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At 44, Sam Bryant Jr. turned to the gym to deal with his personal problems. At 70, he’s a bodybuilder at the same tier as the young guns.

Sam Byrant Jr. is 70 years old. Take a look at his photo and take a second to digest that one. Here is Byrant’s take on what that number means to him: “People have the misconception that age makes you old, but I realize that, you know, it’s a state of mind that makes you old,” he says. “Age is just a number, and it gives most people—the majority of people—a reason to be lazy and not do anything.”

It’s hard to believe that the 5’10”, 176-pound Byrant only started going to the gym when he was 44, initially to relieve stress from his failing marriage. Less than a year later, people at the gym were encouraging him to enter bodybuilding contests. Twenty-six years later, he hasn’t slowed down one bit.

Sonny works the graveyard shift at personal-care emporium Kimberly-Clark as a forklift driver and works out twice a day to maintain the body that has won him more titles and trophies than he can count.

He started out aged 44 when going to the gym seemed the perfect way to let off steam when his second marriage began to fall apart.

He says he’d never lifted a weight before in his life but soon got the knack and entered his first competition just 11 months later in Columbus, Georgia.

He arrived with the wrong outfit – a red, white and blue Speedo – and says he had no idea how to pose.

‘The judge called out for a pose, and I had to see what everybody else was doing,’ he told the Chronicle.

Against the odds, he came third in the novice competition and fourth in the master competition. Now he can deadlift 425lbs with out a grunt.

‘I was just like a crack addict – I was hooked,’ he told Augusta.Chronicle.com. ‘I had two trophies, never having won anything before.

‘People say it’s age that makes you old, but I believe it’s your state of mind that makes you old. Age is just a number.

‘It gives most people a reason to be lazy and not do anything. I meet a lot of people who say, “wait til I get to that age”.

‘Then I tell them how old I am and they are embarrassed. And I tell them that to make a point – it’s inactivity and their state of mind that makes them old.’

Bryant’s diet typically is a dry waffle or scrambled eggs with well-done bacon at Waffle House after he gets off work at 6 am. He then heads straight for Gold’s Gym on Walton Way Extension an hour later.

Born in 1943, Sonny is one of seven children. His father worked in the chalk mines while his mother was a maid and school bus driver.

After his graduation in 1964, he married his childhood sweetheart and joined the army. But the marriage could not withstand the long periods he spent away serving his country and soon broke down.

After seven years in the forces, he was medically discharged for blistering feet and moved to Chicago where he worked as a restaurant manager, a factory worker and an office cleaner.

Upon his return to Augusta, he began working at the Veterans Administration medical center as a nursing assistant where he met his second wife whose father was a patient there. But in 1986, she dropped the bombshell that she wanted a divorce. That was when he turned to bodybuilding.

But he didn’t give up on his hunt for nuptial bliss and married for a third time in the late 1990s. He says he never loved her like a wife, however, and they divorced in 2005. From then on, his relationship with his body grew.

How does he manage to stay so fit? He has a philosophy as strong as his bicep: ‘If you start thinking you’re old subconsciously, your conscious mind is going to take hold of that and your body is going to start acting old, feeling old. Then you’re old.

‘I don’t believe it. I’ll dance all night – but that’s just me.’

And he has a message for the couch potatoes out there too.

‘I want people to recognize what I’m doing and realize that it can be done,’ he says. ‘They can do it.

‘A lot of young guys, they go home, sit around, watch TV and do nothing – I’ve seen a lot of young guys who are older than me.

‘I can’t sit around too long. I hate it. I’ve got to be busy.’

Here is a video of Sam in action at the 2013 INBF Southern Natural Bodybuilding and Figure Championships: