Several decades ago, Eddie Swanson was beat up by his cruel classmates everyday.
“When I was a kid, I was bullied. I used to get beat up quite often,” he said with a laugh.
Little did his tormentors know that their scrawny victim would grow up to become the strongest man in Tennessee.
Swanson, 53, is a power-lifting personal trainer who set a national power curl record at the World Natural Power-lifting Federation Nationals in 2010.
He was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records for curling 70 pounds 525 times in 60 minutes. That same year, he became the WNPF Tennessee State Champion, WNPF National Champion, and received the “Outstanding Lifter” title.
At 5'9" and 198 pounds, he has the strength of at least three men combined.
To top it off, Swanson is a third-degree black belt in Shotokan Karate. He is also a two-time world record-holder and three-time national champion.
The Murfreesboro resident has been featured in magazines such as Sports Illustrated, Black Belt, Pure Power, Muscle and Fitness, and Power-lifting U.S.A.
Originally from Kingston, Jamaica, Swanson moved to the United States when he was 9 years old and settled in Chattanooga.
As a kid, Swanson was skinny and miniscule. His small stature and strange Jamaican accent got him routinely beaten up and ridiculed by his new classmates.
Things began to change after Swanson began to read bodybuilding magazines at his job. The young boy admired the physiques of men like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
One Christmas, his mother bought him his first set of weights, and soon enrolled him into a free karate class.
Overtime, Swanson began to bulk up, initially hoping for revenge against his bullies.
Instead, he realized that he loved what he was doing and kept at it, refusing to seek revenge on his tormenters, who were now scared and running.
Swanson began his career as a bodybuilder.
At the age of 25, he won his first bodybuilding competition and was named “Mr. Georgia.” However, his stint as a bodybuilder did not last long.
“I switched over to power-lifting because I got tired of shaving my whole body. It got to be hectic. Power-lifting is how much weight you can lift, as opposed to how good you look on stage,” he said.
So Swanson took his talents to the silver screen and now has two minor movie roles to his credit. He appeared as an extra in the fighting film, “Mortal Kombat,” played a burly prison security guard in “The Fighting Temptations.”
He recalled the producers of the latter film took one look at him and instantly knew that he was the man for the security guard role.
His experience in acting inspired him to want to do more in show business.
Swanson has two television shows he wants to produce. One will be an athletic competition show called “America's Toughest Bouncer” and the other will be called “No Pain No Gain.”
He is looking for channels to pitch the idea to and broadcast the shows and invites anyone interested to contact him. One of the reasons for the shows is to inspire young people.
“Strive to be the best you can be," he said. "Get an education because that's one thing they can never take away from you.”
Swanson ended up in Tennessee because he was interested in becoming the strength and conditioning coach for The Tennessee Titans, so he and his wife recently moved to Middle Tennessee in hopes of Swanson landing the position.
Ironically, his wife got a job but he didn't, something he still laughs about.
Like former heavyweight champion George Foreman, Swanson has a huge, intimidating frame but is one of the most gentle men around.
He credits his mother for this, saying that she installed an important message in him very early in life, which is to “treat others the way you'd like to be treated. Thank God that I had a mother that wanted to see her kids to the best that they could do in life. She was kind of hard. My mom was no joke!”
Swanson overcame a terrible automobile accident on Interstate 24 two years ago that briefly set him back.
Another car ran into him from behind, knocking Swanson unconscious. The power-lifter had to be cut out of his vehicle.
Because of the accident, Swanson suffered a concussion, bumps, bruises and a fractured rib. One of the nurses told him that if it wasn't for his body being in terrific shape, he might not have survived.
Swanson, however, was quick to correct her and tell her that if it wasn't for God he would not have made it.
He has sufficiently recovered, and one of the things he looks forward to doing is winning another world championship.
He plans on going up in weight to 205 pounds and setting another record, so that he can become one of the few power-lifters to hold two world records in two different weight classes at the same time.
Many people with physiques like Swanson have received a little “help” by using steroids. However, Swanson has never used steroids or any other drugs to enhance his body or performance.
“The only thing I do is work out and eat,” he said. Swanson has a workout DVD available, and is always ready to help people get in shape and feel good about themselves. He explained that through physical fitness, a person can't expect to automatically expand their life, but they can improve it. “Fitness is a promise of a better quality of life and I love to promote that,” he said.
Swanson will be 54 years old later this year, but says that he will continue to work out until he's 99 years old.
For more information on Swanson, visit his website at www.epowerfit.com. For seminars and endorsements, call 615-753-2477. For personal training, call 423-208-7968.