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Remember Why You Started
I started lifting weights when I was eleven-years-old. That is over 31-years-ago. I used to watch “The Incredible Hulk” every Friday night like most kids did in the early ‘80s. My uncle was the first one to tell me that the Hulk was actually a man named Lou Ferrigno. I was amazed. I couldn’t believe that a man could actually look like that minus the green paint of course.
My uncle Delano was the first person to tell me that lifting weights can add muscle and strength to the human body. I was amazed. I wanted to try that. I wanted to make myself into a hulk. I wanted to be the biggest and strongest man in the world.
In those days, no one talked to me about genetics. I started lifting weights with the impression that the person who worked the hardest would be the biggest and strongest. I wasn’t going to let anyone out work me, so it seemed logical that I would be the biggest and strongest.
Early on, I was able to add strength and size with ease. I had stumbled onto something that came easy to me, and I was hooked from the very beginning. I found that lifting weights was more than just adding muscle and strength. Working out was therapeutic as well.
I was the son of a single mother that was on her third marriage. We moved a lot, and I never seemed in control of anything. The one place that I could exhibit any control over my life was the weight room. I was in control of how hard I worked. If I wanted to get stronger, then all I had to do was put the time in. I was hooked!
Later in life, I competed in Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting. As fate would have it, my focus became powerlifting. There weren’t a lot of places that provided the necessary equipment for weightlifting, and my dad was diagnosed with cancer in early 2000. I wanted to be in North Carolina near him, so the only real choice that I had was powerlifting.
I decided early on in my career that I wanted to become the strongest powerlifter or all-time. I didn’t care about equipment or federations. I simply wanted to be known as the strongest powerlifter in the world. In 2004 and 2005 I broke the all-time world record in the 220lb weight class totaling 2410lb in 2004 and 2414lb in 2005.
I broke the record competing in a multi-ply federation. That means the equipment that we used could be two-layers thick. I am happy to say that no one ever made a negative comment about the depth of my squats, or the fact that I was equipped. I am assuming it was due to the fact that I have competed raw and single-ply as well. I have totaled over 2300lb single-ply.
I just competed in a Super Total Meet at 42-years-old, which is the combination of the Snatch, Clean & Jerk, Squat, Strict Press, and Deadlift. This competition was completely raw of course, and I totaled 2235. I am just trying to make a point that I have always stayed focus on the original goal, and that is to be the strongest man in the world.
I have watched so many people get lost along the path. There are two main distractions that have claimed the strength careers of so many. The first one that I am going to talk about is going to make a lot of my friends upset with me, but I am going to be honest.
1. Some people in powerlifting get lost in the world of equipment. Now if you started into powerlifting with the only goal of becoming the strongest equipped powerlifter in the world, then I stand corrected. However, if you at any time in your life wanted to be the strongest man or woman in the world, period, then you have missed your mark.
I competed in the WPO because the biggest and baddest men and women in the world were competing there. It was a professional organization that was paying out $10,000+. All the greats were there like Ed Coan, Jesse Kellum, Chuck V., and Gary Frank. It was the place to be. The judging was strict, and the equipment was held to a minimum (single-ply briefs and double ply suit). I watched IPF lifters like Brian Siders bomb out on depth.
The biggest and baddest no longer compete in the multi-ply. At least the majority is no longer there. The equipment is out of control, and the judging is non-existent. The strongest men and women are now migrating over to the raw world. Dan Green, Eric Lilliebridge, and Brandon Lilly are all competing raw. The strongest will always seek out the strongest. That is a fact! The only way to become the strongest man in the world is to beat the strongest man in the world.
I listen at some of the arguments from the multi-ply guys like they don’t want to get injured. Now listen, who are you trying to kid? Are you telling me that putting on equipment that allows you to support over 400lb more than you can do raw is safe? That’s a lie man! I have done both, and I can honestly say that raw hurts a lot less than equipped.
Now there are people out there that could care less. They love the equipped world, and they are going to do it their way. I am good with that. However, if you started in the sport to be the strongest man or woman in the world, then you are going to have to shed the equipment and prove it. The strongest are no longer equipped.
2. People become lost in the social media world. They start becoming a pretty good strength athlete, and they become just a little famous. That little bit of fame derails their focus before they ever reach their potential. Their training becomes more about the cool Instagram video that they might post rather than lifting the most weights.
Here is my advice. Take some time out of your life and think back to when you were starting this whole big adventure in strength. Why did you start? Are you staying true to that original goal? If not, what do you need to do to get back on track?
I used to have these meeting with myself quite often. This type of self-analysis helped to keep me from getting lost in the world of equipment. I always trained hard and heavy raw. I believe that this is the main reason that no one ever tried to call me out. They knew that I was strong, and they knew that calling me out would be a mistake.
I really hope that this doesn’t make any of my friends mad at me. If you love equipment, then do what you want. However, if you are lying to yourself about your goals, then do something to change that. Stay true to that original goal!
Most importantly, if you want to call yourself “the best”, then you have to earn that title by beating “the best”.