I woke up with the type of heavy pressure only a brainwashed addict can feel on a squat day. I took one of my squat T-shirts, lifting chalk to prevent the bar from sliding, some shorts, my good old mp3 player, a digital camera and left the apartment. I needed the last one to record my squat form and make sure that proper depth is reached.
I got on the bus, sat on a dirty seat and started waiting to be surrounded by the spirit of lowlifes infiltrating the vehicle. Those people had no idea what I was going to face in about 40 minutes. I was a squat soldier, not some clerk who spends half his work day stalking his ex-wife on Facebook.
I was already breathing heavy while my mind was trying to take me to the Mall instead of the gym. This was not an option because a personal record was coming.
Last week, I hit a serious plateau and stalled at exactly 129,5 kg / 285 lbs. On Friday, I was scheduled to do 5 reps, but got only 2. It was Monday, next week, and I was convinced the weights were going to fly.
To get ready for my lifting session and really kill it, I had prepared a secret weapon – music that gets you psyched to squat. I found an old video of the popular powerlifter Ed Coan squatting in the so-called Quads gym. I used Youtube converter to rip off the music from the clip, because I wanted the audio file to include all sounds from the video – including the screams of the spotters. The music itself was hardcore rock.
This was not my first time using sounds to get in the zone before a heavy session. Most of my deadlifts PRs have been powered by epic song parts too.
I arrived at the gym and began preparation while trying to remain as focused as possible. As expected, the usual group of teenagers playing the game: “Who is the biggest coward in the gym?” was there. Those curl monkeys were naturally lifting baby weights and following the most generic bodybuilding routines one could think of. They were also extremely delusional in other areas of life too, not just lifting.
When people are teenagers they have a peculiar aura around them expressing the following: “Everybody I know sucks, but I am going to be awesome one day. I am going to fuck the system instead of letting it fuck me.”
I felt sorry for those guys. They were nothing more than generation iFone kids reading magazines, watching action movies and spending their parents’ money on protein powder and creatine. They were soon going to learn the hard truth that Hollywood was not waiting for them with open hands, but before that they had to endure another demoralizing event – I was going to outsquat them.
My squat was soon going to be 140 kg / 310 lbs or double what those bozos were lifting with a belt during their “leg days”.
The rack was set according to my needs. I never use spotters and always rely on the safety pins. To hell with spotters! The thick safety pins were my guardian angels and only training partners. Those are smarter than most people in the gym anyway.
The warm-up sets felt heavy. I hate when that happens. You are supposed to be getting strong, and yet the light weights still feel heavy. Nevertheless, this was not going to discourage me. Thanks to the forums I knew that similar experience is normal from time to time. The warm-ups feel heavy and impossible, but you are still able to smoke the work sets regardless. This has happened to me before and was obviously a fact of life. Thus, I was not going to get pessimistic so easily.
The bar was loaded with my last warm-up set. I don’t remember the number. Who cares, anyway? I took a deep breath, put the sucker in the low bar position like a pro and did two reps. My left hip said: “I am tired of getting beaten, trash.” and started shaking. I knew this was not right, but was I supposed to give up so soon? Who has the time to wait for Wednesday, when was going to be the next PR session?
At this moment, I recalled another wise thought I had read on a training forum: “If you expect to always feel right when you lift, don’t bother.”
I loaded the bar with my working weight of 129,5 kg, which was a number I have missed 2-3 times before. Thereupon I opened my chalk box with love and covered the middle of the barbell with white powder. Then, I took off my shirt, which was not really appreciated by the teenage ninjas playing on the back machines.
“T-bar rows with only 40 kg / 90 lbs? Are you serious, kids? I can lift more with one arm.”
They saw my permabulking scars a.k.a. fat gut and modest bitch tits formation, which was not optimal, but still not enough to tilt me. I needed to put chalk on my T-shirt to get the bar stable and comfy – everything else was secondary. Cry now, laugh later, right?
Before my top sets I had a dilemma to solve – belt or no belt? Something in me wanted to put the belt on, but I said: “No!” I wanted this day to be as raw as possible.
In a minute I was in front of the barbell, making sure that everything is as symmetrical as possible. Right before getting under the bar I started my Ed Coan psyche song. My blood was boiling and I felt super focused. Everything disappeared, except those teen morons.
“Lat pull downs with 50 kg / 110 lbs, seriously? You are killing me, losers.”
I tried to get this out of my head too. This was not the time to do stupid mistakes.
I took a deep breath, unracked the bar and did a few small steps to clear the pins. In my mind I was like: “Fuck monolifts! Real men unrack their squats!”.
I initiated the landing process while holding my breath as hard as possible. My head felt like it was going to explode. I hit proper death and got back up. It was a fine rep, but I experienced the “There is no way I am doing five reps with this weight!” moment.
After a few seconds of rest at the top I started the second rep. On the way up my hip commenced shaking and I couldn’t stop it. Naturally, I shifted some of the weight to my other leg. A soldier does what he has to do, right?
I started talking to myself:
“3 more reps to go. You go it.”
“Yeah, right! You are injured.”
“I got it. Shut, up!”
“Please, get a life permabulker!”
“I have a life. It’s called squat. #dedication”
“Bitch, please. There are girls in China who can squat more than you when they are born.”
“Shut up. They ain’t natty.”
This is when I started to bend my knees and buried the next repetition. This was the slowest rep of the century. Took about 10 seconds to get back up.
“Two more to go,” said the permabulker in me.
I lowered myself one more time and tried to get up, but it was impossible. It felt like the whole Earth was on my back. I kept on pushing for a few seconds, but at the end I had to let the bar crash against the safety pins. I really hated that sound.
Sadly, I failed despite my strategy. I was as psyched as possible and yet it didn’t work. I got three near death experience reps and that was it. I started removing plates from the barbell to get the bar back up again. The whole time my head was down. I was ashamed of myself and didn’t want to look at anybody. I didn’t want to see their happy faces. I know those teens were really enjoying my failure.
After my squats it was time for some easy stuff – bench press and pullovers. I had nothing to lose and decided to do my sets as planned. I got the bench ready and started getting money. When 50% of my bench session was complete, an old guy and his training buddy entered the gym. The old guy was obviously a mentor and the other one was an apprentice, or in my eyes a bitch who needed others to show him.
The old man was as ugly as they produce them – bald, empty face, fat gut, stinking clothes, stupid hat. He was the ultimate redneck. However, I knew he was strong. I could see a powerlifting past in the corner of his ugly eyes. The guy had a history with heavy iron for sure.
They started benching next to me.
I couldn’t hear their entire discussion, but at one point the old guy started telling a fascinating story that took place in this very gym a long time ago. I was listening closely.
Here’s the story:
A young woman enters the gym and asks the owner about a job. She is a 28-year-old, nationally ranked shot-putter, 189 cm / 6’3” tall and looks capable of bending steel.
“I came here for the job offer,” says the female gorilla to the owner.
The guy feels incredibly intimidated by her and doesn’t want to give her the job.
Why? I don’t know. Maybe he didn’t want women with beards to be the front of his business. Go figure.
He decides to lie that the job is already taken, even though it’s not.
“I have already selected a candidate,” replies the owner while avoiding eye contact.
“Fine. Since I am already here I will stay for one workout,” says that shot-putter and starts warming up on the squat rack.
60 kg / 132 lbs – 10 reps – easy;
100 kg / 220 lbs – 10 reps – easy;
At this point people in the gym start talking. “What the hell?”
120 kg / 235 lbs – 10 reps – easy;
The girl even talks on the phone between sets without signs of fatigue or gasping.
150 kg / 330 lbs – 6 reps – easy;
She puts 180 kg / 396 lbs on the bar and starts talking to the owner, who on the other hand is desperately trying to look busy. In reality, however, he is watching closely.
“You have a belt,” asks the girl.
“Yes,” replies the guy and gives her an old belt.
I knew this belt – dirty and almost torn to pieces. The leather had absorbed so much perspiration off of steroid users’ bodies over the years that putting on the belt was known to boost your test levels semi-naturally.
180 kg / 396 – 6 reps – easy;
190 kg / 418 lbs are on the bar – her working weight;
She takes it out and does 3 sets of 8 like it’s a joke. No sounds! Everybody in the gym is speechless. Thereupon she does a few sets of lat pulldowns and gets out.
Not even once.