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Under the Radar - Grip Profile - Don Smitley


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Today's profile features Don Smitley.  Don well represents the "Under the Radar" title.  There are many new gripsters out there, putting the time in and experiencing dramatic gains…but are also relatively unknown to the grip community at large.  Although I have met Don a few times, I hoped to get his good friend to introduce him to the Grip World.   Turned out, Tank Andrade was willing…


When Nate asked me to do this intro, I didn't hesitate. There are certain people in life you just can't say no to because you know they would always do anything they could for you. Nate is one of those people. Another for me, for the last 3 decades or so, has been Don Smitley. One of my best friends since youth, he was my original weight training partner from the 90's.


Recently reunited after many years, I introduced Don to grip training, and he quickly surpassed me in almost every discipline. Ferociously strong, in his first year (or even his first attempt ), he has pinched 2 x 45 hubs, double 50lb blobs , farmer walked two baby inch dumbells, and manhandled my #155 anvil.

I watched his D.O. axle jump from 300 to 365 after one training session!  He has a few comps under his belt now (2016 King Kong, NCGC2, SJ3) and has already qualified for 2017 North American Grip Sport Championship.  He literally improves every training session.  At the rate he is crushing huge feats…if you don't know Don, you will soon enough.  He's a great guy and still one of the few who can match my intensity/stupidity in the gym.  

I am super pumped to introduce my brother, and original Bensonhurst Barbell Club member to the grip world…Don Smitley.

- Chris "Tank" Andrade


don smitley profile pic.jpg


7 Questions to get to know Don.


1.  What are your stats?  Gripboard Name, Age, Height (inches/meters), Weight (lbs/kgs), R/L dominant hand size (cm/in), Country/City (or region … whatever you are comfortable with), Relationship Status, Kids?, Occupation ("international spy" is acceptable) 

GripBoard name:  Don Smitley

Age:  39 yo

Height:  6'2" (188 cm)

Weight:  205lbs (93 kgs) 

Hand Size:  8 1/4" (21 cm) Right hand dominant (left for pinch)

Location: USA/Naugatuck, CT

Children:   I have a beautiful daughter (Alexis) who turns 3 in July.

Occupation:  I currently work building guns.


2.  Why did you start training grip (and how long is it now)? 

I've been grip training for 1 year now.  I was already going to the gym 4 times a week before I started grip training.  My lifelong friend, Chris Andrade, introduced me to grip sport. 


3.  Before you die, what is your ULTIMATE grip goal/goals? 

Lifting an INCH


4.  How do you currently structure your overall training/how do you incorporate your grip training? 

I train grip on Saturdays.  For the most part, I center these workouts on whatever events will be in the next comp that I'll compete in.


5.  What hobbies (other than grip/bending/lifting) do you enjoy?

Well…I really enjoy fishing, but I haven't gone in years. 

Similarly, I enjoy riding the quad, but I haven't in about a year.

I also built my own mountain bike.  I go riding when I can find the time. 

Recently, I got into some RC car stuff. 


6.  Do you have a personal anecdote, topic or thoughts you'd like to include in your profile?

 Anyone who hasn't been to a grip competition needs to go to "South Jersey 4" this July.  (I swear I didn't pay him to say that.)


7.  Who's Grip profile would you like to see next?

Dan Fleming


Thanks Don.  Dan has agreed and will be profiled soon

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Congrats on the write up Don! Very nice intro from Chris too - From when I first met you at SJ3 I was impressed with how well you performed for a guy just starting grip training. Then a few months later at NCGCII you showed up lighter weight and even more powerful - You definitely got some natural talent and I look forward to seeing you continue to kill it for years to come! Also a great guy to hang out with and have a beer - quality dude.

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For those of you that never met Don here is his competition history and remarkable progress

SNJ3 06/12/16 

Flask 35 kg (77.2 lbs) tied for first place with Tom Scibelli

2.5 inch crusher 62 kg (136.7 lbs)  yes, I beat him on that one with 63 kg!


NCGCII 09/17/2016

Flask 38 kg 83.8 lbs

2.5 inch crusher 67 kgs 147.8 lbs

in 3 months he gained 3 kgs a piece on flask and crusher


King Kong  10/30/2016

Euro pinch (slightly different than flask, still) 42.93 kg 94.6 lbs

2.5 inch crusher 72.03 kg 158.8

up 5 kgs in 6 weeks on a crusher and 10 kgs in 4 1/2 month, along with excellent pinching progress


Like Chris and Anton said great guy, and awesome grip man.


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5 hours ago, Don Smitley said:

Thanks guys i appreciate it and am thankful to have met all of you and look forward to the next time we meet sj4 anyone?

See you there! :D

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Don is a really cool dude and incredibly strong. He's also getting stronger by the day. Looking forward to seeing him at sj4. Great write-up!

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  • 3 weeks later...

It was most certainly a pleasure meeting Don. Seeing his progress since SJ3 is inspiring, cant wait to compete amd hang with him at SJ4!

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