Surviving Reno: International Travel for a Bigger Total

TAGS: Ken Whetham, Powerlifting Experience, chad aichs, coach, powerlifting

Anyone who has been around the Powerlifting scene over the past few years knows that Chad Aichs is one of the strongest powerlifters to have ever walked the face of the earth.  Chad has officially squatted 1173 pounds in competition and has been ranked as one of the top lifters in the world.

I had the privilege of meeting Chad at elitefts in London Ohio last August at the first elitefts™ Powerlifting Experience which was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.  Elitefts setup the weekend for lifters to attend the S4 compound, lift the competition lifts in a meet style environment, and get coached by a host of elite athletes, most of whom are legends in the sport. To spend the day training with people like Steve Goggins, Jo Jordan, Brian Schwab, Dave Tate and Marshall Johnson was like going to heaven for a day. I like to envision heaven for me as the S4 compound where I will train everyday with all the best equipment and all the best strength athletes. I could get even stronger in the afterlife!

dave chad whetham PLE 021015 I’ve always had some difficulty setting up my training regimen with any type of regularity. Working as a Firefighter, I have crazy unorthodox shifts that impair my recovery progress and my ability to get any type of a regular sleep pattern. Most training programs don’t take into consideration variations in sleep patterns or irregular shift work. Most are based on schedules that assume the athlete works and trains during the day and can accommodate proper rest and a regular training schedule.

I became intrigued speaking to Chad Aichs at elitefts when we were talking and I discussed shift work and irregular sleep patterns. Chad told me he had suffered from sleep deprivation and depression during the height of his powerlifting career. There were times when he wouldn’t sleep for two to three or more days at a time. He understood the issues and had experience surrounding the problems some athletes face when unable to sleep regularly or recover properly. We became friends and exchanged contact information.

Shortly after returning home to Canada I sent Chad an email asking if he would be interested in helping me with my meet prep for the WPC World Powerlifting Championships in November. At first, Chad was a little hesitant to jump on board, as he preferred to work with athletes one-on-one and didn’t like training over the internet.  With a little coaxing, fluttering some eyelashes and the odd tear, I convinced Chad to agree giving me a hand with my meet prep.

ken whetham lifter help PLE 021015

The first thing I noticed about Chad when we started working together was that everything was technique,technique, and (most importantly) technique!

Everything had to be changed. Chad made some immediate changes for everything. A complete overhaul for the squat, bench and deadlift. Changes in stance, bar placement, hip angle, tightness, bar path and foot position were some of the initial changes. Chad was right. Sending videos back and forth trying to make a ton of technique changes was difficult for both Chad and myself. He was getting frustrated with me not doing certain movements correctly and I was getting frustrated because I just couldn’t seem to get into certain positions properly and do what I needed to do. I thought Chad was joking when he said, “you need to come to Reno and I’ll get you sorted out.” And then the reality set in that I was going to be making a trip to Reno to train with the legendary Chad Aichs, who promised to kick my ass and dig a shallow grave in the desert for me if I wasn’t up to snuff before I left. We set up the adventure for October.

You can’t get a direct flight to Reno from Buffalo.  The flight(s) down went from Buffalo to Washington, Washington to Denver and finally Denver to Reno. An eighteen-hour flying extravaganza! I was beat when I arrived in Reno at almost midnight. The first day I was up at 8 a.m., which was 5 a.m. in Reno! Forgot about the time change and the jet lag (typical for a senior). I picked Chad up at his place where he showed me his treasured gun cabinet; fully stocked with an AK-47, rifles, handguns, ammo, knives and other cool stuff. (I think this was pure intimidation). Being from Canada, where we’re not conditioned for guns and knives, I assured Chad that us Canucks are pretty versatile and adept for defending ourselves with the dreaded butter knife and “spork” which was just removed from the restricted weapon legislation.

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Breakfast was an educational experience for me where I learned a ton about how Chad approached lifting in general. “Everything is training”, “lifting is the easy part”, “what are you willing to do to get strong”? Every meal is considered part of training, resting is considered part of training; all your activities you incorporate into your daily routine are part of your training. It was a real opportunity to see the thought process of someone who is a world class athlete and how everything is considered part of a bigger picture.

By the way, Reno is beautiful. The first day in Reno we worked on squats at a gym called American Iron which was equipped with everything for powerlifting.

We trained with Chad’s training partner Scott who squats over 1000 pounds and is built similar to my stature. We worked on stance, bar placement, foot position and getting the hips into the right position in the bottom for optimum acceleration. Squats went fairly well but I was still pretty exhausted from the flight and time change. One thing Chad emphasized was flexibility. I have to admit, I’m not the most flexible plank in the woodpile but I didn’t realize how important it was for getting into proper positions. If you’re too stiff and can’t get into optimum positions, you’re lifting strength will be compromised.

I’ve trained with lots of different lifters over the last while and the biggest difference I noticed when training with Chad and Scott was the intensity. These guys trained balls out, putting everything they had into every lift. It was a serious take-no-prisoners session that really woke me up and impressed the hell out of me. Subconsciously, I couldn’t help but think that I still may end up in a shallow grave in the desert if I didn't get with the program.

molly sheri PLE whetham 021015

Bench training was another experience I won’t forget anytime soon.  It was awesome getting direction with setup, foot position, tightness and bar path, but watching Chad and Scott go through their training with the explosiveness and intensity of two raging bulls was awesome. Every aspect of the setup was emphasized and why it was so important. I wasn’t staying tight enough on my setup and Chad took off his shirt and squeezed his lat like a rock and glared.

“This is how fu*king tight your setup needs to be!”

Point well taken...slowly reaching into my back pocket searching for my spork.

We were always eating!  Every time there was a lull in the action we seemed to head out for something to eat...I mean, train. I had rented a luxurious top of the line Ford Focus for my Reno journey and one morning after leaving a restaurant and getting into the car, Chad got a text that read “That’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, two huge giants getting into a compact clown car.” It was a tight squeeze.

Deadlift training went better than expected. I’ve always had the problem of leaning too far forward on the deadlift and letting the weight get away from my center of gravity, keeping my hips too high on the starting position and pulling more with my back than my hips and glutes. Chad got me into a better balanced starting position and immediately pulling better with better technique. It appeared I was making some half decent progress and might be able to avoid the desert coffin and being sprinkled with lye.

PLE whole group whetham 021015

My trip to Reno and visiting Chad was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had and I will never forget it. Anytime you have an opportunity to train and get instruction from a world class lifter, find a way to make it happen. I feel like this experience will be a turning point for my lifting career. The best part of the trip was hanging around with Chad and getting to know him as a person. We have definitely become good friends and I hope to visit Reno again and it would be great if Chad could come visit Canada in the near future. Too bad we’re kind of wimpy in Canada and don’t have such a great selection of automatic weapons and ammo!

I competed at the WPC World Powerlifting Championships in West Palm Beach Florida and set a new squat PR, bench PR, total PR and won Gold in my division. It was a great experience and I owe a ton to Chad for helping me get ready. We made a lot of changes in a short period of time and I’m excited to see how we progress moving forward. I still have quite a few lofty goals I want to achieve in powerlifting and my confidence level has risen having the guidance from Chad Aichs who told me he has no doubt in his mind I can achieve my lofty goals. Thanks Chad!

I also need to thank EliteFTS for giving me the opportunity to train at the S4 compound and meeting such incredible lifters, coaches and people associated in the Powerlifting circle. I have the utmost respect for Dave Tate and everyone at elitefts for having such forward thinking and ambitious energy to direct into the sport of powerlifting. Your energy and leadership is unmatched. I could only dream of being part of such and incredible team.

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