Monster Garage Gym: The Gear Is Ready to Go Heavier, But Are You?

TAGS: Metal suit, briefs, Eric Maroscher, geared lifting, knee wraps, powerlifting

There are two universal reactions when folks “wanting to power lift” come into the Monster Garage Gym (MGG). The first reaction is they come into the MGG, look inside, turn right back around, walk out of the gym as fast as they can, get in their car, and hit the gas pedal never to return. The MGG is truly not for everyone. The second reaction is that look you see on a powerlifter's face when he also looks inside. He gets that, “I've found my new training home” look on his face and never leaves.

*Monster Garage Gym, as seen when no one is around. Photo by: Bent Nail Photography

Big Shaun had reaction number two. He is a powerlifter, and from day one, he “got it.” He got the family atmosphere, loved the serious powerlifting work ethic, appreciated the best elitefts™ powerlifting equipment that money could buy, and felt that brotherhood that only true powerlifters know. He understood how special this gym, this fortress of powerlifting solitude, truly was and he jumped in with both feet.

Shaun came to us already raw strong. He had built a very solid foundation, and at about five feet, nine inches tall and 240 pounds virtually fat free, Shaun looks every bit powerlifter.

The guys from MGG met Shaun at a non-sanctioned powerlifting meet. One conversation led to another and Shaun found himself training, as many lifters do, at one gym for some days and at MGG on his max effort days.

As we watched ‘the new guy,’ we all liked his eagerness to learn, his help as an unsolicited spotter and loader, and the fact that he seemed like a student of the sport. The raw guys loved having another raw partner around, but the gear wearing guys, aka the dark side, wanted him to train with them as well. Unfortunately for the raw guys, once Shaun put on a pair of Metal briefs, he fell in love with the dark side and began training exclusively in gear for the most part on his max effort days.

Alex, a 700-pound squatter at 159 pounds, and Dr. Al, a 705-pound squatter at 181 pounds, showing their Metal. Photo by: Bent Nail Photography

Because Shaun had come to us already strong with at least average form and oodles of sheer determination, he had initial success with the brief. But as many of you reading this know, gear is like the Ring of Gyges—intoxicating. When used without the proper thought and perspective, like the Ring of Gyges, the gear will have its way with you.

*Plato, author of The Republic, a book in which the Ring of Gyges is mentioned.

As a raw lifter, Shaun had good days, bad days, average days, and injury days, and these took place through years of lifting. He had experienced a lot because he had spent a lot of time training raw. However, after a couple geared Saturdays in which Shaun happened to have great PR days, he did what most "new to gear" guys do and that is throw on the big weight. Because of Shaun’s now improving form, he had better command and control over the weight and was easily hitting PR after PR. But unlike raw training, Shaun’s PRs were coming so fast that he wasn't really dominating the weight or the gear/brief. He was hitting a new PR and then going up, hitting a new PR and then going up and so on.

So Eric, what the heck is wrong with going up, up, up? Nothing, unless your goal is to continue on that trajectory. What?

Analogy time: You're a great race car driver and you're winning races. Then you get a new car that has an additional 400 horsepower. You will go faster and you should win more races. You eventually will run that superfast car into a wall, too, unless you take your time learning that new, more powerful engine. Learn it just like you learned about the engine that got you to this point in the first place.

Shaun learned how his body performs raw over a span of time—days, months, and years. To best move forward in gear, learn to dominate the weight that you're moving. Then throw in variables, dominate the weighted variables, and move on to the next weight. Then repeat. For example, you have your new Metal brief. First, learn to squat in it because gear is truly different than raw. Then box squat in it and use some accommodating resistance like chains or bands. Then do some reverse bands, speed work, and heavy work, but do this at a weight that you can dominate so you know the nuances of the brief. As you squat, you will make mistakes. Know how the brief behaves when your knees come in too far or you drop your head squatting or your butt comes up too quickly when deadlifting. Know all these variables before moving up in weight. Learn the equipment. Don’t just sit back enjoying a new PR unless you want it to be one of your last because injuries will come with gear if you try weights that you aren't ready for yet.

Watching gear change over the years into the modern polymers that it's now made of, I've noticed that it will find your weak point because the gear doesn't have any weak points. If you're a squatter who can’t push his knees out, lifting heavier than you're ready for won't only push your knees in, as gear tends to do that initially, but it will do so when you're underneath weight that is new territory for you. That isn't the place to be. Keep in mind that tendons and ligaments need to catch up with the new weight. The gear doesn't have to catch up to anything. Gear is ready, and gear is waiting. If you're new to gear, respect not only the gear but the inordinately heavier weights that you'll attempt.

Shaun has now been at the MGG for some time. He's a great listener and, because of this, he has heard the cautionary tales but more importantly is heeding them. Like Bill Murray would say, when it comes to gear, it takes “baby steps."

Shaun from MGG working toward dominating a range of weight to then be able to add more. Video clip by: Monster Garage Gym YouTube page

After you've built a strong raw foundation (based on proper form), here is what this domination cycle would look like:

  • Learn the brief by living in it for a while.
  • Lift in it with heavy weight that you can manage. Dominate the weight. With similar weight, train under many variables such as box squats, chains, bands, and speed work. Build a base of experiences by lifting with variables to learn the nuances of the brief. Remember, it isn't a race.
  • Once you've dominated that weight, go up in weight. Then do the same thing—dominate that amount of weight. With that same weight, train under many variables such as box squats, chains, bands, and speed work.
  • Add knee wraps to the equation and then dominate that amount of weight. With that same weight, train under many variables such as box squats, chains, bands, and speed work. Build a base of experiences by lifting with variables to learn the nuances of the brief and knee wraps.
  • Add the suit to the equation, straps down, and dominate that amount of weight. With that same weight, train under many variables such as box squats, chains, bands, and speed work. Build a base of experiences by lifting with variables to learn the nuances of the brief, knee wraps, and now the suit. Then put the straps up and repeat.

Get excited about your new gear. Just remember not to get ahead of yourself. In the long run, that will make a tremendous difference.

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