As his wife Kathleen talks to the crowd in the background, "Strongman Steve" Schmidt (of Leslie, Mo.) begins to bend a piece of rebar during a performance June 17 at the 2017 Raymondville Picnic.

Doing what seems impossible is routine for him, and “Strongman Steve” Schmidt (of Leslie, Mo.) makes feats of strength look relatively easy that the average person couldn’t pull off if their life depended on it.

At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Schmidt’s stature isn’t all that unusual. But his appearance belies his strength, and plenty of it is required to do the stuff he does. Like bending a No. 6 draft horse horseshoe into the shape of a heart or a piece of rebar into the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head. Like using his teeth to lift a human being lying on a bench or removing large nails from a thick board with his teeth.

A sizable crowd witnessed Schmidt do his unique thing during shows on two nights at this year’s Raymondville Carnival and Picnic.

“People are often surprised when they see me do what I do,” he said. “There really isn’t anyone else doing it.”

Schmidt, 62, is a fifth-generation farmer. He was a competitive weightlifter beginning in 1977, and went on to set several heavy-lift world records sanctioned by the both the U.S. and International All-Round Weightlifting Associations, including a harness lift record of 3,515 pounds in October 1991, a back-lift record of 3,050 pounds in January 2009 and more than 10 other marks in various categories.

Schmidt began his “Strongman Steve” saga in 2003, when he did his first show on his 48th birthday.

“I had accomplished about everything I wanted to,” he said. “A guy asked me and at first I said no, but then I said, ‘why not?’”

Teeth-lifting demo

“Strongman Steve” Schmidt demonstrates his “teeth-lifting” talent by raising two kids on a specially-designed bench during a performance June 17 at the 2017 Raymondville Picnic.

Since that day, Schmidt has gone on to set five world records with his teeth, and currently holds three. He twice broke the record for teeth-lifting a 100-kilogram weight the most times in a minute (once breaking his own record), twice set records for fastest time to remove five nails from wood with his teeth (again, once bettering his own mark) and once set a standard for most nails removed from wood in a minute with the teeth.

Schmidt said his strength is basically God-given and that he doesn’t eat an odd diet or take any drugs. He said his powerful body developed as he often hoisted and moved large amounts of weight while growing up on the farm.

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“I’ve heard people in the know about this say it helps if your tendons and ligaments are extra strong,” Schmidt said. “I was building that up all my life not even knowing it. And I have a back like a backhoe, that’s what I always say.

“Actually, I’ve out-lifted a backhoe before. A backhoe will lift about 3,000 pounds. I’ve done 3,700.”

At his property in Leslie, Schmidt has turned an outbuilding into his training gym. In training and competition combined, he has lifted 3,000 pounds with amazing regularity.

Strongman Steve Schmidt

Following a performance at this year’s annual Raymondville Picnic, “Strongman Steve” Schmidt stands next to tables displaying his world record certificates, newspaper articles about him and other items related to his work.

“I’ve done it more than anyone else who ever lived,” he said. “I did 10 reps at 3,000 pounds once and did 3,700 in training. I was aiming for two tons, but I never got there.

“I think I ran out of age. I was 37 when I did that, and if I had started earlier I probably would have gotten there.”

Schmidt began to walk when he was eight months old and played football in high school (turning down a college scholarship when he graduated). He said he knew in his youth that being a strongman was in the cards.

“I think it started in third grade,” he said. “You know how boys are always trying to lift something or do something unusual; well, when I was in fifth grade, there were some seventh and eighth-graders who were messing with this ‘drag’ used to level the ball field made of two railroad ties fastened together. Some of them would try to pick it up, and a couple would get it a little way off the ground.

Toothy nail removal

World record holder “Strongman Steve” Schmidt uses his teeth to remove nails from a 4X4 board during a performance at this year’s annual Raymondville Picnic.

“One day they were showing off with it for the girls, and me and a friend were watching. He said, ‘you can lift that, can’t you?’ I said, ‘yeah.’ I just scooped it up and threw it up in the air. They were like, ‘get out of here show off!’”

When he performs at fairs, nursing homes, parties or anywhere else, Schmidt gets a satisfaction that doesn’t come from anything else he does. He enjoys the way people appreciate watching him use his bare hands to bend a 12-inch crescent wrench or 5/8-inch bolt into a u-shape, or lift an anvil 50 times with his teeth.

“I love it,” Schmidt said. “Especially the crowd reaction and what people say afterward. It’s great when some person in their 90s comes up and says, ‘you know, I thought I’d seen everything, but that’s the most incredible thing I ever saw.’”

Bent no. 5 shoe

As his wife Kathleen smiles in the background, “Strongman Steve” Schmidt holds up a No. 5 horseshoe after bending it during a performance June 17 at the 2017 Raymondville Picnic.

Sometimes when Schmidt performs, he runs into a skeptic or heckler.

“I stop that real quick,” he said. “I hand them a horseshoe and say, ‘here it is, do it.’ They won’t even touch it – they just shut up.”

In Schmidt’s ongoing series of amazing feats, one in particular even amazes him.

“Bending the No. 6 horseshoe,” he said. “In the world of benders, you go by numbers, and at the top end it was No. 5. I bought some No. 6s and hung them on a wall. I just looked at them all the time, thinking to myself, ‘I’m going to get you one of these days, I’m just not there yet.’ I eventually worked up to it, and that amazes me.

“Nobody else has done a 6 that I’m aware of.”

Schmidt’s wife, Kathleen, has seen him perform time and again, but she’s wowed every time.

“I am in so in awe of the talent he has,” she said, “and I’m his biggest fan. It has been the experience of a lifetime to be with him in this. He just makes people happy and believe that anything’s possible.”

Schmidt once achieved the “most total poundage lift.” He back-lifted 1,115 pounds 7,253 times in two hours and 50 minutes, surpassing the eight million pound mark.

“I wanted to quit pretty bad on that one,” he said. “That was torture.”

Schmidt has pulled big rigs and train cars with his teeth, and was featured in “Rural Missouri” magazine pulling a boxcar. He has performed in several states, appeared on multiple TV programs (including in the Netherlands) and tried out for “America’s Got Talent” in 2010.

In the past, Schmidt teeth-lifted adults on his specially designed board. Now he just lifts kids.

World class teeth-lifter

“Strongman Steve” Schmidt demonstrates his “teeth-lifting” talent during a performance at the 2017 Raymondville Picnic.

“They’ll remember it forever,” he said. “I remember doing a birthday party and five little girls sat on that board. I don’t know how they all got on there.”

Schmidt said he might at some point go for another record, if he finds something that interests him. But regardless, he plans to continue being the Strongman as long as possible. He said he does it for a simple reason.

“Because I can,” he said. “I feel I should show what a person can do; you don’t have to be a giant and you don’t have to be real young. Maybe some young people will see it and realize they don’t have to be real big to be strong.”

“People are often surprised when they see me do what I do.”

– STRONGMAN STEVE SCHMIDT

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