I first became acquainted with Chris some years ago during the original development of Muscles of Iron (MOI). A few days after publishing a small post about home-built strength equipment, I received a very encouraging email from a gentleman who identified himself as ‘Sticks’. Sticks was most appreciative of my site and its content. Among his many kind statements was the following words of encouragement:
“I admire your site and sense of composition. The articles are wonderful, and you are a great artist to go along with your equipment construction skill.”
Unbeknownst to Sticks at the time, my strength-equipment drawings were computer generated. But, I found great comfort knowing that these drawings were perceived by my new fan as “real” art. This was a big compliment and one I greatly appreciated receiving.
Over the months ahead, Sticks and I exchanged many emails, and our friendship blossomed. We pushed each intellectually, and I think that both of us were inspired to reach a creative peak by our frequent exchanges. Sticks was a rare genius of nature. His strength-equipment designs and drawings often left me in awe, and his grasp of what was happening in the bodybuilding world, both the good and the bad, revealed his high intellect.
After working together for nearly two years, Sticks and I went separate ways, parting during the summer of 2014. Sticks went on to become Art Director for the History of Physical Culture website. I took a long sabbatical from MOI to concentrate on my engineering career. The end result was that I missed working with Sticks, and late last year I looked forward to reuniting with him on the MOI stage. This was not to be, however. Just as I was planning to contact Sticks with some new proposals, I received tragic news that my friend had passed away. It was a very sad day.
Throughout our friendship, Sticks campaigned for truth, wholesome living, and first-class service. He had disdain for the bodybuilding “crooks”, and he loved the fellow whose words were strong, honest, simple, and deep in common sense. On one occasion, Sticks was offered a rather large sum of money from a couple of entrepreneurs for rights to manufacture and bring to the market exercise equipment based on some of his design plans. At first, Sticks was excited by the offer and eager to sign a deal. However, when he found out that his potential business partners were more concerned about how to achieve sky-high profit than providing customers with quality equipment, he immediately told them the deal was off and that he wanted no part of their business venture. Sticks would later tell me that he could not in good conscience be a part of selling anything at an unfair price, or take advantage of a customer in any other way.
Chris related to Peter Yates that as a 12-year-old inspiring strongman his parents had bought him a 110-pound Roberts barbell set. Chris immediately put his new weight set to use, and it wasn't long before his burgeoning strength called for extra weight. In an attempt to keep up with his training progress, Chris's mother, Emily, bought him a pair of Roberts 40-pound discs for his 14th birthday. Over the next few years, his mother continued to supplement his barbell by providing him with an additional set of 40-pound plates on subsequent birthdays.
As Chris' barbell set grew in size, so did his muscles. One of Chris' top weapons for gaining muscular bulk and power quickly was his emphasis on performing heavy deadlifts. Doing lots of deadlifts made his back and legs extremely strong and packed his frame with several pounds of new muscle. Since ‘Sticks’ did not own a competition-height barbell set, he performed his deadlifts with his standard-sized Roberts outfit. The shorter height of his standard plates forced Chris to lift through a greater range of motion than would have been required with a taller competition barbell. This “limitation” turned out to be a competitive advantage for the young lifter. During official powerlifting meets, Sticks would usually end up lifting a lot more weight than he thought he was capable of. He explained that the taller competition bar made his training weights feel light, a factor which encouraged him to request additional plate loading with total confidence.
Like his mother, Sticks' father, Glyn Bostick, was very supportive of his son's lifting ambitions. The senior Mr. Bostick had been an electrical engineer for General Electric. Later he and Emily founded three electronic firms starting with Radar Design Corporation, followed by Microwave Filter Company, and then Communications and Energy Corporation. The senior Mr. Bostick was very mechanically inclined, and he used his machine skills to make his son an “excellent” barbell early in his lifting career. Sticks inherited his father's mechanical aptitude, and from watching his dad do machine work while growing up in the Bostick household, he likely received his first lessons on building exercise equipment.
The encouragement and support that Chris' parents gave him during his early years, both for his art work and for his weight training, meant a great deal to him. In later years, as the health of his parents declined, Chris returned the love he had received from them. When his father became ill, Chris without hesitation became his primary caregiver. As his father's illness progressed, Chris continued caring for him with an utmost devotion until the senior Bostick passed away at the age of 74. Chris provided the same love and support for his mother during the final years of her life.
Some years ago my then seven-year-old daughter visited me in the garage gym just as I was getting ready to start a heavy workout. She wanted to go horseback riding, and I had to make a decision whether to take her to the local equestrian center or to stay with the plan to set a new personal best in the barbell squat. The decision was an easy one to make, and my workout was postponed until the next day. I later related this experience in a post for MOI entitled, A Truly Good Reason for Missing a Workout. As part of the post, I included a photo of a get-well card that my daughter had made for me a few years earlier when I was recovering from a bad illness. Sticks would later tell me that it was his favorite post on MOI and that he was extremely touched by my daughter's hand-drawn card. Hearing this from Sticks meant a lot to me, and I could see that family was far more important to him than anything else, including building bigger muscles.
Never was Sticks' devotion to family more apparent then after his younger brother, David, developed Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurodegenerative disease. As the debilitating effects of ALS began to take root, Chris put aside all non-essentials in his life and devoted nearly every waking moment to David's care. When his brother succumbed to ALS in 2018 at the age of 57, Chris was devastated.
From the first moment that I learned about Sticks, I was intrigued by his uncanny ability to design and build strength equipment. I would look at one of his drawing plans and think, “ Wow, this design is incredibly innovative”. In fact, Sticks was so talented I would often compare him to the late Arthur Jones, the bodybuilding Renaissance man who invented the Nautilus exercise machines.
Later, I would learn from Sticks that he was a fan of Arthur Jones and that he had been influenced by the inventor's many contributions to strength training. Sticks related,
“Many years ago I visited Deland Florida and Nautilus Sports Industries and met Arthur Jones . During one of his seminars he made maybe one of the last honest statements I've ever heard from a strength-gear manufacturer. He said, ‘If you don't have access to any of my new equipment, don't sweat it. Enormous gains in size and strength can be had with a plate loading barbell as your only tool.’ He was correct, as usual, but it wasn't until I built my own equipment that I was truly satisfied with my training.”
Using self-built equipment was paramount in Sticks' training philosophy. In his experience, there was a certain emotional high and psychological edge that one could attain in the gym only by working out with something made with your own hands. To Sticks, something you build yourself, no matter how simple or elaborate, was something to be proud of. He favored even the crudest home-built training apparatus over any store-bought machine. “Music self played is happiness self made,” he used to tell me.
In addition to building his own strength equipment, Sticks was very fond of sharing his designs and training knowledge. He once wrote, “You feel the joy of building something that actually works quite well and want to share the knowledge. Learning and teaching makes the world go round.”
The desire that Sticks had to share information turned out to be very beneficial to my own growth. From art to productive training techniques, I learned a great many things from Sticks, and his influence allowed me to expand my intellectual horizons much further than otherwise would have been possible.
Sticks was one of the most talented guys I have ever known, but I remember him best for his loyal friendship and shining personality. He was one who sincerely cared for the welfare of others. Many individuals were recipients of his kindness in big and subtle ways. It was not uncommon for Chris to spend considerable time and money designing and building a piece of training equipment for himself, afterwards giving his finished product away for free to somebody in need. Quite a few young and financially strapped lifters Chris knew from his neighborhood benefited from his generosity in this way. Similarly, Chris was generous with his art work. Many of his drawings could have demanded a high price, but he gave hundreds of them away for free. Chris received payment enough from the pleasure of helping people and seeing them happy.
There will never be another Sticks, and my dream of working with him again has forever been crushed. I do, however, find some solace in knowing that Sticks left with me quite a large backlog of creative drawings and articles, each with his signature and intention for publication on MOI. In his honor, many of these works will be published in the upcoming months, and Sticks will continue to function as an MOI staff member in spirit.
Sticks was the brother I never had, and his influence on me will forever be engraved in my soul. I am most thankful to have gained his friendship, and the memory of his teachings will have an ever-lasting hold on me. During his time on Earth, Sticks made this world a better place, and I will be forever grateful that our paths crossed. May Chris Paul Bostick rest in peace.
A special thanks is given to Peter Yates for helping to guide and review this tribute and for sharing his own memories of Sticks. Peter also provided many of the photographs used in this article.
An equal thanks is given to Diane Bostick, sister of Sticks. Diane, is working to preserve her brother's legacy through the Sticks Mulduzi website, and her help in preparing this tribute was most helpful.
A special thanks is also given to Robert Hartle for his excellent work as designer and webmaster for the Sticks Mulduzi site. Robert also provided photographs for this tribute.
And, finally, I would like to give a super special thanks to Sticks. Sticks you are greatly missed, and the many contributions you made to this world continue to make a big difference in our lives.