To be the ‘strongest kid in the world’ is a childhood dream that never translates into reality for most kids. But Jake Schellenschlager has managed to come very, very close to this goal. Inspiration hit him when he was 12 years old – when he saw his dad working out one day. Jake hasn’t looked back ever since. The 14-year-old American is now a weightlifter who can lift more than twice his own body weight.
At 5 foot 3 inches and 119 pounds, Jake has been setting world records for his weight class (under 123 pounds). Last June, he broke the world record for the squat for his age and weight at the Powerlifting Bench Press Championships in York, Pennsylvania. He lifted 136 kilograms (that’s 300 pounds – more than twice his body weight). Jake has been training for the past two-and-a-half years, without missing a single day. He gets the courage to keep going from his father. “My dad is super strong,” he says. “When I see him, it gives me motivation.” Jake and his dad work out together at their gym in Glen Burnie, Maryland.
According to Jake’s trainer, Mike Sarni, the teenager has displayed astounding mental strength. “He doesn’t feel he can be defeated,” said Sarni. “It is that inner strength that tells him, ‘I can do this.’ Usually, you get that in older, more mature people.” While his face is still that of a sweet little boy, his body is completely the opposite. Jake’s muscles are ripped and you can see the determination etched on his face in his weight lifting pictures.
According to USA Powerlifting, Jake is one of thousands of teens who compete across America. But there are health concerns associated with lifting weights at a very young age. “There is high risk to heavy maximal lifts or explosive lifts during their rapid growth phase,” said Paul Stricker, from the American Academy of Pediatrics. “That is our biggest caution. We just don’t recommend they do maximal lifts or explosive lifts until they have finished the majority of their growth spurt.”
Chris Schellenschlager, Jake’s father, said he is aware of the risks. But he makes sure that his son is always supervised during training. “Some don’t believe it is good to have kids weight lifting too early,” he said. “But Jake never complains about pain or hurting, and he gets regular check-ups.” Jake’s mother, Brandy, was worried at the beginning but soon realized that it was like any other sport. “Lifting is a sport just like baseball. That’s how we view it,” she said.