The day is May 6, 2012, and it starts out like any normal meet day. However, by the end of the day, my training for the foreseeable future would be cemented in my mind.

The meet was moving along normally. As is typical for me, I was right in the middle of the pack with my snatch attempts going two for three (103/109/115). I was set to open last on the clean and jerks. I came out and hit my first two attempts at 150 kilos and 155 kilos. No problem. My third attempt was at 163, which would have been a two-kilogram PR. I was feeling particularly good about it because I had come close to hitting 163 in training and I was positive that I had it in me. I knew for sure that if I was going to miss, it sure as hell wouldn't be on the clean. The jerk could prove to be a bit of a problem, but the clean was a sure thing. A little foreshadowing, perhaps?

Now that I’ve set the stage, I’m going to use a series of pictures to walk through the final attempt.

As you can see, it's a good catch. I'm upright, my elbows are high, and I’m back on my heels. I just need to stand up with it now. Simple, right?

Now, as you can tell from the picture, things are starting to go a bit south for me. I felt myself starting to fall back a bit, and rather than just bail on the lift, I thought, “Hey, why not save this thing? It’ll be awesome!”

At this point, I was all in, and like a captain going down with his ship, I had to suffer the consequences. It really is astounding how long you have to think about things when something like this happens. While it may only be a second in actuality, it sure feels like an eternity. I must have replayed the video of Zach Krych ten times in my head in the time it took me to reach the next point. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Zach Krych, he is a former American weightlifter who fell backward with a clean and snapped both his wrists. He put out a video documenting his recovery, and it's truly remarkable and a true testament to what a person can do if he's set on doing it.

If you’ve ever been in a weightlifting meet (anywhere, really), this isn’t a place where you want to end up. On your back with your legs in the air and your wrists pinned between the bar and the platform is a bad look for anyone. Right away I knew I was screwed.

Note the position that my left wrist is in. My right wrist was in a similar position, but the left wrist came out of the deal far worse.

I wasn’t entirely sure how bad the damage was, but I knew it hurt a lot. In my mind, I was now Zach Krych. My wrists were now both broken, and I was going to have to go through the hell that was his recovery. Interestingly enough, the weight that we both fell back with was nearly the same.

As soon as I got up, I was in some significant pain and had severely limited range of motion. But after moving around a bit, I didn't believe that my wrists were broken. I knew that I was done weightlifting for awhile though.

Initially, I was pissed off that this had happened, but I was over that before the meet was even finished. I had been making way too much progress lately to let this stupid injury derail me. I knew right then what had to be done. I had to get stronger.

Two months of squatting

I started squatting the very next day. I couldn’t do anything besides squat, really. I couldn’t even hold the bar, but being the crafty individual that I am, I used my straps to make a makeshift safety squat bar. Eventually, I got to the point where I could use a false grip on the bar. A few weeks after that, I was back to squatting with my normal grip.

My set and rep scheme wasn’t the most scientifically planned approach. I just knew that I had a lot of time in which I couldn’t do anything else, so I had to get stronger. Because of this, much of my training during that time went by feel. I eased my way into it for the first couple weeks, but by the third week, I was hitting 90–95 percent six days a week.

Some days I squatted with a belt and on other days I didn't. Some days I worked up to a max single and some days I did doubles or triples. After I worked up to my max for that day, I immediately stripped the weight off and either did it again or did some other form of volume work. The volume work was almost always around 90 percent though. I wanted the weights to stay heavy. That is really all there was to it.

In the beginning, there were days when I just didn’t have it in me to go heavy, but as I progressed on, those days became fewer and fewer. In fact, before I hurt my wrists, I had only squatted 500 pounds (and 495 pounds) once, and that was in December 2011. I had tried it since and hadn’t even been close. Well, there was one point in my training where I hit over 495 pounds eight days in a row.

The mental and emotional aspect

I think this is often the most overlooked part of being hurt. Nearly everyone I’ve ever talked to who has been hurt says that the hardest part is being unable to perform at his or her sport or activity. I can certainly empathize with the sentiment now because that's what became the toughest for me. I knew that if I tried to rush back into things, I would potentially ruin any chance I had to be a relevant weightlifter. I had to be patient, but patience got dull—fast. I literally did nothing but squat for two months. I had to stay focused though.

For me, the thought of ending my weightlifting career, and never having achieved what I know I'm capable of, far outweighed having to drag myself into the weight room and do nothing but squat.

I couldn’t allow myself to get down about it. A motto that I've taken on is, “Well, what are ya gonna do?” I had screwed up my wrists. It was over and there wasn't anything that could be done about it. I wouldn’t allow it to break me though.

One thing that helped out immensely with the mental and emotional aspect was how much stronger I got right out of the gate. There was a point during this two-month run when I was hitting at least one PR every week, including six PRs in nine days. That kept things fresh for me because I knew that on any given day I could come in and hit another PR. That never gets old.

Another big lesson was learning to control my emotions in the weight room. I was typically a very high-energy lifter, but I found that I would get really burned out if I tried to train like that all the time. Thus, I took on much more of a nonchalant approach to training until I started approaching a PR. Then I let my emotions take over.

My numbers

Going into this whole ordeal, my squat PR was 500 pounds, but I wasn’t really capable of it at that point. I stopped worrying about squatting as much and started worrying more about the snatch and clean and jerk. I was probably good right around 485 pounds. During these two months, my squat went from that to 525 pounds. What was even crazier to me was that my belt-less squat PR went from about 450 pounds to 505 pounds. This was without ever training my torso directly. All the training my torso received was from squatting. I knew that getting that much stronger was only going to do good things for me when I was able to get back to weightlifting, and I was right.

As every week passed, I tried racking a barbell to see how close I was. Eventually, I got to the point where it was semi-comfortable, so I gave some light cleans a shot. By the end of that first week, I cleaned 400 pounds for the first time, which was over a 15-pound PR. It was easy, too. Behold the power of squatting. I mean, you can see from just comparing these two videos how much stronger everything looks.

My jerk really didn’t suffer too much either. I recently hit a 400-pound clean and jerk, which was huge for me.

Just for complete transparency, I do believe that some of the numbers were short-term gains, similarly to if I were to do a cycle of Smolov. However, I think the numbers that I attained stuck better, too. For instance, I squatted 495 pounds without a belt a couple sessions ago and have cleaned over 385 pounds several times.

What I would do differently

If I were to go through this again (I really hope I don’t), I would place a much bigger emphasis on recovery. As a high school strength coach gearing up for the impending summer sessions, I didn’t dedicate the time that I should have to taking care of myself. I felt like I was too busy, but that is more of an excuse than anything. When something is important, you have to make the time.

At the end of the two months, despite how much stronger I was, I felt like my body was starting to break down. I was hurting, and I needed to take a week off to just get myself in order. I have since been much more proactive with self-myofascial release and recovery and have been able to train that much harder because of it.

The takeaway

This article isn't in any way meant to be a tale of a braggart, nor is it meant to show everyone how strong I am, because I haven’t done anything special. I don’t even want the takeaway of this article to necessarily be exactly what I did while I was hurt. It wasn't anything special that isn’t already out there. I squatted heavy. What I want the take home message to be is that you can't let something like this take you completely out of what you love. I could have very easily sat there and gotten upset about not being able to do anything and then just sat for months and got worse. Instead, I attacked what I could with everything I had, found something out about myself, and got a lot stronger in the process.

While I hope that no one has to go through this type of injury, chances are if you train long and hard enough, you will get hurt. When that time comes, do what you can do to better yourself. You can never get back the time wasted pouting about being hurt.