Sick of Your Gym, Part 7 - The Visitor

TAGS: personal training, squat, powerlifting, dave tate, strength training, Elitefts Info Pages, barbell, bench press, training

This article is a repost so enjoy it again.
I first experienced The Visitor shortly after move to Columbus and began training at Westside Barbell. Over the years I have seen hundreds of visitors to the club. I would guess that no other strength club, college weight room or professional facility has had as many diverse and accomplished visitors as we’ve had over the years. We have had professional athletes from all sports from all over the world, strength coaches, personal trainers, Olympic Weight Lifters, track and field athletes, submission fighters, power lifters, kids of all ages; we have seen people from just about every sport and strength field and have tried our best to help them reach their goals.

A few years ago I set up a small 800 square foot weight room in our office that Jim has dubbed The Compound. One year ago, because of work demands, I began training my bench with Todd Brock and Matt Bash at The Compound on Wednesdays and Sundays. Jim joins us for the Sunday sessions but makes the trip to Westside on Wednesday mornings to train with JL. I still make the trip to Westside on Monday and Friday to train my squat and deadlift. It did not take long before we began getting a few visitors to our gym.

The Call

Matt, who is the Customer Service Representative at EFS, received a call one Monday to see if The Compound was open for visitors. He replied in the affirmative and told the guy that we were scheduled to lift on Wednesday at around 5pm. Both Jim and I overheard the conversation and knew that he was inviting someone to lift with us. Little did we know that Matt had something clever up his sleeve; something to get back at Jim and I for all the crap that we’ve given him. To make matters worse, Matt told us that there was going to be a “big name” lifter joining us for our bench session but would not tell us who it was. For two days Jim and I kept prying Matt to who this lifter was or get at least a hint. Matt held to his guns and would not tell us. To say the least, Jim and I were very jacked up as we were expecting a big name bencher; someone we could learn something from. Right away we decided it was going to be a shirt day and we were going to go heavy.

Wednesday finally rolled around. Before I left for work I made sure I had all my gear for the day. I got out my best bench shirt, Gatorade and ephedrine as I knew this day was going to be intense. Around 9:00 Jim rolled into The Compound with a huge grin on his face with five bench shirts tucked under him arm. The only words out of his mouth as he approached matt and I was, “Are you guys ready?” I knew right away that no real serious work would be done on this day and I was right. I can honestly say that this was one of the longest days I have ever experience at work. I must have looked at my watch a hundred times. Around 1:00 we heard Matt on the phone. The side of the conversions we heard was. “Ya 5:00”, “You take 70 West to I-56 and we will be on the right side of the street”, “Great”, “We look forward to training with you”. That did it. Jim went into frenzy and began yelling, “Who the hell is coming?!” Matt replied, “You’ve waited this long, you can wait another couple of hours.” Jim said nothing for the next hour. The only time I have seen him like this is the day before a meet.

The Trip

I decided Jim and I had to get the hell out of the office so we got into my truck and drove off. This just made matters worse as we had no idea where to go and had to find a way to kill 3 hours. We drove around for about 45 minutes in silence. Jim finally spoke. “You know Dave, you should fire that prick for doing this”. What could I say? Matt does a great job and we have dished out tons of shit to him but this certainly made up for it. Then Jim started freaking out. “Seriously Dave, this is really pissing me off. You know who it is don’t you? You ass, you know don’t you? Tell me now, damn it!” I told him to calm down as he was just making matters worse. I reached into my book of CD’s and put in some Eyehategod and this completely soothed him. This was unbelievable to me. It was like feeding a crying baby. The only problem is that we still had a little over 2 hours to kill so we went to a movie theater. I have no idea what we saw and I don’t think either of us paid attention to the screen. We did however order two tubs of popcorn with extra salt. This was not done for taste but for the sodium bloat. We wanted to make sure that our bench shirts were extra tight today. Downing some ephedrine and blaring Sepultura’s “Cut Throat” over and over again, we drove back to The Compound with an intensity usually reserved for meets.

Back at the Office

As we walked into the office we noticed Todd and Matt sitting around the conference table. This is our normal ritual. We arrive at the office and sit around the conference table and discuss training until every one arrived and was ready to train. The first thing I noticed was a strange gym bag on the floor. I knew it was not one of ours and could only belong to “The Visitor”. Matt saw Jim looking at the bag, and said, “He’s in the bathroom.” I did notice a weird grin on Todd’s face and wondered if he had already met the “big name” lifter. We all took our place at the table and reserved the chair at the head of the table for our distinguished visitor. Our office is nothing fancy and most of the office equipment is second-hand furniture so all of the chairs are “gently used” except for the chair at the head of the table. This is a plush, fully adjustable leather chair that I use for our company meetings. I know what you’re thinking. Dave is the big boss and gets the good chair. That is correct UNLESS Traci is in the office. Then I have to sit on a crappy chair like every one else. The way we were positioned at the table gave me a full view of the hallway and would see the visitor before anyone else. Jim, on the other hand, had his back to the hallway and would be the last to know.

I saw the shadow approaching the doorway and then The Visitor came into view. I had no idea what to think. I felt my hands quickly clutch the arms of my chair and my throat develop an uncomfortable lump. I looked up at Jim and began thinking of ways to diffuse what could be a very volatile situation. I looked at Matt and he responded with a very smug and sinister grin. Jim was engaged in a conversation with Todd about the importance of the elbow tuck with the bench press. Jim was set up in his pseudo bench press position. This is a mock bench press Jim invented to improve his bench. Basically this is a way to practice and perfect your bench form with out using a bar. You first arch your back and then act as if you are taking the bar out of the rack. Then you begin the bar decent with your elbows out for about 1 inch at this time you begin to tuck your elbows as you lower the bar to your body. Then you press the bar back up with a slight elbow flare. All these tips Jim picked up from Bill Crawford and Mike Miller and has made a profound difference in the way lifters have been bench pressing with their shirts across the country. At The Compound Jim had become know as the sorcerer of the bench, the titan of the tuck, the philanthropist of the flair, the president of the press, the author of the arch, the gargoyle of the grip, the bastard of the board, Lucifer of the lockout, the sinister of the shirt, the orchestrator of the open back. I think you get the point. At The Compound, Jim is the man when it comes to the bench press shirt.

As The Visitor approached the table, I put my finger to my lips to signal to him not to say a word. Carrying a carb drink and wearing a shirt that read “Personal Trainers do it by the hour” he pulled up a chair right next to Jim. Few things can stop Jim from discussing the bench press, but this was certainly one of them. He looked over his shoulder and his mouth came to a sudden stop. Then The Visitor spoke, “What’s up dudes?” It was Timmy, the personal trainer. A bench shirt costs $200.00, and bench singlet $35.00, and a belt $90.00; but the look on Jim’s face was priceless.

The Restroom

Jim held out his Shrek-like hand, greeted him and then he looked to me, “We gotta talk.” We walked back to Jim’s bathroom. This is one of two bathrooms at the Compound. When we added the weight room to the complex we rented the place next door and put an archway between the two rooms. This new area has a bathroom but was much too dirty and disgusting to use. It was one of the worst bathrooms I’ve ever seen. It’s on par with any truck stop restroom minus the glory holes and the ridiculously simple nude drawings of naked women and phone numbers for man-love. To make a long story short we never did a thing with the restroom as I had no desire to ever use it. When Jim was hired his first priority was to make this place his own. I’m sure he has the same need that most men have; the feeling of security, strength and peace that accompanies a long stay on the throne is rarely matched. If you soundproof a restroom, put a good lock on the door, a TV (with cable) and have a good stack of reading material, I can think of little reason why an hour long stay would be uncommon. All I know is it had to take him a week to clean the place out. This was where our meeting was to take place.

I have not been in this room for some time now and got a little laugh as there were now several fitness centerfolds from Muscular Development that were pinned to the wall. The sad thing was that Jim had each poster was signed with a sexy little saying. As I read some of them, I noticed that the handwriting all looked the same and was very familiar. Jim signed everyone of these posters himself. I didn’t call him out on this as I’m sure it could be somewhat embarrassing. But the strangest thing was that there were cut outs of various eyes from magazines that covered the walls; hundreds of little eyes stared at me and I only wondered at how intrusive this would be if one was driving the dirty brown Caddy out of the garage. Then I noticed the eclectic stack of magazines; Hustler, Home and Garden, 4x4, Revolver, Skin Art; very interesting. All of this made me realize that I may need to have a meeting with Jim but will probably put it off for some time. Not that I’m scared of the confrontation but I’m scared of the answers.

The Meeting

Jim was upset that our visitor turned out to be our old friend Timmy and he wanted to speak to me about what we were going to do to him. The first time we met Timmy for the Squat session it was one of the funniest experiences of our lives. The bench press could also be one of these great sessions, but we had to figure out what to do. I told Jim to just let things happen and we will see what comes of the session. Plus Timmy had traveled a long way and we should at least make sure he left with a better idea how to train and how to increase his bench press. After our discussion I left Jim in his bathroom for a few minutes. I was sure he would figure something out to make this a memorable training session.

The Warm Up

As we began warming up, Timmy informed us that our last meeting left a profound impression on him. When we saw Timmy last he was 165 pounds with a Metrosexual look. Timmy now was around 200 pounds shaved his head and grew a goatee. He told us that he has become a regular visitor to the Elitefts web site and has read all the articles and began training under “The Darkside.” His lifts have also gone through the roof. His squat jumped from 275 to 455 while his bench went from 185 to 275. While these lifts did not really impress us, I could appreciate the change he has gone through. What he said next just about floored me. He told us that when we first came down he was only billing out 6 hours a week in his personal training business. He started using many of the methods from the articles with his clients and his business steadily increased. All of his clients began getting stronger and others began to take notice. Now he bills out more than 36 hours a week and has a waiting list of over 20 clients. I then asked him what percentage he got to keep from these sessions. He told me he got to keep 50% while the gym got the other 50%. I then asked what his training rate was. As $60.00 an hour we figured he was paying the gym close to $51,000 per year to use their facility! I told him we would have to meet the next day to discuss a business plan to get him in his own facility or at the very least a plan to negotiate a higher percentage of his gross income.

Things were going pretty well and we helped him with his bench press technique as we went through the warm up sets. He had a serious problem with bringing the bar too low and tucking too much. I have found this to be a very common problem and something I take some responsibility for as I had not made it very clear in past articles. With a few technical tips and verbal cues we got him fixed in the first few sets. He thanked us as this new form was much more comfortable and he began to feel the groove of the bench press.

The Question

Through the warm ups, I have to say that Todd, Jim and Matt were on their best behavior. As I was to see this was about to change very fast. We had planned on busting out the bench shirts today and as we warmed up we began to pull the shirts out and toss them on the floor. Within five minutes there must have been 12 bench shirts scattered throughout the floor. Timmy was a bit confused and asked, “What are those?” This is the question I absolutely hate to answer. All you powerlifters know exactly what I mean. How to you tell someone what a bench shirts does who has no idea what the sport is about? Todd gave him the standard answer; that they are for protection and support. While we know this to be true we also know this is not the damn reason we really wear the shirts. If this was the case we would all be using standard shirts with no carryover. Matt then stated that stated that the bench shirt was a piece of equipment used for powerlifting. This was not a bad answer for someone who has only been in the sport for a few months. Jim just had a look of disgust that the question was even asked. Eventually I spoke up and told Timmy that I used the shirt to lift more weight and that I was busting my ass to try and find a way to get a bigger carry over out of the shirt. He then asked how much more one can bench press with a bench shirt. I told him that many years ago I was getting about 60lbs from my shirt but now my goal was to try get close to 200 pounds. Hell if I could find a way to get 400 pounds I would! While many lifters may feel this is getting a bit out of hand, and it may be, I do not want to get left in the dust because of equipment. Timmy then told us that he did not understand this and wanted to keep lifting without a shirt so he would know what he can do “by himself”. To each his own but we were still going to shirt up if he wanted to our not. I love my shirt and no 200 pound personal trainer was going to convince me otherwise. I actually saw this as a challenge and was determined to get Timmy in a shirt by the end of the day.

The Workout

When we work with our shirts, we use different boards to help us get used to the groove and to heavier weight. Since Timmy said he was scheduled to do a 2 board press for max effort, this worked out perfectly. Jim, Todd, Matt and myself usually start on a 4 or 3 board and will either stick with one of these or work down to our chest or a 1 board or 2 board. Timmy was getting set up for one of his last warm-up sets and Jim noticed that he was not getting set tight on the bench. His torso and legs shifted whenever he pressed and it was pissing Jim off very much. While our verbal efforts of “Stay tight” were obviously unsuccessful, Jim found a much brasher but effective way for Timmy to stay tight throughout the lift. As Timmy gripped the bar awaiting his hand-off, Jim took the two board and smashed it across Timmy’s chest. So much so that Timmy’s hands left the bar, curled up and began hugging his sternum. Timmy began wheezing and it was obvious that he didn’t want us to know that he had gotten the wind knocked out of him. After about 30 seconds, he was about to take the weight off the bar when Jim told him to stop. Jim lifted the board and made the motion as if to hit him again and Timmy froze and began wincing. Jim stopped short and said; “See how tight you are now? Feel how tense your muscles are now that you are expecting to get hit? That’s how every set and every rep has to be. You came here to learn how to bench press and if you can’t handle the methods then don’t expect results.” Timmy finally got it, and did not have a problem the rest of the workout.

The workout really began to heat up once the bar got loaded to 500lbs. Shirts were put on and there was a lot of coaching and verbal cues being exchanged. No lift and no rep are ever taken for granted. Perfection is expected. Between sets there is the usual banter but it mainly revolves around lifting and technical tips. I kept noticing that after each of Jim’s sets he would go into the office for a few seconds and come back with a slight grin. Now I’m all for having a good time and keeping the atmosphere positive, but sometimes Jim’s version of these things is very distorted. One time for Mother’s Day, Jim sent his mom one of the most disturbing “cards” that I have ever witnessed. Jim found a picture of himself as an infant in which he was nude and placed it on the outside of the card. Once the card was opened, his mom was treated to a present day picture of Jim, which was also in the nude. Anyway, after four or five trips to the office, I peaked my head in the door and noticed that Jim had a cup of coffee warming up on the coffee maker’s heating plate. This was no big deal as we drink a lot of coffee, but it was a little strange that he was just warming up a cup. I shrugged this off and kept training and knew this was going to be a big day as the weight felt light and effortless in my hands.

After a very easy 605 2 board press, Jim took his bench shirt off before his next set and went back into the office. I followed Jim into the office and saw him remove the coffee cup from the heat and dip his finger in the water to test the temperature. I went to the water cooler to get a glass when I got a startling surprise. Jim promptly dropped his pants and underwear and stuck his yam-bag into the warm water. Now I’m standing there, holding a cup of water and Jim starts telling me that I’m not holding the bar correctly after the lift off. He starts mimicking the motion with his free hand while keeping his eyes focused on the cup. Now, I want everyone to realize what’s going on here. We are in the office, in the middle of a training session, I’m getting a drink of water and Jim, who’s shorts and underwear are around his ankles, has his balls soaking in a cup of warm water and talking to me about proper mechanics in the bench press without ever realizing that THIS IS NOT NORMAL. I don’t care what country you live in, what religion you believe, or your age or ethnicity; this is not something that can be described as “happening frequently” or even something that is “bound to happen to us all, at one time or another.” Of course, I ask the question, “What the hell are you doing?” Jim simply responds, “Hot water makes your balls hang lower.” I just kind of stared for awhile. Now I have an unblemished record as a heterosexual; you can look it up in the Man Archives if you’d like, so I figured a couple of seconds of unblinking admiration wouldn’t affect my record. Todd walked into the room, stopped, looked at Jim, turned his head towards me and said to us, “Timmy needs a spot and a lift off.” Apparently Todd has either witnessed this before or just gave up on Jim and stopped asking questions. Jim removed his Testicle Tea Bag after a few last second dunks, kicked off his underwear, put his mesh shorts back on and hiked them up to the bottom of his chest. As he strolled in the weight room, I saw him adjust his package a few times and assumed the role of back spotter and lift off. Timmy lay back on the bench and began the set up routine that we had gone over several times. Now Jim starts getting really vocal, “You gotta have balls to lift big weight Timmy! You think you’re balls are big enough?” As he stepped onto the spotter platform Jim bent his knees slightly and let his hangers dangle over Timmy’s head. “Take your time, Timmy! Make sure you are set up correctly!” Jim made sure that Timmy would be under the balloons for a couple extra seconds. Now the rest of us knew what was going on but Timmy thought this to be nothing more than bad luck. Despite the extra baggage, Timmy managed to get a very easy 225 for 3 reps off of the 2 board.

After his set, Timmy jumped up relieved to be out of the way, but also anxious as his watch had begun beeping loudly. “Time to take my L-glutamine and aminos!” Timmy grabbed his shaker bottle and began drinking his special concoction, proud of his own dedication and his willingness to sacrifice to get stronger. Of course, Jim and I went over to him and asked him, with as little sarcasm as possible, why he was doing what we was doing. “Well, two weeks ago I read an article that explained that in order for my body to achieve the strength and definition that I desire it is paramount that I injest…” I cut him off mid-sentence, “Let me guess that some supposed top strength coach has you believing that you need to take in x amount of aminos 30 minutes into your workout to maintain proper nitrogen balance or something like that?” “Dave, it’s a bit more complicated than that, see when the human body is working throughout the day, certain anabolic criteria…” At about this time, Jim pulled out his can of Kodiak and packed himself a huge wedge. Timmy continued to talk, but it began to fall on deaf ears. Todd and I threw a 10lbs. plate on each side of the bar and told Timmy it was his turn again. “But what about adequate rest and recuperation?”, Timmy countered. Todd threw an ammonia cap at Timmy and told him to give it a pull. Timmy didn’t know to break it so he gave it a few token sniffs and handed it back. Todd told him, “Try it again and take a huge whiff.” This time Todd held the ammonia cap and as Timmy began to inhale, Todd broke the cap and let Timmy have the essence that is The Ammonia Cap. Timmy stumbled and stammered away; eyes watering and snot dripping. Timmy was politely instructed to get on the bench and lift. After setting up, Timmy fired off 5 easy reps off of 2 boards.

As we began to progress with the workout, we all worked up to PR’s in our Metal shirts. Timmy helped spot, load and everyone took turns explaining each part of the lift to him and what to look for and how to coach. While we all gave Timmy a little hell, we also gave him a lot of information and coaching. This is something no book or class could teach. With a little technique work, Timmy worked up to 315 off of two boards which was a 25lbs. record for him. But things were about to change when I noticed that Timmy had picked up Matt’s bench shirt.

“Want to try one?” I asked Timmy.

“I don’t know, it seems kind of complicated and I’m already pretty tired.” But this was no time for being tired, so I pulled a shirt off the rack, cut the neck and pulled it on Timmy.

Todd and Jim began tweaking the shirt so it would fit Timmy just right; not too geaked up but not too loose. We put 275 on the bar and had him try it off of 3 boards. We talked him threw the entire lift and the bar flew up. He got up with a huge smile.

“315!” Timmy called out.

Again, the bar flew off of 3 boards. Timmy looked around for some reassurance.

“365!” Jim said. Todd and Jim jacked the shirt a little more. Again, Timmy was talked through the lift and again, the bar flew up.

“405” Jim said and Timmy knew that this was the big time. 4 plates, or as the guys at his gym called it, 4 wheels. There was no room for error. Timmy’s shirt was extra jacked for the attempt and we all made sure that his set up was tight and strong. As the bar was lifted off, the fear turned to rage in the little man and though it took every ounce of strength and determination, the bar was eventually locked out and racked. Timmy just lay on the bench, mesmerized and excited but obviously exhausted.

“You’re done. Just do a couple sets of lats and you’re done training for the day.”

Timmy looked confused but understood. Sometimes the main movement of the day can be the entire workout. In his case, he maxed on two different exercises and his body knew it was time to shut down. He heard this called auto regulatory training and finally he understood that sometimes you have to listen to your body.

We stuck around for another hour, sitting and talking about training and answering Timmy’s many questions.

“This is for the effort and for being a good sport.” I threw him the bench shirt.

“What do I owe you?”

“Just be sure to pass on what you know and that will be payment enough.”

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