The Big 4 by Dan Koppenhaver

Dan Koppenhaver is a longtime member of the Mash Mafia Online Team, and a member of our National Team that just took second at the American Open. Below he makes a great comparison between Fire Fighting (his full-time job) and Weightlifting with four awesome points that apply to both.

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The Big 4


Do your job

Treat people right

Have an all in attitude

Give an all out effort

-Mark von Appen

Mark von Appen is a Capt. with the Palo Alto Fire Department (CA). He embodies the firefighter I strive everyday to be like. That is one who is passionate about the fire service, excited to come on shift everyday to see what the day brings, and to always apply The Big 4.

In my world, that is the world of a firefighter, there are many principals that can be applied to weightlifting. A fearless attitude, courage, aggressiveness in accomplishing an objective, never quitting no matter how bad it gets, etc. But also other principals that matter that the vast majority of people don’t see. Preparation, training, care of your tools, family, friends, and brother and sisterhood are but a few topics that one could connect the two worlds I love.

The word fireman is one that not ever meant to be sexist by any means. A fireman is person literally forged by fire, and it matters not what sex they may be. I have personally worked with both men and women alike who are hellacious fire service warriors. Any average person can be a firefighter. If a person extinguishes a fire either with water, fire extinguisher, or another method thereof, they are a firefighter. But it takes a certain individual to step into what could be compared to the mouth of hell itself with another person or persons, with an air of extreme confidence and power, and come back out alive having slain the Beast, as the salty senior firefighters call it. Thus the fireman is born.

The same could be said for the weightlifter. Any average person can pick up a weight and be a weight lifter. To step onto the platform day in and day out, whether it be the training hall or the competition stage, to face what could quite possibly injure or kill them, the weightlifter displays the some of same attributes of the fireman. The courage displayed to go under a heavy barbell is to the untrained eye, one of marvel. Just as it is to see fireman working on a fire scene. But behind all of the “glamour,” if you can call it that, there is so much more that makes what happens out on the street or on the competition stage that is done out of the public eye.

Training for both the fireman and weightlifter are crucial in order to become better than we were yesterday and days past. Knowing how to properly attack a fire efficiently is the same as pulling a heavy barbell off the floor in the snatch. Rolling up to a fire scene in the at three in the morning and the whole neighborhood is lit up by the front of the house being on fire is not the time to be second guessing your abilities, or whether or not you’ve trained enough. You cannot be second guessing how you laid the hose out in the front yard, if you put your hood on right, or if your SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus) is working properly or has enough air in the tank. Preparation and training are what make the difference is success or failure when it’s show time.

Just as training all aspects of the lifts in the training hall, it also matters that you are doing everything necessary to outside of the training hall to ensure great performances on the competition stage. Eating right and the right amount of good foods, getting the necessary hours of sleep, seeing chiropractor, A.R.T. practitioner, massage therapists, etc. The moment before you step onto the stage is not the time to be wondering if you did enough of the above. Everything comes down to those six lifts. The competition is won or lost outside of the arena.

I hope that you have gained something out of this article that you can use to better yourself in the sport of weightlifting or any other endeavor you may have.

Dan Koppenhaver is a firefighter and weightlifter from Durham, NC. He currently is a member of the Mash Mafia Online Team. He is a nationally ranked weightlifter and is a medalist at the national level. He is also is a devoted husband and father.

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