Baddest Mofos Ever – Benny Podda, Pt. 1
In the past I’ve been asked why I focus so
heavily on the outliers in the strength community, rather than the more
conventional lifters who’ve had success over the years in a more reserved
fashion. The answer is quite frankly, that greatness and boring rarely
coincide, and where they do it is more coincidence than a causal
relationship. The clock-punching
Rudy-style workhorse who starts at the bottom with no talent and achieves
marginal success from a refusal to give up and a no-shucks-given attitude only
inspires pussies to continue being pussies. Moreover, they’re boring as
hell, and succeeded not because of their utter lack of personality but despite
it. I’d go so far as to say I despise
those people, because they convince the weak sauce posers in the lifting
community that they belong in the presence of titans simply because they take
the same supplements and wear similar clothes.
Damn that noise- it’s the Benny Poddas of the
world who are the humans to be admired and emulated. Not in deed but in
spirit- in the refusal to take the easy road to mediocrity, in the desire to be
the shot heard round the world rather than some fitspiration douche in melon
colored joggers. People who find the average human to be utterly
disgusting and aren’t afraid to show it, because normality is a disease to be
avoided by anyone with a scintilla of a desire to be someone who shall be
remembered by successive generations.
Lest you think that I am simply holding aloft a
pack of weightlifting sideshow freaks as people to emulate, you needn’t- these
dudes weren’t simply weird and violent for the sake of being weird and violent.
They were weird and violent because it was in their nature to be that
way, and that nature is what propelled them to the top levels of bodybuilding
and the upper echelon of elite strength. Follow in their footsteps or don’t- I don’t give a good goddamn.
just know that the road less traveled is the more interesting one, and
the one from which there is the most to be learned.
Benny Podda Vital
Weight: 215 – 255lbs
Squat: 850lbs x 1 rep; 315lbs
x 50 reps, FOR FIVE SETS
Bent Row (for
Bar balanced on throat, no hands, for more than
a minute: 415lbs
Just the fact that the last bit could be
included is a testament to how goddamned awesome and ridiculous Benny Podda was
in his prime. The man’s life is like a Warner Brothers cartoon come to
life and turned X-rated. He’s trained
elite athletes and blockbuster actors, shunned the spotlight more than he’s
sought it, and combined more esoterica into a single cohesive (at least to him)
training methodology and lifestyle than even Bruce Lee considered doing.
Benny Podda out-weirded dudes in bodybuilding at a time when those dudes
lived on Nubian and cocaine, claiming crazy superpowers like vampirism in
bodybuilding contests that featured everything from Lilliputians to maniacs
who’d jump offstage screaming because they broke both ankles (like Mike Quinn)
but would get high fives rather than medical attention to Jimmy “The Iron
Bull” Pellechia’s outrageous strength stunts consisting of moving massive poundages over short ranges of
motion with a lot of help from spotters and a ton of body English.
know that feeling when you’re blowing your load?” he asks. “Instead
of letting that go out, you reverse the whole thing. It feels like your body is
on f***ing FIRE! I lift weights with that [energy] coursing through my body and
my ticking testosterone a thousand-times normal–’cause I just f***ed
myself.” Then he smiles calmly. “See? That’s why I can hang 220
pounds from my f***in’ nuts.”
Frankly, I’ve no idea if it helps or hurts to
list the weirdest bits about Benny first. Redditors would argue that it
hurts, due to the fact they think his eccentricity discredits his entire
methodology. Given that I’m inclined to do the exact opposite of whatever
Reddit says, I’ll begin with what I consider to be the best parts about a guy
who likely warmed up with the best lifts r/weight room has ever posted as max
- He lives in a goddamned cave. That’s right, a cave.
“To get to Benny’s cave, you must first go to a remote
waterfall to be purified. This is especially important for first-timers. You
don’t want the cave to reject you–when this happens, it induces terror.
“Your soul is rented from your body in a spiritual tear,” Benny
explains. So, you suffer the pain and indignities of purification. The water
pours down on you with the shocking force of spiritual flagellation.
The cave’s climate is reminiscent of Podda’s Pittsburgh: hotter
than hell in the summer, freezing cold in the winter. The cave has been
inhabited for thousands of years, Benny says, and it leads to an outdoor
amphitheater with perfect acoustics that can only be reached via the cave. ‘The
opening is a vaginal orifice. In initiation ceremonies, the Cahuilla would pass
through it one by one to be ‘reborn’ as warriors'” (O’Connell).
- He takes training like an escaped mental patient to an
entirely different level.
Forget Intensity or Insanity, Blood and Guts, and all the other
rhabdo-inducing, man-killer regimes of which you’ve heard. Podda’s
methodology makes all that crap look like the produce of a bottom-tier USAPL
lifter’s mind… if you discount the fact that information on the Mongols’
training techniques is, at best, extremely scanty.
“Philosophically, Benny merges German Sturm und Drang,
Eastern asceticism and a lot of other really weird s***. “My physical
training is based on the philosophies of Genghis Khan,” Benny says.
“He taught his troops the importance of exterior and interior training.
His warriors learned how to turn themselves inside out so that they could
project their inner power out like lightning” (O’Connell).
- His psych up methods make even WSM-era Kaz look like a
vanilla chai latte sipping vegan men’s physique competitor.
He once ran straight through a wall, Wile E. Coyote-style, to
psych himself up for a heavy lift. In another fit of apparent Super
Saiyanism, Benny ran full tilt into a lineman from the Pittsburgh Steelers, who
was not lifting but talking on a pay phone. Not only did this early
predecessor to crowd killing crush CYC’s best efforts to date just on their
face, but Podda managed not only to knock a 285 lb. man who benched over 600lbs
ass over teakettle, but he headbutted him with such force that
the pay phone was ripped out of the goddamned wall.
- He had a bizarre pharmacological and herbological
regimen that led to stuff like this:
“Fueled by everything from the visualization techniques of
Vipasanna Buddhism to anabolic steroids and herbal concoctions that he drank
from root-filled mayonnaise jars, Benny trained like a human wrecking ball.
Manion recalls walking into his establishment one day and seeing Benny doing
reps with his head wrapped in a blood-drenched towel, others scattered nearby.
“The cable had snapped on a long cable-row machine and the handle had hit him
on the head,” recalls Manion. “He had to keep replacing the towels
when they got soaked with blood. I made a guy take him to the hospital, and it
took 12 stitches to close the open wound in his head” (O’Connell).
- He transcends every possible conception of what is
“cool,” “possible,” or “human,” and shows
just how goddamned brutal people can be if they stop letting society
dictate what their behavior should be, think for themselves, and not be
afraid to try stuff that is so far out of the box they’ve forgotten what
boxes look like.
“I have seen Benny break bricks with magazines, crush
coconuts with his bare hands, squirt blood out of his nose, and swing 225
pounds from his testicles. This is NOT Benny being crazy, this is him
transferring energy and power to accomplish what he wants accomplished. He puts
himself in a state of mind that defies any normal brain patterns you and I may
have which gives him the ability to do these abnormal things, like take a 2×4
to the gut and smile while doing it. When Benny was doing his body building
contests, he would invite a couple people from the audience to come up and hit
him with 2×4’s while he did his routine. Nothing is normal with Benny, normal
is boring to him” (O’Connell).
Quite frankly, with a laundry list of violent
peculiarities like that, you’d assume some sort of fittingly comic-book-esque
backstory, like the man was raised in the weight room of an insane asylum by a
kindly, elderly Chinese orderly and his trained attack monkeys.
Tragically, it was nothing so interesting, and no one could have
predicted upon Podda’s birth the path his life would take.Born in a tiny mining town east of Pittsburgh
into an old bootlegging family, Podda’s boredom in a small town led to his
involvement in a variety of extra-legal activities that definitively included
car theft and possibly included acting as muscle for local mobsters. What
the mob was doing in Bumblef***, Pennsylvania is absolutely anyone’s guess, but
that allegedly led to Benny being sent to China to live with a family friend
for five years.Given that we had
neither travel nor trade with Nixon until the mid-to-late 1970s, that story is
almost certainly specious.What did
happen is that Benny acted like a complete goddamned maniac and tried to rob
a pharmacy with a goddamned bow and arrow. He was apparently shot in
that failed attempt at stone age weaponry to secure painkillers and landed his
happy ass in prison.
Substitute a couple of
letters after the “S” and swap a blind kid in a hospital for a
murderous psychopath in solitary confinement and this could be a case of art
imitating life, because Stick wasn’t introduced until 1981 and Podda might’ve
met The Swan in the 1970s.
Prison only served to make the already nutty
Benny even stranger, and in a story seemingly lifted right out of a Daredevil
comic book Podda was taught to master his chi by a man in solitary confinement
known as “The Swan”… after beating his cellmate half to death with
a food tray. While Podda mastered his chi he apparently spent long hours
reading various esoterica like the Bhagavad Gita, and he emerged from jail even
more peculiar than he was when he entered.Nevertheless, he went on to nab a football scholarship at the University
of Richmond, where he majored in biochemistry, but he ended up doing more
drinking than training and studying and was expelled.
At some point in this story, Benny Podda started
lifting, and he discovered he was a goddamned badass at it. After
dabbling in powerlifting he gravitated toward bodybuilding and became a legend
in the East Coast bodybuilding scene for his psychotic training style and zany
posing routines. Benny knew he lacked the classic lines of the pretty
boys of that era like Mohammed Makkawwy, Chris Dickerson, and Samir Bannout, so
he went the other way and tried to drive his black-hole-dense physique to the
limits of thickness and vascularity. Doing that, however, required him to
take it to the extreme… which to Benny seems to have meant that he had to
live in a small, windowless room with nothing but a cot and a stack of books.Apparently, his “Spartan lifestyle was a
purposeful attempt to avoid distractions from his goals. So devoted was he to
his goals that “The Beast” would wake up three hours before his 6:30 AM workout
to perform Taoist meditation” (Colescott). By the time he got
onstage, Benny was completely unhinged, and his performances reflected his
mental state- he’d flex so hard blood would spurt out of his goddamned nose,
rock Wolfman masks, and do other bizarre stuff, including the one time he hung
himself for 5 straight minutes and then lifted his head and gave the audience
the finger before cutting himself down.