Terry Todd: The Elder Statesman of Strength

Terry Todd was a competitor, spokesman, author, commentator, organizer, journalist and founder/ director of the most a acclaimed strength library in the world. Terry’s wife, Jan was also a world class level competitor, spokes person, and representative of the iron sports. Terry was always quick and adamant to recognize Jan for her contributions to his success as well as her being a pioneer as one the first woman who participated in strength sports. Jan described in a Rogue YouTube posting that her husband was a visionary.

Dr. Todd passed away at the age of 80 on July 7, 2018, prompting Arnold Schwarzenegger to tweet: “Todd was such a monster- a true force, but also a kind heart and a great storyteller.”

Terry Todd’s Early Years

Terry was born in Beaumont, Texas and grew up in Austin, Texas. After graduating from Lake Travis High School, he attended the University of Texas Austin on a tennis scholarship. Terry participated in tennis until his junior year in college, but he had been lifting hard for three years and was bigger than any football player at the University. Lifting became Terry’s athletic as well as academic focus.

Terry Todd, the Competitor

Terry competed on a national level in Olympic Weightlifting and Powerlifting at a National level. After winning the Olympic Weightlifting Junior Nationals in 1963, Terry changed his focus to Powerlifting by entering the first two National Championships in 1964 and 1965.

As a powerlifter, Dr. Todd was the first lifter to officially total 1600, 1700, 1800, and 1900 lbs. At the First Senior National Powerlifting Championships held in 1965, Terry became the first lifter to officially squat 700lbs, doing so at 330lbs. Terry’s best official powerlifts were a 720lb squat, a 515lb bench press, and a 742lb deadlift. The great Larry Pacifico, 9 time World Powerlifting Champion described strength legends as Bob Bednarski, Norbert Schemansky, and Paul Anderson reporting to him feats of strength they witnessed Terry perform which led them to believe he was the Strongest Man in the World in the mid 1960s when he was his at his peak. Dr. Todd retired from competition in 1967.

Dr. Todd was a pioneer whose leadership led to the legitimacy of the fledgling sport of Powerlifting during it’s infancy. Terry did this at first by performing his world and national record lifts in a strict manner beyond question in their authenticity.

Just as Arnold brought bodybuilding to mainstream attention, Terry Todd did the same for Powerlifting and Strongman competition. Terry brought mainstream awareness to strength athletics by working as a network broadcaster for CBS and NBC for numerous early World Strongest Man Contests, World Powerlifting Championships, and the NFL’s Strongest Man Competitions – a show that was televised for 3 years. Never one to stand still, Dr. Todd was on the forefront of keeping up with technology by partnering with Rogue to provide content regarding strength history that was streamed online and provided for free on YouTube.

Dr. Todd was a prolific writer, bringing his world class skills to the readership of Sports Illustrated, academic journals as well as strength publications such as Muscular Development, the Original Ironman, Powerlifting USA, and Strength and Health. Terry had an encyclopedic knowledge of strength sports and physical culture, taking great pride in using his down to earth yet intellectual style to bring poignant commentary on all facets of strength training to the masses. Terry authored Inside Powerlifting, which was published in 1978. This book is considered the Bible of Powerlifting, with the detailed training routines and profiles of the best powerlifters in the world. Copies of this book cost hundreds of dollars today on Ebay.

Induction into the International Sports Hall of Fame at the 2018 Arnold Classic

Dr. Todd and Jan became the first couple to be enshrined in the ISHOF, as part of it’s 7th annual class. Their induction speech was captured on YouTube video posted by Phil Grindstone. Dr. Todd spoke first and humbly began by stating: “It is nice to see so many people whom he admired as all present understand the importance of strength training.” He expressed joy at how Mark Henry, the winner of the inaugural Arnold Strongman Contest in 2001, has come back every year, on his own dime, to support the promoters and mentor the next generation of Strongman competitors. “A fine thing” is how Dr. Todd described Henry’s giving back to the sport. Dr. Todd pointed out all time greats Bill Kazmaier, Ed Coan, and Franco Columbo in the front row “These are special people, They share the business of training.” Dr. Todd closed out his approximately 6 minute speech with the following timeless wisdom: “ I want to say to all the Doctors, Coaches, and Sports Scientists who claimed that strength training is the worst thing you can do, you are full of shit. We were right and “it makes me feel good to say that.” This statement and sentiment was met with raucous applause. This is also the last known public speech by Dr. Todd as he passed away a little more than four months after his induction.

Social Media reacts to the passing of Dr. Todd

Kale Beck, the owner of the leading strongman website Starting Strongman, posted a YouTube video that was filmed on the day of Dr. Todd’s memorial service from a strongman contest in California. Beck interviewed Bill Kazmaier regarding the passing of Terry Todd, who had been a huge supporter and early coach of Bill. Bill said he wished he could be at the services but he had given his word to the California promoter and he is a man of his word. Kaz stated: “Dr. Todd did a fantastic job promoting Strongman, from the early World Strongest Man Contests to the present day Arnold Strongman Competition.” “Terry was a strong man himself, one of the greatest, with numerous significant contributions.” Beck astutely closed out this piece on Dr. Todd be describing how intelligently Terry merged the history of the turn of the century strongmen with today’s modern, freaky strength athletes.

A Great Man’s Legacy

Dr. Todd and Jan founded The HJ Luther Stark Center for Physical Culture in Sports in 1990. The Center is located within the Memorial Stadium Building at the University of Texas, Austin. This institution, which chronicles the history of strength sports, is the largest of such museum in the world. I have never visited the center, but as a strength athlete it is on my bucket list. The museum/ library has over 150,000 pieces of content to include articles, books, photographs, trophies, paintings, videos, sculptures, and historical strength equipment. While excelling as the Director of this Center he founded, Dr. Todd was the Co-Editor of Iron Game History – the Journal of Physical Culture.

Arnold Schwarzenegger posted on Reddit following the Dr’s death: “Todd was a dear friend.” Recalling seeing Terry train at Golds Gym when Arnold first arrived in California: “Lifting weights he could not believe, he was such a monster!” “(Dr. Todd) used his powers to be a fantastic leader for the fitness crusade. He was the ambassador of strength, the historian of health, the advocate of iron.” “My thoughts are with his family and my workout tomorrow is for him. I hope you’ll join me in dedicating your lifts to Terry.”

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