Country Crush recently had the chance to speak with phenom from Conneticut, rising women’s star Kayley Lewis!
Q. So Kayley, how old are you?
KL. I just turned 14.
Q. At what age did you become interested in the sport of armwrestling and why?
KL. At age 13, last year and because my dad competes as well.
Q. Who is your biggest inspiration in the sport?
KL. My teammate, Cathy Merrill. She is a multi-time national champion, and she is always helping me in one way or another. Also, my coach, Badger Drewes from Granite Arms. He pushes me hard to do my best. .
Q. If there was one person you could meet involved in the sport, who would it be?
KL. Lincoln Hawk…Does that Count?
Q. What do your friends think of your passion for armwrestling?
KL. They are indifferent to it. But that is because they haven’t seen it. I brought my friend, Hannah, to practice one day and got her on the table. She did well and thought it was a lot of fun.
Q. Do any of them try to challenge you?
KL. The boys do, but they don’t know what what a top roll is, haha
Q. Who are your biggest fans and supporters?
KL. My parents would be.
Q. What are some of your training secrets?
KL. It’s not really a secret, but I’ve been doing karate for about five years now. I compete at tournaments in sparring, forms, weapons, and board breaking. I’m also on the demo team, and an assistant instructor at my dojo, Body Works. I think a lot of the fitness and discipline I get from karate has helped me in arm wrestling.
Q. Do you train with any special equipment?
KL. Yes, I use my dad’s stuff. Mostly, the Wrist Wrench, the yellow ball handgrips, and the Country Crush.
Q. Tell us what some of your biggest wins are.
KL. My first tournament at the Maine State Championship in March, 2015. I took second place in kids 13-16, and third place in women’s novice right hand, 0-145 lb.
Q. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to begin competing in armwrestling?
KL. Be serious about your training, don’t goof around with the equipment, and put a lot of effort into your training. But mostly, just have fun.
Q. Who would you like to arm wrestle and get a win over?
KL. Dawson Lane from Maine, and Alexia Maxwell from Rhode Island. They are both great arm wrestlers.
I had the privilege of interviewing Joe Musselwhite for the Country Crush and I hope that you enjoy what you read.
(Joe Musselwhite, pictured with some of his collection)
(Q) Are you married and have children?
(A) Family/Marriage: I am married to my amazing wife Tonya and I have 3 (grown) children. Kristi, Shane and Cody .
(Q) When did you start your Grip Museum?
(A) I started my Grip Museum officially in early 2012 and it has been an ongoing project with NEW grippers from donations to my own purchases. Many people think that I sell grippers but I do NOT! I am a collector and I have a deep passion for ALL things Grip!
(Q) What do you think about steroids?
(A) My position on steroids is pretty simple and straightforward! I try to deal with reality and not what I would I wish or would like things to be. With that being said there’s one thing for certain that one can say concerning steroids and that is “Steroids are never going away and rather one uses them or not is a CHOICE”! One thing people seem to forget is that steroids have many uses besides performance enhancement. They are also used in therapeutic cases were an individual cannot produce enough testosterone to maintain a normal level for a healthy lifestyle. This is especially true for males over 45 years of age that begin a natural decline in testosterone levels to a point that it becomes a health concern. Not enough testosterone can be as unhealthy as an individual that abuses steroids and maintains supra normal levels that throws an individual’s system totally out of balance! When someone introduces a substance exogenously (derived externally) to their bodies then it throws something else out of balance and there has to be a compensation. This is where people get into trouble mainly because they have followed non-medical advice or they have failed to research the substances they have chosen to use. Bottom line is if you make a choice to use steroids then at least make an informed decision by seeing a doctor that specializes in Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) and avoid all the bro science out there that is getting people into trouble and leaving them worse off than when they started! One of the biggest issues I currently see is people deciding to use steroids and they never get any blood work done whatsoever! This is flirting with disaster! Plain and simple!
I guess I could put it like this: CHOICE, EDUCATE, CONSEQUENCES! You make a CHOICE. You EDUCATE yourself as much as possible and then determine if the CONSEQUENCES outweigh the benefits. If the consequences outweigh the benefits then your CHOICE should be obvious!
(Q) What do you think about The Country Crush handle?
(A) The Country Crush Handle changed everything for me and much of my training! The CC handle has many positive things going for it! 1) Variety in handle diameters! This is a huge benefit especially when you can interchange handle diameters without having to purchase a separate base unit. 2) The positioning of the handles is ideal for so many applications especially for the competitive arm wrestler! The position of the handles on the unit closely mimic your hand position when AW’ing. 3) Durable and well built! 4) Portability which allows one to take the CC Handle to the gym or to a training session elsewhere! 5) Multi-purpose, meaning one can use the CC Handle instead of conventional implements to train the same movements/exercises. For example, seated rowing, seated or standing pull downs, pull-ups, 2 handed deadlifts, wrist curls with band attachments and so many more! One thing I especially like is attaching bands to the CC Handle and performing my movements with a different type of resistance that more closely mimics the elastic composition of muscle tissue! To me this is a huge benefit of attaching bands (overcoming a resistance) instead of weights (overcoming gravity).
(Q) What are your thoughts on the Country Crush adjustable load pin?
(A) The Country crush Adjustable Loading Pin is a great addition to the Country Crush lineup for several reasons: 1) the height of the pin is adjustable to allow for more or less weight. 2) The upright pin is the standard 1” diameter but the support plate welded to the bottom of the shaft is large enough to accommodate Olympic size plates as well! I personally tested this adjustable weight pin with 350 pounds in both static and dynamic situations and the pin never gave any indication of failure of any type! Based on my own testing and experience with the CC adjustable weight pin I can say that I believe it’s a WINNER!
(Q) What devices would you recommend for maximum grip strength?
(A) Depending on what aspects of grip strength (crushing, pinch, support, etc) you are speaking of there are many devices that allow one to train for maximum grip strength. For example, any type of thick bar (revolving or non-revolving) implements give great results for increasing one’s overall grip strength and it carries over nicely to the other areas of grip as well! Another example would be pinch training with block weights rather they be blobs, steel block weights, loadable blocks, weight plates with smooth sides out, etc. This in my opinion is one of the most effective ways to strengthen ones grip overall for several reasons: 1) one can vary the thickness of the implements to train specific ranges of motion from narrow to wide. 2) Many exercise can be performed with a pinch specific grip. For example one could perform plate curls which trains a specific component of the grip and the wrist. Deadlifts can be performed with a pinch grip if you have a Apollon’s Axle or a similar device perhaps made from a wooden plank or even attach pinch blocks to weight pegs. It boils down to one’s imagination really! It’s never about the device or implement! It’s about the training method(s) one uses that is optimal for that individual at that specific time. As one progresses the variables can and will change. So again it boils down to what’s optimal for the individual based on their unique and specific needs. Lastly, none of what I just stated really matters if one is not consistent! I cannot emphasis consistency enough in one’s training! Consistency beats intensity every time!!!
(Q) Where would you rank the Country Crush handle amongst the other handles out there?
(A) As far as rating the Country Crush Handle amongst all the other handles out there (most of which are in my collection) I would have to honestly say that each and every handle has its own unique and specific function. I don’t believe in stating there’s a BEST grip implement out there! It’s just not an accurate statement because what may be best for one individual may not be best for the next individual! Plus there is so many factors one would have to sort out to conclude that there’s a BEST implement out there! A better question would be, BEST for whom and for what specific need? What may be a need today may not be a need in 3 months. Hope this makes sense!
(Q) How long have you been collecting grip devices?
(A) I have been collecting grip devices since the early 90’s. My mentor and dear friend Richard Sorin gave me my first taste of the Grip Addiction and I have been addicted ever since! It all started when Richard sent me a series of grip articles from various magazines. I already had several original Iron Man grippers I had bought from Warren Tetting (which I now regret selling or giving them away back in the day)! Then I started to buying grippers here and there and the next thing I know I have a bunch of grippers and grip devices so I thought why not just collect them? The accumulation of all these grippers gave rise to the idea to start my Grip Museum like I did in early 2012. Instead of just storing them in boxes or leaving them lying around I thought why not display them where others can see and appreciate them as well? Now I have the World’s Largest Private Collection of Hand Grippers/Grips which I officially established on September 1st of 2014. At that time the collection had 338 hand grippers from 17 different countries with over 40 brand names. Now the collection is over 400 hand grippers! This is not counting the hundreds of other grip devices and implements I have in the collection as well as a fairly large collection of historical literature, magazines, books, pictures, cards, etc.
(Q) Have you thought about arm wrestling?
(A) It’s funny you asked if I have thought about arm wrestling! I just assumed you knew that I’m a retired professional arm wrestler and I was a silver medalist (2nd place) in the 1991 AAA Stand Up Nationals in the men’s RH, 90kg weight class in Houston Texas. I arm wrestled from 1979 to 1994. I retired due to shoulder issues from years of pulling and training for arm wrestling. I then begin to referee numerous tournaments of which one was a Texas State Tournament. I would not take for my experiences that I had from my arm wrestling career! I met and trained with so many great pullers and made many lifelong friends! I guess I am considered the older generation of pullers along with other names such as the Patton brothers, Cleve Dean, John Brzenk, Johnny Walker, Al Turner, Bobby Hopkins, Wes Atkins, James Anderson (my mentor in arm wrestling), and so many more!
(Q) In your opinion who has or has the greatest grip?
(A) Who has the greatest grip of All time and who has the greatest grip currently is a difficult question to answer without any qualifiers such as what area of grip so the most accurate answer I can give you is who I believe was strong in nearly all areas of grip. Past greatest from my own research and opinion would have to be Herman Goerner! He had enormous grip strength in all areas of grip! In crushing strength he squeezed a whopping 300+ lbs. on a Collins Grip Dynamometer that was brand new! Edgar Mueller pulled one out of his pocket as a surprise challenge for Herman to see what he could squeeze! Herman gave it a mighty squeeze and in an instant they heard a metallic click and they further noticed that the needle had went all the way around back to zero! After close inspection Edgar realized that Herman not only pegged the dynamometer but he broke it! Herman also pinched 111 lbs with one hand and it seemed as if he didn’t even try according to Edgar Muller in his book, Goerner The Mighty. The weight consisted of weight plates with a wooden peg running the center of the plates to hold them together. The most amazing grip feat that Herman did was a one hand deadlift of 727 lbs. which to date has not even come close by anyone! It should be noted that this was on a revolving type bar at that the time! So you have the 3 main areas of grip (crushing, pinch, supporting) covered in these 3 feats alone not to mention many other grip feats he performed in his career! For the current greatest grip in my estimation would have to be Laine Snook from England! I am in no way disrespecting or trying to exclude many other super strong grip athletes of today I am simply stating my opinion based on my own research and what I have witnessed on video and from witnesses present at the time of his grip feats! Laine has enormous strength in all areas of grip! He has cleaned the Thomas inch DB! Lifted both Millenium DB’s at the same time! Squeezed a level 21 on a Vulcan Hand gripper! Pinch lifted the Blobzilla! Lifted 350+ on Rolling thunder type handle and many more feats that could be mentioned. All one has to do is check out his feats on YouTube and then decide for themselves and compare to other top grip strength athletes! Now if we are talking pound for pound grip athletes then this changes everything as we have the enormous grip feats from the likes of Bob Sundin, Adam T. Glass, Andrew Durniat, Eric Milfeld and a fast rising and ultra strong Darrin Shallman!
I hope this has satisfied your inquiries and questions and I feel honored and privileged to have been asked for this interview for the Country Crush Team! Thanks so much for this opportunity! It has been sheer joy answering your questions!
Stay Strong and Have a Grip Day!!!
I want to say thank you Joe Musselwhite for taking time out of your schedule to let us into the mind of a grip expert. I hope that one day we get to meet.
Interviewed by, James Orlando
First I would like to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to let people into your life. I’m looking forward to learning what it takes to become an elite athlete like yourself. So here we go.
(Q)How long have you been arm wrestling?
(A) I have been arm wrestling professionally for 7 years.
(Q)Who got you started?
(A)I got myself started. I worked security at clubs and bars in NYC and I used to beat all the other bouncers, so I saw a tournament online and I entered the amateur class and went undefeated. 12-0 that
was actually the first time I saw an arm wrestling table. That was April 2009. Next tournament I pulled pro.
(Q)What arm wrestler dead or alive has inspired you the most?
(A)The puller that inspired me the most was Richard Lupkes, watched old YouTube videos of him in 1980s gym pants at the sit down tournaments jacked out of his mind and smashing people.
(Q)What kind of equipment do you use?
(A)I’m not a huge equipment guy when I train arm wrestling, but I do like the country crush and top roller.
(Q)What do you think about the Country Crush Handle?
(A) The country crush handle is a very innovative piece of equipment, it really works your hands wrist and forearms, I definitely advise everyone to incorporate this into their workouts.
(Q)What are your thoughts on the use of steroids in the sport and do you think they should ban them?
(A)It’s a complicated issue and a moral issue. Obviously steroids are in every sport, has been for over 50 years, it’s a personal choice if you want to use or not. Everyone wants an edge and being in a sport where power is 70% of you winning people will do what they have to do to win. Period. No I do not think they should be banned.
(Q)Now there’s WAL,PAL,UAL and so on. What do think about leagues and arm wrestler contracts?
(A) I am signed to WAL for 5 years, and I’m very happy I did. Steve Kaplan is a fair guy, lets us pull in tournaments that are not UAL, PAL which is fine, I mean I was invited to ZLOTY TUR. And Vendetta this year but wasn’t allowed. Whatever that’s the business end I guess, all good.
So are you excited about your super match with Robbie Topie at the Battle In The Desert 2 in September?
(A) I cant wait for this tournament its going to be sick. I’m pulling Robbie Topie (Righty) thank god lol but the amount of talent that will be there is going to be epic. Probably best tournament of 2016
(Q)Where do you see the Sport in 5 years?
(A) I see it growing, there’s a ton of talent coming out.
(Q) Do you think the tv show Game Of Arms boosted the sport?
(A)GOA has definitely boosted the sport big time. we. had over 1 million viewers and it showed people what. arm wrestling is all about. I was glad to be part of it.
(Q)What do you think would help arm wrestling become a mainstream sport like football,soccer,baseball,and basketball?
(A)I hope so! I wouldn’t mind a multi million dollar deal , tanning and waxing gets expensive!
(Q)How long have you been married?
(A)Married to my wife Lenore for 12 years.
(Q)How many kids do you have?
(A)We have 3 boys.
(Q)Where did you go to high school at?
(A) I went to Bayside High School in queens NY ..no I didn’t go to school with Zack Morris and A.C slater.
Well there’s a small part of Mikes life , I hope that you enjoy and learn what it takes to be an Elite athlete.