WATCH: Just how strong is AZ's strongest man?

Posted at 4:18 PM, Feb 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-28 11:31:33-05

Think those airline seats in coach are snug? Try being Jerry Pritchett for a day.

"Flying is definitely a challenge, especially when we go to the long (competitions) like last year in Malaysia," said Pritchett, an Avondale native and Agua Fria High School graduate.

"It's a long time sitting on a plane. It's not meant for guys that are 370 pounds."

But Pritchett, whose full-time job is as a metal fabricator for Salt River Project, is definitely meant for the extremely competitive world of power lifting. Indeed, in the last eight years, the 35-year-old has become one of the strongest men on the planet. 

"You have to be focused on what you're doing, not get caught up in what everybody else is doing"

In 2014, Pritchett took ninth place in the annual World's Strongest Man competition. That accolade goes with a number of others he has racked up since 2008 when he entered his first Strongman contest, finishing second.

Pritchett, who owns a gym in Phoenix, said competition and "pushing the limits" of his own body are what drives him -- but that doesn't mean he's constantly concerned about what his competitors are up to.

"You have to be focused on what you're doing and have your own goals, not get too caught up in what everybody else is doing," he said.

Pritchett began power lifting when he was 15 years old -- but for a while, his focus was split between a pair of passions: lifting and racing. 

"I grew up around race cars and drove a Sprint car for a little while. My dad always had Sprint cars and worked on them. Around 2006, I built my own cars," he said.

"But I had to pick a direction, so I stuck with Strongman and went on to go to Worlds."

Pritchett has entered the World's Strongest Man competition each of the last four years and advanced to the finals in each of the last two. "Making top 10 at Worlds, it's a big accomplishment," he said.

Pritchett finished third in last year's World DeadLift Championship by pulling 960 pounds, and he set a world record with a 900-pound frame carry a year earlier. But Pritchett said most of the events that tend to wow viewers aren't the most physically grueling.

"They love the atlas stones -- the big, concrete balls we load. They don't understand at all how we pick those up. And people love the truck pull," he said. "Honestly, those are probably a couple easier events compared to pulling a 950 deadlift.

"But it looks big and impressive. It's good for TV."

"Any time I've got left after training is with my kids"

Pritchett's kids -- his 9-year-old daughter Abigail and 5-year-old son James -- think their dad is good for TV, too.

"They love it. They love when it comes on TV and watching it," he said. "The boy runs around the house thinking he's the world's strongest man and picks up everything. 

"Any time I've got left after training is with my kids -- the kids and my wife, and hanging out and just relaxing with them."

Pritchett was recently able to take Abigail to one of his video shoots for a "behind-the-scenes" look at what her dad does when he's not at home. "She really enjoyed it," he said. "She's at a good age to start appreciating some of that."

Next week, Pritchett will head to Ohio to compete at the annual Arnold Classic, part of the Arnold Sports Festival named for the most famous bodybuilder of all-time, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Pritchett finished fifth in the 2013 Arnold Classic in Brazil.

"Prestige-wise, it's right next to Worlds," Pritchett said. "It just doesn't have the TV coverage Worlds has."

So, how long does Pritchett plan to travel the globe and lift things that only a handful of humans can?

"If I won Worlds this year, I would still go next year," he said. "I can't say I would just accomplish one thing and be done. I'll do it as long as I feel I'm still competitive. If I'm not competitive, I won't do it."

But as long as he can do it, Pritchett will continue to rack up the accolades, wow his family -- and spend hours in undersized airplane seats.

"I did get lucky last year when I went to World DeadLift Championship to (fly) first class," he said. "And honestly, even then, I'm crammed in there."