Update: Tad Barbee placed third in the World Powerlifting Championships in Moscow, Russia this month with a 584 pound squat, 473 pound bench press and 600 pound deadlift. Congratulations Tad and Team USA on this incredible accomplishment.
Strength comes in many forms: character, skills, mental, spiritual and, of course, physical.
Nuclear Security Officer Geromy “Tad” Barbee simply owns strength in all its forms.
While his day job is working as a highly trained security officer at Catawba Nuclear Station, Barbee is also a champion powerlifter.
At the American Powerlifting Federation’s Equipped National Powerlifting Championships in June, he set a world record in bench press (473 pounds); a national deadlift record (627 pounds); and eight state records in bench press, deadlifts and squats. His national titles qualified him to compete as a member of Team USA at the World Powerlifting Championships in Moscow, Russia, in Novenber.
To put those numbers into perspective, consider that Arnold Schwarzenegger weighs 249 pounds, so Barbee bench pressed one-and-a-half Schwarzeneggers. And deadlifted nearly 63 10-pound bags of potatoes at the same time!
Short in stature, but large in muscles and personality, 39-year-old Barbee began weightlifting as a high-school freshman. He wrestled during the fall semester, but started lifting in January, maxing 95 pounds in his first bench-press attempts. By the end of that year, he’d hit 300 pounds, and eventually set the bench-press record of 420 pounds at Crest High School in Shelby, N.C.
“My dad lifted weights all his life,” says Barbee. “But he was tall and skinny and couldn’t gain weight to save his life. He worked at Lithium Corporation in Bessemer City. There was a gym at the plant and he used to take me in there and show me off.”
After high school, Barbee served in the U.S. Army for five years as a military policeman. Not interested in a career in law enforcement, he worked in construction before applying for a security position at Catawba Nuclear Station York County, S.C. He joined the team in 2005.
Captain Johnny Dean has been Barbee’s supervisor for more than three years. “He wins everything, but he’s very humble. He’s dedicated both on and off the job and performs well at whatever he does.”
Barbee only started powerlifting three years ago. Previously, he had competed solely in bench-press competitions.
“I’ve always been at powerlifting gyms, but I never had the confidence in myself or in my form to compete,” he says. “One day, I just decided ‘I’m going to do it.’ I trained, went to a competition in Rock Hill and won.”
Barbee has never lost a competition since. In fact, he has never even come in second place.
He explains the difference between weightlifting and powerlifting this way: “Weightlifting you do casually for fitness, or bodybuilders will lift to mold muscles. In powerlifting, you’re judged on who can lift the most weight with the correct form three times in three different lifts: bench press, deadlift and squat. There’s a lot of strategy in those three lifts. I love it because it’s so challenging,” he says.
More about Tad Barbee
Number of records held: 1 world, 9 national, 26 state.
His grocery bills alone (not his entire family’s) top $400 per month.
He drinks four protein shakes a day.
His winning bench press of 473 pounds is in the top one-percent of lifts in the world. He calls it “play weight.”
He competes in only two or three competitions a year.
When he competed at the national competition in June, Barbee beat seven other people in his weight class (242 pounds) in his first contest since tearing a bicep tendon deadlifting at a meet in January 2016. “It sounded like a tree branch breaking. It was the last lift of the day and I’d already won. It happened so quickly, it didn’t hurt, but it bruised my whole arm.” Surgery sidelined him from both work and lifting until that April.
At nationals, his last – and winning – deadlift was 628 pounds: the same weight he was lifting when his tendon tore.
When he competes at the world competition, Barbee will be shooting for an open world record in his weight class “because I want to beat everybody, not just guys my age. In Russia, there will be professional lifters, people who get paid to lift,” he points out, “I don’t. I get paid to protect a nuclear power plant.”
Barbee is quick to draw parallels between his career and his hobby, noting that staying in shape not only helps him win weightlifting competitions, but perform well in his day job.
And you can best believe that when he travels around the world to compete with 48 other American powerlifters and own some more world records, he’ll carry the strength of his Catawba teammates with him.