Reprinted from article on naturalstrength.com
I competed in a Powerlifting Contest yesterday. I hadn’t planned on competing, this was supposed to be an event where four of the eight teens who I mentor through strength training could get some experience. All but one of them were competing in their first contest. I firmly believe in the developmental power of sports and two of the guys are high school aged but never found a sport that fit them. I was hoping that Powerlifting would be their niche.
Now, understand that I was tired. I work for a wonderful company on a rotating shift which allows me four days off one week and three the next. It’s great because I have time to pursue my writing dreams. But the trade off is that I work twelve hour back to back night shifts. I’d just ended my workweek, going in at 7 PM Friday night and getting off at 7 AM Saturday morning when we went to the competition which started at 11 AM. I knew that I’d be tired after being awake for twenty hours straight (I wake up at 3 PM during my workweek) but I assumed I’d be able to handle it and I’d have three days to recover from the abuse. Besides, I was only supposed to be there to coach.
Ha ha. Right. So, we’re at weigh in and the contest promoter, Tee “Skinny Man” Meyers started the trash-talking. Tee is an outstanding lifter in his own right, he pulls close to 800 lbs at a body weight hovering around 180 lbs in his mid fifties, but anyone who knows him knows that he’s also an outstanding trash talker, so before I knew it, I was at Wal-Mart buying shorts so I could compete. I didn’t even contemplate backing out but I did question my sanity as I stood in line to buy two bottles of Five Hour Energy and a protein bar along with the aforementioned shorts.
Granted, this is a local meet, but Tee is an USA Powerlifting official and disqualifies lifts just as strenuously at his own meets as he does for USAPL events. Plus, who wants to be embarrassed in front of a room full of people, including kids you coach? Then there was the guy in my weight class giving me the stink eye the whole time. Actually his attempt at intimidation worked in my favor. Now I had something to prove.
Anyway, it was a great day. Despite my butterflies, I benched only ten pounds less than my all time personal best at 340 lbs and deadlifted a personal best 470 lbs. These numbers aren’t the highest out there, but I’m all natural and compete raw, no special equipment other than a weight belt no matter when I lift. This was also my first time competing in deadlift and I missed pulling my personal goal weight of 500 lbs but I know what I need to do to get there.
The best thing was that the lifter giving me the stink eye was telling me “good lift” by the time we got to the deadlift portion. Turns out he’s pretty inexperienced and his stink eye was actually nerves. Glad I didn’t overreact.
That’s what I love about this part of the Iron Game. There’s mutual respect as everyone competing recognizes that everyone else there has sacrificed something to be there to walk the walk.
Now how did I train kids and myself for two hours total, drive for an hour to work, work twelve hours, drive forty five minutes and then compete successfully?
The keys are Jesus, smart training, consistency and Jesus.
I always pray before each lift asking for clarity and help lifting it. I ask the Holy Spirit to work through me to lift the weight. I give God the glory after every lift.
I follow Jim Wendler’s EXCELLENT 5 3 1 for Powerlifting protocol. It’s not the only program out there but it’s a good one with plenty of options for flexibility in case Murphy shows up that day. I also recommend any of Zac Even Esh’s stuff as well as Joe Defranco’s work. Mark Rippetoe explains the “why” of certain lifts better than anybody I’ve ever read and he was a champion. Dan John is great and makes the seemingly complex simple to understand. He’s the guy I’d send my father to become gorilla strong and injury resistant because he’s got old school wisdom. I don’t recommend Crossfit unless you plan to compete in that because progression is a vital part of long term success and I don’t see how you can progress in lifts when you follow seemingly random WODs. Would you take a karate class where you only practice a skill once every six weeks? All of the guys I mentioned are easily found through the magic of Google.
I don’t go super heavy all of the time, cycling intensity and deloading every four weeks. That being said, I don’t miss workouts.
I do have a life and it doesn’t revolve around training but I don’t miss workouts. Following Wendler’s advice, even if I only have time to do the main lift that day, it gets done. My gym is in my garage so there’s very little excuse and I’ve done my main lift at 4 PM after waking up, midnight after coming home from some outing with the wife (code named Puerto Rican hottie), 7 AM after working all night, etc. And sometimes I actually get a full nights rest before training. This consistency not only builds a solid strength base, but also conditions my body to perform even when conditions are less than ideal. Zac Even-Esh, another strength coach I admire greatly, points out that we’re training for life so what’s the point of only being able to perform when conditions are ideal? My time in the U.S. Marine Corps taught me that Murphy tends to arrive when you’re already tired or to put it another way, Satan loves to kick you when you’re down. So you’re doing yourself a disservice by skipping workouts because everything’s not perfect. You’ll thank me when the car breaks down on your way home after you’ve worked all day and you’ve got to walk ten miles carrying your kid on your shoulders.
I give God the glory for keeping me safe yesterday. I thank Him for:
- A wife who was happy to do the driving and cheered me and all of the kids on.
- The kids themselves who all put on an outstanding performance and all set personal records.
- My son Malcolm who was understanding when I couldn’t be at his band concert yesterday because I was with his two oldest brothers.
- My sons James and Marshal who were more excited about Malcolm’s band performance video when they got home than their own weightlifting performance. My youngest, Juaquin, who waited patiently while his brothers and I competed and helped us with taking pictures, watching over our stuff and keeping the mood light with his antics.
- A body of believers who provided a part of the funds for the trip.
- Brad Martin, who inspired me over years of preaching , teaching and hanging out to get out of the pew and serve these kids.
I also thank God for inspiring Jim Wendler to write a protocol that allows regular people to train themselves safely and giving them a taste of what great lifters have experienced throught the ages. For Zach Even-Esh who inspires me with daily emails to push myself. For everyone who suffered through this extraordinarily long blog post.
Finally I thank Him for Jesus, who died for me when He didn’t have to, just because His Daddy missed having us in the family.
John Greaves III writes for a variety of outlets including Power Magazine, StrengthAdvocate.com and Powerlifting Watch. He is the founder of Garage Gym Life and has authored two fiction books involving powerlifting both of which are available on Amazon.com. He is a record holding Masters powerlifter, a combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, a former Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor and was a silver medalist at the 2001 International Kickboxing Federation National Championships. He is constantly seeking out interesting people who have rejected an average life in favor of building an extraordinary legacy. John’s been training for twenty-three years and from a garage gym for sixteen. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.