Some years back I was having a discussion with some of my powerlifting team members after a big squat and deadlift workout. We were all sitting around a big table eating our post-lifting meal at our favorite Mexican restaurant. In between burritos, the discussion turned from general powerlifting to specifically, “What is the single most important thing for one’s powerlifting career?” I remember sitting back and listening to the team conversing back-and-forth about lifting gear this, squat shoes that, supplement this, and training program that. This went on for two burritos and a taco.  I sat back with my arms folded and one of those knowing grins on my face. It was such a precious moment—each guy, ever so passionate, waxing poetically about their one thing. I remember starting to laugh and this is when they all looked at me. It was one of those Yoda moments if you know what I mean.  I responded to their questioning stares by beginning to quiz each member about another member.

  • “Hey BIG Keith, what is Tom’s biggest gym squat?
  • What is his biggest meet squat?
  • How many jumps does he take till he hits his opener?
  • What word or phrase does he respond to when we are trying to get him dialed in?
  • What warm-up set does his briefs go on?
  • When does he want the back of his shirt chalked?
  • When do the straps go up?
  • What does he eat the last week before a meet?
  • What does he eat after the weigh-in?"

This went on and on with each person having the ability to answer every single question about the other guys. What my team of guys failed to see was that they all had lifting gear this, squat shoes that, supplement this, and training program that—but what made this team of lifters great was this team of lifters. Are you catching my drift?  It is the power of the team (if it is a true team) that is the single most important thing to these individuals.

So, some years back I wrote an article that is now in the elitefts™ archives that I am dusting off to share with you. You'll see as you read it, the names and totals have changed, but the fact remains that nothing and no one thing is more important or more essential to the growth of an individual lifter than the power of a true team around him/her.

Sit back and soak this one in because it is important. If you are serious about your powerlifting, read it carefully. And whatever you do, avoid being one of those lifters that say, “But Eric, there is no team around me to lift with.” I say avoid saying that because when I moved to Gurnee, Illinois I left my team and there was no powerlifting team up here. Therefore, I took my destiny into my own hands and Kevin Costner'd it. I started my own team, and like the land of the misfit toys, all of these guys that had been kicked out of corporate gym A or fitness center B showed up in my garage and the rest is Monster Garage Gym history.

The link at the end of the article takes you to a clip of the team at Monster Garage Gym. I can tell you this, we are all individually, as parts of the team, stronger due to the power of the team as a whole. You can ask any member on any day of the week about this team and they will tell you that it makes for a great training session, every session. In the video, just like every session, we support one another and do everything it takes to get the other guy/girl stronger as they do the same karmic thing for you. Oh and yes, this team too goes out after a weekend squat/deadlift session and eats Mexican food. Some habits are not meant to be broken.

I hope you enjoy the following blast from the past because it is as true today as ever.


The Power of Team

Originally Published: August 9, 2007

It’s similar to when your favorite song comes blasting through the speakers at the gym and you get that little extra charge of power for the movement that you’re performing. It isn’t unlike that extra focus you feel when you just know that the folks on the other side of the gym are noticing how much you’re squatting and are asking each other, “How many 45s are on that bar exactly?”

A little external stimulus can affect us both positively and negatively. For example, if you change AC/DC’s “Shoot to Thrill” to Debbie Boone’s “You Light Up My Life” with 800 pounds waiting for you in the rack, it could take a little more focus to drive that weight out of the hole.

Lifting with a team is potentially the most positive external stimulus that a powerlifter could ever have. Think about this for a minute. When you’re part of a team, you’re working with people who, just like you, have that internal fire to be a champion, and who, just like you, have the same longing to be the very best that they can be. They share the same realization that life is indeed a collection of moments in time and working toward bringing out the best that is inside you is an investment in both your existence and your essence. And, just like you, they want to work to help their team members reach all of their goals.

Having a true team around you is vastly different from having a lifting partner or some spotters for your lift. With a team, you’re with people who share your philosophy on life, lifting, and competing. They share your zeal for each of the three lifts. The team wants you to be great, and you want them to be great as well. The relationship is completely symbiotic in nature.

Think about some of the best powerlifters. For the most part, they lift on a true team. Louie has Westside, a true team; Becca Swanson and Hussey have Big Iron, a true team; and Ernie Frantz has the Frantz Power Team, a true team. When I lift in Aurora with Ernie at Frantz Gym, I’m totally surrounded by champions. However, more importantly, I’m surrounded by the Frantz team, not simply individual champions but individually great lifters who have become champions because of the power of the team. When a legend like Ernie Frantz helps you with your suit, or a many times over WPC World Champion like Bill Nichols crouches down to check your squat depth, or a 1,000 pound squatter like Noel Levario cleans the powder off of the bar for your deadlift, that is a team. Every detail is important to you, and it’s important to your team.

Look at a guy like Chuck Vogelpohl. This man could spend his entire life winning meet after meet squatting 850–900 pounds based on nothing but his own freakish power, focus, and explosiveness. However, with the Westside team around him and guys like Angelo Berrardinelli, Louie, and Rich Wenner, he has claimed his rightful place in powerlifting history as the first man to squat 1,000 pounds at 220 pounds of body weight. The power of the true team will always improve the power of the individual.

Can powerlifters become great without the team? Absolutely they can. Would they become even better with a team? Absolutely they would. Dr. Jerry Bellon, the foremost authority on the collaborative team, would tell you to look at the group of guys lifting at the gym together. Are they a collaborative, symbiotic team, or nothing more than a group of guys with one strong guy as the glue of the group? Keep in mind that when you put together your team, each member from the strongest to the weakest should have a key role on the team.

If you’re a 400 pound squatter within a team of 900 pound squatters, you might be the member of the team who everyone trusts with racking the monolift. Or maybe you’re the one who makes sure that the bar is loaded properly, or the one who sees that the CD is changed from song eight to song nine because everyone hates song eight. Being part of a true team is about functionality, utility, caring, and concern. It isn’t based on your 2,300 pound total or how many state, national, or world records you hold. It’s based on what you bring to the table for the betterment of the true and collaborative team.

Whether your goals are world records or personal records, long-term or short-term, the team that you build or become part of should be a mirror of your moral compass. Your team should be solid enough to grow stronger from the diversity and challenges that will undoubtedly occur within the team itself. Never forget that when you find yourself thinking that a small group of individuals couldn’t possibly change the world, always remember that that is the only thing that ever has.