Bobby’s deadlift had been stuck at 405 pounds for 2 months and he
was frustrated. He had just finished a training session where he went
for his maximum lift again, trying again the 410 pounds that had
eluded him for weeks.
He missed the lift and
yelled out in frustration. “I can’t believe I missed it again!”
The 16-year-old was angry and everyone in the gym knew it.
His Uncle Randy, who
had at one time deadlifted 750 pounds, was across the gym performing
bent-over rows. He heard Bobby yell and walked over to where Bobby
was training. Randy was 54 years old now, and his days of deadlifting
over 700 were behind him, but he was known as the most knowledgeable
guy around when it came to pulling heavy weights.
Bobby?” Randy asked, “missed your max again?”
“I told you that you
can’t max every week,” Randy said, “When was the last time you
Bobby put his head
down. “Last week.”
Randy sighed loudly,
“So now we’re at the point where you are approaching being
uncoachable. I tell you what to do, and you won’t listen. That
makes me wonder if you really want your max to go up!”
“Sir?” Bobby asked,
trying to understand what his Uncle meant.
Randy said, “I mean,
I teach you and teach you, but you don’t listen, and you are
actually getting weaker. How does that feel?”
“Not good,” Bobby
said in a quiet voice.
“Not good,” Bobby
answered, louder this time. Randy had heard his nephew the first
time, but just wanted to make him say it again.
“Right. So you have
to ask yourself why you’re going against what your uncle says, when
he deadlifted over 750 pounds and has trained hundreds of lifters,
and you haven’t even broken 450? Do you think that you know more
than I do?” Randy asked.
“No, not at all,”
“Then why are you
doing your own thing?” Randy asked.
“I just figured the
more that I do it, the stronger that I will get. I can see now that’s
“Damn right it’s
wrong,” Randy said. “Do you listen to your football coaches, or
do your own thing on the field because you ‘figured’?”
Now Bobby felt silly
and suddenly felt very small. “I understand, but there’s just a lot
of information out there and I got confused.”
“Oh, I get it. With
YouTube, Instagram, and Tock Tik out there spewing all kinds of
different info about programming and training, I’d be confused,
too,” Randy said.
corrected his uncle.
Randy continued, “Look,
Bobby. Stay away from that stuff. Most of the time, they are trying
to sell you something. Most of them have never done anything in a
meet or even in the gym that even approaches being really strong.”
“But some of those
guys on there are shredded,” Bobby said. Randy looked at him with a
frown, and Bobby immediately regretted his comment.
Randy said, “Now that’s important.”
“I just mean that
they look good,” Bobby said, “They are all ripped up.”
“If you are all
ripped up at 275 pounds and pulling 800, you have my respect. Just
how big are these guys that you follow?” Randy asked.
“I don’t know, I
think the one guy is 5’10”, 175, something like that,” Bobby
Randy feigned a heart
attack, holding his hand on his chest. “Well, I can see why you
listen to him. Let me see him,” Randy said.
Bobby reached in his
gym bag and took out his phone. He pulled up a video on YouTube that
showed a teenager preening in the mirror, then walking over to a bar
with 315 pounds on it. He pulled the weight, rounding his low back
and with legs quivering, for a hard set of 5.
“That’s the guy you
are following and listening to?” Randy asked.
“Yessir. I bought one
of his training programs that he sells also,” Bobby added.
Randy said, “Okay, I
see that this has gone too far. I wrote a program for you and you
went with Mr. Spindly Universe. I can’t even get mad at you, I’m
just gonna chalk it up to youthful stupidity, or rather enthusiasm.
You just need some re-education.”
“I have a few more
sets left,” Randy said, “then we can really talk.”
Randy finished his
bent-over rows and then did a few sets of chin ups. He toweled off
his face and walked over to Bobby who was sitting in a chair by the
front door, sipping a protein shake.
“Come on, let’s walk
to the diner and get us some steak and eggs.” Randy said.
When they arrived at
the diner, Randy ordered them both steak and eggs, rare, with 3
over-easy eggs and hash browns, with coffee for himself and milk for
The server brought over
the coffee and water right away. Randy took a sip and began talking
“First off, I
appreciate your enthusiasm. And I have a confession to make. When I
first started lifting weights, I followed the program that the
football coach gave me and I would train with the team in the
morning, but I used to go lift extra in my basement or at the YMCA in
the evening. And just like you, I got frustrated as heck when I got
weaker and smaller. I maxed all the time and couldn’t figure out what
I was doing wrong. Just like you, I thought that the more I did, the
stronger I would get. It took me a while to realize that what I was
doing was all wrong.”
Bobby asked, “When
did you realize it?”
“It was the summer
before my junior year in high school. My buddy Carlo was a rising
senior on the football team. He did exactly what the program called
for: Squats, bench press, press, cleans and deadlifts. He wasn’t
much on assistance work. I think I saw him do a curl once. After the
training was done, he’d go home, eat pasta, steak and drink milk.
Then he’d take a nap, wake up and repeat the meal that he had eaten
before. Then he’d go out and do some sprints. He worked a few hours
in the evening at his father’s gas station, and when he was done
with work, he’d go home and eat some more good food. I was lifting
twice a day and eating tuna from the can because I read in Muscle
and Fitness magazine that Arnold did that.”
“At first, I thought
that Carlo didn’t work hard enough, but then when I saw how big and
strong he was getting, I began to ask him about what he was doing
differently. When he told me, I began to train and eat like he did,
and I grew like a weed and got very strong, quickly. I watched him
train. I was always go, go, go, between sets. Carlo took his time,
made sure that he was fully recovered and then did his next set. It
was tough for me to just sit there for a few minutes, but the gains
came so fast doing it that way that I just forced myself to rest
more, and it worked.”
“How often did you
lift once you made the switch?” Bobby asked
“Three days a week.
That’s really all that you need. Four days, maybe, as you advance,
but usually three is enough. And you can’t max out all the time,
either. Your program calls for some heavy lifting and it’s leading
you up to a max lift at the end of the summer. If you max all the
time, you will regress. You need to do sets of 5 in the bench, press,
squat, and deadlift, and do your sets of 1-3 reps in the clean for a
foundation. Make progress in small jumps and rest a bunch between
sets. Never miss a rep in training. And eat like Carlo. It’s pretty
much foolproof if you follow it to the letter.”
The server brought
their food over and they ate heartily. Between bites of steak, Bobby
asked, “So should I start the program tomorrow?
answered. “It’s Wednesday, right? Take the rest of the week off and
just eat and rest. Recover from all the pounding that you have been
subjecting yourself to. Then on Monday, you start. Do exactly what
the program calls for and eat your ass off. Do your sprints for
football but when you aren’t training, rest, stay calm. You have
what, 8 weeks until max testing for football?”
“Yes, exactly 8 weeks
from next Monday.” Bobby answered.
“Good,” Randy said.
“You’ll see. Follow the program and you’ll make crazy progress.”
After a month of
following the program that his uncle laid out, Bobby called Randy one
night and asked if he would come to the gym the next morning to watch
him deadlift, to check out his form.
Randy walked into the
gym the next day and Bobby was already on the platform, warming up
for his deadlift. He had finished his squats and bench presses for
the day. Randy watched as Bobby worked through his warm up sets of
225, 275, 315 and 375 pounds, all for 5 reps. He then loaded 415
pounds onto the bar. “Are you maxing again?” Randy asked.
“Haven’t you learned anything?”
“I’m not maxing,”
Bobby said, “415 is my work set of 5 today.” Randy nodded his
head and watched Bobby approach the bar. His first 3 reps were hard ,
but the bar moved fast. He struggled some on his last 2 reps, but he
completed them, with maybe one rep left in the tank. Bobby took off
his belt and smiled at his uncle.
“What do you think?”
“I think that you’ve
gotten much stronger,” Randy said. “That’s super. I guess that
you’re a believer in the program now, huh?”
“I am, and I’m sorry
that I didn’t listen before. I would have been much further along by
now.” Bobby said.
Randy said, “That’s
okay, and no need to be sorry. You had to go through all of those
mistakes to realize how and why to do it right. And now that you
know, what do you say?”
“I say that I’ll
never make those mistakes again. I like my progress too much.”
smiled. “Keep it up and you will reach all of your goals. Now let’s
go get some steak and eggs. You’ve earned it.”
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