I’ve been active in bodybuilding since my junior year in high school. To me, bodybuilding has always been more than how you look, how big your muscles are, or how small your waist is. To me, it’s about what can you do with those muscles? Can you run faster, can you lift heavier, are you a better athlete as a result of those muscles?
Chuck Sipes is a prime example of this. Chuck Harry Sipes was born on August 22, 1932 in Sterling, Illinois. He was the youngest of 2 sons and spent a lifetime following the bodybuilding lifestyle. Strength training transformed him from a skinny teenager to a world famous bodybuilder. In junior high school in Modesto, California, Sipes was just an average athlete. When he was 16, the coach told him that he was too small for football, so he did what any warrior would do. He started lifting weights to get bigger and stronger. Ironically, his neighbor was a man named Chuck Coker who helped 16 year old Chuck Sipes with his weight training. Chuck Coker went on to assist in establishing the Universal Gym Equipment Company.
In 1950, Chuck joined the United States Army as a paratrooper. While training at Fort Benning, Georgia, his parachute failed to open during a routine practice jump and Chuck luckily got tangled up with another trooper, before free-falling around 70 feet to the ground. He spent 4 months in Walter Reed Army Hospital, with severe head injuries. The accident apparently triggered recurring epileptic seizures and may have contributed to the fits of depression Sipes experienced later in life.
Discharged in 1952, Chuck enrolled at Modesto Junior College and was back playing football under his former high school coach, Chuck Coker. His deepest ambition, however, was to gain top honors in bodybuilding, although he preferred to handle heavy weights rather than practice posing. Chuck went on to win the 1959 IFBB “Mr. America”, the 1960 IFBB “Mr. Universe”, the 1967 NABBA “Mr. World” and the 1968 IFBB “Mr. World” titles. He reached his goal of winning a “past 40” contest by capturing the “Mr. Pacific Coast” titled at age 41.
Chuck enjoyed preaching the merits of strength training and in the 1960’s, he organized the American Bodybuilding Club, which required a one dollar fee to join. He gave exhibitions and lectures promoting fitness and recreation at schools, churches, colleges and service academies. Following his competitive bodybuilding career, he began working with the physically and mentally handicapped. A man of many talents, he painted Western landscapes and scenes featuring 19th century mountain men.
Sipes spent over 20 years working for the California Youth Authority, and the California School System, where he took troubled teenagers on week-long trips to the mountains and taught them to rely on teamwork for survival. A large majority of teenagers who came under his supervision changed their lives for the better. Chuck said, “One of my objectives was to win the kids over to Christianity, and introduce them to a more positive way of life. It may not have been the answer for all, but it was a start in the right direction.”
Chuck Sipes took his own life on February 24, 1993, at the age of 61. In 2002, he was posthumously inducted into the Joe Weider Hall Of Fame. Chuck was married with kids.
Excerpt from “Legends Of The Iron Game”