Squat by Southwest IV – A Success!

Wow. Just…wow.

I have struggled with writing this all week, because I really don’t know what to say after the conclusion of South By SouthWest IV – Squats IV Stephen. I am absolutely overwhelmed by the graciousness of everyone who contributed, and with the positive mindset of our lifting brethren. Let me just say, I thought the meet went exceedingly well, and most importantly, we raised over SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS for our brother Stephen. 7 grand! That’s a helluva thing.

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Huge thanks to Noel for the awesome graphics for the event! Pictures from http://beccaewing.com

We ended up with over 30 lifters in 3 flights – by far the biggest Squat By yet. People came from all over the state to compete and/or watch, and generous folks donated services and goods from all over the country for our silent auction. We split the lifters into 4 divisions, with trophies, prizes, and medals for the top two in each division.

The winners! (Pics from http://beccaewing.com)

The winners with Stephen!

We had four of HPG’s strongest squatters engage in a “front squatathon,” and every single one of these bad boys hit at least a 200 kilogram (440+ pound) front squat! That’s extremely impressive. What’s even more impressive is that they went on to spot and load for the men’s heavyweight division later in the night! Thanks, Ben, Coy, Keith, and Gerry. I can’t wait to see you guys hit 500lbs.

The open women’s group was a ton of fun to watch. We had everyone from absolute novices to very advanced lifters, and everyone was cheering for each other. They got us off to a great start, and HPG Olympic lifter Jennifer Chu won with her ass-to-grass squats that left absolutely no doubt about her hitting depth! Ashley Pardo crushed a 300lb squat but narrowly missed her depth call, and finished in a close second place.

The Masters’ division was also Wilks-based, with both men and women competing against each other. We even had a woman CURRENTLY fighting breast cancer! In the end, HPG local boys Eric Garnel and Patrick Larson went 1-2.

Masters lifters know to get to the keg as soon as the lifts are completed!

Masters lifters know to get to the keg as soon as the lifts are completed!

We had enough guys enter to split them into lightweight and heavyweight divisions. In the lightweight division, Stephen Moore requested that Noah take a bigger third attempt than planned. Naturally, Noah, with the crowd behind him, destroyed 415lb and took first, followed by Paul Nielson with a strong and successful 370lb third attempt.

The heavyweight guys went last, and they didn’t let the crowd down, with a ton of big performances. IPF World-Class lifter and all around great guy, Greg Johnson, took home big squat of the day and first place with a beautiful 600lb attempt. His buddy Scott Prosek, who normally competes in multi-ply powerlifting gear, took an easy 500lb squat for second place. Both guys traveled from the Dallas area and put up a great show!

This hug from Greg was pretty epic.

This hug from Greg was pretty epic.

I can’t even begin to thank everyone that was involved in putting this meet together, but I’ll give it a whirl.

Kathryn Alexander was the ringleader for all the fundraising, and the driving force behind the event. She did an amazing job drumming up donations and organizing all sorts of very of important details – including the shirts and the keg! Kathryn is no stranger to fundraising, and I hope you all help her out with her annual ALS fundraising efforts.

Kathryn giving a heartfelt speech to the crowd while Stephen's triceps look on...

Kathryn giving a heartfelt speech to the crowd while Stephen’s triceps look on…

The spotters and loaders worked harder than everyone, just like at every powerlifting meet. I actually called out a few folks from the audience to help, and nobody batted an eye. No powerlifting meet functions without volunteers – remember that whenever you compete.

Our Vintage Strong team came to play – Dave drove up from Houston and did basically everything – and then bought us dinner afterwards! My wife, Jess (a former SXSW Champion!), took care of all the scoring and a million little details, all while holding our 3 month old, Lily. She was assisted by our great friend Tina, and a couple dozen more friends who helped take care of the baby when needed. Theresa was an expert-level judge and didn’t even partake in cervezas until after the lifting was over – that’s commitment!

Dave and I enjoying some frosty beverages at the end of a long day!

Dave and I enjoying some frosty beverages at the end of a long day! Jess took this picture so that her massive biceps wouldn’t overshadow ours.

We had more people help with the silent auction than I know. Next time, I’ll gather up all the companies and give them a lot more credit! I had no idea this was going to be so big. Thank you.

The lifters were, to the letter, all great sports. The vast majority hit personal records, which was really cool to watch. Whether they were winning their division or just attempting their first competition, they all followed the rules and made my job as a meet director easy. The amazing crowd cheered them on loudly, and DJ Casey Cuts laid down a sweet soundtrack to the whole thing. We had standing room only, complete with people standing outside to watch!

I’d like to thank Brook, the owner of Hyde Park Gym, the best gym in Austin, and I say that with absolute confidence. Brook encouraged us to put this all together, and for helped with, well, basically everything. HPG is a family, because he has made it like that. This family most definitely includes Phil Wood’s parents, Julia and David, who donated cash to all the winners in honor of their late son, who we all miss on a regular basis.

Finally, and most importantly, thanks to Stephen Moore. He’s not a guy that’s going to talk your ear off, but he quietly leads by example. He has dealt with the loss of his foot in a way that I wouldn’t think possible by even the best, and that’s more inspiring than I know how to describe. I hope that we all recognize and appreciate the kind of positive mindset he has when we deal with whatever life throws at us.

Starting a Home Gym, Part 2

Last time we talked about the basics of a home powerlifting gym, and the importance of getting a decent bar. This time we are going to discuss racks.

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Nice rack, Mr. The Rock

The Benefits of a Rack

A power rack is an extremely versatile piece of equipment. A good one will serve as a place to do squats and bench press, as well as accessory movements such as presses, pull-ups, and chin-ups. That’s a great thing about power racks for the home gym user: they save space. Sure, the rack itself is pretty big, but it serves so many purposes that you basically don’t need to buy any other major pieces of equipment (other than a bar, and some plates).

The best feature of a power rack, however, is the safety pins. As a home gym user, you may find yourself training alone. Having safety pins set to a proper height will mean you can safely get out from under a squat if you have to. Note, though, that you should never bail (dropping the bar from the shoulders onto the pins instead of setting it on the pins). Dropping the bar from a height onto the pins will bend your bar and pins, and should only be done in the direst of circumstances (like, you are having a stroke or something).

Similarly, benching alone is a dangerous proposition. People (usually high school age dudes benching alone in their basements or garages) die every year because they attempted a weight they couldn’t get, and ended up with the weight stuck on their chest. Slowly suffocating as a bar compresses your lungs is a crappy way to die. Don’t be a statistic. Bench with spotters. And, when possible, with safety pins. This is another place where power racks come in very handy: you can set the safety pins so that the bar doesn’t touch them when you are in your properly locked-in bench arch. Then, if you cannot make the weight, you just lower it to your chest and relax your arch, and the bar will be resting on the pins instead of choking the life out of you.

Racks come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Generally, the two that will be the most relevant to a home gym user will be the standard power rack and the competition rack.

Power Racks

Normal, run-of-the-mill power racks have four uprights, safety pins, and (usually) one or more crossbars at the top which can be used for pull-ups, chin-ups, hanging knee raises, toes to bar, or what have you. Other models include squat stands (these will be two uprights, which may or may not be connected, and which may or may not have safety pins) and space-saving models which can be folded away when not in use. In general a rack with 2″ x 2″ tubing is fine as long as you are squatting less than about 450 pounds; more than that and you’ll want to consider 3″ x  3″ tubing.
Some typical power racks. These are from Rogue Fitness. The one in the center is a squat stand, while the rack on the right attaches to a wall, in case you need to save space.

If you opt for squat stands, be sure to get a model that has safety pins. Remember, you don’t want to get under a weight and not be able to get back out!

As you can see above, most racks will come with an option for a bench. I recommend getting the bench that comes with the rack, although you can purchase a bench separately if you want to. If you do that, be sure to get one that has the same dimensions as a competition bench. A competition bench for powerlifting is 4 feet long, 16.5 inches high, and 12 inches wide. If you buy a bench from Craigslist, make sure you check it out when you go to pick it up, as there are plenty of crappy, rickety benches out there.

 

Competition Racks

These are the racks used in official comeptition in the International Powerlifting Federation, as well as its affiliates such as the North American Powerlifting Federation (NAPF) and USA Powerlifting (USAPL). These federations require that a squat be walked out of the rack, and these racks are made to take handle the extremely heavy weights that come with international-level competition. Competition racks are actually squat stands (two uprights) with attachment points for a bench for bench pressing. These racks also come with safeties. A competition rack will usually cost a bit more (although you may be able to find one used), and doesn’t have a crossbar for accessory work such as pull-ups. That said, lifting in this kind of rack will mean you are training on the same sort of equipment you’ll use in competitions if you compete in the IPF/NAPF/USAPL.

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An ER competition rack, with the bench attached.

OK. So what brand of rack should I get?

Good brands of power racks include Rogue, Texas Strength Systems, and Elite FTS.

Rogue has all of their stuff laser-cut by a computer, so it is super neat and pretty, and fits together with amazing precision.

Texas Strength Systems racks are a bit cheaper, but not quite as slick. However, they also sell ER competition racks, which are the racks you’ll be using if you compete in the USAPL and/or IPF. Indeed, you’ll probably find yourself using an ER rack in any powerlifting federation that has you

EliteFTS is the brand I have and it is quite sturdy and has served me well for the past five or so years.

For competition racks, you can buy an official ER rack. If you wish to spend a bit less, Texas Strength Systems sells a rack that is basically the same as an ER rack, it just isn’t certified for official competition.

Any of these brands will do fora home gym, and all of them should last for the rest of your life. Make your decision will be based on price and available space, and see which brand has a model you like within those parameters.

Note: there are several DIY rack plans on the web. The ones that are intended for someone who knows how to weld are fine. The ones made of wood are scary and may fall apart and kill you after repeated use. So be careful!

That’s it for racks! Stay tuned for Part 3, where we talk about platforms, plates, and other accessories!