In the last year I have had the pleasure of training at Manassas Ironworks under the watchful eye of
Josh Wehrmann, the Head Honcho of Strength at the facility. When I wandered in there I was a dazed veteran of the commercial gym scene with a chip on my shoulder. I was training in a way that perturbed most others (I don’t know, squatting, deadlifting, pressing, dips, pullups and the like apparently made me a pariah) in an environment that was more conducive to bros performing half-rep benches and old people commiserating about their latest trip to Florida. I craved an environment where people would admire my below-depth squats. Knew what I was talking about when I mentioned an interest in powerlifting. Where sweat was just considered part of the equation. Manassas Ironworks is the first and only “hardcore” gym I have trained in and the change in attitude, confidence and, yes, strength has been immense.
I just recently competed in my second powerlifting meet (the 2013 USAPL Richmond Open) and I’ve
realized several things:
1. I’m not very strong. Sure, I’m big and certainly stronger than nearly everyone else on the
block but I have a long way to go. But that’s what I like about the sport. The people at the
top have worked hard, no way around it. My lifts are now far beyond what 99.9% of other
humans will ever achieve but that’s not good enough…
2. Success should be measured relative to what you’re doing. For example, in my first meet
last October, I did miserably, totaling only 1050 lbs and only hitting four of nine attempts.
But, it was my first meet. This time around, I only went four of nine again but felt robbed on
my second (all-out) deadlift attempt. I totaled a full 154 lbs more than the first meet after
five months of focused, tough training. That’s huge and I plan on adding another 125 lbs or
so in my next meet.
3. As I mentioned at the top, you have to work hard, really hard. Josh has become a sort
of mentor for me, experimenting with some pretty crazy training programs to see what
happens. We both approach training with the same philosophy: the only way to make
progress is through sweat, consistency and really hard work. Don’t bother coming into the
kitchen if you can’t stand the heat.
I’m still a nobody in the powerlifting world and I may not ever be somebody. However, I will keep
chipping away at that total. It is completely reasonable, in a few years, to total over 1700 lbs, maybe
even elite. I will qualify for nationals, try my hand at strongman and maybe even do some Olympic
weightlifting. Who knows? The point is, at least for me, competition provides focus to my training and gives me measurable goals and standards to work against.
The bottom line is this: if you want to be strong, you also have to be patient. You earn respect in the
gym by working hard, focusing on your training and grinding it out. I have to thank Josh for teaching me that. He does not suffer fools or people that aren’t willing to work hard. However, for those that are willing to sweat and grind, the rewards are incalculable. This has more to do with your head than your body.
And finally, just because I can’t resist, here’s my message to all of you out there who are afraid of
putting a bar on your shoulders: don’t ever be afraid to get strong. Strength never hurt anyone. Strength is the most basic of all physical adaptations. Strength makes your life easier. People who are strong live longer. People who are strong can pick things up with less effort, hold onto things for longer and generally move through life with less concern about “can I do this or that?” You don’t have to get huge or look like the freak on the cover of a magazine. But I guarantee you’ll feel better, move better and be able to do more than you ever thought possible.