Between September 8-22 I spent some time in California just hanging out, eating, and lifting with a bunch of different people. Most of the time I lift by myself in my garage, so I wanted to wisely use my time off between the military and the next chapter of my life to do something cool. It was definitely an awesome experience, and since I divided the majority of my time between Sacramento and Monterey, I’ll make this a two part write-up.
On September 8, Ben “the biggest arms in weightlifting” Claridad picked me up from the airport, and we went for some all you can eat sushi. Things were off to a good start. If you have never checked out Ben’s blog alongthelinesof.com, you might not know that Ben is the coach of Midtown Barbell’s weightlifting team, as well as an accomplished weightlifter in his own right (he recently went 140/177 at the Caffeine & Kilos invitational). It should be pointed out at this point that Ben and I had never met, and only knew each other through Justin and 70’s Big. Ben was kind enough to let me stay with him at his house, despite not knowing if I was in fact a serial killer, as Brent Kim says. Good dude.
Anyway, Monday morning came along and we went to Ben’s normal coffee spot, and headed to the gym. Monday I primarily worked on learning to power jerk out of the rack, and Ben adjusted my push press grip. One of the main reasons I went to California, aside from wanting to just hang out and eat, was to work on my overhead lifting. I wanted to make a transition from push pressing my axle, to power jerking, because strongman doesn’t really care how the weight gets over your head. It was a productive effort, and after about 30 minutes I knew what I needed to work on in the future.
The cool thing about Midtown is that it’s divided between the weightlifting/strength and conditioning side, and Mark Bell’s SuperTraining. Even though Tuesday is not when I normally deadlift, I decided that I would hop in with them and pull against bands. The atmosphere when all of them are lifting is pretty intense; I have never been in a gym with that much energy before. There were a ton of people crammed into a relatively small area, and as soon as one person left the bar, the next guy was up. Once I saw how they were making jumps with the weight I decided to pull 445×5 against the bands. And since I’ve only been pulling with a hook grip for a while, and it wasn’t holding up, I opted to use straps. Having never pulled against bands it was somewhat challenging, but since my lockout has always been weak on the deadlift, it’s definitely something I’ll consider using in the future.
Wednesday I decided I would high bar squat in the morning and front squat in the evening. In the morning I HBBS 420 5×3 and came in that evening to work up to a heavy single on the front squat. At first I felt a bit tired warming up, but once I got going I felt better. I definitely see why weightlifters benefit from multiple sessions per day. My previous PR was 405, so after some consideration Ben and I decided on 407. Well, the first rep felt really good, so I did a double. I’m not going to complain.
Thursday is Bench night at SuperTraining, so of course I jumped in again. Again, the atmosphere was incredible. I spotted Mark Bell on a 505×2 double that he absolutely destroyed. I actually laughed because I had never seen weight like that move so damn fast. It was my SlingShot week anyway, so I stuck with the plan (sort of) and threw that on. I ended up benching against chains, which took some getting used to. But after a few feeler sets I was good. I’m not sure that I’ll invest in chains anytime soon, as I’m weak off my chest, and my lockout is fairly decent. However, I do see the point of using them for someone with a weak lockout. After all that I worked up to a 365 paused double (another PR) and called it a day.
Friday the goal was for Ben to teach me to clean, and he did that in about 25 minutes. The dude is a hell of a coach, especially if he can teach me. Believe it or not for as long as I’ve been training, I never learned to clean. Back when Justin coached me in 2010 I had a biceps injury that prevented me from learning to clean. But in a short amount of time Ben was able to get me squared away.
Saturday was my final day in Sacramento, and again I jumped in with the SuperTraining guys, this time to squat. After watching Chris Ramos (he weighs 209) obliterate a 645 squat, I said “OK, I’m going to try wrapping my knees”. I worked up to 470×2 with the Mastadon bar (which is extremely thick), and then saw that 505 was loaded on the Iron Wolfe squat bar in the monolift. If you have never seen an Iron Wolfe bar it’s 65lbs, 8.5ft long, 35mm, and has incredibly aggressive knurling. I won’t lie, I was a bit intimidated. Nevertheless, I said “I’ll do 5” unracked the bar and didn’t think twice. Using a monolift was again, a different experience, and I can definitely see why people like it. That bar is intense and would definitely take some practice to get used to that. The set of 5 was relatively easy though, and I decided that at some point I’ll probably experiment with wrapping my knees.
Sorry if that was a bit lengthy, but thanks for reading! Check out part 2 next week.