A few years ago, a good friend of mine, Nick Showman, asked me if I would be willing to come speak at a clinic that he was planning. Of course, I said yes because this is one of my favorite things to do and Nick is a solid guy. Well, the clinic didn't happen, but Nick said that he would try again soon. Fast forward to a clinic that I hosted this year, at which Nick was an attendee. He said to me, “The clinic is back on!”

I was beyond excited, and the lineup was amazing—Louie Simmons, Mark Watts, Dr. Eric Serrano, Corey Gregory and, the opening act, Todd Hamer. It's awesome just to share a stage with this group. Nick told me the dates, and I got nervous because every year I compete in a friend's push/pull meet, which happened to be the same weekend that Nick was having the clinic. So I decided that I would drive to Ohio on Friday, speak on Saturday, drive back Saturday night and compete and then judge on Sunday. Thus began the weekend of strength that I want to share with you.

It Starts with Training

Every strength coach has heard about 'under the bar' experience. I'm a huge proponent of getting under the bar. You are a strength professional, so act like it and lift some weights. I like to compete, and I'm hanging on with the old guys in geared powerlifting. I knew that I would compete in Mike Barravecchio’s push/pull meet in Pittsburgh as I do every year. Mike is a good friend, and I did my first meet at the first push/pull that he hosted. He also asks me to judge deadlifting when I'm finished competing. I love that as well. I've found that I learn as much watching the lifts as I do actually competing. I heard Dave Kirschen once say, “More deadlifts are given up on than missed.” Sit and really watch a few hundred deadlifts and I guarantee that you'll believe this statement and not give up on your pull as easily.

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While training for this push/pull, I had finished squatting and felt something strange in my lat. I didn't think anything about it and moved on to do some pull-ups. As I began to pull, it felt as if someone had stuck a knife in my lat. I did my best to ignore it and train around it, but it was hindering too many lifts. So after a week or so, I got it checked out. The doctor determined that it was a slight tear in my lat. It wasn't anything worth freaking out over, but I had to do some boring rehabilitation and I wasn't able to pull very heavy. The lifts that hurt the most were deadlifts, pull-ups and rows.

showtime sports performance clinic

A few days or so later, out of nowhere my knee swelled to the size of my head (OK, I have a huge melon so maybe not quite that large). It was just from some general wear and tear as well as some arthritis and had become irritated from walking, squatting, lunging and pretty much everything. So for six weeks, I tried to Dave Tate it (that means wrapping it so that it can’t hurt). I was actually able to limp through most training days using this method. So my training for the meet wasn't great, and I decided that competing raw was the best thing to do considering that everything hurt when I used gear.

The Weekend of Strength Had Arrived

Friday, April 1, 2016: I drove to Newark, Ohio, to meet Nick and his training crew. I arrived as they were doing speed pulls. I watched them and made an intern walk on the belt squat until they were done pulling. After this, we had dinner and they shared old Westside stories. Luckily, a few of Nick's training partners used to train at the old Westside and had some great stories to share. A few beers later and I was back in the hotel ready to get some sleep.

Saturday, April 2, 2016: I woke up around 5:00 am, which is a big sleep-in for me. I got six hours of uninterrupted sleep. This never happens in my life, so I felt awesome. I got a coffee, did 100 push-ups (because Ed Coan once told me to do them before anything big) and reviewed my slides. We went over to the gym in time to see the first presenter, Mark Watts. Mark is amazing in so many things that he does. He does such a great job of making the complex simple and working with what he has. Everyone I meet wants the perfect program, but Mark wants the most effective program.

Dr. Eric Serrano was the second presenter. I had met him a few times before, and we spoke for a few minutes prior to his presentation. Dr. Serrano is a wealth of knowledge, and I have some take-home points that I thought would be great to share:

  1. Never take a protein shake without some fat.
  2. Caffeine is my friend (I may be twisting some things here, but I believe that he said this).
  3. Almost all bars are crap.
  4. Before you train, take a scoop of honey, hold it in your mouth for 30 seconds and then go train.
  5. Chicken is weak; eat more beef.
  6. Women are nuts and men are simpletons.
  7. Dr. Serrano's entire family is smarter than I am.

After Dr. Serrano's presentation, Corey Gregory spoke. I'm convinced that his talk was an Eminem song. I say this as a compliment. He came from humble beginnings and built himself up to be who he is today. If he only liked Hatebreed more than Wu Tang, we could be friends. Wu Tang is good, but metal is better. His talk was inspirational and would be the perfect talk for my student-athletes. I plan to ask him what it would take to get him to come speak to my students.

After Corey's presentation, we did a small round table talk. At first, it was a little strange for me because everyone else up there had already spoken and I was just the dude at the end of the table. But as we began talking, everyone made some great points. The best line I heard was from Corey. He said: “You need more sleep? Sleep faster.” I love this!

todd hamer showtime

My presentation was after lunch, and I have no idea how my talk went because judging yourself is the hardest thing to do. After my talk, JL Holdsworth said to me, "I love hearing you speak. You have great stories and you get it." This was enough for me to go home happy.

Elitefts Sports Performance Podcast: The Spot Athletics

The final presenter was the one and only Louie Simmons. Louie discussed how they train at Westside. His lecture was about 2–2.5 hours, and other than him getting lost a few times in classic Louie style, he had some great ideas. I won't try to break down what he said, but I suggest that you get your hands on copies of his old articles from Powerlifting USA and memorize them as I did years ago.

The clinic was a huge success, and Nick did a great job setting it up. There were quite a few people in the audience that I would have loved to hear speak including Nick and his guys, JL Holdsworth and his staff, Josh Bush, Anthony Donskov, some Westside lifters and many others who could squat more than me on a bad day. After the clinic, I hustled home (so Erica wouldn’t divorce me) and got some sleep so that I could compete the next day.

Sunday, April 3, 2016: I woke up like any other day at 5:30 am, walked the dogs two miles and changed up my breakfast slightly to make Dr. Serrano happy. The meet started at 9:30 am and I arrived to compete at around 10:30 am. I was in the fourth flight beginning at about noon.

My warm ups felt decent, and I opened at an easy 285 pounds. I hit the first attempt without any problems (my best raw is 335 pounds) and decided on 300 pounds for my second attempt. The weight felt good but not great. For my third attempt, I asked the announcer, who happened to be a good friend and very good lifter (Paul Oneid), what I should do, and he said to go for 315 pounds. I agreed. My third attempt felt great, and I began pressing. It slowed at the mid-point and I remember thinking, "Flare just a touch. It should kick out and I’ll finish the rep." But the next thing I knew, I felt it coming back down. So I ended at 300 pounds even. Not an impressive number, but I felt good.

Deadlifts were next, and I was in the fourth flight. Mike asked me if I would judge the first flight, so I did. I like that it keeps me busy before I have to warm up. After judging, I began to warm up and everything felt strong. I opened at 425 pounds with a conventional stance, which I had never done before, and I'm terrible in this lift. My next attempt was 450 pounds. I was very impatient at the start, but I finished a clean rep anyways. I walked to the scorer's table, and Paul Oneid was laughing at me saying, "Please be patient." I decided to be smart and just go for 460 pounds for my third attempt. I walked up to the platform, told myself to be patient and ... I wasn’t. I missed at my knee. My best raw sumo pull is 515 pounds and I clearly didn't get the number I wanted, but I was happy with my lifts.

After the weekend, I thought a lot about what I learned and here is what I discovered (I gave credit where credit is due):

  1. Do more with less (Mark Watts).
  2. Don’t eat food with food coloring in it (Dr. Serrano).
  3. Sleep faster (Corey Gregory).
  4. Commit to what you're doing (Louie).
  5. Don’t wait; make things happen (Nick Showman).
  6. Be patient (Paul Oneid).
  7. Gaining weight makes you strong (Pat McIntyre).
  8. “Gear just makes sense if you really want to see how much weight you can move. Otherwise, you should be Olympic lifting” (Kevin Argauer).