Maybe you know me. Maybe you know of me as a powerlifting coach. Maybe you just clicked on an article based on the title. Nevertheless, prepare for a trip down memory lane. (Mine, not yours.) I'll tell you that among those who do know of me, I am probably best known for my ability to excel at pragmatic and strategic planning. Remember that part, it's important.

It is a big part of why I am so effective as a coach. These and similar talents were a tremendous help in developing what might be the most effective methodology for the sport of raw powerlifting to date. (Ahem, 5thSet.) But these attributes have also permeated into every other aspect of my life; sometimes for the better and many times for the worse. I tell you all of this, not to brag, but to draw an important story out from the back of my mind and onto this page. You see, there was a time I believed training was to be carried out like a boxing match, the fighter who landed the most blows and remained standing would become the victor. An idea which stands to reason, but that was about all the reason I would allow in my training at that time. Any more, I was afraid, would turn into excuse-making; a means to rationalize sidestepping the hard work of the path I had chosen.

Keep in mind, I was very much a pragmatist and strategic on the long term in every other endeavor in my life at the time, including my diet. But training, I was convinced, was about working harder and longer than anyone else and there wasn't much more to the picture than that.

So travel with me, if you will, dear reader, back to turn of the century— in the winter of the year two thousand, and meet a very different Swede than the man writing this today. Some of the things I'm going to tell you may be hard to believe, but I won't lie to you. I did some impressively stupid shit.

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Around this time, I was working as part of a stone setting crew, doing manual labor in cemeteries for about ten hours per day. I'd taken a hiatus from powerlifting and committed myself, entirely, to the idea of becoming a professional bodybuilder and my dreams of glory seemed to be peaking at me from just beyond the horizon. I was already over three hundred pounds with a relatively decent body composition, due to diet and genetics far more than training intelligence. I can tell you that much for certain.

All of my training was done in a long since closed down basement facility called Eastern Athletic Club. It was located underneath a strip mall that still exists in Springfield, PA. There was a Borders bookstore above, where I'd been reading poetry books for free while drinking coffee from the cafe inside for years. Another favorite past time in that store was perusing the myriad muscle magazines available right next to where I'd sit. Those publications are where I was first introduced to the most impressive physical specimen of a human being, possibly ever, Greg Kovacs. He stood about an inch taller than me at six foot, three inches, and cast an imposing shadow over everything in his path, setting the bar for what I believed was possible in terms of muscular development. As fate would have it, through an almost unbelievable series of happenings, we would become very close friends, shortly after this period and on until his untimely and tragic death, in the winter of 2013. It was a devastating loss to everyone who knew him, one of the kindest and funniest men I've ever met. He got me my first endorsement contract as a bodybuilder.

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The meat of this story is the training that took place in the that dank, basement facility, down below the bookstore, baristas and beauty salon.

A former Gold's Gym, Eastern was a haven for locals who wanted to sling serious iron and home to quite a few competitive body builders, though, I may be the only one still living today. And that doesn't come as much of a surprise to me, considering the absolute insanity some of us passed off as training. That sort of behavior is usually a symptom of something more troublesome, within. A guy in there told me once, during the maybe six months he was a member, fresh out of state prison, "You don't have to be fucked up in the head to do this stuff, but it doesn't hurt." He was strong; benched 455 for a double his first session out of prison and added almost a hundred pounds to that before getting kicked out of the gym for stealing the wallet of another guy I trained with, Joe Pacini.

Joe had won the heavyweight division and overall at a big NPC bodybuilding contest in New Jersey called the Gold's Classic. He always seemed very level headed and I looked up to him as a competitor. I guess things spun out of control for him at some point, because he was shot to death in his car by police officers in Upper Darby, just after Christmas, in 2014.

With all of this, I'm assuming you are starting to get a picture of the kind of training environment we had in this place. It was pretty intense. For a moment in time, every session was a war against myself, even if I was the only one watching. And I've never been one to be outdone.

Read that last sentence again.

My training was very organized and consistent as far as movement selection and rep scheme, but it lacked any complex forethought, beyond training the target muscle groups within a rep range and weight limit that was predetermined for each exercise. That sounds reasonable, right? Weight limits and rep ranges. Might be something I'd recommend today, even.

No. Here's the catch: if I was still able to get reps within the target range for another set, I wasn't done. And I put no limitation on rest periods.

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To give you a picture of what this insanity might've looked like on any given squat session, the weight limit was 585 pounds and the rep range was 4-8 reps. So let's say I was able to get on the high end of that rep range for a few sets, which I was able to do during this time period, I could easily start taking ten-minute breaks and keep getting 4-6 for a few more sets, at least. Often, the first exercise of the day on leg day, squats, would keep going until I literally fell into the safety pins trying to get four reps.

I would vomit during these sessions, almost always, and feel like I was going die before even starting the second movement of the night, hack squats. And the punishment continued from there. Hopefully, you're asking yourself why in the holy name of fuck I would ever do this. The answer is that it served as a coping mechanism for the combination of self-loathing, obsessive, violent thoughts and risk-taking which eventually landed me in prison. But I am wide of my point.

The only way I could recover from these grueling, over three hour-long sessions was to train just three days per week and nap during training times on off days. The split was chest/shoulders/triceps on Monday, legs on Wednesday and back/biceps on Friday. I would train at night and have to be up for my job in the morning, so that meant taking a very long nap after work from 5-9pm. On non-training days I would try to make myself go to bed after dinner. My life was largely about eating from the minute I woke up until I fell asleep. Training nights I'd take 50-75mg of ephedrine with 300mg of caffeine and drink an entire bottle of Diet Mountain Dew during the session. Of course, I used anabolics, but so did everyone else and none of them were insane enough to keep up with what I'd do, least of all other huge bodybuilders. I feel like I have to mention what we (most bodybuilders) used in those days, even Kovacs, was less than half of what I hear about the average teenage wiener using who can't bench 300 pounds, nowadays.

Every session started in a similar manner. Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps, for example, started with incline barbell presses with 405 as the weight limit and with the same 4-8 rep range. I would not last as long on these as I did on squats, but there were more movements to cover on that day. You get the idea.

Did this work? Yes. Mainly because I was gifted in terms of recoverability. But this type of training ruined other lifters I trained with inside of a few months.

Would I do it differently if I could go back and do it all again? 1000x fuck yes. I've been paying for that insanity ever since and I know I could've made the same progress without the damage, had I not been so crazy. But when we are in a situation, we don't see things as they are, we see things as we are. During that period, I was chaos. Madness.

Clearly, I've turned things around since then, in many regards, but this is where I was at that time, and it's part of what led me to where I am now; my experience of living as a male human.

The moral of the story is this: even if you're actively training like a lunatic and destroying yourself in the process, every passing moment is an opportunity to turn that shit around. The sooner the better. Take my word for it.