Olympic champion spotted using equipment from Maryville manufacturer

Michael Phelps is shown here at the Olympic Training Center working out on a Dynabody Super Squat machine built in Maryville.

Michael Phelps is shown here at the Olympic Training Center working out on a Dynabody Super Squat machine built in Maryville.

Keith Harris holds a copy of the USA Today edition that showed a photograph of Olympic gold medal winner Michael Phelps using a Dynabody Super Squat machine. Harris is the founder and owner of Dynabody and builds the company’s equipment in Maryville.

Photo by Leslie Karnowski

Keith Harris holds a copy of the USA Today edition that showed a photograph of Olympic gold medal winner Michael Phelps using a Dynabody Super Squat machine. Harris is the founder and owner of Dynabody and builds the company’s equipment in Maryville.

If ever there was an example of truth in advertising, Dynabody founder and owner Keith “Heavy” Harris just might have it.

On the sign in front of his business a message reads “Michael Phelps uses Dynabody.”

While it’s not a paid ad, it is nonetheless verifiable.

In the days before leading up to the Olympics, there was an image of Phelps working out on a Dynabody Super Squat machine at the Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs.

This was shortly before the swimmer left to compete in the Beijing Olympics where he won a record eight medals.

“Phelps had never worked legs until this Olympics. The announcer said his launch is better and he’s better when he pushes off. I didn’t know he didn’t work legs. I didn’t know he was using our machine until the Friday before he left,” Harris said. “That’s Phelps’ connection to Maryville.”

Just knowing that a world record setting Olympian used his equipment is an accomplishment considering how far the 24-year-old company has come since a devastating set back at their original East Broadway facility just a few years ago. “We lost everything five years ago in a fire. Thanks to Green Bank and Kent Vaught. He believed in us. He had bought equipment and believed in us and helped us get things back in line,” Harris said.

Now the manufacturing facility is on Robert C. Jackson Drive near Denso but the East Broadway Avenue gym and facility remain open for business. Both locations have a combined 50,000 square feet, he said.

Many are surprised to learn Dynabody is based in Maryville. “A lot of people don’t even know we’re in Blount County and we’ve been here 20 some odd years,” Harris said.

Harris said seeing his equipment in high school, college and even Olympic training venues doesn’t stroke his ego. “The real truth is it’s not an ego thing about Dynabody. I want to make money to support my family and retirement. It’s very satisfying to see that. I did three gyms for Peyton Manning. I’m not star struck, but it is satisfying,” he said.

Harris graduated Polk Central High School in Polk County, N.C., and went to the University of North Carolina at Ashville where he played goalie on the soccer team. “My first whole game I watched I was in the game,” he said.

After college he worked for the utility company Duke Power and they trained him as a nuclear inspector. He worked in that business for about five and a half years and during that time he also opened a turnkey gym with his cousin in 1979. In 1984 he went in to the business full time.

While Harris grew up in North Carolina, he moved to Tennessee while working out with former UT full back Doug Furnas while they were competing in the U.S. Power Lifting Federation.

Harris went from just being a gym owner to weight equipment builder when he couldn’t get a vendor to budge on the price of their equipment.

Harris said he and his cousins just started building equipment and soon they were selling it. “The first piece of equipment was, I don’t remember. It was something easy.

I had never welded. I got some country boys together, rented a building and started from that,” he said. “We just shipped our third gym to Africa a few weeks back. We ship all over the world now.”

In the process of building and rebuilding the business, Harris began working with middle schools, high schools and colleges.

“We work most of the national clinics. This year they had the national athletic directors show at Opryland. We don’t advertise except in football. We’re at most clinics for teams like the University of Florida, the University of South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia and we did Nick Saban’s clinic in Alabama,” he said

Schools like Ohio State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt are an example of the athletic programs that have Dynabody equipment. Harris said he also helped out with new Union Grove Middle School.

“We just did Union Grove – the new middles school. We did the job then took $4,700 off the bid,” he said.

The squat machine Phelps used is in both Olympic training facilities, Clemson University ordered one, as did James Madison University. “Tons of schools have them,” he said.

Keith and his wife Jennifer and 18-year-old Jeremy have had a good laugh from the response people give to seeing Phelps use Dynabody equipment.

“People thought I was his coach. They were calling wanting autographs,” Harris said. “The connection, it really did come full circle back to Maryville.”

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