Quality, Safety, and Doing It for the Gram

TAGS: doing it for the gram, safe equipment, instagram followers, meet equipment, spotters, quality equipment, training crew, Joe Sullivan, Chris Janek, safety

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After watching my elitefts teammate Joe Sullivan's recent squat video, it brought up some old memories. If you haven’t seen what I’m talking about, get on Joe’s social media outlets or one of the many that have shared it. He is squatting a decent amount of weight, but nothing so drastic as to explain what comes next. The bar starts to bend slightly, then into a bend that makes it unable to be re-racked, forcing him to dump it. If you think squatting with a standard bar could never be an issue, you are mistaken. If the equipment you are using is not made by a reputable company, it can, in fact, hurt or kill you. I must give you my two cents here from my own experiences.

I have never met Joe, but I can safely say (without question) that if he would have hurt himself at a meet due to faulty equipment, he would have been kicking himself in the ass. Having a spotter there could have made this blunder easier and safer. The equipment, though — well, that’s another story. Going back to a few years ago at the 2015 GPC World Powerlifting Championships in Argentina, my in-house teammate Kody Presswood and I traveled with family and two of our coaches. Our goal was simple: travel to a great destination and win a world championship. Staying safe and not dying was obviously not supposed to be an issue. However, it became a huge issue.


READ: Joe Sullivan Walks Away Unharmed After Catastrophic Equipment Failure


Walking into weigh-ins and inspecting the equipment wasn’t a concern. Most looked normal and up to standards. Competing overseas, we knew that the problem shouldn’t be quality standard equipment like that offered by elitefts. The equipment all looked okay. When competing and focused, the last thought a lifter's head should be equipment malfunctions.

Let me take you on an adventure from that point of arrival. Picture yourself warming up for a big meet and kind of noticing there not being enough plates in the warm-up area. Things started to get a little nerve racking at that point.

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First Attempt

After my last warm-up of about 950 pounds, I was ready to take my first attempt. When I say I was ready, I guess that only means that I was ready — even if the main stage wasn't ready. I got wrapped and belted up. Ready to roll. I started walking up to the platform after my name was called and I noticed a lot of commotion. There aren’t enough plates for my first attempt at about 1020! Really? I have to take off my wraps, belt, and straps, and reset and refocus for my first attempt. After everything gets worked out, I take my first attempt and get it. Onto my second.

Second Attempt

I add weight to go around 1100 pounds. I then notice more commotion. Mind you, this is after I am wrapped and ready to start walking to the platform again. The monolift breaks. Talk about a couple crappy attempts! The judges, loaders, and spotters have to move the broken monolift to the back and bring the warm-up one to the front. Once this is complete (about 10 minutes later), I get re-wrapped and get the squat. At this point, I was distracted and my focus was elsewhere, to say the least.

Third Attempt

I just plain and simply missed. I tried to make a big jump and cut it high. Being wrapped and re-wrapped nearly 10 times, along with all of the distractions, could have really ruined my day in Argentina. Luckily I had some great coaches keeping me focused. Now, onto the bench press.

There were no major issues warming up for my first attempt. The hand-off and the weight went up smooth. We made our planned second attempt at around 800 pounds. The hand-off was good and the descent down was steady. I locked the weight out and as they called the “rack” command I heard and felt a pop and a snap. I had no idea what was going on. I remember feeling the bench lower some and a huge Lithuanian powerlifter pull me out from under the bar. There was much commotion and, believe it or not, the bench itself snapped.

After this, I lost my shit. I have held my composure, but this had me sending chairs 20 feet into the air. I could have gotten really hurt or, even worse, died. This also set my total back, as I refused to do a third attempt. I refocused and went outside to relax and cool off. Again, I cannot say enough good things about my coaches and my wife. They turned these negatives into positives somehow.

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Next up was the deadlift. Weights during warm-ups were feeling good and all attempts went great. After all, these issues, believe it or not, a warm-up deadlift bar broke! This didn’t faze me, as I was so focused on finishing strong. All three attempts went solid and led me to a low 2700-pound total.

I don’t want you to think that all overseas powerlifting meets or most are filled with issues. In fact, I competed in another overseas meet in Prague a couple years before this and had no issues. Having good coaches with you at all meets is necessary to keep you focused and able to handle whatever issues arise. I currently see a lot of lifters lifting max and sub-max weights by themselves and videotaping it. This, plain and simple, is dumb. If any equipment gives up, you are hurt or dead.

Is "doing it for the gram" really worth the risk? Purchase some quality equipment and find some good spotters or your next rep could be your last. You don’t want to be the lifter known for killing himself or herself, nor for getting really injured because you failed to do something that most consider just common sense.

The Barbell: What It Is and How to Take Good Care of Yours

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