Meet the Teenage Weightlifting Phenom
Most 16-year old guys spend their time outside of high school playing “Call of Duty,” eating French fries, and just vegging out with their friends. CJ Cummings is no exception, quick to list all three of these things among his everyday activities
Also among his everyday activities: weightlifting. And lifting insane amounts of weight at that.
The Beaufort, South Carolina, native already holds a slew of American Records, Pan-American Records, and World Records for Olympic Lifting, and made his way into media outlets like The Wall Street Journal for his talents.
This made him the natural choice for design inspiration and the ultimate consultant when Reebok set out to create the Legacy Lifter, the brand’s premiere weightlifting shoe.
The Legacy Lifter has a stable lifting platform – a high and wide base for ultimate control – and an anatomical shape that hugs the foot for added comfort. The lifter’s overlapping straps and interlocking laces lock the athlete down, helping his or her feet stay firmly planted even when a barbell is fully loaded.
“This was the first time for me seeing how they make a shoe. It’s pretty amazing,” he says of its creation. “When I went to Boston, they showed me the process and the layout of the shoe.”
This was the first time for me seeing how they make a shoe. It’s pretty amazing.
Cummings, who has been training in the shoe since its early prototype was ready back in December 2015, says he likes the Legacy Lifter because it's more comfortable than lifters he's worn in the past.
And at only 16 years old, his weightlifting career is just getting started.
“I started weightlifting when I was 10,” says Cummings. “Me and my brother had nothing to do because we used to play football and basketball and it was the offseason so she [my sister] got us out of our rooms and took us to the gym. At first, I thought it was just to get me and my brother stronger for football, but then it was like a whole other sport.”
About a year and a half in, Cummings says his coach, Rayford Jones, started to take note that he was lifting weight well above what was to be expected for someone his size and age. Cummings put his other extracurricular sports to the side and made Olympic lifting his focus.
“I train Monday through Friday for about an hour and thirty minutes to two hours,” he says.
And while in the gym he’s known as a World Record holder, outside of gym, he insists, “I’m really just your average kid.”
I’m really just your average kid.
“There’s a fine line between my professional life and my teenage life,” adds Cummings, who does have a full-blown professional life, complete with a sponsorships with companies like Reebok and an international travel schedule.
Cummings is quick to attest that this travel is his favorite byproduct of his weightlifting successes.
“Getting to travel and see the world for lifting, it’s just so cool,” he says, noting Poland as his favorite destination thus far.
When it comes to competition Cummings says sometimes he gets nervous but that he tries to treat it just like training.
“He [Coach Ray] always tells me ‘Go have fun. At the end of the day, the sun will still shine, people will still love you so just go out and have fun with it.’”
In between designing state of the art lifters with Reebok and traveling the globe, he's still attending high school, still spending too much time on his cell phone (according to his mom), and still joining his friends for cheat meals at McDonald’s.
As for his peers, Cummings vouches that they’re still treating him like the same CJ.
“They’re always asking me when I have my next competition but that’s about it,” says Cummings, who doesn’t plan to stop lifting anytime soon.
“I’m pretty sure I can do more with this sport. I just have to keep pushing and then hopefully I’ll keep breaking records. Hopefully I’ll medal and get a gold for the US at the Olympics one day.”
I’m pretty sure I can do more with this sport. I just have to keep pushing and then hopefully I’ll keep breaking records. Hopefully I’ll medal and get a gold for the US at the Olympics one day.