Hardcore: Part 1

TAGS: squat, powerlifting, strength training, Elitefts Info Pages, barbell, training

I happened to be scanning though some of the powerlifting forums, and I read an interesting post. I usually don’t spend much time reading forums because most of the people are just a bunch of bitches complaining about squat depth, gear, drugs, and other judging problems. Maybe if these people learned to appreciate all types of lifting and use the internet as an educational tool, they could help the sport grow instead of trying to kill it. This doesn’t go for everyone who posts, but there are many idiots out there.

I’m getting off of the subject though. I’ll write about forums another time…Anyway, I’ve never had the chance to meet this particular poster in person—we’ll call him Ed—but I’ll usually read a post if I see his name. He has been in this sport for a long time, and I usually agree with most of what he says. Plus, he’s one funny SOB.

In this post, Ed said that my training wasn’t hardcore. He does say that I’m a GREAT lifter (he capped great, not me), and I appreciate that. It means a lot to hear that from him. I remember when I first started competing in around 1999/2000, and he was competing with someone else in the 308-lb weight class in all of the big meets. I looked up to those guys and strived to be that strong some day. I’d say that Ed has walked the walk and talks the talk, but I see myself as hardcore. I believe that this time he’s wrong.

I don’t know if I could write down a definition of hardcore, but when I was a kid, I remember looking up to all of the crazy lifter of the 1970s and 1980s with their wild hair and beards. They acted like animals at the competitions. I thought these guys were hardcore, and I wanted to be one of them. So I started training when I was a freshman in high school. I eventually built a gym in my basement by asking for equipment on every birthday and at Christmas. I saved most of my money to get more equipment. This stuff meant everything to me. I used to fight with my brother because he wouldn’t put my dumbbells back in the right order. My gym was always clean, and all equipment was used to the extreme but respected.

Those early years were very intense, and I pushed it as hard as I possibly could. I would often go through a squat routine, and when I was done, I’d try to go upstairs. If I could walk up the stairs, I’d turn around and go squat until I couldn’t make it up them. My workouts always ended with me being soaked in sweat and completely exhausted. There were many times that I’d fall asleep in my little gym because I couldn’t walk to my room. Most of this time, I trained alone because I couldn’t find a partner that shared my dedication. I even told my best friend that he had to leave and couldn’t workout with me. We stayed best friends, but we never trained together. He just didn’t push himself as hard as I expected.

Once, I even got a lecture from my father about spending too much time training. He told me there was more to life and said I needed to find some balance. I used to turn down tickets to MLB games and concerts because I hadn’t trained yet that day, even if it was my favorite band or team. Training was my life.

I had this same drive in college. I went to the University of Nevada to throw the shot-put. This was one of the first times that I got to train with other serious athletes. I had a hard time in college because I worked full-time, went to school full-time, and threw the shot-put. Sometimes I wouldn’t get to throw until it was dark. So I’d have to throw my shot over this 10-foot fence and then climb it to get to the ring. I’d throw until very late into the night even though I had to be up by 5:00 am to get to work. Sometimes my coach would be able to stay late with me, which I really appreciated. There were a couple days a week when I could throw with the rest of the team, but my schedule was screwed up.

I always made time for the weight training though, and we had some great guys. Ray East was one the first guys I ever saw rep out 700 plus pounds. Then there was Kim Johanson from Sweden, and he was just pumped in the weight room. He liked to work up a good sweat, sniff his armpit, and scream in Swedish before heavy lifts. Kelly Harris always had a ton of anger that he let out too. Ray and I would go stuff ourselves before squat workouts and then go to the dungeon. We had a couple of gyms to use, but the dungeon was this small, very dark, hot room in the basement of the girls’ gymnasium. It was all cinderblock walls with no windows, and it only had one bench, two platforms with rubber plates, and two power racks. Many people bitched about it, but I loved it. It didn’t have any foo foo shit, just hardcore equipment to lift heavy. We had some great workouts there—people puking, sweating buckets, and the smell of testosterone.

When I had to quit throwing because of my compartment syndrome, my workouts definitely dropped down a notch. I still lifted heavy and was way more intense than most people, but it wasn’t the same. I started spending more time making money and trying to buy stuff. I just lifted to stay in some sort of shape (I know that’s gay).

Sometime around 1997, I really started to get the hunger to compete. It was always there but not as strong. So some friends talked me into doing a meet were I benched 405 or 410 lbs raw. I was training somewhat heavy for that show. This lit a huge fire in me, and for my first three lift meet, I totaled 1700 lbs without changing my training very much. Like I said, I always lifted heavy because I liked it, but the intensity wasn’t the same as when I was competing in a sport. Now, I had a sport to compete in again, and things were about to change.

I decided that this was what I wanted to do and that was all it took. I started quitting jobs because they were screwing up my training schedule. I had cut back to just 40 hours a week so I had more time to train. This led to me not having as much money. I had to start selling off my toys. This was ok though because I wanted to get bigger and stronger. At one time, I had three awesome motorcycles and two very nice cars. But I had to sell them all. I even had to sell my Hayabusa, which I had gotten up to 197 mph, because I was getting too big to ride it and money was getting really tight. That bike was one of my true loves, and I promised myself that some day I’d have another one. I even moved back in with my parents at one point because I needed money to compete in the bigger meets that I was starting to do. I always managed to keep all my bills paid, but my focus was to train. My ordinary life expenses had to be cut to a bare minimum.

My training was very extreme in the beginning. The workouts were like the ones from my high school years. I was again training by myself and would push it to the very edge. My neighbors must have thought I was some kind of freak with all of the yelling and screaming coming out of the garage. I even dragged the sled up and down the neighborhood. I think it was around 2002 when I finally started training in a commercial gym. I had started training with my brother by this time. He does many things that I don’t like, but I can’t say that he isn’t intense.

We trained very hard no matter what. If I was sore, which I often was, that wasn’t an excuse. I trained. I wouldn’t sleep for days, but I never missed a workout. If I had one of my terrible headaches, I’d worry about it after the workout. I even trained when I was sick. When it was a scheduled day to train, I trained. There was one point during this time that I worked five days a week with the county and worked the other two building decks with my brother. The county would switch my shifts so that my sleep was really screwed up. Then, I did physical labor on the weekends. I got almost no sleep, but I never missed a workout.

Money was very short so I had to make some extra with my brother, and I quit that county job when they told me I couldn’t have the time off for a meet. I have plenty of stories of spewing blood all over the floor and training until I was dizzy. For a while, I rented a condo on a concrete slab. I moved all of my weightlifting equipment into the living room. The furniture got squished into the kitchen and dining area. I don’t mean for a little while either. That was how I lived. One time I was doing heavy rack pulls, and when I finished, I turned around to see my brother laughing at me right before I passed out. He could see it coming, and I wedged myself in between the rack and the wall. When I came to and got myself up, we had a great laugh about it. My neighbors there probably hated me too.

Even my personal life and friendships have been affected by my dedication to powerlifting. I used to take these great motorcycle vacations with my family, and that hasn’t happened, it seems, since I got into powerlifting. In fact, all of my vacation time is spent on meets. My friendships have definitely suffered. Most of the people I hangout with now are on the team. I still have some good friends that aren’t into lifting, but I don’t get to spend much time with them. I’m lucky because most of them want to see me more but understand and respect what I’m doing. A serious relationship with a girl is almost out of the question. I don’t even try that hard anymore. Lifting will almost always come first, and I don’t think it would be fair to them. Plus, most girls don’t understand why I do this and would want more of my time.

I trained this way for a long time, but at some point, I discovered that in order to keep getting stronger, I had to cut back. My body had learned to recruit more neurons and muscle fibers. So I was able to push my body further with less work. I’d also gotten so strong that in order to push myself in training, I was lifting huge weights all of the time. Now, I could have kept up with the intense long training schedule, but I got into this to be like the hardcore guy from the 1970s. I didn’t know how they trained, but I knew they kicked ass at the meets. So I adapted my training so that I could kick ass at the meets and continue to get stronger. Anyone who has seen me lift knows that I give everything I have at the meet, and I’m well aware of the results of that. It’s no sleep that night followed by the headaches and full body pain the next few days. If you haven’t seen me compete, please visit www.chadaichs.com and watch some videos. You’ll see the effort that I put into my meets.

Ed says that the guys who don’t appear to train hard have “God given” strength and not “work given” strength. In some cases, this may be true or maybe these guys have learned something that we haven’t. In my case, my strength is work given, and I’m damn proud of that. I was never the strongest or the best athlete. I worked my ass off for what I’ve achieved. My high school lifting numbers are nothing impressive, and those were with insane dedication. The only so called God given gift that I’ve received is the stubbornness that I have. I have a “never give up,”  positive attitude.

So what is hardcore and am I hardcore? In the end, it doesn’t really matter if anyone thinks I’m hardcore because I know what I’ve given up to achieve what I have and how hard I’ve worked to do it. What does matter is that people understand my idea of hardcore. It’s to give everything you can and push yourself beyond what you thought you could. It’s way harder to back off and not train as much. For me, going to the gym and going crazy is easy. I always go to the gym to help my partners even if I’m not training that day. That is one of the hardest things in the world.

The other day Larry and Scott were maxing out on rack pulls, and I wasn’t supposed to workout. That sucked ass, and it was insanely hard not to workout. Doing the best I can do means going to the meet and putting up the best numbers possible. Ed mentions that he would give his small (his description) testicles to be as strong as some of the lifters out there. Maybe if he would learn to back off and let his body recover more, he could still do numbers like that. I think training is a progression where you have to train like a mad man early on and get a good base, but then it must lessen as you get stronger. Maybe that’s the best way for it to be.

I spent much time training and missed out on lots of stuff. Now, in order to keep getting stronger, I have to train much less. This leaves me with more time to do some of the things that I missed out on. I now have more time to attack the business end of lifting, ride my quad and motorcycle, practice photography, and who knows, maybe even find a girlfriend. This is kind of like a reward for all of my hard work.

In closing, I’d like to thank Ed again for saying that I’m a great lifter, and I really don’t have any hard feelings toward him. I look forward to the day when we get to meet in person, and I hope he gets to read this long-winded article sometime. I think the theories of hardcore are great to talk about, and hopefully, it will make people think a little more. I just want everyone to improve their training skills and get as strong as possible, even if this means competition for me. If my training theories are wrong, I hope we can at least learn from them.

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