports, he got his first taste of a serious weight room.

“I was hooked,” Chad said. “Seeing the bigger guys, the older kids, lifting bigger weights…that was what I wanted! Growing up a fatter kid, I never wanted to be the fat boy, so I used that as a goal to change myself for the better. Lifting weights was my way to improve. I didn’t really follow any scientific method. I saw some of the stronger kids benching the typical 315 [pounds], so that became my goal. I got there. It may not have been the prettiest lift. Who knows? These may have been coach-assisted lifts but reaching goals is what got me excited.”

Since Chad is currently 330 pounds at six feet two inches tall, I was surprised by his comment about the bigger guys in high school, so I asked his weight as a teenager. “As far back as I can remember I was 275 pounds, even in high school," Chad said. "I always felt small. I have was one to look in the mirror and see a monster.” In typical Chad Walker style, humility and a grounded perspective seem to be deeply ingrained in his character.

The Turning Point

A major turning point for Chad came when he entered college to pursue a degree in law enforcement from Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich. While attending a meeting in which all of the campus intramural clubs presented themselves to new students, Chad was waved over by three big guys (mobster-style).

“One of them was Matt Kroczaleski and they invited me to train in The Dungeon, the little weight room that they had set up in the basement of the oldest building on campus,” Chad said. Chad made decent progress using the old weights and rusty equipment. He would often see Kroc training there and can attest that his intensity level was there even from these early days. “One day, he came over and started a conversation and asked me what my goals in training were," Chad said. "From there, he invited me to train with him and I was hooked on powerlifting.”

“My initial thoughts on him were that he was crazy,” Chad recalled. “He would scream and yell, rant and rave, and run around like a maniac before he would lift, but that was how he fired himself up. I grew accustomed to it and realized that is just part of his style. He has been a huge part of my training and formed me into the powerlifter I am now. He got me interested in competing and trained me for my first meet.” The two lifters went on to train together for seven years.

Moving On

About three years ago Chad left the frozen shores of Lake Michigan for the sunny shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Due to the general decline of the auto industry and Lansing’s poor economy, his wife Kelly was finding it difficult to find a good teaching job. Hearing that career options were better in Florida, the couple moved to the small city of Venice (the shark tooth capital of the world and new home of Stephen King).

Chad landed a job as K-9 Handler for the Venice PD, while Kelly became a kindergarten teacher. Their first son, Magnus Stone Walker, (a name that makes him seem destined for dual powerlifting and strongman supremacy in a few decades), joined them 16 months ago.

As a K-9 handler, Chad is partnered with a German Shepherd brought here from Holland. Their training requirements included a 480-hour canine school (which was almost longer than his academy training) and 16 hours a month of continued training. “The dogs are far smarter than us, so it was all a matter of the instructor training us on what the dogs easily picked up,” Chad said. His dog is trained in narcotics detection, criminal apprehension and tracking.

Between some of his earlier Michigan USAPL meets, Chad competed in some local strongman events (placing in two and winning the third). "I lost my drive for strongman because it's not as easy to train for as powerlifting," Chad said. "I like lifting as much as I can, so after getting settled in to my life in Florida, I focused on multi-ply meets. I did some smaller meets around Tampa and was a part of some of Brian Schwab’s bigger meets in Orlando. I squatted my first 1,000 pounds there, which was a huge accomplishment for me.”

After being in Florida for a year, Chad collected a good group of training partners. “We all pitched in on equipment and put together a nice gym in my garage," Chad said. "I trained with Matt [Kroc] at his house back in Lansing and when the weather would drop into the single-digits, he would be out there in his stupid shorts, wearing a thermal shirt. We would ask him if we could turn the heat on and he would just make fun of us. It was an adjustment being down in Florida, where it is 90 degrees and super humid. I think as long as you get the initial sweat going, you're good in about five minutes. Your body adapts. However, we have a couple of BIG fans. I have taken the trip up to Jacksonville and trained with Adam Driggers and Team Sampson at their garage. It is not even a garage. It is a metal box and it is like a sauna in there. They train in a pretty extreme environment compared to what we have to deal with.”

“My training comes from things I learned from Matt and ideas picked up from reading the training logs on elitefts™. I tried to follow the bigger guys, like Paul Childress and Bob Youngs when they were on [elitefts™], because I feel that their training is based around a bigger frame. I also look towards some of the strongman competitors like Bill Kamaier, Mariusz Pudzianowski and Derek Poundstone. I read up as much as I can on them and pick and choose what I think will work best for me. I review the elitefts™ site daily. It gets even better the more you get to know the individual lifters.”

As a final question, I asked Chad to describe which traits his canine partner and a good training partner would have in common. “First off, he is always there, so there is consistency. They both need to be willing to listen, which is balanced by my ability to understand what they are trying to communicate to me. It is my job to be able to pick up on his body language and actions and learn from that, which is the same with the cues I receive from a training partner. You are only as good as your training partners. Some may be able to pull off training alone, but to be your best, you need a team around you.”

In addition to the training partners pushing him in his garage, Chad now has the support of Team elitefts™. We are proud to have him on-board!