This is a very abbreviated autobiography of my training history. I figured it was time that you all got a little perspective on where I am coming from.
I began lifting at age 15. All my life, I had been a runt, and at the time, I was a 135-pound weakling. I knew the only sure-fire ways to get bigger and stronger were to eat right and lift weights. My high school had a very primitive weightroom: one or two barbells, a few plates of each weight, a make-shift squat rack, and a big black rubber mat. It was in there that I started my training.
As I have said all along, I have always gone heavy, for it only takes common sense to figure out that heavier weights will yield better strength results. Within the first few years of my training, I became more than three times as strong as I had originally been and had gained more than 50 pounds. But like all lifters, I hit the proverbial wall and had to begin the real struggle to acheive strength.
This is where the real story of my training takes place...
At around age 20, I knew that I wanted to become a serious strength trainer. I had already gotten into such things as Olympic Lifts and powerlifts, and over the next ten years, I tried several routines: 5x5, 20 rep programs, etc. I didn't jump around from routine to routine, but within those ten years, I worked these different routines around a few times. I must stress that I ALWAYS went as heavy as possible within the confines of the particular routine. I got all the endurance training I needed from my job as a gravel loader. It was not until around age 30 that I decided to consistently do singles. This was the turning point in my lifting.
There is no mistake about it: training with heavy singles made me what I am today. Before I started my first singles routine, I weighed around 215-220. My PL totals were (as recorded in my log, March 12, 1967): bench- 320; squat- 455 (strict); deadlift- 440. My progress with the singles was amazing! In a few years and by age 34, I had gone from a 1215 pound total to a 1540 total.
But basically, my routines consisted of little more than powerlifts and occasional Olympic lifts. I had overhead presses (which were then at around the 270 mark), pullups, dips, and a bit of ab work. So I increased the intensity of my routines by gradually working in two main kinds of lifts: higher-rep lifts and grip work. Within a decade, these changes took me over the top. I started doing stiff-legged deadlifts more frequently. I began adding weight to my dips and pullups. I added in farmer's walks, barbell holds and carries, and dumbbell battery holds for grip. And all the while, I kept at my heavy singles on the powerlifts and Olympic lifts. I also, began taking in more daily calories and protein grams. With all of this mixed together, I had become stronger than I had ever imagined and tipped the scales in 1977, at age 42, at 265 lbs.
I had found my bread and butter. My twenty-plus years of working with routines had led me to a strength routine that was yielding results like I had never seen. Not to sound like a kid or anything, but I was quite pleased with myself. My best lifts were all performed within about a twelve-month period. They are as follows: June 22, 1977- bench PR of 470 lbs; October 12, 1977- overhead press PR of 345 lbs; March 2, 1978- squat PR of 665 lbs; May 20, 1978- deadlift PR of 650.
But then, at the ripe old age of 43, I went on a tear that set me back for nearly a decade. Read on...
As stated before, I was at my peak in the late 70's. I had "experimented" for years to find a good, solid routine that had continuously given me better results. But somewhere around the year 1978 or 1979, I began hearing and reading about odd lifts and how they could further improve strength. Now up until that time, the only non-conventional lifting I had done was with these big iron caldrons that I had found in an old shed; basically, I used them sometimes to perform farmer's walks. But after looking into material about Saxon, Cyr, and Goerner, I decided to do as I had done before and try to further increase the workload and intensity of my lifting by incorporating some of these odd techniques.
In retrospect, I think that if I had been sensible about the whole idea, I would have actually been able to benefit from it. I decided to rearrange my routine a little. At first, I would just take one day out of every two weeks to do odd lifts. Then I would do them two days out of every two weeks. Then it went to a routine of one week gym lifting and one week odd lifting. I began slacking off on powerlifts, and there was once a even period in which I did not do a deadlift or an overhead press for nine months. Unfortunately, when I did the first deadlift after the long layoff, I could only muster up around 500 or so- even more unfortunately, I didn't really even care at the time. I just went back to doing more odd lifts.
I believe that when you change your routine that drastically- when you deviate so boldly away from a program that has consistently proven for years that it works for you- you lose touch with just how strong you were. Forget the fact that my basic barbell overhead press had fallen well under what it once had been; I felt like I was getting somewhere because I could do an overhead barrel lift with 220 lbs (which, by the way, isn't too shabby- but I think you understand my point). Over the course of about 7 or 8 years, I had all but given up on conventional, no-bull barbell lifting.
But, as it should have been expected, there was a eventually a time of reckoning.
In 1985, at the age of 50, I hit the wall in odd lifting- and I do mean HIT THE WALL! Without the basis of conventional lifting to aid me in my odd lifts, there came a time when once I peaked on a lift, I could never surpass it or even match it again. Even worse, my performance in the lifts kept declining with each session. I began losing the only strength I had left- my strength in the odd lifts. I started losing weight, falling to 240 at the lowest point. Thankfully, my common sense finally kicked in.
I realized that the reason I had been able to excell at odd lifts was because I had built up so much strength from regular strength training. I realized that it didn't work in reverse, that these odd lifts wouldn't get me back any of the strength I had lost in my regular lifting- that the only way to get that strength back was to go back to my bread and butter.
I determined myself to go back to what I had done before- to get back the desire and strength I had once possessed in my regular strength training. I knew the task ahead of me would be rough. At over 50 years of age, it would be an up-hill battle all the way. It has been just that. Since I came to my senses and rededicated myself to the old lifting that I did, I have been constantly trying to work up to what I once was. Unbelievably, after over a decade of having to work twice as hard to do what I once could do, I am nearing my goal.
Now, at age 63, I can again deadlift and squat over 600 pounds. I can almost overhead press as much as I did back in 1977. I have become known in this internet circle for being an old man who can still use heavy poundages on his lifts. That is mainly what you all see, because I have joined this internet circle at a time when I am in the better days of my "comeback." What is not known is how incredibly hard it was to have to drive myself twice as hard and to overcome all the factors that would hound any man who is basically starting over again this late in his life. It has been one hell of a ride for the last decade or so.
But I am not about to stop now. If I ever acheive my second peak, I am determined this time to pass it. What I have learned over the past five decades of training is that serious strength training is a lifetime commitment. I have learned what works and what doesn't. I have found out the hard way how over-experimenting can lead to ruin. I have learned that non-conventional lifting has it's place, but that the basis of a strength trainer's routine should be regular conventional lifting, and that anything else that is useful, like odd lifting, should be purely secondary. Most importantly, I have learned that strength training is one of the most incredible avenues that anyone can take to better himself, both in body and in mind.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a small behind-the-scenes & into-the-past glimpse of the creator of this site. If you are still awake, I hope you have enjoyed it.