The Education of a Powerlifter
by Dave Tate for T.nation.com March 2004
Want to know how to become a powerlifter? Believe me, thereís no "Powerlifting for Dummies" book at your local Wal-mart. Being a powerlifter is a strange blend of mysticism, drive, strength, and a little bit of crazy. To be one youíve got to want it bad; got to want it so bad that youíre willing to devote years to its pursuit. Still, as rough as it is, those that are indoctrinated into its strange world rarely leave.
This is part a story about one manís journey into the cult of powerlifting.
Jonathan Among The Giants
When Jonathan walked into the hotel lobby he found himself among giants. Huge men milled around the room, all of them looking like they lifted boulders for a living. What was going on here? Some type of professional wrestling event? A casting call for a gladiator or barbarian movie? Jonathan had never seen anything like it.
He'd come to the hotel to meet a friend for lunch, but as they ate all he could do was stare at these powerful looking leviathans. Finally, he asked the waiter what was going on.
"Powerlifters," the waiter said. "And we're running out of food."
After lunch, Jonathan walked out of the restaurant and noticed a commotion coming from the hotel's grand ball room. Peeking through the door he saw hundreds of people cheering these giants on. He paid the entry fee and found a place in the back of the room to watch what he thought was called the "deadlift event."
Lifter after lifter would approach the bar with a crazed look of intensity and pull with his greatest effort. Each pull would finish with the lifter either making the weight or missing it, but either way they all had a look of pride and accomplishment.
Jonathan didn't really know what was going on here. He'd never attended a powerlifting meet before. He knew only one thing: this was coolest thing he'd ever seen.
Tom Gets His Total
"For the final deadlift of the day, we have a world record attempt," the loud speaker announced. Tom approached the bar. He'd trained his whole life for this moment. Weighing in at a ripped 275 pounds, Tom was ready to go.
With a look of controlled rage on his face, he approached the bar and began to pull with everything he had. The bar slowly left the ground as the crowd all got to its feet, some standing on chairs, some standing in the isle, all cheering as loud as they could. To Jonathan, the scene was unreal.
Tom kept pulling. The tension in his back and hands was insane but he knew if he just stayed with it the lift would be his. Seconds later he was standing with the bar locked out and heard the head official say "down." It wasn't until the bar hit the ground that he noticed the roar of the crowd. The lift was his; the day was his. This, he thought, is what it's all about.
When the meet was over, the lifters made their way back into the warm-up room to exchange stories about the day's battles. Some were excited about their new records; other were disappointed but were already planning their next training cycles. They had all put in countless hours in the gym for this and wanted to extend it as much as they could.
Tom sat in a circle of chairs with friends and training partners. This was Tomís day. He'd hit a record squat, bench and deadlift ó the biggest total of his life. All the pain, injuries, sacrifices and training hours finally seemed worth it.
"What's next?" asked one of Tom's training partners.
Tom didn't have to think about his answer. "Itís back in the gym Monday. I know I have more left in me." This is what he said after every meet, what top powerlifters always say. For them, satisfaction isnít an option. When you become satisfied, you become obsolete.
Jonathon couldn't believe what he was feeling. Halfway through the giant's lift, he'd found himself up on his chair screaming encouragement to a man he'd never met.
When the event was over he knew one thing for certain: he had to become part of this.
Jonathon was never an athlete in high school and hadn't done anything fitness related since he graduated from college a year ago. He did work out from time to time in college but nothing with any structure or consistency. At his best he was about 185 pounds at 5'11" with a personal best bench press of around 250, but that was years ago. He loved what he'd just witnessed but had no idea where to begin. It was then he made a decision: he had to talk to the giant.
Making his way to the back room, he had no idea what he would say. What would these huge men say to him? Would they laugh and kick him out of the room? Would they make fun of him? Jonathan didn't know, but he had to try.
He found Tom packing up his bag. Hesitantly, Jonathan asked, "Excuse me, but how does one get involved in the sport of powerlifting?"
Tom and the other lifters turned to look at him. Jonathan couldn't help but feel he was being sized up.
"How serious are you?" Tom asked.
"Pretty serious, I guess," Jonathan said. "That was, well, the greatest thing I've ever seen." He waited for the giants to laugh at him. They didnít.
Tom took out a piece of paper and scribbled some notes on it. Sweat was still running off his bald head as he handed Jonathan the paper. "Meet us here Monday at 5:00." he said. "This is my gym."
Shut Up and Spot
Jonathan couldn't sleep at all Sunday night anticipating the Monday training session. He was now going to be a powerlifter. Time couldn't go fast enough Monday, but 5:00 did finally roll around. He was fired up to finally be joining a gym.
As he drove through the commercial developments, he kept looking for the neon sign for Tomís gym. The businesses soon turned into residential neighborhoods and he began to wonder why Tom would ask him to pick him up at his house. He pulled into Tomís driveway and honked the horn. After a few minutes he began to wonder if Tom was home. Then it dawned on him that maybe he'd been blown off and sent on some kind of wild goose chase.
In a last attempt, Jonathan got out of the car to go ring the doorbell. As he walked toward the house he heard loud metal music coming from the garage. Tom must be working on his car or something, Jonathan thought. When he walked through the door, he couldn't believe what he saw. This was Tomís gym. He had no idea what the equipment was but there was nothing in there like he used in college.
"Hey, we thought you weren't coming!" Tom shouted above the music. There were about seven guys crowded around a power rack. They were doing some strange movement in the rack with some type of yolk bar suspended by chains. "One more rep!" shouted Tom as the lifter's face turned beet red under the strain.
Jonathan couldn't believe how great this was. The bar was loaded with more weight than he'd ever seen. These guys were crazy strong and he couldn't wait to become one of them. He walked over to Tom and asked what he should do.
"Your job today is to spot and keep your mouth shut," Tom said.
Jonathan spent the rest of the day loading the bar for all the other lifters. This was still one of the best days of his life. When the session was over, Jonathan was in awe. This place was hardcore, these guys were hardcore and the weights were certainly hardcore. When the last lifter was done Jonathan was ready to learn how to be strong. With little conversation all the lifters packed up the gear and left. Jonathan was left with Tom and asked again what he should do.
"Go home," Tom replied. "Come back Wednesday."
Jonathan knew instinctively not to argue. He drove home still psyched up over the day's events but wondered why he didn't train. Two more weeks passed and Jonathan still hadn't touched a weight. He'd asked a few times what he should do and the lifters kept telling him to shut up and spot. He began to wonder if he was brought in only to load the weights. But he was still excited to be there and was having a great time. The weights these guys were moving were unreal! It was a privilege to be there.
The last time he asked Tom when he could lift, Tom told him flat out that he wasn't ready. Jonathan was a bit set back. He really wanted to be a powerlifter and all he was doing was spotting. This continued on for another week. He was now bored out of his skull. As he sat in silence at the end of one of their bench sessions, Tom walked over and said, "Now you're ready."
"Why now?" Jonathon asked.
Tom explained that when he came in he was in awe of the lifters in the group and that you can never become what you're in awe of.
"It's okay to have idols as a kid," Tom said, "but when you grow up you have to become what you dream about."
Then he said something Jonathan would remember for the rest of his life. "We know what we can do for you; what we really want to know is, what can you do for us?"
Jonathan understood. They already had all the spotters they needed. What they really wanted were lifters. Jonathan was about to become one.
Becoming Bullet Proof
Monday rolled around and from the past weeks' experience Jonathan figured out this was a lower body, heavy day. As he drove to the gym he wondered what they would have him do today. He arrived early at 4:30 and found a few of the guys were already there. Some of them were doing extra abdominal movements, some were dragging a sled and others were stretching out. The one thing that stood out is that they were all doing something different. He would have to ask Tom about this.
Tom finally got there and they all agreed to do some type of good morning movement. Jonathan had no idea what this was but was game for anything. A couple of the guys placed the bar on their back and began to bend over at the waist. He figured this was pretty easy and took his place in the line up. As he walked up to the bar Tom asked, "What the hell are you doing?"
"Good mornings," Tom said.
"No," Tom said, "you're not. You aren't ready. Come with me."
They walked out back and Jonathan was given a weight belt attached to a sled with a couple of plates on it. "Drag this for ten trips down to the tree and back, then come get me," Tom said.
While he really wanted to train like the other guys, at least he wasn't spotting and loading the bar. After a few trips he could feel his legs getting tired and it was getting harder and harder to breathe. He'd do a set, rest, then do another. He could hear the intensity of the session going on inside and wished he was part of it. After he finished, he went back into the gym.
The guys were now into their top sets and he walked over to Tom and asked what to do next. Tom told him to spot and he'd get with him after they finished. Jonathan spent the next ten minutes watching the guys just about blow their heads off under the strain of the good mornings. Jonathon asked Tom why he was spotting again. "Everyone spots with the big weights," Tom replied. "This is part of your job. No one is above spotting and coaching here!"
When the movement was over, the guys split up and began doing different exercises. Once again he wondered why they all did different things. Jonathan was told to do five sets of something called reverse hypers. He was positioned on a bench with a strap attached around his ankles. He began to swing the weight up and was told to arch as hard as he could at the top. He couldn't use much weight at all. The other guys were using around 500 pounds but all he could use was 50. When he finished his lower back felt tied up in knots.
Next he did incline sit-ups and straight leg raises. He did five sets of each with coaching coming from many different lifters. He was taught how to flex and tighten his abs. From time to time they would come over and push their fingers into his abs to make sure they were being held tight.
The last movement he was asked to do was called "band good mornings." For this he stood on a big rubber band, placed the other end around the back of his traps, bent over at the waist and then stood up. He was told to try and feel the movement in his lower back and hamstrings. He could feel it alright.
While he thought he'd be sore, he actually felt pretty good. He couldn't wait for Wednesdayís heavy bench press session. When he got to the gym he was told once again to hit the sled for ten trips. When he came back in the guys were doing a bench press movement where they would lower the bar down to a couple of boards and press back up. He couldn't wait to give this a shot as he was sure he could handle some decent weight.
To his surprise he was told to do band good mornings and abs again. When he was finished with this he was told to do 100 push-ups and to do them in as many sets as it would take. He had to use good form and with his hands placed on a pair of hex dumbbells. His grip width had to be in the same position he'd eventually bench in.
This was followed up with some work for the rotator cuff and rear shoulders. Jonathan was told that this would be his workout for the next month and that he was to try and do more weight and/or reps on each training session thereafter.
Two weeks passed and he was ready to do some of the movements the other guys were doing. Tom wouldn't budge. The kid had to stick to the plan. Once again he was getting frustrated with this training plan and began to wonder if these guys really knew what they were doing. He already knew that none of them did the same thing. Finally, he asked Tom why he had to do all the "crap" work and why no one else was doing it. He wanted to be a powerlifter and all he was doing was "sissy" movements.
"You see Jim over there?" Tom said. "Jim has weak glutes and is doing extra work for them. This is what he needs to do to get his deadlift to go up. You see Matt over there? Matt's doing extra lower back work. He needs to make his back stronger to keep the bar in a better position when he squats. And Mike over there? Mike's doing extra ab work to help with his transfer of power out of the hole when he squats. You need to do conditioning work to be able to handle the work we'll ask you to do later. You'll never be 100% injury free, but you better be prepared to handle the strain."
Technique, Technique, Technique
It had been six weeks since Jonathan's first conditioning session and he was eager to begin "real powerlifting." This was the day he'd waited for.
As he walked into the gym he saw the guys were setting the rack up to do high box, Manta Ray squats. Jonathan was ready to walk up to the rack when he was stopped in his tracks by Mark. Mark was one of the best squatters in the gym and pulled him aside to let him know he wasn't going to be doing box squats today. Today he was going to squat and squat correctly.
Mark took Jonathan aside and first explained how to do a squat with perfect form; next they watched a few Westside videos detailing squat form. Mark then explained that to fully learn how to squat, Jonathan had to first understand the squat. This is accomplished by hearing the squat explained, then seeing it done properly, then doing it so many times it becomes automatic.
Jonathan was handed a broomstick and given the instructions:
1. Place the bar on the center of your back.
2. Squeeze your hands on the bar as hard as you can.
3. Pull your shoulder blades together and make sure your upper back is tight.
4. Pull your head up and drive it back into your traps.
5. Stand with your feet out wide.
6. Push your feet out to the sides of your shoes.
7. Force your knees out to the side.
8. Arch your lower back as hard as you can.
9. Keep your abs tight.
There were a few other steps but all Jonathan could remember is doing rep after rep while Mark barked at him to squat back and sit on the bench. "Squat back?" he said, "I'm already tired!"
"Look, man," Mark said, "you'll never squat 100%; none of us do. The key is to get as close as you can. Right now you're at 0% and are piss ass weak. Now squat!"
Rep after rep they worked on form. Jonathan must've performed 300 reps that day and actually made his way up to using a 45-pound bar. The weight wasn't a problem, but Mark wouldn't let him use more as long as his form was sub-par. After what seemed to be 45 minutes of squatting he was told to move onto reverse hypers and ab work, then finish with the sled for a few trips.
By this time Jonathan was pretty fond of the sled and asked if he should do more. From the corner of the gym Bob shouted, "Oh no! Not another Mr. GPP!" Tom then pulled Jonathan aside and explained that GPP, General Physical Preparedness, is very important but you don't compete in GPP. What Jonathan really needed was optimal conditioning for powerlifting and anything too much over that is pointless.
About this time there was a knock on the door. Tom answered it and turned around with a huge grin on his face. It seemed Tom had ordered a new piece of equipment and it was here! This was not just any piece of equipment but a glute ham raiseónot only a GHR but the best you can get: a professional GHR from Elite Fitness Systems. For the rest of the session they were all doing wide stance GHRís, close stance GHRís, ab work and anything else they could think of.
It was business as usual for Jonathan though. He was to stick with this plan until he got the nod of approval from the rest of the guys. He watched videos and worked on his form any time he could find the time. He even filmed his sessions to compare against the form of the guys on the tapes.
After his form work he was told to train right along with some of the others guys and get used to the many supplemental and accessory movements they were using. He was now beginning to feel his body getting stronger and noticed that he'd already gained 15 pounds. Finally, he was becoming a powerlifter, but he knew he had a long road ahead of him.
It had been four months since Jonathan's first visit to Tom's gym. He was beginning to become part of the crew and was eager to get on the same program as the rest of the guys. His body was now much bigger and stronger than the first day he'd walked into the garage. He knew he was ready for the intense training he'd been watching over the past several months.
Over breakfast one Saturday, Tom reviewed how the program worked.
"How are we going to get you strong, kid?" Tom asked.
"I guess by following the program you're going to give me, right?" Jonathan said.
Tom explained that a set program isn't a bad thing, but to reach the higher levels Jonathan would have to learn how to come up with his own program. The number one secret all top lifters know is that the best program for them is the one they come up with, not the program someone hands to them on a piece of paper.
"You see, to be the best you have to also be the best at figuring out what works for you. You have to be able to find and fix your weaknesses while always keeping your eyes on the higher goal," Tom explained.
"But how do I know what my weak points are?" Jonathan said.
Tom laughed as he dug into his mountain of food. "Your weak point right now is you don't know how to discover your weak points! So tell me, where would you like to be five years from now?"
Jonathan thought for a moment and replied that he'd like to have his Elite status in the sport of powerlifting.
"Okay," Tom said, "At what weight class? What will your specific lifts have to be? Let's set some long range goals."
They put together a plan that would have Jonathan lifting in the 275-pound weight class (he was currently 245) with an 800 pound squat, 500 pound bench press, and 700 pound deadlift. Jonathan felt great that he finally had goals to shoot for, but he knew he had a very long way to go. Now, how to get there.
Tom explained that there would be two days per week for max effort work and two days per week for dynamic effort training. The template would look like this:
Monday ó Max effort squat and deadlift day
Wednesday ó Max effort bench day
Friday ó Dynamic effort squat day and deadlift day
Saturday ó Dynamic effort bench day
"The max effort days are intended to make you stronger," Tom said, "while the dynamic effort days are designed to make you faster. Thatís it, nothing fancy. Strength plus speed equals new personal records."
Jonathan was then handed a series of articles titled The Eight Keys and was told to read them for the details. All he needed to know would be there.
Jonathan showed up to the gym on Monday fired up about the "Eight Keys" article and wanted to start with the chains and bands. Tom turned to Jonathan and asked one very simple question:
"Can you compute the gravitational force exerted on a mass of two pounds located five feet above the center of a circular disk with a radius of ten feet and mass of three pounds per unit of area?"
Jonathan looked at him like he'd lost his mind. "What does this have to do with training?" he thought. Tom went on to explain that you canít understand calculus without first understanding basic math. The same is true with strength training. No need for chains and bands until you get the basics down first.
"But don't I have to use chains and bands to get strong?" Jonathon asked.
"No," Tom replied, "You have to get strong to use chains and bands! Chains and bands aren't the program; they're only a function of the program. You first must understand the program. The first thing for you is to build a strong base of strength to the point where you can get on a platform and display it."
"Okay," said Jonathon. "I get it."
"Good. Now let's talk about the methods that'll make up your program in basic terms you'll understand."
The Method to the Madness
To explain the dynamic effort method, Tom asked Jonathan to jump onto a small box. Jonathan did this with no problem. Next, Tom asked that he repeat the jump again but this time he had to jump in slow motion. It didn't take Jonathan long to learn this was impossible to do.
"That's right," Tom said. "You gotta have speed to generate force. The good news is this is a component that can be trained. This is what the dynamic effort method is for."
They moved on to what Tom called the max effort method. He set up a 50-inch box and asked Jonathan to jump onto it. Jonathan looked confused.
"I need to be faster to get up there," Jonathan said.
"No, for you to get way up there you'll have to get stronger. We can make you very fast but as long as your strength stays the same you'll only improve your current strength level. Let me explain it this way: you may be strong enough to jump to 21 but now are only fast enough for 18 inches. Speed will help you get to 21 but to go higher your strength will have to increase. This is where the max effort method comes in. See, there's a need for both speed and strength to be developed at the same time."
Jonathanís max effort work consisted of the following movements:
1. Good mornings with various bars (cambered, buffalo and safety squat).
2. Low box squats with various bars.
3. Various deadlifts: standing on mats, pin pull and off-the-floor.
Jonathanís dynamic squat wave was set up in three-week cycles. He also used a box squat set at parallel for all sets:
Week one: 8 sets of 2 reps with 50%
Week two: 8 sets of 2 reps with 55%
Week three: 8 sets of 2 reps with 60%
On all the days where he felt good and the speed was on, Jonathan did a few extra sets after the first eight sets and added weight on each one. These were never taken to failure, but were heavy enough to get a good feel for where his strength base was. After the three weeks the cycle was repeated.
Jonathanís dynamic bench wave was set on a flat cycle using 50% for eight sets of three reps. On all the days where he felt good and the speed was on, Jonathan did a few extra sets, same rules as above.
Leave Jonathan at Home
After some time, Jonathan began to understand the importance of speed and strength but needed to know more. He had to know what to do after the main exercise of the day. He remembered Tom telling him about the weaknesses several of the lifters had and what they were doing with their accessory work to overcome them.
The problem was, he had no idea what his weaknesses were and had no way to find out how to fix them. All he knew was that he was still much weaker than everyone else, so he figured everything was weak and he needed to do everything . He was totally lost.
Later that day they were all doing low box squats with the cambered bar. Jonathan was fired up for this as it would be the first time he was doing a max effort movement for a second rotation. His max effort movement was set up to rotate every three weeks and would later come down to every week like the rest of the guys.
The objective of his first week was to get used to the movement for sets of three reps. The second weekís objective was to set a one rep max while the third was a "balls to the wall" strain lift. He accomplished a 275 max during his first rotation with the cambered bar and was geared up to break this record. His warm-ups went well as he completed three reps with the bar and then 95, 135, 185, and 225 pounds. He then dropped to singles and completed the following sets with 245, 265 and then a record at 285 pounds!
He was jacked up about this and was ready to quit for the day when he heard the loud slam of a 45 plate on the bar. He was called to the bar and noticed three 45's on each side. The crew shouted, "You're up!"
Jonathan felt the adrenaline running through his veins and rage beginning to build up inside. As he approached the bar he heard the battle cries from the crew: "Get this bitch!", "You got it!", "Get ya some!", "Kill this mother!", "Get tight!" and "Come on, J!"
He lifted the bar out of the rack and felt the load bearing down. As he sat to the box the rage kept building. He paused for one second and began to stand up. He left the box fast and at the mid-point began to stall. "Up, Up, Up!" and "Head up!" is all he heard. He pushed with all he had and the bar kept moving. He felt the pressure building in his head. His back, legs, and torso felt incredibly strained, but he pushed on.
When he racked the bar he opened his eyes to see silver lights floating around. He first thought it was chalk in the air but then realized it looked more like glitter. Then he realized he was seeing stars for the first time in his life. He turned to Tom with bloodshot eyes and a huge grin on his face and said simply, "Holy cow."
"Welcome to the world of powerlifting," Tom said. "Today you became 'J.' and Jonathan is a thing of the past. From now on leave Jonathan at home and bring J. to the gym every workout. He's the one who'll take you where you want to go." Jonathan was no longer a guy who "worked out." He was a lifter.
After the max, J. was pretty messed up the rest of the day and could only manage to do some glute ham raises and ab work. He asked how he was supposed to do all the other work for the day. Tom told him he was done and that he had to learn to listen to his body.
"So what are my weak points?" J. asked.
Tom explained to J. that weak point training was a very advanced concept and that he just needed to focus on bringing up the basics for now. For the squat and deadlift these included training for the hamstrings, lower back, and abs. The bench press movements should target the triceps, delts, and lats.
"This may seem very simple, but just do the basics and your lifts will jump," Tom said. As time went on, Tom would teach him that the best way to find weak points was to look at where the lifts break down during max effort lifts. With The Eight Keys Part III and the crew's help, he'd be able to bring up these weak points and his lifts would go through the roof.
J. kept training and breaking records with the crew for the next two years. With newfound motivation and determination, he went back to school to become a strength coach. He could no longer train with the crew as the university of his choice was hours away from home, but he kept training and entering local powerlifting meets for the next five years while he earned his degree.
J. was then offered an assistant strength and conditioning coach position and over the next six years worked his way up to being the head S & C coach. The methods he learned from the crew have been the core of his training programs and the results were amazing. J. would call Tom from time to time for the first few years after he left, but then lost touch with him and the crew.
Tom, now retired from competition, has moved the gym from his garage to a small private training center. His center has been producing great lifters for the past eleven years. Tomís main goal with all his lifters was to help them achieve their elite status, hoping they'd pass on what they'd learned to the next generation of lifters.
His crew was now gearing up for the Nationals. Tom remembered the last time the Nationals were in his hometown twelve years ago. This was one of the best competitive days of his life, the day he'd set the federation world record for the 275 class.
The Nationals were a great meet for Tomís crew and, with no lifters in the last round, he found himself relaxing in the back row watching the deadlifts. The first round of guys took their opening attempts and the final lifter's opener was 100 pounds over the next guy. He didn't know the lifter's name but the guy was "jacked" and had perfect form.
The loud speaker crackled, "The next attempt will be for a new 275 pound class world record!"
The crowd stood and Tom could feel the adrenaline building up inside him. Sure, his record was at risk, but this was what people train their entire lives for. Through the chalk and dust emerged the "jacked" lifter. He had a look of determination and a thousand yard stare that only another powerlifter could understand. As he chalked his hands and made his way top to bar, Tom could hear the lifter's helpers shouting words of encouragement: "Back tight!", "Tight grip!", "Shoulders back!", "Get some!", and "Come on, J.!"
That last one hit Tom like a ton of bricks. He was taken back twelve years ago where he first met Jonathan at this very meet. Tom looked very close at the lifter as he approached the bar and realized that this was the same kid he'd helped bring into the sport so many years back. Now, the "kid" was here and going after his record. Tom jumped up onto his chair so he didn't miss a thing.
J. grabbed the bar and began to pull. Veins began popping out all over his frame. The weight rocked off the floor and began to stall right above his knees. The crowd was going nuts and everyone was now on their chairs. J. kept pulling with everything he had. This was exactly what he got into the sport for.
The barbell kept moving inch by inch until he stood at lockout with the huge load in his hands. "Down!" the head judge shouted. J. held the bar for a few extra seconds to savor the moment. He'd finally realized one of his longtime dreams!
Tom had to make his way back to the warm-up room to congratulate J. for the awesome lift. As he approached, Tom noticed a young novice lifter speaking with J.
"Sir, that was a great pull," said the kid. "I didn't do so well myself. This was my first meet and I really don't know what I'm doing yet."
J. looked the kid up and down and took out a piece of paper and handed it to him.
"My name's J. and this is my direct phone number. Give me a call anytime and I'll help you set up a program for your next meet."
The kid thanked him and walked away with a look of hope and excitement in his eyes. One of the other lifters looked at J. and said, "That was smart. Now that kid will be calling you everyday."
J. looked at the lifter. "I hope so. Someone took the time to help me once. It's what makes powerlifting such a great sport."
Tom heard the whole thing and recognized this for what it was: the greatest gift he's ever been given. J. had become a champion powerlifter and had learned more along the way than just how to bring up his weak points.
Tom made his way over. "You still pulling that sled around every day, J.?"
J. looked up and his mouth fell open. "Tom! It's great to see you, man, it's been a long time! I've been wanting to get in touch with you again for years to thank you for what all you did for me."
"It was no big deal," Tom said.
That's when J. told Tom the story of how he'd been at the end of his rope twelve years before, how he'd quit school and started sleeping all day and drinking and drugging all night.
"You took the time to help me out," J. said. "You gave me something to live for. Training is great, but I also have a great job and family now. You and the crew were a big influence on my life and I can only hope to repay you for this someday."
Tom looked at J. "You've already paid me back more than you'll ever know."
And that's how a real powerlifter gets educated.
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