Written by Ron Harris
21 June 2022







The Ohio Powerhouse!

Dean Caputo Is an Industry Legend


By Ron Harris


Many of you younger readers don’t know who Dean Caputo is. When I say he was one of the best amateurs to never turn pro and that he was better than 90 percent or more of the men turning pro these days, you probably think I’m just being that bitter old guy again. But it’s true. Dean competed nationally in an era where very few pro cards were available, and the best amateurs were every bit as famous and respected as the pros – and not because they had millions of followers on social media, which was still 25 years away. Just to give you an idea of the quality and depth of the national level in that era, take a look at the heavyweight class Dean competed in at the 1991 NPC Nationals, seven years before the super heavyweight class was added:


1. Kevin Levrone

2. Flex Wheeler

3. Paul DeMayo

4. Ronnie Coleman

5. Matt Mendenhall

6. Bob Cicherillo

7. Edgar Fletcher

8. Dean Caputo

But Dean was much more than a great bodybuilder. He’s also a gym owner, sponsored athlete who also worked in product research and formulation, a husband and father of three, and most recently, the owner of a fast-growing website and supplement company. It’s time to learn more about this man of many talents in our industry.


Bodybuilding Origins in The Buckeye State


Many of us were inspired to become bodybuilders after seeing a still or moving image of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Dean’s first reaction to The Austrian Oak at age 10 while watching coverage of the 1973 Mr. Olympia on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” was not so positive. “I thought it was the sickest, grossest thing I’d ever seen, and I never wanted to look like that!” he laughs.


That all changed seven years later as Caputo was heading into his senior year of high school at a slight 5-foot-11 and 140 pounds. “I guess I just got tired of being skinny, and I started lifting weights with my buddy Rod.” This was before every town and city had dozens of gyms, so Dean’s garage became their iron haven. They each pooled their bars and weights and built benches and racks in shop class. Mirrors and photos of Arnold and Lou Ferrigno on the wall completed the ambiance, and soon they had 15 young men training there.


Dean put on a full 20 pounds that summer, impressing his high school football coach enough to ask him to try out even though he’d never snapped a football in his life. Dean was more interested in expanding his gym. A friend’s brother owned a dry-cleaning business there in Streetsboro, Ohio with a vacant back room, and for $65 a month rent, Dean had his first commercial gym at the age of 18. It was there that he also had his first foray into the supplement business. “The only protein powders available at that time were from Weider, and they tasted truly awful,” Dean tells us. “I started mixing my own flavors like cocoa powder in so they would taste better and selling them out of Baggies to the guys at my gym.”




Competing as a Marketing Tool


Some men begin competing because they want to be a pro, or they have even loftier ambitions such as being Mr. Olympia. A foreshadowing of Dean’s business savvy was evident in the reason he decided to first don posing trunks. “I figured if I could win a contest, the local newspaper would do a story on me and I would get more members signing up at my gym,” he explains. Again kids, this was long before the Internet or social media. Teenage bodybuilding was huge in the early 1980s, with classes typically stacked with 20-30 kids. Caputo targeted the NPC Northern District Championships, getting all his info from Weider’s Muscle Builder magazine. For six weeks, all he ate was beef, eggs and salad. “It was miserable!” he laughs. Without a coach, Dean showed up at the contest with no tan and swim trunks from JCPenney that resembled the posing trunks of the late ‘60s or early ‘70s. He won on the day before turning 20 at 211 pounds, and decided to try his hand at the Mr. Ohio a few weeks later.


“I knew the judging standards emulated whatever the Mr. Olympia ideal at the time was, which was smaller but shredded like Frank Zane, Chris Dickerson and Samir Bannout,” he tells us. “I had help this time from John Parrillo, who had been head judge at my first show, and I got down to the lightest I ever was, 198 pounds for the Ohio.”


To this day, Caputo still holds the record as the youngest Ohio state champion at 20 years old. Dean would continue to compete off and on until 1993, coming close to turning pro several times. One of his best looks was the 1991 USA, where he took third behind newcomer Mike Matarazzo and Flex Wheeler. He had dieted 30 weeks for that show, and was asked several weeks later by Jim Manion to compete in the NPC Nationals. Dean did it, but his body was burnt out and didn’t respond properly to the prep.


Dean’s final appearance on stage would be at the 1993 NPC Nationals, where at 5-foot-11 and 256 pounds he was basically the same size as Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates. Still, Caputo felt it was time to walk away. “I always admired Jim Brown from the Cleveland Browns for retiring when he was still at his best,” he says. “My placings were starting to slip, and even though I was still in my 20s, it felt like time to move on to other things.”


Surprisingly, he holds no regret or bitterness about never turning pro. “Being one of the top amateurs was the best way back then to get into the magazines, which in turn led to opportunities for supplement contracts and appearances.” And that strategy paid off handsomely.




From Sponsored Athlete to Company Owner


Dean’s first entry into the supplement industry in 1988 was ostentatious to say the least, as GNC was the largest retailer in the world at the time. His good friend Mr. USA Dave Hawk was with the company, and signed Dean on not only to represent their new Pro Performance line, but to assist in product development as well. It would go on to become their top-selling brand for many years, and you could find a life-size cardboard cutout of Dean flexing in every one of GNC’s 3,000 locations. In 1990 he left to be part of his friend Victor Rubino’s company, Ultimate Nutrition, and would work with them for 13 years. “I helped get them into GNC immediately, and we did $3 million in sales the first year – we were also the first company to sell creatine,” he tells us. Unfortunately, Victor died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 2003, and in 2005 Dean parted ways with Ultimate. Finally, he began working on developing his own company and product line.


With longtime friend Chris Longo as his partner, STS Supplement Training Systems debuted at the 2007 Arnold Classic and is still going strong today. Not content to have simply a supplement company, in 2020 he launched STSFit, a website that not only sells over 4,000 different supplements from over 30 different companies but also educates with content on training, nutrition and even healthy recipes along with motivational videos. Some of his writers include legends like Rich Gaspari, Lee Labrada, Berry de Mey and John Parrillo.


Gym Owner and Contest Promoter


As if he wasn’t busy enough, Dean also got back into the gym business in 2020 with a push from his wife Monica, reopening Powerhouse Gym in Streetsboro, Ohio with an entirely different and unique setup. “I wanted a place where the whole family could go,” he explains. “A lot of times the wife will go to some big box type place like LA Fitness while the husband trains at some dirty little hardcore dungeon. My gym has three distinct zones. The Fitness Zone has all the selector stack Life Fitness equipment and all the cardio machines. The Extreme Zone is more hardcore, with dumbbells up to 150 pounds, plate-loading machines, and louder music. I really wanted to recreate that great ‘80s bodybuilding atmosphere with the pictures up on the walls of both pros and the members. Hardcore lifting is encouraged, and we don’t have a problem with lifters using chalk. We even have a posing room that accommodates up to 20 people that we run posing clinics out of, that people come from as far away as New York and Pennsylvania for. Finally, there’s the Sports Zone with all turf for sports-specific athletic training, pushing the sled, and so on.”


Dean also notes that his gym is in the top three for clothing sales of all the Powerhouse Gyms in the franchise (I’m guessing Bev and Steve’s in Syosset, New York is number one). Caputo has also been part of NPC contests and contest promotion for 30 years. For a few years in the 1990s he served as NPC District Chairman for Ohio, and he’s been a contest promoter even longer. For years he ran the Dean Caputo Powerhouse Classic. “That was a huge show, and I always brought in four to five big-name guest posers every year.” 


He continues to run the NPC Northcoast Championships, which is a labor of love and his chance to give back to his fellow bodybuilders. “When you walk in, there are life-size banners of the overall champions going back to 2014, and I also use my connections to help them get modeling and acting work,” he says. “Before the show begins, we run a video showing a bunch of the competitors training for the show, and we also give the overall winners a 24x36-inch poster of themselves.”



What Next?


Between being a dedicated husband and the dad of daughters Sammi and Meadow and son Giovanni, Dean is constantly striving to upgrade and improve his supplement company, website, gym and NPC event. He serves as an excellent example of someone who never turned professional and had the chance to vie for titles like the Mr. Olympia or Arnold Classic, but who used his own competitive bodybuilding career as a stepping-stone and catalyst for tremendous success in various roles and platforms within the fitness industry. Though he certainly possessed a fantastic physique that was more than worthy of a pro card, even more impressive are his drive, work ethic and business acumen. Dean Caputo truly is a powerhouse in the world of fitness, bodybuilding and nutritional supplements.





Contest History

1984 Teenage Ohio North District - Winner

1984 Ohio Championships - Light Heavyweight and Overall Champion

1985 Eastern USA - Heavyweight and Overall Champion

1985 Midwest America - Heavyweight and Overall Champion

1986 Junior Nationals - Heavyweight Winner

1987 North American Championships - Fourth, Heavyweight

1987 NPC Nationals - 13th, Heavyweight

1989 USA Championships - Did not place

1989 North American Championships - Second, Heavyweight

1991 USA Championships - Third, Heavyweight

1991 NPC Nationals - Ninth, Heavyweight

1992 NPC Nationals - Seventh, Heavyweight

1993 NPC Nationals - Fifth, Heavyweight




Ron Harris got his start in the bodybuilding industry during the eight years he worked in Los Angeles as Associate Producer for ESPN’s “American Muscle Magazine” show in the 1990s. Since 1992 he has published nearly 5,000 articles in bodybuilding and fitness magazines, making him the most prolific bodybuilding writer ever. Ron has been training since the age of 14 and competing as a bodybuilder since 1989. He lives with his wife and two children in the Boston area. Facebook Instagram