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Articles.elitefts.com-EFS Classic My Epiphany of Strength

Articles.elitefts.com-EFS Classic My Epiphany of Strength

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Published by: Thomas Aquinas 33 on Sep 03, 2013
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EFS Classic: My Epiphany of Strength
elitefts™ Sunday edition
My Epiphany of Strength
This article is a culmination of my 35 years of learning about strength, including the cliff notes to all my traininglogs and a brief look inside my mind. I hope to shed some light on the theories and principles that I used to gainmy strength. These are the basic theories that I believe everyone can use to gain strength like mine andbeyond.I feel I should start by explaining a little about myself and who I am. Although I’m a fairly high-ranked powerlifter,many people still know very little about me. This whole journey really started with my fascination of strength,which began at a very young age. I still remember messing around at the Vic Tanny gym in St. Louis, Mo., whilemy dad was working out. Even then, I loved going with him and being at the gym. I daydreamed about the timewhen I would be able to train as hard as I could and become superhero strong. I wanted to be able to destroypeople on the football field, throw a shot put half a mile, lift tons of weight, and win the world’s strongest mancompetition.
How I First Started Lifting
No real lifting started until my brother started his freshman year of high school football. He is about a year anda half older than me and needed a partner. I was more than willing to join. As it turned out, this was also my firstlesson in how hard it would be to find a dedicated partner. We started with a crappy little old bench and ahodgepodge of weights. We even had some of the really bad plastic ones with the concrete in them. What thehell were they thinking when they made those and who came up with that idea? I loved working out, but it wason and off for awhile. I did not have much confidence in my ability to set up a program and was looking for someone to help after my brother quit.Everything began to change after my freshman year of football. I was unable to hold a starting position on theteam, and this completely set a fire in me. I was pissed and didn’t like that one bit. I basically decided that Ineeded to just get off my ass and figure things out myself. I was going to learn strength training and comeback better than ever. So, I started reading everything I could get my hands on. Unfortunately, most of that wasbodybuilding information. Despite that, I still kept getting stronger and working harder.One day, my dad camedown to workout with me, and I was benching enough to make thatlittle bench shake all over the place. My dad said the bench was starting to look unsafe, and so we began looking into new options.We looked into gym memberships and new equipment. Both were very expensive, and I knew it would be hardfor my parents to afford either one. So every now and then, I would go hangout at the exercise equipmentstore and dream of the day I would save enough to buy some new equipment. The safety issue didn’t reallyconcern me too much. I had a goal, and I was going to accomplish it no matter what. I would just work with whatI had.On the Christmas of my sophomore year, I got the present of my life. I should mention that my parents were always verygood at supporting hard work and dedication, even when it was difficult for them. Christmas morning I opened
a box with a pair of collars in it. I thought, “Cool, I got a new Olympic bar.” But then I saw a note on the inside othe box. The note said, “Merry Christmas! Your new bench is in the shed.” The note explained that theequipment was very expensive, and I would have to pay for a portion of it whenever I could.I don’t really remember how much I paid, but I do remember not caring anyway because it was worth it. To me,this was the best damn Christmas present in the world—
a new bench
, an
Olympic weight set
, a
Texaspower bar 
, and a bunch of attachments. I know it’s kind of gay, but I couldn’t even fight back the tears. I reallywanted that bench, and I knew it wasn’t easy for my parents to afford. I definitely worked out that Christmasday and started a tradition of getting equipment every birthday and Christmas.Training was going on at a very steady rate. During school, I lifted as much as possible during football andtrack, but I could never wait for summer—three months of solid training. Sometimes I trained three or four times a day. Eat, train, sleep, eat, train, sleep, and so on. I loved every minute of it. I remember eventuallygetting lectures from my dad because I wouldn’t miss a workout for anything. One time he got tickets to aCardinals baseball game, and I didn’t want to go because I didn’t work out yet that day. That says a lot becauseI loved going to the games.My dad thought I might be getting too wrapped up in lifting and that there was more to life. I never reallylistened to that lecture! I also still have many fond memories of getting squished under a heavy squat, havingto yell to my mom to help get me out from under a bar, or rolling a missed bench down my belly so I could getup. Ah yeah…good times.
Unsuccessful at Sports
 As for sports, I usually finished near the back of the pack in my freshman year. This didn’t sit well with me andwas great motivation to improve. I wound up becoming pretty good on a local level by my senior year. I still takegreat pride in the fact that I finally dominated all the people who beat me during my earlier years. I won myconference, districts, and sectional meets in the shot put. I also did ok in football, but quit during my senior year. I had a conflict with the whole “team” philosophy. I wanted everyone else to want to win as bad as I did. Ididn’t do any weightlifting competitions, but could bench around 350, squat over 500, and deadlift over 500pounds.I was offered some partial scholarships to throw the shot put back in Missouri, but I wanted to move out toNevada and throw at UNR. This meant I had to work almost full-time, go to school full-time, and train to throw.My days were very crazy, and it was difficult to keep my head above water. My freshman year pretty muchsucked and so did my throwing. By my sophomore year, the problem I had in my lower legs since high schoolbecame unbearable. I finally found a doctor who diagnosed the problem as chronic compartment syndrome. Mychoices were basically surgery, quit throwing, or keep at the same pace and take the chance of eventuallylosing my legs. Easy answer for me—schedule the surgery.
Unfortunately the surgery didn’t work, and I was forced toquit throwing. This was not a very good time for me. Basically,I floundered around for seven years or so. I would workoutfor awhile, take some time off, and so forth. I always thoughtabout trying powerlifting, but I was one of those guys whothought I should get so strong before I ever competed, and Ididn’t really see too much information about it.Then, my little journey took a very good turn while I was livingin a small town in rural Nevada. Two friends of mine (Raul
Lopez and Wade Jensen) talked me into competing in a benchmeet. Reluctantly, I did the meet and finished second with araw 405 pounds. A new chapter had begun. I had a blast andwas hooked. The first couple of years were messed up withmoves, life in general, and learning about the sport. I did myfirst full power meet with a 1700-pound total. This was justwhat I needed to get serious. I didn’t know how good I couldget, but I wanted to see. I directed all my energy intopowerlifting and whatever it took to get to my best. Thismeant leaving jobs because they wouldn’t work with me,selling vehicles to pay for powerlifting, and moving back homefor awhile to save money for powerlifting.I started contacting elitefts™ to learn everything I could. Within 8 or 9 years, I increased my total to 2733pounds with an 1173 squat, an 821 bench press, and a 755-pound deadlift. I won multiple amateur nation andworld titles. I broke the three-lift bench World Record (WR) in my first professional meet. I was ranked as highas No. 2 in
Powerlifting USA
and put up the fourth highest total of all time. I’m currently chasing the all-timesquat and total records.I managed to accomplish everything I did while having some pretty bad medical issues to deal with, too. Alongwith my chronic compartment syndrome, I developed sleep problems around fifth grade. I got to the point whereI was basically unable to stay awake in class. This was even in the classes that I liked. Every time I stopped, Iwould fall asleep. Luckily, by the time I was in high school, I was fairly big and mean so most of the teacherswould leave me alone. I would just take my books home and learn it myself at night. It was much faster andeasier for me to stay awake.
Sleep Problems
By my later high school years, I yelled at teachers if they tried to wake me up. I know it’s a jerk thing to do, but itpissed me off. I wasn’t disrupting class, and I had good grades so I was doing fine myself…well at least thatwas the way that I figured it. Somehow, I managed to stay on the honor roll and graduate with a “B” average.This became much harder in college with my hectic schedule, and my first semester was very bad. I onlyfinished 2.5 years, but had my GPA up to a B average. Then, when I started working as a physical therapyassistant, I struggled to stay awake every time I sat down to work with a patient. I tried to stay moving as muchas possible.

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