Vintage Strong Lifter Spotlight: Kevin

[Dave’s note: Kevin has been too modest below. His injury would have caused most people to give up even trying to walk without a cane ever again, much less train. His mental, emotional, and physical fortitude are beyond compare, and I’m glad he’s my friend, and a Vintage Strong athlete.]

In late July 2012 I found myself in a nursing home, immobilized from the hip to the ankle. I had just had both of my quadriceps tendons re-attached after tearing them in a fall. As I spent the next ten weeks lying in a bed or sitting in a wheelchair with my legs sticking straight out in front of me, I had to come to grips with what my future would hold. The orthopedist told me that I would never have full motion in my knees again; most likely, if I regained 90 degrees of flexion it would be a monumental achievement. He told me that I was done with any sort of lifting other than upper body lifts. Continue reading

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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!

Eating Like a Cave Woman

Jessica and I did a strict Paleo challenge back in 2012, mostly to lose some winter chub. The results were outstanding, as I lost about 20 pounds and she dropped 6. But the other results she experienced were even more awesome, so I asked her to write this article. Still relevant today!

Last summer, a spontaneous move to Austin sparked a new social life for me. After a few months of living in a new city, eating everything in sight, and drinking more than usual, my body started to take a turn for the worse. I gained 8 pounds, felt tired all the time, and had heartburn almost every day. So, after the New Year, Jacob and I made it a priority to buckle down on a diet that would yield weight loss results, and we started exercising more. We committed to a 30 day strict Paleo diet. Continue reading

Meet The Man Who Squats 905… Raw

I originally posted this interview back in 2013. Since then, Ray Williams has become the IPF world champion… twice. His 2015 IPF Classic World Championship squat/bench/deadlift/total numbers were 425.5/235/340/1000.5 Kg (in pounds that is 937/518/749/2206). A remarkable performance , and he keeps getting stronger and better!

Over the weekend, a video quickly started spreading amongst the powerlifters of the world. Everyone stared in disbelief as they watched…questioning at first, but finally settling into simple awe. This shocking video depicts a man none of us have ever heard of, squatting over 900 pounds with just a singlet and a belt at the Alabama State USAPL Championships. No XXS knee sleeves (certainly no wraps), no special squat-suit – not even special lifting shoes. Just a large man with a LARGE amount of weight on his back, moving it around like he’d done it a hundred times.

This man is Ray Williams. In only his second powerlifting meet, he smashed the American USAPL Squat record with his second attempt, and on his third, easily squatted a weight that would shatter the current IPF world record, were it done in the proper circumstances, with the proper judging, and, of course, assuming he becomes accustomed to waiting for the “rack” command. Did I mention this is his second meet?

I tracked down Ray in Mississippi and spoke with him on the phone about his past, his lifting, and his future goals in the sport. I had no choice but to speak to him as a fan more than as a fellow lifter – he was as respectful, humble, and generous with his time as anyone you’ll ever meet (and likely the only person who addresses me as “sir!”). He was quick to give credit to his family, especially his brother, who got him into the sport and will be competing alongside him at 2013 USAPL Raw Nationals in Orlando. Last year, the Super-Heavy showdown between Brad Gillingham and Randall Harris was epic, to say the least. I can’t wait to see what goes down this year.

Everyone is saying “Who is this guy?! Where did he come from?” Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Ray Williams, and I’m from the small town of Demopolis, Alabama. I’m about 6 feet, 361 pounds – that’s what I weighed in at the meet this past weekend. I coach Junior College Football. I’ll be married 2 years in November, and have 2 beautiful kids. My wife and my kids – they’re my motivation for powerlifting. One of the biggest reasons I think I was able to get 900lbs this past weekend was because in 2011, my daughter died. She was born, survived 11 days, and passed away due to being born premature. That, over everything else, is my motivation – her.

You have a pretty extensive football background as a player, and now you’re a coach. How important has football been to your life?

Football kept me out of trouble growing up. Seventh and Eighth grades were the toughest two years of my life. I had more discipline referrals than I had positive comments. In High School, everybody was like “come out and play football!” It was naturally easy – people pat you on the back for going and knocking the mess outta somebody! I signed at UT-Martin, made All- American my Senior year, All-Conference my Junior and Senior years. If I could do it again, I would. I was able to try out for 2 NFL teams, but it didn’t work out for me. I could have played Canadian ball, but it was just too far from my family.

So did you get your introduction to lifting from football? How long have you been lifting in general?

I started really, really getting into weights my 10th grade year. I said “If I want to be good at football, I might want to be good at this, too.” My Senior year, me and my brother William were first and second for every record in the high school. I squatted about 545, benched 440, and hang-cleaned around 315 or 335. I didn’t deadlift until after I was done playing ball.

How long have you been powerlifting specifically?

This was my second meet. My brother got into it first, and one day he talked me into it and I just ran with it.

What are your current meet and gym PRs for the big 3 lifts?

I squatted 860 and 905 (the 905 didn’t count due to a step forward before the call), benched 475, and pulled 700. I’ve benched more in the gym, but everything else was a personal record.

Do you follow a specific training schedule or program?

I try to focus on the core lifts, not so much on the auxiliaries. My week looks like this:

Monday – Deadlift, all sumo from the floor.

Tuesday – Squat, usually it looks something like this:

315×5

405×1

500×1

600×1

700 5×5

I want to work up to 5×10 at 700 because the gym I work out in, the bars aren’t long enough for more weight, that’s all I can get on there. Whatever I can get on there, I can’t let myself get comfortable with it, so I’m trying to add reps every week since I can’t add weight.

Wednesday – Bench Press:

Right now I don’t bench enough for my bodyweight, so I have to get to where I can rep 450 comfortably for 5 reps for multiple sets. I do multiple sets of 5 until I’m comfortable with a weight. I strained something in my arm and right shoulder and if I get out too wide, it hurts, so I try to keep my grip narrow.

Thursday – Rest

Friday – This is for all my auxilary work that make me better on my core lifts. My favorites? Curls and Tris! I’ve done biceps and tris every day for the last few weeks. I have to get my arms up.

Saturday – I just go in and loosen up and do a little cardio.

Sunday – Rest

Where do you workout? Do you train alone, or with a partner/group?

We have a huge gym in Fulton, MS, the Davis Event Center, probably one of the best Junior College Basketball Gyms around. Attached to that is a very nice weight room and I work out there. I have a partner, a student assistant that is trying to get back into powerlifting form, and I’m trying to get stronger, so we push each other.

Do you mainly train the big lifts, or do you perform variations of them as mainstays in your training?

I mostly focus on the big lifts and auxiliary work (bis and tris).

What do you think has contributed the most to your phenomenal strength levels?

I hate failure. I hate to fail. When you’re up on that platform, and everyone’s looking at you – I have my wife, my friends, my family looking at me – I don’t want to fail in front of these people. Kind of like when you’re working out, you put 700lbs on the bar, you can almost bet the entire gym is only watching you. If you get back there and you can’t move the weight, you just failed, in front of everyone. I hate failure. I hate to fail.

Tell us more about the “Cornbread and Buttermilk” story in the local newspaper. What’s your diet like?

If you google ways to get stronger, everybody in the world has their own program, “This is how I got stronger.” But somewhere in there it says “you gotta eat!” My wife’s done an awesome job feeding me, and my mother did an awesome job feeding me when I was young. I’ve always been a big dude, and one thing my grandma brought us up on was cornbread, collard greens, good down-home southern food – it’s always been a staple of my diet. I try to eat good – I’m 361 pounds, but I don’t want to look 361. I try to stay away from fried foods and greasy stuff as much as possible, but my #1 Kryptonite right now is Mountain Dew – I love it.

Finally, where do you think this is going? This being your second meet, the sky’s the limit. What are your goals for powerlifting, and your squat in particular?

I don’t want to sound bold… Right now I realize I’m blessed, but that I still need to get stronger. But right now my goal is to just get back to the lab and get better. To answer your question – everyone’s joking about calling me “little Mark Henry.” That guy was really, really good – he squatted something like 933 in high school. But I want to be just as good as him.

 

Impressed yet? I am. My favorite part of the conversation was a little more informal, but in regards to the 905 squat he took in the video at the top of this post:

Ray: I was wanting to hit a thousand, but they didn’t have enough 100lb plates.

Me: What?? Would you have called it, if they had it?

Ray: Oh yeah! I would have tried it. That’s my goal at Nationals. I want to do 1000 pounds.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, a legend in the making: Ray Williams.

[This post originally appeared on 70s Big]

 

Incorporating the SlingShot Into Your Training

When I first read about the SlingShot (or SS, or Slanger, or Egoband, or MagicBenchThing), I was skeptical. I happened to be more than a little burned out on bench at the time, after one AC joint surgery and another in the impending future. I didn’t bench much for a couple years, which was bad news, considering I was already a shitty bencher. I jumped on the “Overhead Press is more manly!!” bandwagon for awhile, but eventually, realized I was only doing that to avoid benching because I sucked at it. Continue reading

The Over-Warm-Up

This is a technique I use with some of my lifters to increase their confidence on the bench press. It’s not a new idea, and people have been using it since the dawn of time, but it’s something we haven’t discussed on the site, and I get a lot of questions about it. I call it the “Over Warm-Up (OWU).” It’s a very technical and marketable name, I know. What does it mean? What do you think it means? It means you warm up to a heavy single before your work sets. Complicated stuff. Continue reading

To train or not to train…is it even a question?

Today’s article is a submission by my lady friend, Jessica, who you’ve read about before on here. Remember that thing I wrote about talking to people stronger than you? She used that as motivation to reach out to several of her gal-friends in the powerlifting community and spoke with them on the phone for some time about what motivates them, what goals they have, and then put together this summary for everyone to read and consider. – Jacob

arnoldcurl

Many of us gym rats have a routine, schedule, program, and social circles that our lives revolve around, but it hasn’t always been that way for most of us. Successful lifters have taken control of their schedule, responsibilities, and nutrition as they strive for improvement. Others are still struggling to figure out what works for them. Believing “I’m not as strong anymore,” “I’m getting too old,” and “I can’t win” are lies told to you by failing mindsets. What do most professional athletes have in common? Self-confidence. Some would say egos. Tap into your inner ego and know you can accomplish your goals. Continue reading