Mad Maxx

Power lifter and YouTube sensation Maxx Chewning waxes on Internet stardom, food and living the fit life.

Photos by Cade Martin

The recipe for Maxx Chewning’s YouTube stardom is on full display the day I meet him at the Chipotle in downtown Falls Church. Superman hair, yoked upper body; a quick, articulate wit that ping-pongs from colloquial to metaphysical on the topics of fast food, power-lifting, life balance and wanderlust; a youthful attitudinal sweet-spot between zeal and nonchalance; and, finally, a flair for narrative tension.

He can also deadlift three and a half times his own weight. Don’t try that at home.

In three years, the 25-year-old Chewning has achieved what millions of YouTube strivers dream of: his channel has more than 146,000 subscribers and he has posted more than 500 videos; he has a sponsor, the clothing brand Ape Athletics (and others knocking); and he has recently launched a fitness clothing line, Ever Forward Apparel.

“I think I’m getting a following because I’m telling stories and getting information out there and just plain entertaining people,” says the Arlington resident, who somehow also maintains a day job in D.C. as an IT recruiter.

He eats, he lifts, he shops and he “collabs” with workout friends in the 15-minute-long videos he posts every other day. Titles include “Physique Update: Let’s Get This Over With,” “Girls Always Leave Me,” “The Year of the Squat,” “Shoulder Guy” and “Wearing A Suit in the Gym” (shot while he was being photographed for this story). “The videos are work,” he says, “I don’t think people realize that—but I totally love the challenge.”

Chewning was no star athlete. He wrestled varsity as a freshman at Midlothian High School in the 112-pound weight class. But then he quit to get a job: “I wanted to make money more than wrestle.” And, in his spare time, he confesses, “I wanted to play video games and eat candy.”

But at age 21—four years ago—his weight-lifting college roommates began dragging him to the gym with them. A Virginia Commonwealth University student at the time, Chewning became hooked. He then dove with his typical energy into lifting and eating and supplementing to gain size and power. Like so many, he grew quickly, felt “pretty cool,” plateaued, “felt not so cool,” but then powered through. (It’s like Marvel meets reality TV: Junk-food-eating couch potato morphs into action hero.)

In time, Chewning was a 175-pounder deadlifting more than 600 pounds, which is even more impressive when you see his build in person. His frame is more akin to a baseball middle infielder than a pro wrestler. His power is deceptive—he’s the Dustin Pedroia of power lifting.

His videos often feature his intense workouts, but the testosterone bursts are mixed with banter with his buddies (his nickname is “Deadlift Brah”) and dominated by his playful energy. He’s fun to watch. Then, he’s off to eat, always ordering with three things in mind: health, maximum caloric intake (for bulk and strength lifting) and value. He demonstrates a zeal for gorge fests in both favorite and new restaurants in various D.C. neighborhoods.

For fans of Mexican fast casual Chipotle, he offers this advice. “You get the half-and-half meat order with two different meats. It’s the cost of one meat, but the server always gives you a little more than half of each meat because it’s tough for them to gauge. And then—and most people don’t know this doesn’t cost more—you get extra rice and beans for the extra carbs and fiber.” His findings are pitch-perfect for the growing number of his mostly millennial viewers.

Chewning always keeps it fun. One of his most popular videos, the “10,000 Calorie Food Challenge”—with more than 620,000 views—is of his daylong quest to consume this insane number of calories. (Again, don’t try this at home). What starts with confident optimism turns to gagging lethargy. But near midnight, he finally grasps victory from failure (or vomitous ruin). It is classic reality TV writ large and gross.

“This is a full-time job, which makes for a heck of a day with lifting and the real full-time job,” he says. “But I love it. I love getting an idea and making it happen. The passion is absolutely still there and as long as it is, I’m going to try to get better and better at giving people something that’s really worth watching.”,

This article originally appeared in our April 2016 health and wellness issue.

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