[Billy Mimnaugh is known for speaking his mind, whether it’s about politics or powerlifting. If you are easily offended, read no further. Billy has a loud voice, and we want to give him the opportunity to speak. —Jim Wendler, EFS]

I began my journey into weightlifting back in 1983. I was a college freshmen going to school on a basketball scholarship up in Maine. I’d been interested in lifting after seeing the physique of Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka and wanted to start weight training to try and get my body to look like his. However, I had no idea how to get started in this pursuit.

One day, I saw a guy in the student activity center who was obviously a weightlifter. He was super thick through his chest and shoulders and had a huge pair of arms. I mustered up enough courage to tell him I was interested in lifting and asked if he could help me out. His name was Bob Dulea. It turns out he was a teen powerlifting champ in Maine. He said he was actually looking for someone to train with and that I was more then welcome to come to the gym with him.

The gym we joined was Water Street gym in Augusta, Maine, nicknamed the Dungeon. It had rock walls with water dripping down them, and it looked like the last time it saw a broom was about 20 years before. Both Ernie Hakett and his brother Frank had trained there as well as many other national powerlifting competitors. The place was a shit hole, but it had lots of weights, good bars, and most importantly, a great atmosphere. So my journey for size and strength began.

Bob was a total throwback type of lifter—lots of sets and lots of weight. Basically, you would do a set until you couldn’t complete a rep by yourself. I think I puked every single workout for the first two weeks. He was merciless on both of us.

About two months had passed and Bob decided it was time for me to max out on the deadlift. After a workout, he loaded the bar with 405 lbs and told me to pull it. At the time, I wasn’t capable of a 300 lb pull so I approached the bar and gave it a half-assed try knowing that I couldn’t do it. Bob ran over and started screaming at me using names like “p*ssy” and “c**t.” So I tried again, and of course, the bar didn’t budge.

After five tries, Bob came running toward me. He kicked me in the leg, knocking me down, but not before landing an open hand slap across my head as I fell. He screamed, “You’re a pussy, and you will never be shit!” He then grabbed my coat, took out my car keys, and jumped in MY car. He drove to his house leaving me stranded at the gym. His house was four miles away, and if you’ve ever been to Maine, you know that the winter nights are brutally cold. Here I was with a sweaty T-shirt and a light coat walking to Bob’s house to get MY car. When I finally got there, my car was parked in his driveway with the keys in it. I sheepishly drove home.

Some would read that story and say, “That would be my last day training with that idiot.” Not me. You see, I understood that Bob held the keys to everything I wanted. I knew that he could teach me how to get big and strong, and the only thing I now cared about was lifting and getting huge. No amount of abuse that Bob gave me would shake my resolve. I knew that if I listened and learned everything I could, he could show me the way.

In fact, Bob not only abused me during workouts, but he also stole just about everything I owned at the time, from T-shirts to sneakers to tapes and anything else he could get his hands on. I didn’t care. I only knew in my heart that this guy was giving me an education that no amount of money could buy. He taught me how to train, and he taught me what intensity was all about. He showed me that hard work was the only way to achieve your goals in this sport, and I didn’t care what I had to lose in order to get big and strong. Each lesson that I learned brought me one step closer to my goal. We trained together for another six months before he had to move out of Maine, as he was wanted by the police (for some reason). To this day, I never forgot the early education I received from Bob Dulea.

I soon returned to my home state of Connecticut and joined a gym called Body Dynamics. This gym had tons of hardcore powerlifters training there such as Joey Morreli and Bill Rominello as well as many national bodybuilders. The gym had a buzz going through it that was unreal. It was exciting just to walk in there, and you actually would get a pump even before touching a weight.

My first day there I saw a guy named Jay Casagrande doing incline benches. He had 365 lbs on the bar and repped it like it was a toy. But the thing I couldn’t believe was the inhuman size of his chest and back. The guy looked like a mutant. He was getting ready for the junior nationals in bodybuilding and I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. (I’m sure he thought I was homosexual, but I was mesmerized by his size.) To this day, he was the single most impressive human being I’ve ever seen in person.

For the next few months, I trained at Body Dynamics by myself. I’d do whatever the other guys weren’t doing. If they were doing chest, I’d do back. If they were doing legs, I’d do chest. I was so intimidated at the sheer size and strength of these guys that all I wanted was to go unnoticed and not be made fun of. I would schedule my workouts so I’d be there at the same time as Jay, and out of the corner of my eye, I’d watch everything he did while I did my own stuff.

I was at Body Dynamics for about three months when one day I was squatting by myself in the corner. Jay was doing chest on the other side of the gym. I had worked up to three plates and wasn’t using any collars on the bar. As I stepped back, the plates started sliding off the bar, the bar started teeter-tottering, and the plates began falling. As each plate hit the ground, my face got redder and redder. I just hoped that Jay wouldn’t notice. As I replaced the empty bar on the rack, I heard Jay bellow from the corner of the gym, “Get out of my gym you geek.” Heartbreaking.

As time went on, Jay noticed that I worked pretty hard, and he would ask me to train together on certain body parts. I wouldn’t say we were training partners or friends. I was more like a plate bitch, spotting and loading for him and doing my sets while he rested. But, it was a big step up for me. I went from hiding in the corner to training with the best built guy in the state.

Finally, after a year of this arrangement, I was late to the gym one day. Jay was out in front by the sign in desk and said, “I’ve been waiting. Where the fuck have you been?” I knew that I had finally made it. I was accepted by the big guys as an equal and was now considered Jay’s training partner. To this day, that was the happiest moment I’ve had in my lifting career.

I tell those stories to say this—what the fuck has happened to my sport? When I started training you had to pay your dues. You were abused, you were made fun of, and you spotted and loaded the big guys’ plates for them. You were basically a bitch. You NEVER dared give an opinion, and you never questioned what the established guys told you. You just listened, learned, and were expected to train hard until you became a “big guy.”

Compare that to today. Today, we have the rise of the internet icons, guys who haven’t done a single, solitary thing in the sport actually giving opinions on training to other lifters. These are guys who never even totaled elite but own websites and set themselves up as experts and actually get interviewed for their opinions when the only thing they have learned is what some college professor told them. No practical knowledge, no trial and error, no accomplishments, and in many cases, not even an ounce of muscle mass. Who in the blue hell made these guys experts?

My God, some of these guys know so little about training and what it takes to get big and strong that they should be banned from ever giving advice. I had one icon tell me that good mornings don’t translate into bigger deadlifts or squats and then proceeded to tell me how dangerous they were. Can you imagine? Dangerous? What did Louie say about totally safe movements—“If a movement is totally safe, it’s totally useless.” However, these guys heard some college professor tell them that some study at Harvard shows good mornings are dangerous, and therefore, they accept it as fact. Never mind that the best lifters in the sport swear by them. Nope, professor pencil neck said they are dangerous and that’s that.

One of the biggest factors for this stupidity is the internet. The internet has been an incredible vehicle for acquiring knowledge, but it’s also been one of the most damaging things to ever have happened in weight training. Little tiny men with little tiny totals being elevated as experts. The blind leading the blind, and they all fall in the ditch.

Here’s a suggestion. If you need some advice about getting big and strong, go to someone who is big and strong. Don’t worry about how many letters are next to his name or where he coaches or what college he attended. See if he has paid his dues and succeeded in your chosen sport. Turning pages in a book can’t replace getting under a barbell. Theories don’t trump practical experience. If you go to a seminar, make sure the guy is an expert, not just an internet icon posing as an expert. Most importantly, pay your dues.

You can’t get strong by reading books. Backward dumbbell lunges can’t replace good mornings. GPP doesn’t mean a damn thing if you’re not strong. Stop looking at the technicalities of the sport and just freaking train heavy and hard. Instead of worrying about tweaking that shirt an extra half inch on your arm or getting tighter squat briefs, get strong first and stick to the basics. Read and listen to what guys with big totals have to say, not guys with lots of book smarts and college degrees.

Lastly, ignore the internet icons. Most of them have never and will never do a damn thing in this sport. They sit at their computers with their theories about what it takes to get strong but could never muster up enough nads to actually get strong themselves. A long time ago, you had to pay your dues to be considered an expert. Now, with the rise of the internet, all you need is a computer and a college degree and you can be elevated to the position of strength guru. That’s a sad state of affairs.