This is kind of a queer way to begin an article, but I still remember the first time I met him like it was yesterday. It was the fall of 2002, and we were sitting on opposite ends of the room in our public communication class as freshmen at Ithaca College. On the first day, our professor announced that the initial assignment was to give a two minute speech on our background information, majors, and interests. Sure enough, we both ended up blabbering on about wrestling to the class.

I’m glad he went first because all I basically had to say was that I was also a wrestler so everything that he just said applies to me as well. As you might have guessed, we met after class. We immediately got to talking about training, and within minutes, we had set up a time to lift together.

When the day arrived, I remember him asking me what I had planned for the workout. I just shrugged my shoulders. He immediately began to stack bumper plates on top of each other in the middle of a power rack. I asked him what the hell he was doing, and he said that today I was going to learn how to squat.

“I already know how to squat,” I remember saying. He snickered a bit and then began going into every detail he knew about box squatting, some guy named Louie Simmons, and two websites— and Thankfully, I was athletic and wasn’t too weak in the lower body or I would have had a rough first day. Anyway, that night I went to the websites, and my quest for strength had begun.

I read everything there was and checked multiple times a day for new articles to be posted. This was back when an article was posted maybe every three weeks. So believe me I had plenty of time to read and reread everything that was posted.

Before I knew it, the semester was over, and I was signed up for my first Force Training seminar, which was going to be held at Tom Deebel’s chiropractic practice in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. I remember waking up before dawn that morning to begin my trek so I only had to pay for a hotel for one night. When I arrived there, I met two monsters from East Stroudsburg University. I thought to myself, “Shit, I’m way out of my league here. I’m going to get my balls busted all weekend by huge guys who could give a crap about anyone who weighed less than 165 lbs unless they had a nice rack or were world class lightweight lifters.”

Then he arrived.

Sitting shotgun in Deebel’s SUV, Jim Wendler was holding up his middle finger with one hand and pointing to it with his other, looking at one of the guys standing in front of the building. He got out of the car and started talking shit to the guy. I was really wishing I knew somebody at that point. I was scared shitless.

Jim was decked out in camouflage shorts and Adidas Sambas, and his shins looked like he had deadlifted for about 15 hours the day before. We all filtered into the building, and he began to take attendance. When he got to my name, he started to laugh. “So, you’re the Dickie who orders stuff from us and doesn’t ever use the shift key?! Why don’t you give your pinky finger a workout sometime ya lazy bastard?” I laughed nervously, but at the same time, I was happy that I was recognized even if it was for never using uppercase letters when I typed.

The next two days were unbelievably great. Everyone was really cool and no one blew anyone else off. For me, the big moment of the weekend came the second day when we were doing the hands on session in the weight room. Jim was talking about the importance of building a base before you start powerlifting. He looked over at me and said, “Dickie, how many dips can you do?”

“Probably close to 50,” I said.

“And pull-ups?” Jim asked.

“About 20–25,” I said.

“And glute ham raises?” he asked.

“At least 40,” I replied.

“This is what you want your kids to look like,” he said. “Everyone’s so anxious to get under the bar with a thousand pounds on their back that they forget to build a solid base first. Before all that, make sure your kids look like him. Alright, thanks Dickie, but that’s enough sucking your dick for one day.”

I did my best to play it cool, but I was pretty happy. For going into this whole thing thinking I was going to be “that guy,” the weekend had turned out to be alright. And by alright, I mean really awesome.

Since then, I’ve gone to Dave’s first seminar held at Total Performance Sports (I missed my girlfriend’s birthday for it and didn’t think twice) and the Syracuse Strength seminar. I got to eat lunch with Dave, Jim, and this guy named Andy, a gym owner in Alabama, and I went to dinner with Jim Laird, an elite level powerlifter. These big, intimidating, successful people have treated me as well as my own parents do.

So why did I just blabber on for so long about how I was scarred shitless going to my first Force Training seminar and how it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life? Jim told me to. I just wanted to write about the kick ass gym that I recently put together using all of the equipment that EliteFTS sells.

In late 2006, my wrestling coach approached me about outfitting a gym in a year-round wrestling training facility that he planned to open. I had accumulated some things over the years but nowhere near the amount of equipment needed to fill the space he was going to provide for me. I went straight to EliteFTS and got on the phone with Jim.

Although I had a few of the things below already, over the next six months, I was able to purchase and pay off much of the equipment listed and photographed below. The staff has been nothing but helpful and generous, especially with their time over the last five years. I would like to say thanks for helping make my dream a reality. But as a wise, fat, old man once said, “That’s enough sucking your dick for one day.” So on with the show.

Here’s a list of stuff from elsewhere:

  • 5–100 lb dumbbells
  • two dumbbell racks
  • decline sit-up
  • back extension (will be replaced with professional version offered on EliteFTS)
  • two hammer curl bars (poor man’s Farmer’s walk)
  • 75-lb kettlebell
  • two chalk dishes (make friends with a welder)
  • chains for accommodating resistance and suspended work
  • a bunch of plates
  • two plate trees
  • a big ass sound system
  • two homemade platforms
  • two boxes with three quarter-inch plywood sleeves to adjust the height
  • a cheap bar that we use with the grappler
  • a couple of big ass tires
  • 1-, 2-, 3-board press
  • Busch light keg (empty)

Here’s a list of stuff from EliteFTS:

There are some other small things I didn’t mention and things I’ll purchase in the near future including a Prowler, back extension, various handles/attachments, and more bands.

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