When discussions of the United States military come up, one of the words that gets used frequently is “strength.” While that topic is about the overall strength of our country’s all-volunteer force, it can also represent the individual strength of a soldier.

One such soldier that embodied strength in both service and the gym is Scott McMahon. The native of Chicago, IL grew up as one of seven children. His father was in charge of printing presses for the Chicago Tribune, but he relocated to Florida to work for the Sun Sentinel. He was an active child that took part in several sports such as wrestling and karate.

“I excelled in wrestling as a kid, but as I got older, that changed.”

He took up weight training as a way to improve strength for sports as well as to try keeping up with his older siblings. That evolved into his involvement in the sport of powerlifting. McMahon was entering meets when he was 13 years old. Aside from the traditional squat, bench press, and deadlift, he also did very well in the “fourth lift”, the strict curl.

“I was curling 150 pounds at 125 pounds, bodyweight,” he said. “I set the Florida state record, but I don’t know if they kept national records for junior lifters.”

Scott McMahon in military uniform
Scott McMahon

After graduation, McMahon would join the United States Army. Like many young service members, he would be following in the footsteps of generations before him. His grandfather was a United States Marine, and he had simple advice for young Scott when he got the news that he was joining the Armed Forces.

“He said to shut the freak up and listen. ‘Don’t assume you know everything. Listen to the guys above you because they are there for a reason.’”

That simple advice served McMahon well throughout his time in service. He began as an infantry mortarman in Fort Benning, GA, but he developed a desire to excel in both lifting and tactical performance.

“You have to be at the top of your game at all times. From physically training so you can bust down doors to being able to push through PT with pushups, situps, and running,” he explained. “For me, it just clicked. If I can be good at one, I can be good at the other.”

The training was as difficult as expected, but he never wavered. Whether he had to train after a 24-hour shift or get it in as soon as he woke up, he went all the way with his commitment. He would eventually try out for and make the All Europe Powerlifting team for two years while representing the U.S. Army. He described himself as average once the competition got bigger and tougher, but he took great pride in how he was able to compete and serve simultaneously.

“The competition is always there, but getting to represent at a higher level, not only in combat but as an athlete, it’s not something every athlete gets to do.”

McMahon typically competed in the 100-kilogram/220-pound weight class. He recalled lifting 705 pounds on the squat, 552 pounds on the bench press, and 690 pounds on the deadlift.

“I wasn’t as good on the bench.”

As for his commitment to country in service, he served three different deployments (two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan) and reported that he spent 75 percent of his time in the military overseas. He would receive several honors throughout his career, including Soldier of the Year and Leader of the Year, but he considered his time leading fellow soldiers as his greatest honor.

“The closest to my heart was the soldiers I took care of that were able to get through the days consistently and the impact I had on those people.”

McMahon eventually found himself in Houston, TX working as a recruiter, and he made his way onto the All-Army team for powerlifting. Aside from his own passion for training, he enjoyed teaching and helping others improve, which is why he became a strength and conditioning coach. Later on, he relocated to Japan, where he continued to compete and win in his sport. Unfortunately, his career would end in Fort Hood, Texas after suffering an injury in training.

“I was at one of the gyms on base, and it was packed. I went to a Smith Machine to warm-up, and it wasn’t bolted to the floor. It shifted across the floor with 275 pounds just enough that I had to get out. My right shoulder was the last part to go, and my right hand got caught on the safety hook.”

His lifting career was over. McMahon did finish his military career after recovery. He retired from the Army in 2017, but he still had a desire to stay connected to fitness and help others improve.

“Fitness was always a big thing for me,” he said proudly. “So, it came to me that I could teach people what I know and promote being active to live a longer life.”

McMahon would start working at a 24-Hour Fitness after his retirement, and he would move on to other commercial gyms such as Fitness Connection and Gold’s Gym. Today, he’s the general manager of Stretch Lab One Loudoun in Ashburn, VA. He’s in charge of three locations with 16 trainers working with him.

“I more or less run the business now and help it grow.”

He also stated that he can pull over 500 pounds and overhead press 200 pounds. McMahon also supports his fellow veterans and hopes other gym executives and owners can show support by promoting health and fitness to them.

“I’m trying to find a way to show the world and our country that veterans need places to go like gyms. If veterans that can’t afford memberships had access to gyms, the 22 (suicides) a day would decrease. We need people to step up and help take care of them.”

As for his personal life, he is a husband and father of four children. With his deployments behind him, he’s enjoying getting to be a mentor and father for his kids. It’s yet to be determined if any of his kids will follow in his footsteps like he did his grandfather’s, but he does see the military as a positive option for many young Americans that need direction and want a bright future.

“The camaraderie changes everything. You learn how to treat people the way you want to be treated, and you get to learn from other people from all walks of life,” he advised. “I think it would do good for a lot of young people to go that route. It may not be for everyone, but if you put your mind to it, it can be life changing.” For more information about StretchLab Oncee Loudown, go to www.www.stretchlab.com.