Although we are all powerlifting brothers and sisters by nature, most of us, that are not Dave Tate anyway, also have a life which is not 100% fully related to powerlifting.  That life is the job that pays the bills and gives us money for that next new ‘must have’ piece of elitefts™ gear or equipment.  In my non-powerlifting life I am an assistant principal at a high school.  In that suit and tie-type role I work with all different personality types.  In graduate school we educational majors all studied the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

The extremely long story short is that there are, according to Jung (psychologist from the early 1900’s) two dichotomous or differing pairs of cognitive functions.  The rational functions: thinking and feeling and the irrational functions: sensation and intuition. Fast forward to the 1960’s, two test developers, Briggs and Myers build on Jung’s theories and said that there are four main person types and 16 total possible psychological types, none better, none worse.

Let’s slow this psychological vernacular down and shift to something we all get.  Ever watch Star Trek?  Well, Mr. Spock is one of those 16 personality types.  Specifically on the Myers-Briggs he is an ISTJ.  ISTJ simply meaning: Introverted, Sensing, Thinking Judging, Introverted Sensing with Extraverted Thinking.  The acronym is not important, Myers-Briggs is not important, but what is important is that for what Mr. Spocks’s job on the Enterprise is, for him to be the best and for him to work the best with Capt. Kirk (who by the way is ENFP…or Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving, Extraverted Intuition with Introverted Feeling). Ultimately, Spock needs to be the best guy/girl for that position, and that person should be an ISTJ.  Which is exactly Spock’s personality type.

Now pay attention.  The point of all of this is that in all walks of life, to be the best fit for a position, your personality type needs to fit in.  If your personality type requires you to be the center of attention, the person that is leading the way, pointing out the direction for all to go, you are going to be wasting your personality type and more importantly your skills if you end up in a job where you are expected to obey, meet someone else’s deadline and only offer an opinion when given one.

Are you following me so far?  Good because the same goes for powerlifting.  Powerlifting requires you to call on many traits within your complex personality as we require different traits at different times.  You have to be pragmatic when planning a lifting cycle, you have to be open when given feedback, yadda-yadda-yadda.  Then there is that time, that short moment in time when it is time to delve deep into your own persona and that is when IT’S TIME TO LET JOHNNY OUT OF THE BAG.


Mike Strom racks the weight with a huge vocal release and sends Johnny back to his bag. Photo by: Bent Nail Photography.

Letting Johnny out of the bag is a saying at the MONSTER GARAGE GYM that goes back some five generations of the Maroscher Powerlifting Team.  Who is Johnny, and why in the heck is he in a bag?  Johnny is you!  More specifically, Johnny is that little crazy part of yours and of every serious powerlifter’s personality.  For my friend Mario, Johnny is an intense, overly aggressive and borderline disturbed young man.  Johnny is kept in the far reaches of Mario’s mind, way back hidden in a dark place; back behind a heavy and sturdily built old-fashioned English castle type door; all the way back in this windowless brick room of his mind, locked inside a reinforced padlocked wooden crate. Inside this crate, Johnny is kept all alone inside of this thick heavy, wet leather and burlap bag all sealed at the top with a locked set of chains.

For Mario, Johnny is never allowed out, he is never allowed to play with others.  He just sits and rages in this damp, moist bag waiting for his moment.  All he wants is his one moment.  His moment to free himself from Mario’s mental restraints and to become the primary, if only for a moment, part of Mario’s persona and allow for Mario to unleash Johnny onto the weight standing before him.  The reason for letting Johnny out of the bag is because although Mario might have some doubt about if he can or can’t make this weight, Johnny has no doubt at all. Johnny is a part of Mario's persona that is nothing but a perfect mixture of confidence, aggression, and "die on the platform if I have to" mentality.  Johnny knows the weight is going up.

Let’s not confuse Johnny with what we see at some meets and that is the lifter spewing energy all over the place as I wrote about in, “Don’t Shake The Weights.” Johnny’s life span, as Mario’s majority personality trait, is mere moments. Just like we can all demonstrate restraint (crying baby in the movie), even when our thoughts are thinking something much different from, “it’s a baby crying, and hey, that is what babies do.” Just like we can demonstrate restraint, we can likewise summon Johnny.  Just like we can meditate and find a peaceful place while cooling down with some stretching following an amazing max effort training session, we can find a way to let Johnny out of the bag, yet control when and for how long he is allowed out.

Letting Johnny out of the bag for max-effort attempts, or second and third attempts at a meet, behooves us all.  And for all of us, our own personal Johnny looks very different from another person’s, and that is OK.  Ed Coan’s Johnny persona is pretty mild-mannered compared to Kirk Karwoski’s, but that is just how Ed would roll.  Looking a meet footage you can see that Chuck V’s Johnny mindset was out of the bag for a good long chunk of time, as that was what worked for him.  There is no wrong and not all lifters want to go where I am proposing for them to mentally go if they need to.

And that goes back to our Myers-Briggs 16 personality types.  Not all personality types will even have a Johnny, (my educated guess is powerlifters, serious powerlifters probably have a Johnny) but for those that do, keep him locked up until the time is right.  Then put him back until you need this very intense, aggressive part of you again. Some folks sniff ammonia to help let Johnny out of the bag.  Some get a smack in the face, and others, like Mario, just transform right there on the spot when they need to make the lift.

Erik Johnsen releasing Johnny with the help of Russ and Nick. Photo by: Bent Nail Photography

There is no right or wrong, there is only what is best for you, if or when you decide to let your own psychological version of Johnny out of the bag.

Ever Onward.

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