“Don’t believe everything you see,” Stephen said.

It was 1985. I was heading to a commercial gym for the first time with my cousin. I was 15 years old and donned in blue sweats and the obligatory athletic gray T-shirt. Don’t believe everything you see? What did he mean by that? I think I know now, but I am still not one hundred percent sure...and I definitely didn’t know then.

The gym was Body Works on Black Rock Turnpike in Fairfield, Connecticut. It was effectively hidden behind a strip of stores in a small shopping complex. Powerlifters trained there.

“I don’t care if I drop dead tomorrow, as long as I’m strong,”  said an unnamed powerlifter I overheard while training in Body Works circa 1985.

I remember being nervous when we first walked up to the front desk to pay the drop-in rate. However, as soon as I flopped down on the bench, all the butterflies quickly dissipated. I was on the quest for the 225-pound bench, and although I was technically unsound for a powerlifter (elbows out, bodybuilder-style pressing), I was still miles ahead of my peers—good body tightness, stationary feet, and strong leg drive with glutes remaining on the bench.

Dino, big and brawny, occupied the front corner of the gym where he effortlessly performed alternating dumbbell military presses with 115s. The powerlifter, formerly ill-concerned with dropping dead, was banging out weighted dips with an 80-pound dumbbell chained around his waist. My cousin, Stephen, was knocking out set after set of hammer curls with 70-pound dumbbells. Heavy weight was moving all around us, but the powerlifters training on the platform made the biggest impression on me.

These behemoths were hefting additional one hundred-pound plates into the gym from their respective cars, momentarily offering relief to tired suspension systems. They were using hydraulic freestanding racks preparing to squat, and these beasts were preparing to squat heavy.

Given my lifelong love affair with the power bench press, the irony of my best memory being of these animals squatting heavy does not escape me.

These guys were monsters. I was fifteen and maybe one hundred-eighty pounds. I watched them intently from afar, studying them in between my own sets as they mercilessly loaded plate upon plate onto the bar—300, 400, and finally 500 handle squats. Five hundred-pound squats with a full walk-out.

It was 1985, the year of the Chicago Bears Superbowl Shuffle. It was pre-YouTube. Never before had I witnessed lifters moving that level of poundage in person. Mid 300-pound, above parallel sloppy squats were king in my High School gym, The Pit.


It’s 2012. I’m in the middle of Beast—squatting with the crew and nestled comfortably inside one of our collegiate power racks. It’s snowing outside on this cold, December Sunday morning, but the Beast is warm and at full throttle. The Hot Dawg heater has cost me a fortune in gas, but on this Sunday, she’s my friend.

We are working hard. The weights are climbing as the plates rhythmically clang-together. Dope blares from the old, yet capable Cerwin Vega speakers. Will has blasted through mid 400-pound triples. Owen is working up in the 500s, and I’m hoping to take a low six for a ride if the stars align. Owen’s in mid-rep and coming up slow but strong. I’m reflexively yelling, “Arch, arch, arch…drive your head through!” He forcefully walks the weight back into the rack after a solid double. As he turns, there’s an ear-to-ear smile under his elitefts™ skullcap. He’s done the hard work.

Forty minutes and several sets of GHRs later, I find myself sitting in the office with some of the guys, sharing stories of my days at Body Works. Sharing my perspective as a then-anxious 15-year-old and explaining the insane displays of strength I witnessed, as well as the impressions they made on me.

“You know what,” I say, pausing to wipe a considerable amount of sweat from my wrinkled brow. “We are those guys now. The younger guys are going to be telling stories about us someday. They are learning how to work by what they see us doing here.”

I’ve seen a lot of wild stuff over the last three years and have attacked poundages I never dreamed of doing when I was training alone in my basement. What the body is capable of doing when the mind is controlled is both strange and amazing. You witness someone rack-pulling a weight that you don’t think you can touch, and maybe you’re correct at the time, but three months later you’re easily pulling that weight and more. That’s determination—that’s putting in the work.

Live life as an example to those who follow—our youth. They are watching. Believe me...they are watching.


While working on this article, I received an email from my cousin (the same cousin who catalyzed my Body Works indoctrination). We reminisced over email and in addition to enumerating some of his iron escapades, he mentioned the following:

"… what do I have to show for that [his strength career lifting feats]? A full-thickness, rotator-cuff tear in my left shoulder, a partially torn labrum of my right hip, arthritis in my left knee which prevents me from doing full squats, arthritis in my right elbow to the point that I cannot fully extend my arm, chronic mild recurrent lower back issues, bilateral plantar fasciitis—recurrent...Let's just start with that. Would I do it all over again? YOU BET I WOULD...Anyway, am I nuts? Probably, but it's WHAT WE DO!!!!!!!!!"" I will never quit."

To live, learn, and pass on.

We are “Those” guys.