Bennett competes in CMT TV’s Broken Skull Challenge

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, January 1, 2015

By Mark Schmerling

Did super-fit Travelers Rest resident Jeff Bennett place first in Steve Austin’s recent Broken Skull Challenge, and complete the demanding Skullbuster obstacle course?  You’ll have to tune in on Sunday, Jan. 4 at 8 p.m. to CMT TV, when the segment in which Bennett competed will air. It was filmed October 18 – 21.

He learned of the competition from his children who are all involved in physical fitness. He also learned that Austin’s crew was looking for season two contestants. This past summer, Bennett applied, was interviewed, and was accepted, just one week before the competition was to begin.

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He and other contestants were flown to Austin’s ranch, given physical examinations, and were treated exceptionally well, Bennett noted.

One stipulation was that prior to the challenge, contestants were not permitted to speak with each other, lest they lose their competitive edge.

Once the competition began, they competed in events that reflected much of Bennett’s own training, and the emphasis of his gym.

“We call ourselves a functional fitness gym,” he said of Bennett’s Strength Warehouse, where workouts mimic the movements that people use each day.

Bennett’s vocation, since he graduated college in 1988, is selling industrial fabric. But his avocation is Bennett’s Strength Warehouse in Travelers Rest where he keeps himself exceptionally fit and healthy. Bennett practices strength training, and teaches and inspires others to become what they might initially think they cannot.

Bennett noted that the Broken Skull Challenge involves top tier athletes.

“I knew the type of athletes who would be there,” Bennett noted. “You have to see these guys to appreciate what they are.”

“I’m tickled to death that they put me in that category,” he reflected.

“Age is nothing more than a number,” he stresses. At 52, Bennett walks the walk of intense training for strength, speed and agility, and augments that with a thoughtful and healthful diet, and enough sleep to be ready for challenges both physical and mental.

Bennett played football for Riverside High School in Greer, and then joined the Marines, where his weekly 60-70 mile runs kept him in excellent shape. He weighed about 168 pounds while in the Marines.

“I’ve been pretty fit all my life,” Bennett reflected. He believes he’s in better shape now than ever.

At 5’11” and a rock-solid 220 pounds, he looks like someone whose dictionary omits the word “limit.”

According to some, he also looks a bit like Steve Austin, the former six-time World Wrestling Federation Champion, and 2003 WWF Hall of Fame inductee. Austin has turned to acting, and to operating his Broken Skull Challenge.

Bennett declined to be compared to Austin, noting that the latter seems far larger and more formidable than his 6’2’’ (“Is that head-to-toe, or shoulder-to-shoulder?” Bennett wondered) frame.

Bennett, whose own physical fitness evolved to include weight training and competing in sprint triathlons, was a natural for the Austin competition.

Though his gym is not part of the registered Cross Fit system, Bennett has received Cross Fit’s Level One certification in training, including the CF movements. He is also qualified to judge local Cross Fit competition.

Bennett’s daughters, Chelsea and Caroline, work out in the gym, as does his son Caleb, when Caleb isn’t attending the Citadel, where he plays football. Bennett’s wife Teresa works out sometimes, too.

“Are you coming into the gym today?” Bennett will ask her.

“If I want to see my family, I guess I have to,” is Teresa’s reply.

“She is the anchor for this family,” said Bennett.

Physical activity is crucial, Bennett notes.

“If you don’t use it, you lose it,” he asserted of working different parts of the body. His clients maintain mobility in their shoulders, hips and ankles. Bennett teaches his clients that ten percent of their drills will be in the gym, the remainder in the kitchen. Most of latter occurs in the kitchen – eating less bread and dairy, drinking more water and eating lots of lean protein.

In the Broken Skull Challenge, Bennett and his competitors faced off in lifting weights, running, climbing ropes, flipping large tires (including flipping them uphill), and similar challenges. The winner of that round got to challenge Austin’s Skullbuster, an arduous obstacle course. The incentive is a $10,000 prize.

“It’s all old stuff,” Bennett noted of the challenges, which are somewhat reminiscent of traditional farm work.

At 52, Bennett was the oldest competitor. Most were in the 25 to 35 year age range.

“It was a great event, a life adventure for me,” Bennett said of the Broken Skull Challenge. He said it showcased a higher fitness level, not just for him, but also for his clients.

“My being there inspires others to get in shape. To me, that’s the important part.”

Following the TV-dependent schedule was a challenge.

“That was the difficult part for me,” Bennett noted. “It was hard to get into a rhythm. I’d never worked in the entertainment industry.”

In all, it was a very positive experience for Bennett.

“They treated us well. The whole experience for me was extra positive. If I had the opportunity to do it again, I’d do it again.”

For Bennett, the Broken Skull Challenge was a ‘bucket list’ accomplishment. “Now, its back to a regular life,” he says.

So, did Bennett finish first and earn the $10,000 prize, which he had planned to share with Teresa?

“We’ll just have to watch the show,” he smiled. That’s this Sunday, Jan. 4, from 8 – 9 p.m., on CMT TV.