C.T. Fletcher is many things. The 61-year-old is a powerlifting legend, a personal trainer, an actor, a media personality, and a gym owner, to name a few. He’s also a master motivator who has been through more s*** than one can imagine.
Over the course of the next few weeks, Fletcher and his son, Samson, are going to help you become unbreakable on Spartan’s newest show, Don’t Break. (The first episode premieres on Friday on Spartan’s YouTube channel.) They will be joined by a cadre of fitness experts and overall badasses, including Logan Aldridge, Massy Arias, Simeon Panda, and some other surprise guests.
So why should you listen to C.T.? Why is he our new master motivator? Check out these five fast facts, loaded with inspirational quotes and stories, and find out.
He’s a Champion
Fletcher is one of the most successful powerlifters of all time, and he has the hardware to back it up. He’s a three-time World Bench Press Champion and three-time World Strict Curl Champion. In the video below, Fletcher takes you through one of his old-school chest workouts, working his way up to a ridiculous 495 pounds on the bench press.
He Survived an Abusive Childhood
Fletcher’s father, Walter, was abusive towards him throughout what was an extremely trying childhood. As C.T. recalls, he doesn’t have one fond memory of his father from his childhood.
“I didn’t have any memories of going out in the yard, catching, playing catch,” he recalls. “I couldn’t think of anything that me and my dad did together that was fun. I had plenty of memories of hiding in the closet when he would come home from work, just trying to make myself as unnoticeable as possible. I wish that I had the ability to disappear altogether, so he wouldn’t notice me, because I never knew what type of mood my dad would be in when he got home from work. If he had a bad day, then we had a bad day.”
C.T. is now the proud father of seven children, including Samson, his Don’t Break co-host.
He’s a Veteran and a Skilled Martial Artist
In 1977, when he was 18 years old, Fletcher enlisted in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Germany. This period proved to be significant for C.T. for a few reasons: In addition to the invaluable experience one gets from serving their country, it was during this time, while in Germany, that he took up martial arts. Martial arts led to an interest in karate — he earned a second degree black belt — which led to weightlifting, then bodybuilding, and ultimately powerlifting. So yeah, he can break you in a multitude of ways.
Heart Problems Decimated His Family
The hereditary heart problems in Fletcher’s family are so startling that they’re almost incomprehensible. C.T.’s grandfather died from heart problems, his mom, Ogie Rea, died from congestive heart failure, and nine of his aunts and uncles — all his mom’s siblings — died as a result of heart complications.
Fletcher’s mom passed away in 2004 while cooking breakfast for her husband. She had been sick since C.T. was a child. Reflecting on his mom, he remembers her as the strongest person he ever knew.
“My mother, hands down, was the strongest person that I’ve ever known — no question about it,” he beams. “Every time you saw her, if she’s in the emergency room or in her living room, and you asked her how she’s doing, she had one answer, all the time: ‘I’m blessed.’ It was simply, ‘I’m blessed.’ At death’s door, or at her front door, Mrs. Fletcher was always blessed. So, I took that from my mom. If you ask me — and I can muster up enough breath — how I am doing, [I say] ‘I’m blessed. I’m still alive, so I’m blessed.'”
He’s Come Back From the Dead — Literally — 5 Times
It’s a miracle that Fletcher is still standing, let alone continuing to train at such a high level.
As mentioned previously, heart problems run rampant in Fletcher’s family, so it was only a matter of time before he had to face his own mortality. That time first came in 1993, when his doctor informed him that should he compete in his next powerlifting competition, his aortic valve could rupture. He defied the recommendation and competed anyway.
“I thought there was no more glorious way to die, if I had to die,” he remembers.
After that competition, the last one of his career, C.T. altered his training to protect his heart and save his own life. He dropped 60 pounds, from approximately 300 to 240, and avoided surgery … until 2005. His aortic valve was so deteriorated that blood was filling up too fast, and he couldn’t breathe. C.T. underwent emergency open-heart surgery and, in the process, flatlined three times. His doctor was dumbfounded, completely amazed and perplexed as to how his patient survived the procedure after three terrifyingly close calls.
“I believe that God stepped in, and that’s why I’m still here,” C.T. says. “Also during that surgery — it’s gonna sound crazy to a lot of you, but I don’t care about you thinking I’m crazy — I saw my mom. She had passed away almost a year to the day the year before, in 2004. I saw my mother’s face, and she was praying, like she often did. She was asking God to spare my life … Call me crazy, whatever the f*** you want. I don’t care.”
The aortic valve was replaced, and Fletcher thought it would last him for the rest of his life.
Thirteen years later, in 2018, his heart gave out, resulting in a massive heart attack. Describing the excruciating pain, C.T. thought this was the end. He said goodbye to his family and prepared for whatever was waiting for him on the other side. But his son, Samson, was adamant that he would pull through. More than 11 hours later, and after C.T. flatlined two more times — that’s five in total — Samson was proven right. The marathon heart transplant surgery was successful, proving that he is, without a shadow of a doubt, in fact unbreakable.