Barbell Club is hidden community gem open to all ages for strength, fitness

Clifford J. Smith photo
Robert Brown (at left) and Jim Chappelow (at right) congratulate Brennan Ramirez (center) for pulling an 8,000 pound pickup during the Glenrock Barbell Club’s practice June 17. The members of the club will be participating in a novice level Strong Man competition during Deer Creek Days June 25.

Robert Brown pulls a roughly 8,000-pound truck using his strength and sheer will June 17 at the Glenrock Barbell Club’s practice.

By: 
RJ Morgan

When Jim Chappelow and his wife, Sarah, moved across country from New Hampshire to Glenrock in the fall of 2021, the  professional powerliftering couple noticed something missing in the community. Missing was an opportunity for the young and young at heart to boost a healthier lifestyle through strength training and competitive weight lifting.
At first, Jim and Sarah visited Casper and liked what they saw in a city with a big population (by Wyoming standards) that could support his dream of  opening a strength-training club. However, they saw Glenrock on the map and noticed it wasn’t far from Casper so they made the short drive east and it was love at first sight.
“We fell in love with Glenrock the first time we visited. It’s a very small community filled with caring, loving people,” Jim said. He didn’t care that the population was much less than the Oil City. “I’ll never leave Glenrock. I’m here for good. When you could go anywhere in town and (run into) someone who knows you or you know them, that’s what home is.”
Months after relocating, Jim and a few dedicated members of the rec center put his plan into immediate action. In January 2022, Glenrock Barbell Club was born and the 45-year-old powerlifter known affectionately by his lifters and around town as “Big Jim” spends seven days a week – around his full-time job – growing the club as president and head coach in the small community of about 2,400 people.
The Glenrock Barbell Club will have its biggest public event at Deer Creek Days with a new Strong Man Competition. The inaugural event, which will be held at Town Park on the baseball field, will allow the community to see the work put in by the lifters and perhaps add a few new members to the club.
The club didn’t host the contest last year, but many remember Jim from entering the club into the Deer Creek Days parade to promote the non-profit weight-training facility.
“I pulled a 7,000-pound truck for a half mile for our float. It was quite a challenge but I pulled it off,” Jim said, who noted the club will be in this year’s parade as well.
“To encourage local participation at out first Strong Man Contest, this year is strictly for novices, first-time lifters new to the sport. In future years we plan to offer an open division for more experienced strength athletes,” Jim explained. 
“This competition is held in honor of 1915 World’s Strongest Man, Noah ‘Sport’ Young Jr., who was from Glenrock. It’s our primary club fund raiser for the year which helps pay for the general operations of the club, like uniforms for the kids who compete and our supplemental nutrition program for after school lifters.”
Bringing such an important asset to the community requires some help from home. The Glenrock Recreation Center helped make it happen.
“We started the club at the rec center and have always had it here. Our partnership with the rec center has been absolutely key to our success. We run our competition team for all ages, our Summer Strength Camp and free after-school lifting program for kids, and periodic adult fitness classes all out of the rec center,” Jim explained.
 
THE PASSION
TO BEGIN
Living a life of weight training and lifting made the decision easy for Jim in his new hometown. He and Sarah want others to have a chance to develop the same healthy passion for iron.
“For many years prior to moving here, Sarah and I have been competing in strength sports (powerlifting, strongman, Armlifting/grip sport and highland games). We’ve both won a number of titles and Sarah is the current world champion in armlifting, with numerous world and national records,” Jim said. “I’ve worked as a strength coach and personal trainer since 2015 and have been organizing strength competitions since 2016. We always planned on continuing our lifting careers when we moved here. Having good training partners and training in a positive social atmosphere is an important part of that.”
The power couple wants to share their love of strength sport with the community, recruit a team of solid training partners, and help people in Glenrock explore and enjoy the benefits of dedicated strength training.
Jim and his wife welcome all levels of strength training to the barbell family. Having a varied of talents is the foundation to a successful program.
“We have seen everything from dedicated, competitive strength athletes to regular people just looking to stay in decent shape or try something new. People who are looking for a competitive challenge and motivating team training environment can try out for our competition team. That level of competition is not for everyone, and adults who just want to learn how to lift and get in shape instead do things like our ElkFit! and kettlebell challenge programs,” Jim said. “Many of our lifters are younger and train with us during their off-season from competitive team sports at their school or recreational leagues, through our free after-school weights program or the Summer Strength Camp.” 
The Glenrock Barbell Club welcomes new and seasoned lifters of all ages, which makes it a unique and inclusive club. Currently, the age range of lifters are 12 to 45 but any and all are welcome.
 
THE BENEFITS
Some might see weight lifting has simply bulking up, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The benefits are endless in establishing or maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
“Strength training has all kinds of benefits for physical and mental health. For young people especially, it improves sports performance and instills a dedicated approach to fitness and training that will hopefully stick with them,” Jim said. “Our young lifters jump higher, move faster and hit harder in their sports, and school fitness assessments as result of the work they put in with us.”
The youngest of the club members have the weight room to themselves daily at noon. It gives them the chance to work out with others in their age range.
“We ran our first Summer Strength Camp in the summer of 2022, so this year is our second year. Its a mostly a mix of kids who go on to be competitive lifters for our team and elite-level athletes who want to take their sports career to the next level. We help them get there,” Jim said. “Our facility is small and we are still developing our coaching staff, so we can handle 10 per year, which we have filled both years. As I train up more coaches from our senior lifters and our summer coaching internship program we hope to expand that if there is sufficient demand from the community.”
Teens make up a bulk of the club but there are many adults    in the club as well as younger members who are not in sports.
 “Strength training is widely recognized to improve quality of life, reduce the risks of age-related physical and mental decline, and reduce all-cause mortality significantly at all ages,” Jim explained. “The sport of strongman in particular has enormous carry-over to basic tasks like moving furniture, carrying heavy objects around a work site, loading things up into a truck, or recovering a stuck vehicle. Stronger people are just more useful in general.” 
 
DEER CREEK DAYS
The first Strong Man Contest will feature five different lifts. It will showcase the variety of lifts in the sport to show just a few perks of strength training to spectators learning about the club and its benefits.
The five events will be include; Double-Over-hand Truck Axle Dead lift (tests grip and back strength); Log Clean and Press (full body lift in which a steel log is lifted over head); Frame Carry (test of core and leg strength and speed); Arm-Over-Arm Truck Pull (athletes pull a truck attached to a heavy rope); and  Keg-Over-Bar Load (involves lifting a loading heavy kegs over a bar multiple times). 
It’s the first of three competitions the club will host this summer. Next, Glenrock Barbell Club hosts hometown competitions July 15 and Aug. 12, and the public is always welcome as well as those considering joining to see what the sport has to offer.
 
TRAINING
YEAR ROUND
With club members juggling different schedules, commitments and goals, the club is open for strength training and coaching every week of every month.
“We compete year-round at home meets here in Glenrock, around Wyoming and around the U.S. for national and world championships. In addition to Glenrock’s Strongest Man, we have two home meets booked at the Glenrock Library’s new Meeting Hall:  the US Strengthlifting Summer Classic on July 15th and the Glenrock Summer “Brodown” on August 12,” Jim said. “Those of us who just compete in strength sports usually compete 3-5 times a year with a few months of training prep in between. For those who do other team sports for school and rec leagues, that usually means they compete 1-2 times a year as culminating events to organize their off-season training from other sports. That way we send them back to their team sports in peak condition - stronger, faster, more explosive.
 
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
The power couple has led a life of success in strength. Since moving to Glenrock, Sarah has added to her impressive with a record-breaking performance last year in the Armlifting USA Arnold Armlifting Championship at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio.
Sarah represented the Glenrock Barbell Club and won the women’s 80kg+ division where she set new Armlifting USA records in all three contest events, lifting 72.5kg (160lbs) on the Rolling Thunder One Arm Dead lift, 132.5kg (292lbs) on the Apollon’s Axle Double Overhand Deadlift and the 72.5kg (160lbs) on the Saxon Bar Deadlift.”
Armlifting is a sport wherein a weight is lifted or manipulated with a predominant dependence on grip strength. Armlifting began as a single-discipline grip competition (Rolling Thunder) and since expanded to include multiple events, with multiple classes, opening the sport to more people.
The next Sarah could be in Glenrock and the journey is available at the rec center for all girls and boys, new and experienced to the sport.
“Our goal with this program is to get as many Glenrock kids as we can jacked, fast and strong for their team sports and recruit new lifters for our competition team,” Jim said. “We want to put Glenrock on the map for strength sports and have the best conditioned team sports athletes around.“
 
For more information about the Glenrock Barbell Club, reach out to Jim by phone or text message at (802) 373 1853 or via email at glenrockbarbellclub@gmail.com

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