2002 – One Year in Review

The 2002 IPA Nationals marked the one-year anniversary of my competitive powerlifting career. It’s amazing at how far I’ve come and how much more I have to learn. At my first meet, I remember someone asked my training partner and I if they were taking rack heights yet. We looked at each other and wondered what the hell that meant. We played it cool and pretended to not know. After that incident, you could tell that we felt slightly out of place; not because of how we were treated but because we knew absolutely nothing about a powerlifting meet.

I’ve learned a lot this year. My involvement in the sport of powerlifting has been nothing but a positive one. I’ve met a lot of great people and had the privilege of being able to learn from them. I’ve also learned a lot about myself, both as a person and a lifter. Here are a few things that have stood out this year and I hope they can help you in your life and in your lifting career.

Nothing turns out like it should.

This statement has both a positive and negative spin to it. My first meet, I squatted 825 and felt like 900 was right around the corner. My next meet, I opened with 775 and missed it. I went to 800 on my second attempt and got buried. I repeated 800 on my last attempt and nailed it. The third meet, I squatted 830 and missed 875. At the 2002 Nationals, I opened with 800 and missed it again. I moved to 850 and finally got the 900 on my third attempt. I thought for sure that I would squat 900 in my second meet and the frustration was getting out of hand. When I arrived in Columbus for Nationals, just about everyone I talked to asked me if I was going for 900. I love the pressure but was sick and tired of coming up short.

On the positive side, my bench progress has been pretty good. It took me almost seven years to move my bench press from 300 to 400. It took me a little more than a year to get to 500. At the Zanesville meet, I benched 565 and had a near miss of 575 at Nationals. If you had ever told me that I would be able to bench close to 600 pounds, I would have slapped you in the face. A couple of months ago I was talking with Dave Tate and I had mentioned that I had my sights set on 600 in the bench in the near future. He remarked that nothing ever turns out like it should and to let my training take care of itself. He wasn’t being negative or trying to crush my hopes. What he meant is that sometimes things can come up that can negatively affect your performance; injuries, family problems, equipment problems, personal and emotional problems, etc. One has to understand that these are all a part of powerlifting and by accepting that these things can (and do) happen, it will help prepare you for whatever obstacles may stand in your way.

Compete.

I’ve learned a lot about my training and myself by competing. How can you accurately gauge your training if you don’t put it to the test? Test days in the gym can be fun, but nothing can compare to a meet. Are you willing to step up and put it on the line? Can you handle the pressure of lifting in front of your peers? Or are you too busy criticizing people behind your keyboard? It’s easy to brag about what you can do in the gym. It’s another thing to actually do it. I think the best example of someone putting his ego and reputation on the line was at Zanesville this year. Dave Tate, who everyone knows and recognizes, competed in his first meet in several years. During his time off, he battled shoulder, groin, pec and back injuries. He knew his squat wasn’t where it was several years ago. He knew that everyone would be watching. Instead of cowering, he got under the bar and let it all hang out.

Listen and innovate.

It’s easy for me to tell you what I do and how I train. It’s even easier for you to copy what I do. But guess what? Unless you’re me, it probably won’t work. In fact, a lot of the things that I try in the gym are thrown out. But I never stop trying new things and trying to perfect my training. I try and read everything I can and more importantly, listen to those that have come before me. There is a great idea that I got from the book The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino. “In truth, experience teaches thoroughly yet her course of instruction devours men’s years so the value of her lessons diminishes with the time necessary to acquire her special wisdom. The end finds it wasted on dead men. Furthermore, experience is comparable to fashion; an action that proved successful today will be unworkable and impractical tomorrow.” There is a good reason why Dave has such a variety of lifters and coaches answering questions on EliteFTS.com. I’ve played football, coached several sports and am now powerlifting. Bob left Westside Barbell and had to start a new gym and coach others. John often trains by himself and is extremely conscientious about his training. Paul is a wealth of information and by far one of the strongest lifters in the world. Tom and Martin have also competed at an elite level in their given sports (professional football and Olympic bobsledding, respectively). They now help coach athletes. All of us subscribe to the same ideas, but have a different way of approaching things. Read everything and see what can work for you. You will be rewarded; I guarantee it.

Have fun.

Training is hard and sometimes it can be frustrating. Dynamic squat days generally suck and when your max effort work starts to go down, it’s easy to feel like you’re going nowhere. It’s at this time when you have to take a step back and remember why you are in this sport. We all want to do well, post a big total and have the respect of your peers. But don’t forget to put a smile on your face and enjoy the journey. Here’s a good example. While in the warm-up room at this year’s Nationals, someone had said something to Bob Youngs and he responded, “I don’t know, I’m just having a blast.” Bob is an intense competitor but he never loses the fact that he is supposed to have fun.

Pay the price or don’t complain.

I hear all the time about how someone wants to total Elite, or reach a certain number in a lift. When I was in high school, I remember that my teammates would tell me how bad they wanted to win and be the best they could be. But when the off-season came around, they were no where to be found. When I was at Kentucky, a player came up to me and complained that his squats were too heavy. He remarked that Marshall Faulk never performed a squat over 225 and that the Miami Hurricanes didn’t have morning workouts. I asked him if he was as good as Faulk and if Kentucky had the athletes, talent and desire that Miami has. He stood there, stared at me and became frustrated. The point is we all have to pay a price. Some may have to gain 30 pounds of bodyweight. Others may have to do extra workouts. If you don’t do what it takes to be better shut your mouth and don’t complain. If you don’t succeed, then you probably haven’t figured out what you need to do. I don’t believe in genetic potential. That is an excuse and a pathetic cop out.

As I look back at this past year, I would have never guessed that I would be sitting at my computer, writing for EliteFTS.com with a 900lbs squat and an eye on a very promising powerlifting career. I’m sure at this time next year, I will have learned a host of new training ideas, met some great new people and continue to help as many people as I can. The ideas and concepts above will probably remain intact but may have a few amendments and a slightly different perspective than I do now. I hope that this article helps you to look back at the past year and reflect on what you have learned and what you can do to become a better lifter and person. Lift hard, have fun and never lose sight of your goals.

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