Compatible Goals

I’ve learned over time that I don’t have to have the same goals as other people in my sport.

I mean, that’s not strictly true;  all powerlifters want to set personal records (PRs). But after that, some folks choose to focus on breaking state/regional records, or winning at a national (or international) meet, while others may focus more on breaking a gym record, learning to coach their friends, or something else.

Likewise, you don’t have to share a goal with your training partner(s) (if you have them). However, your goals and the goals of the folks you train with should be *compatible*, so you aren’t inadvertently working against each other! One person being a powerlifter while the other is a long distance runner will make it hard to train together. 

Legendary strongman Mark Felix and Olympic marathoner Paula Radcliffe don’t have many training goals in common!

Heck, even powerlifters, strongmen, Olympic lifters, and bodybuilders train differently enough that you might have a hard time meeting everyone’s needs in one session.

So take a minute examine your goals, as well as the goals of your training partners and/or people you train. Are they working towards the same general end? If so, that’s awesome. If not, you may need to re-evaluate some or all of the goals each of you has. Strategies for dealing with this goal disconnect might include:

  • Finding the common lifts each of you use, and moving those to the start of your training session so you can do them together, before each going off to do their own thing. This works best with the big lifts (e.g., squats) used by all strength sports; it’ll be harder to do if one of you needs to bench and the other needs to snatch
  • If you don’t have any “big lifts” in common, look to see if there are days where you can “focus” on one training partner over another. This may mean more days, or more time, in the gym, but it’ll also mean you get to not train alone, which many athletes find preferable.

Get those goals aligned, and support each other in your quest for gains!

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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]

 

Building Your Personal Library of Mobility Work

Each of us has our own individual challenges with respect to joint mobility. We have joints where our range of motion is impinged either due to muscle tightness or (in very rare cases) due to bone spurs or other skeletal issues. We have joints where old injuries have gifted us with scar tissue and fused bone, and that in turn further restricts our mobility.

back_pain

For some reason doing an image search for back pain turns up a jillion variations on this pic.

The good news is that, save for cases where muscles are completely unattached and bones are permanently fused together (e.g., from surgery where this was done intentionally), most of these items can be addressed with consistent, diligent, and careful effort. What we need is a library of mobility work that meets our individual needs.

I’ll say this right now: I’m not always as super-diligent as I should be about mobility work. But I’m getting better about that. For me, the cost of not doing mobility work has proven itself time and time again to vastly outweigh the small, temporary convenience I enjoy by skipping it. In other words, not doing my mobility work always ends up costing me in terms of missed training days and/or missed gains.

missed gainz

Don’t be a dunce. Do your mobility. Keep the gainz rollin’.

Sometimes, it can help to visit a physical therapist, or a massage therapist, or the like. Generally, though, these visits are most useful when they can give you several things to do to work on weak spots yourself. And make no mistake, getting a massage, or a trip to the chiropractor, etc. are all great, but none of them are a substitute for the work you have to do yourself, every day, to keep yourself healthy and injury-free.

Over time, I have developed a collection of mobility and warm-up exercises that work well for me. For example, I know that:

  • Pain in my outer hips and thighs is usually due to my hip muscular/skeletal structure compensating for tightness in my hip flexors. To fix this, I do the couch stretch.
  • Pain in my lower back and pelvic joints (lumbar spine, sacroiliac joint, etc.) is generally either my hip flexors (see above) or because my hamstrings are tight. For hamstring mobility I just do the old-school lying hamstring stretch with a towel or yoga strap.
  • Pain in my shoulders generally means I’ve got issues with scapular mobility. This means I need to work on freeing those up via myofascial release (with a lacrosse ball or soft ball) and also do some stretching and dynamic movement to improve my scapular range of motion.

 

Bretzel-1.0

If you want to kill multiple birds with one stone (and if you are feeling brave), consider a compound stretch. I suggest the Brettzel.

I’ve got a lot more of this sort of thing in my library, and I swap various things in and out depending on what’s going on with my body at a given time. But the point is, I have a solid selection of things I do to address the problems I have right now, the problems I have had before, and the problems I will have again if I neglect my mobility.

Doing these things regularly (every day), very deliberately (i.e., not just slamming through them half-assed so that you can say you did it), and with care (not trying to stretch yourself so hard that you get injured/re-injured, but also not taking it so easy that you don’t make a difference) will not only improve your joint range of motion, but will also mean you get injured (and re-injured) less often.

Each of you has issues with mobility that are particular to you. Figure out what your specific problems are, start building your own library of mobility work, and get after it!

06_12_08_Roller_Dolls_003

Roller skates optional.

 

 

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

Work through a checklist in the gym

Every time I go into the gym, I have a list of things I think about and do. The list isn’t long, and some of the items on it are subjective in nature, but those often are the most important items to assess. Inevitably, taking shortcuts on this stuff is where failure creeps into my program. Ignoring my mobility usually leads to injury, for example. 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

Energy Systems and You – A Guide For Athletes

Hellooooo athletes!

Yes, you. You are an athlete. Some of you already have one or more athletic endeavors that you enjoy. Others of you may just have not found (or chosen) your activity yet. That’s how I like to think of every person: an athlete, at least in potentia. So many of us are told that we aren’t athletic, and that we can’t be athletic. Society, friends, authority figures, media – there are lots of people and institutions that try to act as gatekeepers of who gets to be called an athlete. Well, I don’t care. As far as I am concerned, you and I are athletes. Continue reading