To The Beginner by Mike Miller (as told to Dave Tate)

TAGS: bench, strength, squat, powerlifting, strength training, strength coach, Elitefts Info Pages, barbell, bench press, training

This article is intended to provide insight for the individual who is just starting out in powerlifting. Most of us begin our powerlifting career believing that we’d be happy to post a 400lbs bench press and 600lbs squat. We admire and marvel at those who have accomplished what we believe to be unattainable lifts. You may think, “I’ll never be able to do that”, or “You have to use drugs to get that strong”. Well that’s bullshit. 10 years ago a 1000lbs squat was unheard of. A 760lb bench at 275? Who could accomplish such a feat? Those who have no mental limitations and don’t allow themselves the luxury of excuses are the ones that are overcoming strength barriers.

I recently watched Sebastian Burns of the Metal Militia bench 725lbs at 267. He attempted one lift over 600 lbs 2 lifts over 700 and attempted 765 that day, all with a broken ankle. Not only is he strong physically; he is strong mentally. I’ll never forget the first time I saw a 1000lbs squat. It was Mike Ruggeria of Westside Barbell. I stood in the hallway of York Barbell in total amazement that a man could put 1000lbs on his back let alone squat it. Mike was able to accomplish this because no one told him he couldn’t. I could name dozens of lifters that have overcome physical barriers and still made it to the platform and kicked ass. What do all these guys have in common? They are mentally strong, have an undying will and have no set limitations. I’m sure you can’t walk into Westside Barbell with a weak mind. I have never trained at Westside but from what I’ve heard you had better not show up unless you plan on giving it your all.

I have recently started training with Bill Crawford and the members of the Metal Militia. My first training session with Bill was on July 6th, 2002. About 20 other guys and myself gathered in the basement of the Adirondack Nautilus club in upstate New York. I was struggling with my denim bench shirt and was having trouble getting the bar to touch. After my warm-up I put my shirt on and started with 500lbs. The bar came down and was about 3 inches from my chest. Bill screamed at me to do it again, only drop the bar faster. Without thinking I dropped the bar and this time it touched. He screamed at me to do it again. As I got up from the bench I couldn’t believe I just pressed 500lbs three times. I’ve never done that and without Bill’s encouragement I probably would have never tried it. I had just found out what intensity really meant and how to break through mental limitations. Bill knew I was strong enough to bench 500 lbs. for a triple, but I didn’t. You can be the strongest guy on the planet but if you don’t believe you are you will be out benched by a guy who believes in himself and has an attitude.

The day after training with Bill and Sebastian, I felt like a truck had hit me. The amount of work that gets done and the amount of weight that gets moved in a three hour period is incredible. No one stops lifting, the bar is always loaded and the bench always has a lifter on it. I came back to the gym with a new attitude; I was going to train for real. No more bullshit, no more standing around and talking between sets no more discussing the days events, or problems with the wives. I won’t even answer the phone at the gym anymore while I’m training. I started training Militia style. The guys I lift with were a little taken back by all this but they have started to adapt. We lift harder and with more intensity than we ever have and we have all reaped the rewards. In 5 weeks my bench went from 585 to 655. We have two guys who bench over 600lbs; three guys who bench over 500lbs and several at 400lbs. We also have a 140lbs guy who benches 315. The majority of these guys are in their second year as powerlifters. We have all changed our training attitude and we no longer allow ourselves the luxury of thinking “I can’t”. Bill has been to our gym three times on training weekends and every time the intensity goes through the roof. 17 out of 20 lifters will hit a personal record. My point is do not allow yourself to quit, don’t convince yourself that a weight is not attainable. You will only be as strong as your mind will allow you to be.

When I started training two years ago I had no idea what I was doing so I surrounded myself with those who did. I tried everything. I used bands, chains, several different methods and styles of training and I got something from all of them. I started calling people like Bill Crawford, Dave Tate, Louie Simmons, J.M. Blakely and John Bott. I asked their advice whenever I had a problem and they were all more than happy to help. The best thing I ever did for myself and our team was to go to New York and start training with Bill. You can do the same thing. If you train in your basement by yourself, get out and find a gym where you can train hard. Try going to training weekends at other gyms. Call people and ask for their advice. Train with people who are stronger than you and who motivate and encourage each other. Don’t train with people who constantly criticize others and who put others down. The powerlifting community is filled with some really great people who love the sport. Don’t get me wrong. The sport has its share of assholes but it just like anything else. The majority is great and has a good attitude. Remember one thing; there is no one way to train and no one has the secret set and rep scheme locked up and hidden in a vault. To be successful in powerlifting it takes hard work, lots of experimentation and a strong mental attitude. When you stop making progress change your routine and do what works for you not what works for the guy next to you.

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