How Powerlifting Saved My Life

TAGS: nutrition advice, overweight, Matt Corrow, motivation, Body Transformation, muscle gain, lifting advice, body composition, clint darden, live learn pass on, Brandon Smitley, cardio, weight loss, fat loss, powerlifting, dave tate, bench press

It should go without saying that nothing in life comes easily — unless we're talking about being fat. Yeah, I said it. Let's call it what it is and be honest with ourselves. Barring a legitimate medical condition, being fat is easy. Most of us don't have to do much, if anything, to be fat. Hell, all I had to do was sit on my ass in front of the TV eating fast food for 30 years. I drank soda with every meal. What'd that get me, you ask? Well, it got me to about 430 pounds and a combined diagnosis of pre-diabetes and hypertension at 30 years old. I didn't even have to try!

What followed that visit to the doctor was a short-lived period of crash diets, rapid but brief weight loss, depression, and an inevitable gain of the weight I'd been trying so hard to shed. My doctor was more than willing to throw medication at me or refer me to a dietitian who told me the only way to win the war on fat was to eat 1200 calories a day (that's another article in and of itself) and work out more, so that's what I did. For months I obsessed about every calorie, beating myself up for eating 50 more than I 'needed'. I'd weigh myself eight or ten times a day. I started upping my cardio to an hour, then two, all the while wondering, agonizing over the simple fact that I wasn't losing more weight. I'd stalled. Even more disturbing, I noticed a dangerous obsession forming. I was headed into dangerous territory. I was half a step away from a full-blown eating disorder.

I panicked. I binged. I shot right back up to 400 pounds. 406, to be exact. The Internet at large wasn't much help. There are literally thousands of "fitness experts" and "coaches" out there trying to sell you on their way or their brand. The sad thing is that most of them are barely qualified to wipe their own asses, let alone give sound training or nutrition advice. So, back to the gym it was. It was either that or die young. Then something happened. I was peddling along on a stationary bike one day when in walked the biggest, scariest dude I'd ever seen. This guy intimidated the hell out of me, and keep in mind I was 6'3" and "huge". He bypassed the Cardio Theater and headed back into the room where the free weights were — the area I avoided because I just knew I'd be laughed out of it.


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After a few minutes, he walked back out. I was the only other person in there. "Hey bud," he said, "you mind taking a video of this bench press for me when you're done?" I hopped off the bike. He mentioned he didn't mean for me to stop and I told him, "Man, this isn't doing much for my weight loss anyway." He laughed. "I don't mess with that. I'm not trying to lose weight. I'm trying to get bigger."

Dave and Matt

I couldn't fathom those words. I walked back and filmed his press. 405 pounds. I'd never seen anyone lift that much weight before in my life. I was in awe. I told him as much, and he said, "Bud, that ain't good enough with me being at this weight." In walked another guy about half his size. They looked over the video and talked and I watched the new guy work up to over 300 pounds. I sat back and watched and shook my head. I could never do what they did. I started to walk out, thanking them for letting me watch them train. Then they asked that all-too-familiar question.

"How much do you bench?"

I froze in a cold sweat. "I don't. I never have."

 

I was doomed. I started thinking which gym I'd join when they laughed me out of there. But they didn't. Ten minutes later they'd helped me get set and I failed 135 after struggling with 95 for a few reps. They told me about powerlifting, a sport I'd never heard of. They talked about weight classes and totals and belts and wraps, nutrition, training, on and on. The only time they laughed was when I told them what I was eating. 1200 calories a day.

"Check out some YouTube videos on powerlifting. Learn more about resistance training. See what you think. Oh, and eat some food. Catch you later."

It didn't take long for me to stumble onto Clint Darden's channel. From there, I found elitefts. I read everything. I watched everything. I started getting my nutrition under control and started picking up a barbell. I started eating. 2000 calories. 2500 calories. I started asking questions. To my surprise, Clint answered. I reached out to other elitefts team members, like Brandon Smitley, who offered advice and answered questions and took time to help me out. Here's a guy, a stranger on the internet—a nobody—that none of them were obligated to so much as give a second thought to.

But they did. They embodied "Live, Learn, and Pass On." And, with that inspiration and feedback, I began to see my body change sustainably. I built my lifts up. I love the bench. I hit 185. Then 200. Then 225. It was a grind. It took years, but I kept going. Then 300 went up. It had taken me two years to hit that awful, ugly, ass-off-the-bench, red-light gym PR. But it went up. At that point, I realized I'd done a body weight press. Most importantly, that meant that I'd lost over 100 pounds in addition to the muscle mass I'd packed on over that two-year period. I went from a 5XL shirt to a 2XL. I hit a low weight of 294 and am now at 335 pounds with no change in my waistline over that 40 pounds. I lost 14 inches from my waist. It has been nothing short of an amazing, life-changing journey.


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That said, it took years. This was not, and cannot be, an overnight fix. You didn't get fat overnight and you won't lose it in 30 days, regardless of what the ads try to sell you. There is no magic pill. No wrap. No 15-day program to transform your tummy. No spot reduction. There is only work and sacrifice. There is only dedication. There is struggle. A struggle I share with anyone who wants to know what my "secret" is.

I've since had the chance to meet and train with Dave Tate. When I told him about my journey, he smiled ear to ear. Powerlifting and the team at elitefts had saved my life. I told him I'd waited years to thank him for giving me the gift of a new beginning. "No," he said, "We were only the catalyst. You did the work. Keep doing what you're doing."

Today, I'm still hitting PRs. I'm still working on my body's recomp. Those guys that wandered in to bench two years ago are now friends and training partners. Most importantly, I'm alive. My A1C went from 6 to 5.1. My BP dropped and I went from over 55% body fat to under 30%. I'm in the best shape I've ever been in but I'm far from where I want to be. I've got a long road ahead, and I'm looking forward to it.

Life is too short to live in misery. Find something that drives you. Clint Darden would say to "go all in or quit." There's nothing wrong with quitting, but I'm here to tell you that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. It's never too late. There will be setbacks and plateaus. Keep that in mind when you get discouraged. Keep the passion. Stay focused. Remain dedicated.

You can't control how much time you've got to be upright. Live your life. Push yourself. You might be surprised to find what you're capable of.

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