The story of American powerlifter Bill "Peanuts" West is a true-life lesson about drive, passion, motivation and determination. Named William Weiss, at birth in 1937 Pennsylvania, Peanuts was a weak and skinny child. Weighing less than 100 pounds as a teen, he picked up his first weights at age 15. In 1952, he was encouraged by Gene Wells to try weight training and started initially with very light dumbbells. In a couple of years, his bodyweight increased dramatically thanks to a training regime incorporating progressive resistance and sourcing his protein from peanuts, peanut butter and peanut oil for the purpose of muscle gain.
In July 1952, West and Wells decided to go to the Muscle House in Santa Monica, which was owned by Joy Crettoz, a lady who fostered strength athletes like her own children. The nickname "Peanuts" was given to him by Joy, because his diet consisted of about one pound of peanuts, half of cup of peanut butter and six spoons full of peanut oil on a daily basis. In addition to this, Bill West also heartily consumed raw milk, fruit juices and protein drinks.
By 1955 his bodyweight had reached 180 pounds and he developed a strong interest in lifting events. He won second place in his first local Muscle Beach powerlifting event, but he had much higher goals. He decided to train intensely with Ike Berger and Dave Ashman, because he wanted to become even heavier. He increased his peanut-based diet intake while incorporating a more rigorous lifting program, until his weight soared to 218 pounds. Because he felt too heavy at this point, he cut his caloric intake, until he reached the desired weight of 198 pounds, as suggested by Berger when they first met.
Bill West never trained for any aesthetic goals; he trained solely for the purpose of powerlifting and the odd lifts were his passion. He only had two meals per day and he trained on a daily basis, by training his pressing technique one day for three hours and either squat or deadlift the next day. He preferred home training, because he could focus better. His garage gym in Culver City, California was open to other lifters, such as George Frenn and Pat Casey. Many of the powerlifting training concepts used today were invented in Bill West’s Westside Gym.
In addition, many of the training aids utilized today in the powerlifting world such as knee wraps, elbow wraps and wide lifting belts were initially popularized by West.
Shockingly, Bill "Peanuts" West died in 1984, homeless, on the Santa Barbara beach. A truly sad end for lifting pioneer with a big heart. He was buried at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Culver City, interred in an unmarked grave. Bill Ennis subsequently purchased a headstone to honor the memory of Bill “Peanuts” West.