PEMBROKE — At the age of 5, Harold “Iron Bear” Collins dreamed of becoming the world’s strongest Native American.
Growing up in Pembroke, the 61-year-old powerlifter remembers having to pursue that dream on his own.
“Back in those days, you didn’t have any heroes,” Collins said. “You had dirt roads. You didn’t really get to visit a lot of people back in the days, in the 50s and 60s.”
Collins took advantage of the solitude by setting and exceeding goals, setting the stage for a weight training career that has included six Guinness World Records, two appearances in the World’s Strongest Man competition and a plethora of state and national records on the professional weightlifting circuit.
While his weightlifting achievements include a wide array of awards in the masters division of the 365 Strong Powerlifting Federation, Collins’ brute strength is manifested even more through his six world records.
He caught Guinness’ attention for the first time in 1994 by pulling seven semi-trucks with a combined weight of 124,000 pounds.
Collins set his second record by pulling five tractor trailer cabs for 51 feet in 1994. The cabs weighed in at a combined 86,560 pounds.
Three of his next four records involved pulling or restraining vehicles. Collins’ fourth world record breaking feat involved throwing a 21-pound beer keg over a 21-foot wall.
The final world record, in which Collins restrained two Dodge Dakota pickup trucks with their wheels spinning at 60 miles per hour, was set 16 years ago, but he hasn’t stopped rewriting records since then.
Collins has established himself as a leader in the masters super-heavyweight division of 365 Strong at age 60, with a 799-pound squat and a 617-pound deadlift being two of many record-breaking feats.
He remains dedicated to setting new benchmarks and getting stronger, but Collins is just as enthusiastic about helping others reach their goals. As the owner of Pembroke Power House, a gym located at 205 Union Chapel Road, Collins trains everyone from inexperienced weightlifters to seasoned competitors.
One of those trainees, 18-year-old Jordan Hammonds, was struggling to find an effective workout program when he first came under Collins’ tutelage.
Now he’s a rising star in 365 Strong’s teenage division with records in the squat, bench press and deadlift.
“He’s been there for me,” Hammonds said. “He knows his stuff. He knows about all of the forms and techniques.”
Weighing in at around 280 pounds, Hammonds is set on breaking more records. Any time he needs inspiration, he walks through the front lobby at Pembroke Power House, where shelves lined with Collins’s trophies and medals greet guests as they walk into the facility.
“It’s impressive,” Hammonds said. “When I first walked in here those caught my eye.”
For Collins, it isn’t just about the competition. He enjoys helping people live healthier lifestyles by working out consistently and making good choices outside of the weight room.
“You can avoid a lot of sicknesses by staying in good shape,” Collins said.
A member of the Lumbee Tribe, Collins said he relies on one thing when working toward his goals.
“My training comes from faith, from believing in yourself,” he said. “When you believe in yourself and you get in the gym and you train by your faith and what you believe you want to do, everything starts coming together. You can’t just go out there and say you’re going to start pulling trucks. You’ve got to have faith.”
Reach Brandon Tester at 910-816-1989 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @BrandonTester.