At this point I finally had a break. All of the lifters were stationary, and I did my best to have them “sit the fuck down”. I was really worried about them conserving their energy for the deadlift, especially Chris (we had big plans).
During this time, the early flights seamlessly started lifting. This meant that there were young girls and boys all over the place cramming themselves into bench shirts. I don’t know if you guys have ever seen someone wear a bench shirt, but their arms kinda stick up, so the building looked like it was full of zombies. I had to resist the urge to “sever the head or destroy the brain”.
As I sat on the bleachers next to Brent, Cruton (the name he posts under on the site) came up and introduced himself. I had already met a few guys that were familiar with the site, but I was actually able to take a few minutes and chat with him (find his comment yesterday if you’re interested what we talked about). Alas! Zombies or not, it wasn’t long before Jorin needed to start warming up for the bench press.
Jorin’s goal for this meet was to bench 300. We timed his last warm-up with the lifting out on the platform, and he was primed and ready to take on his opening attempt of 264. This weight wouldn’t be hard for Jorin; I spotted him on a paused 275 the week before, but your first attempt should be something you can make even if lightning strikes the building during the lift.
I reminded Jorin to listen to the judge’s commands, and then handed off to him. Start. Press. Rack. No big deal. He waited for his second attempt at 286, and I told Mike and Allen that they’d probably start warming up after his second go (Note: Allen started warming up three weeks prior to the meet to make sure he was good to go for this event). Jorin’s name was called, the bar was loaded, I handed off, and 286 was no big deal either. The dude wanted 300, so we called for 300. Then we played the waiting game.
Mike and Allen started warming up. Both of them are not as strong on the bench in relation to their other lifts, but they would both be aiming to open with a decent 264 with a pause. The flights took a bit longer this go round because there were additional “bench only” lifters. I’m probably not the only one who doesn’t like the “bench only” option as they slow the flow down, cause everyone to have to wait much longer to take their attempts, and they usually delay the meet significantly. But, I guess they pay the bills, eh?
Jorin’s bar was finally loaded, and I made an attempt to get him a little razzed for this third attempt. 286 looked so smooth, I expected this to be a moderately hard rep. I reminded him of the commands, handed off, got out of the way, and watched. He lowered the bar under control, got the press command, and the bar ascended off his chest just like it did at 286…but there was a catch halfway up. The bar’s movement halted, and he couldn’t get it going again. The spotters racked Jorin’s weight, and he got up, disgusted with himself. It’s hard to console a guy when he almost got it, but it was Jorin’s reassuring voice that said, “But hey, 286 was a PR.” He’s got a level head on him, that Jorin.
Mike and Allen lumbered out of the warm-up room. Allen looked like he should be chopping wood with his beard, and Mike looked like he should be fighting Shredder and his foot soldiers. They lifted one after another since they were taking the same weight, and both made easy work of 264. Give ‘em a break, the first lift is supposed to be money.
I called for 275 for both of them on the following attempt. Easy peezy lemon squeezy. With that lift, Mike tied the Texas State record for the Raw 242 class (I know, it was low). Mike didn’t care what his third attempt was, because we weren’t going to make a jump to 300, he just wanted to go 3/3. I called for 281 to get the record, and he did. Easily. I called for 286 for Allen (a 5kg jump instead of 2.5), and his lift looked identical to Jorin’s; fast off the chest, then stuck halfway up for a moment before the spotters racked his bar. I should have made a 2.5 kg jump, but I figured he would have easily taken 286 because of the ease of how he put up 275. No big deal, because Allen didn’t come here to bench, he was eager to deadlift.
At this point you probably know that while the 242 guys were lifting, Brent and Chris were warming up in the warm-up room. The goal was the same for both, go 3/3 and not fuck things up (ahem, Brent). Brent’s bar was loaded for his first attempt, but his rack height was seriously four inches above his chest. I quietly said, “What the fuck?” to myself so that I didn’t stress Brent out, but I had a helluva goofy time trying to give him a decent handoff. He easily took the 242 opener, and as the bar was racked, I said aloud in front of everyone, “Brent, why the hell is your rack height so low?”
“I dunno man, but that was a sweet lift-off. Did you upright row that?”
“Pretty much, we need to get that shit fixed.” Somebody, whether it was Brent or not, must have wrote the rack heights for the squat and the bench in the wrong space on his card, because things were all kinds of goofy (I’m betting it was Brent’s fault).
Chris opened with an easy 330. I’ve seen him do 345 for a triple in the gym as well as 340 for a three second pause. You gotta remember that a little over a year ago, Chris literally couldn’t lift a ten pound bar overhead. Now he’s pressing 230×3 and benching 325 for eight sets of three in the gym. But, as Brent says, “This is competition, Justin!” (accompanied by a look of derangement).
Brent was going for 253 on his second attempt, and I asked the judges if we could change his rack height since it was apparent there was a mistake. The judge said something very loudly, but I couldn’t understand it (I swear it was German). Brent and I just looked at each other and shrugged, but they moved his rack height up a bit. This saved me from upright rowing for a sweet set of traps. Brent benched the 253 easily, and looked like an asshole doing it. I love my Brent.
Chris took 347 on his second attempt, and the bar floated up. Nothing to report here.
Brent agreed that being conservative on the bench was the plan since he had already missed one squat, so we only jumped to 258, which he put up with just a bit of struggle. We wanted at least a 350 bench for Chris, and called for the planned 358. He took it out, lowered the bar Doug Young style, got the press command, and then steam piston pressed it up. Again, no big deal. Chris is no Doug Young when it comes to bench, but this was a PR for him, so he was happy. Nice lifting by all five lifters as they all hit a PR and went 13/15 as a group.
Jorin has had some trouble with his lower back recovering in the past few months, so his goal was to deadlift at least 400 pounds. We also wanted to go 3/3 on this lift, and opened with the planned, yet conservative, 365. I was worried about Jorin’s back being tired since it was an issue earlier this year, but he stood up with the weight like he it was the start of a set of ten. No reason to get hasty, so we stuck to the plan, and he took 385 easily on his second attempt. Well sir, 402 it is. Jorin approached the bar, took his grip, dropped his shins, took a breath, squeezed his chest, and pulled the fucking bar like he was doing a set of five. I was stunned by how easy it is, and it just goes to show that if you give your low back a bit of rest, it’ll help it heal up and perform to its potential. This capped Jorin’s successful day – he went 7/9 and only failed one lift (his third attempt bench…remember he didn’t wait for the rack command on his second attempt squat).
Mike and Allen had already been warming up, and if you’ve read Parts 1 and 2 you know that I’ve been running back and forth to let them know when they should take their warm-ups. Allen opened with 468, and I’ve seen him do this weight for multiple reps before. Just to clarify, that’s a 40 year old badass deadlifting more 75% of you readers. Step up your game. Oh, and he made it look easy. I like to think of Allen as a technician on the deadlift, because the bar never trails away from his body and has a beautiful vertical path.
We planned on hitting 501 for Mike’s opener. Mike has long-ass legs and a short torso (and ninja turtle-like features), so he is in a goofy pulling position. He was also wearing a pair of VS Athletics that had quite a bit more heel than he probably needs in the deadlift (they are excellent for him when he squats, but his anthropometry will require a flat shoe for optimal pulling mechanics). He pulled 501 and it wasn’t super fast, but it was not difficult at all. His issue is that the bar was about an inch from his legs, and not very efficient. I’m not sure if it was his lack of attention (his form was atrocious last November) or if the shoes put him at a major disadvantage, but I told him he needed to clean that up if he was going to hit 556 for a Texas State record on his second attempt. We were going for broke on that lift, because we were already planning on waiving his third attempt.
Flash to the warm-up room and Chris and Brent, the giant and the Asian, were warming up. Flash back to the platform and Allen’s name was called just as I returned from the back room. After I jawed in his ear (you know, that whole get-you-pumped thing while reminding him to listen to the judge’s down command), he walked up to his bar, stood in front of it a moment with eyes looking forward unfocused, and set up. I was ready to wave Allen’s third attempt if this second lift was hard because I didn’t want him getting hurt right in front of his family. Allen knew this, and pulled the shit out of the bar. It was smooth up his legs, and he locked it out without too much trouble. After returning the bar to its gravitational destination, he turned to walk to his seat, smiled at me and said, “Let’s go for 500.” I just started laughing and called for 501.
Meanwhile, Mike is no longer Mike. He is the reverse of a butterfly, forming himself into a grotesque creature that is hungry. His face contorts and I shit you not, he is skin is an ashen gray as if all the blood in his body drained to his legs, hips, and back. The bar was already lifted in Mike’s mind, and he wasn’t gonna let a little bit of tiredness deny him.
Mike was grunting, making noise, and it was almost comical. Instead of making fun of him, I poured gasoline on his intensity by jawing in his giant ear. I told him to make it smooth and listen to the down command, except I added 13 or 14 choice words. Then I smacked Mike harder than I smacked my dog Leda when she pooped in the house three times in one night (true story). My hand stung hard, and the national side judge winced at the spectacle. Mike went up to the bar, seemed to disregard any technique advice he had received in the past five months, and pulled on the bar…HARD. The battle didn’t start until it was past his knees, and it took four seconds to travel the last four inches. But he didn’t quit on pull – he wanted that lift and he wanted that record. Three green lights for a good lift. Nice lifting by Mike and a solid day; he went 8/8 in his first meet and totaled 1350.
Allen had one more goal to take down before his day was over. He had already gotten his 400 squat (you’ll recall he hit 413 on the third attempt), and now a 501 lb. bar beckoned him from the floor, daring Allen to lift it. Allen unfocused his gaze forward, as if he was visualizing the pull, then bent over to set his grip. The grip was nice and tight, right outside his shins. He squeezed his chest, and got a nice arch in his back. I had just reminded him that he might pull it ugly, but he better keep pulling on the bar. Turns out, Allen could pull the bar and make it look pretty at the same time for as he started pushing the floor away, his back didn’t yield to the 500 pounds at all. The bar ascended at a moderate speed, never slowing down until it was locked on the top of his thighs. The down command was given, and Allen broke into a bearded grin as I body checked him for the second time that day. Solid day for Allen; he went 8/9 and hit his squat and deadlift goals.
Chris lumbered out of the warm-up room to take his place by his platform and Brent backflipped out onto his platform. Brent’s bar was on the floor before Chris’, and Brent calmly stood again. I swear, he looked like he was waiting in line to get a raft so he could float down the Lazy River. It’s weird, because the little bastard is confident, but he’s not antsy. He deadlifted a paltry 429, set it down, and then discovered that he had two red lights.
“What the fuck?” Brent was unhappy .
“They say your knees weren’t locked out. Flex your quads if you have to at the top.”
“Whatever.” And then Brent silently returned to play Sudoku at his seat. Asians play Sudoku, right?
Chris was gearing up for his opening lift, which was set at 600. 550 didn’t look handsome in the warm-up room, and I was slightly worried about how spry Chris was at this point. In any case, I knew he wouldn’t be missing a silly 600. Chris tightened his belt, stomped to the chalk bucket, and then stalked his bar. He was the lion, striding back and forth, eyes never leaving the bar. The deadlift is Chris’ favorite lift, and he wanted to destroy this opener.
Chris approached the bar and took his grip – you Chris fans will remember that he uses a double-overhand hook grip (this makes Brent jealous). He dropped his shins to the bar as he simultaneously locked his back in position, and then pushed the floor away without too much discomfort. The bar had a constant speed to it, and it was locked out, much to the delight of the nearby crowd. The junior national record for the 275 class was 660, so we were trying to hit 666 on the third attempt. 600 is typically not a big deal for Chris, and he is used to pulling heavy after squatting heavy, so the plan was to treat the opener as the last warm-up and go for 633 on the second attempt to make the same jump up to 666 for the third. Chris returned to his seat to ready himself for the 633.
Meanwhile Brent was sipping a daiquiri on the beach with his feet propped up. His flight was experiencing some difficulties and had to wait quite a while before his second attempt. I kept an eye on how far away Brent and Chris were from going again, and Brent’s name was called a few attempts before Chris.
The bar was loaded to 441, and Brent walked up to the bar with a little bit more urgency since he was red lighted on the opener. I had just reminded him to “make sure you lock your knees out,” to which he replied,
“Oh, I’ll show them some fucking locked knees.” I really didn’t know how to take this comment. He said it in a threatening way, and I imagined Brent pulling his weight, then attacking the side judges, hyper-extending their knees to show them “some knee extension”. In any case, he made an easy lift, and wasn’t even wearing a belt on the deadlift (his Velcro belt was illegal).
Chris was gearing up, and I signaled for him to toss his earphones off. He tightened the belt, and then assumed the lion stalk. I followed him around, talking him up more with every step that he took. I know how to get Chris going, and I wanted his blood to boil so that this weight didn’t feel difficult. When he was about to burst, the judge announced that his bar was loaded. Let’s get it.
Battel cry. Double overhand hook grip. Butt raise. Shins drop. Back locked. Push floor. The bar rose and continued past his knees, and then slowed just a bit as he smoothed his way through the lockout. Down.
I rushed over to him, and he turned around, eyes bloodshot, and he stepped in a funny way that said, “That taxed my back, but I don’t want to admit it.”
“What do you think?” I asked.
“I dunno.” He was still catching his breath.
“Do we go for broke.”
His eyes answered. They told me he was tired. The record wouldn’t fall today.
“You decide.” Chris walked away to undo his belt.
I stood there for a moment, unsure for the first time today. No, I didn’t think he had 666 in him. But I did think he could battle through 650, because the 633 wasn’t a limit rep. I called for it.
We played the waiting game, and Brent’s platform continued its slow progress. So much that it looked like Chris was going to lift before Brent. This was the culmination of the meet. It was twelve hours since we arrived at the gym to weigh in, and I was exhausted. Everyone joked around that I had been running a marathon, and my body was starting to wear on me. Each lifter had to psyche up for 9 lifts, but I was psyching up for every lift. My adrenaline rose and fell with each lifter that I took to the platform. I wouldn’t last much longer. This was the last push, the final attack of the day. I had to ready Chris for this lift, force him into the most fierce fight or flight we could summon.
Whenever Chris lifts, whether it be in the gym or at this competition, I get goosebumps. My adrenaline spikes with his, and the last three minutes before his lift was no different. Our eyes met, and I told him, “It’s time.” It was time to do what we came here to do. Once he ripped the headphones off for the final time that day, I was in his ear. It’s hard to remember what I even said and I was talking as fast as an auctioneer. It was primitive. Short sentences. Pull. That. Fucking. Bar. Chris stood, staring at the bar. His face frowned; he was legitimately upset with the bar. His eyes never left the center knurling. Whatever I told Chris, I told him one last time, and pushed him to the bar. And then time slowed.
He positioned his feet carefully under the bar and lowered his body. The bar looks small in his hands, I thought. He sucked in quick breaths, but they were slow and deliberate to my ears. Every motion seemed to occur very slowly and its detail was magnified. Chris’ eyes were wide and terrible. When someone meets him, they always comment on his eyes. “He never blinks,” they say. He’s always watching, but now, at this moment, with his hands chained to the bar, his eyes were a window into the fury that swelled within his body.
Chris lowered his shins to the bar, and pushed the floor. The room thundered for Chris, once again. I screamed my throat raw, and the bar was pulled against gravity, against 650 pounds…slowly. Each inch took an eternity, and once he was five eternities from the floor, the bar stopped moving, and fell. Chris was beaten. I lowered my eyes to the ground. We were defeated.
I turned to walk away; I couldn’t stand to look at the 650 lb bar. Brent was ready to take his third attempt of 452. Brent didn’t seem too worried about it, and pulled a nice, even, kinda hard, but wonderfully solid third attempt deadlift. I walked up to him, slapped hands.
“Chris missed his deadlift.”
I walked away. I actually went into the warm-up room. Chris’ 550 was still loaded from his last attempt. The room was a fucking wreck, so I figured the least I could do was strip his bar. I did so and realized I was avoiding Chris. I was hoping he wasn’t being too hard on myself, and knew I shouldn’t either. I found him, and he was upset.
“I know that sucks, man, but you gotta think about what happened today. You squatted 600, benched over 350, went 8 for 9, and totaled almost 1600. That’s pretty fucking good for you first meet. This is just the start of a long lifting career.” He agreed, and seemed to soften up a little. He was back to the same ol’ Chris.
Brent was the same ol’ Brent because he never even stopped being Brent in order to lift. He just went up, did it, and sat on the bleachers to wait. He’s very business-like about it. It makes me think he wears a tie when he trains. I’ve been with Brent at four meets now, and this was the only one that wasn’t a weightlifting meet. I did notice how he was very confident at this meet, and this is what he lacks in his Olympic lifting. Sure, there is a lot of variability because of the technical nature of the Olympic lifts, but if Brent can harness that same confidence in weightlifting as he does powerlifting, he will see more success.
There was good lifting all around for all five lifters. Everyone went at least 7/9 with three of the lifters making at least 8 attempts. There were only three lifts that were missed (Allen and Jorin’s third bench and Chris’ third deadlift), and the other three misses were technical in nature (Brent’s boxers, Jorin ignoring the rack command on squat, and Brent’s knees on the deadlift). Solid performance by everyone and some good PR’s along the way.
I was fucking exhausted at this point. We had a 12 hour day in which I was constantly moving around, catering to the five lifters, making sure they were prepared fully for whatever task was before them. I didn’t get much sleep the night before, and I didn’t get to eat much throughout the meet. But I would do it again in a heartbeat, because those five guys are all my friends and they lift hard. I especially would have done that and a lot more for my best friends Brent, Chris, and Mike. Nice job, dudes.
Hopefully you readers were inspired by the valiant efforts of these five lifters. They all have different backgrounds and different goals, but they all stuck their neck out on the line to compete. Maybe you learned something about competition that you hadn’t considered before. And maybe you were just entertained. I was present for almost 45 of the attempts those lifters took, and I felt the adrenaline and emotion for every one of them. I wouldn’t have been comfortable had I not told this story, because the whole experience meant a lot to me. Hopefully I was able to share the experience with you so that you get your ass out there and feel it yourself.