(This article was written and published two years ago and chronicles my beginning in power lifting. Since then, I HAVE advanced to an Olympic barbell and I love it. My weights for all of my lifts have increased. I have a power rack now which I strongly advise anyone who lifts without a spotter to buy. It looks like a cage and you have safety pins that prevent you from being crushed by the weight as long as you use your power rack correctly.)
As I began my Journey into the serious side of weight training I was somewhat apprehensive because I knew that it was going to be hard…not difficult…hard. I expected blood, sweat and tears but I didn’t expect that the equipment was going to present problems, much less that I would encounter one piece that I would swear was trying to kill me.
I bought my kettlebell first and was able to get a good workout with it but soon I wanted more. I downloaded a free app, Kettlebell by Fitify, from Google Play and I was off! The kettlebell really worked my core which increased my overall strength. I never missed a workout because my trainer, David, told me in the beginning that he would not fool with me unless I was serious. He would not accept mediocre effort and I knew it. He doesn’t mind someone choosing to be mediocre, if that’s what they want, but he was not going to help me do that. I could do that all by myself. I knew that he would only help me be excellent. I bought the Fitness Gear Adjustable Kettlebell from Dick’s. It cost $49.99 and could be loaded with varying weight from 20#-50#. If you cannot work with 20#, it’s not for you. It doesn’t matter where you are at this point. What matters is where you’re going. If you want to swing a bell, get one that won’t hurt you. Talk to your doctor before you start any exercise program.
When I wanted to move to the barbell, David was more than supportive of that decision. He knew that I had drive and I was willing to work. Again, I went to Dick’s. There is a store close by and it seemed like the fastest way to get this party started. I could actually see what I was getting and I was so excited! It turned out that they had the barbell set that I wanted in-store. I bought the Fitness Gear 135# Barbell Set for $149.99. Now, to get it home!
The salesman wheeled the set to my car and looked a little puzzled because I drive a Hyundai Sonata…not exactly a truck. We wrangled that box of Iron through the passenger’s side window into the back seat at about a 45 degree angle. It looked like my adult son would have to sit in the back seat but we kept wrangling and got it sitting at an angle that allowed the front seat to be occupied and actually moved the entire box inside the car. It didn’t seem possible, but we did it!
I got my Iron home and I was so excited! Problem is, nobody else that I lived with at the time was excited. You will discover that the Iron has power that you can’t imagine until you start lifting, should you choose this path. It is a great diviner of character, yours and those around you. It will push you to your absolute limit in every sense of the word. It will test you physically by pure weight. It will test you emotionally by forcing you to be true to yourself. It will test you mentally because you will hit walls, lose progress, have near death experiences and arrive at crossroads time after time where you have to decide if you are committed to the Iron. If not, you’d better quit. There is no room for half-ass. It takes your entire being, everything in you, to rise from that squat and sometimes, you won’t make it. Again, how much do you want it? If you don’t want it with everything in you, do something else, because the challenge with yourself is only the beginning. Weak people in your life will not want you to get strong and they will make it hard for you. It is necessary to be especially diligent and dedicated while they are being broken by the Iron. Otherwise, they will think that they are breaking your resolve and increase their efforts to waylay you. Three tornadoes that destroyed my house just made me more determined than ever to lift. I salvaged my Iron and continued in the motel for a few weeks.
I have told the tornado story many times but new readers don’t know about it so I will refer to it from time to time. Before the tornadoes, I was doing my squats in my Dungeon by stacking totes. It made a perfect squat rack! I didn’t have familial support in my lifting so I couldn’t just go out and buy everything that I needed to begin with, even though we had the money. I had to make do and improvise but that was good, I think, because in those times I learned just how dedicated I was. I knew that I loved the Iron and I would have a relationship with it no matter what it took. Stacking a few totes and waiting until I could score real equipment was an insignificant sacrifice to my newfound love. It strengthened me in other ways. It strengthened my commitment. It made me realize just how much I needed this. The drive to succeed, to be my best self, to be so strong that people would say, “Damn!” as they got out of my way and let me pass were intoxicating. After you begin to go a little heavy, your confidence just skyrockets!
After the tornadoes and being relocated to a lease house for the rebuilding of my home, I decided that I was going to purchase a squat rack. I went online, yep, you guessed it, Dick’s…and no, I do not work for them, I just want to pass along information that might help you. I got the Body Camp Olympic Squat Rack. This is tricky. I like to have never found this squat rack! At that time, I did not want an Olympic rack. As a matter of fact, I thought that I had found a great deal on a rack at a church based thrift store. It was solid and fierce and I loved it. The price on it was $100.00 but they had it in the store for a long time and were willing to lower the price to $50. Boy, was I pumped! I paid for it and set about finding a way to get it to my house when I realized that it was an Olympic rack. The problem is that an Olympic rack is wider than a standard and my barbell wouldn’t work in that rack. I asked for a refund and the store flat refused. I’m pretty fierce but you can’t change posted rules and they had “No Refunds” signs everywhere so I lost that $50. Honestly, I strongly advise you to buy your equipment new from a chain store. They have good refund/ return policies and when you begin a new program you may not be certain of what you’re buying. A $50 rack that I can’t use isn’t a bargain. I never picked it up. Who wants that clutter? Clutter will hurt your focus and focus is everything when you lift heavy.
This rack says Olympic because it is an unusual size that will accommodate both standard and Olympic bars. If you buy most bars that say Olympic, you will get a HUGE bar that may be quite intimidating for you in the beginning. I’m making pretty good progress and I still have no desire for an Olympic bar.
Ahhh…you MUST have a 5 gallon bucket, absolutely must. David has me touch that orange bucket that you see in the picture of my rack with my butt when I try to skimp on depth of my squat. It works. Just get that first because you’re gonna need it.
Sawhorses are necessary, but not standard issue because they are for protecting you if you have to ditch the Iron in a squat, you know, get out from under it. They have to be an inch or two less than your squat. I pushed the Iron backwards and lunged forward and it was fine. If you ever have to do this, you will be thankful for your horses. Mine are just under two feet tall. I went to Lowe’s, had them cut the lumber and nailed the horses together with a metal bracket at the top. I need to rework them with screws. I’ve ditched on them twice and they worked well. I had ditched once without them and you can usually do that, but this is much safer. The horses require ongoing maintenance.
You will have clips for your dumbbells, locks for your plates, multiple sizes of plates and you will change those plates constantly. Unless you go to a gym where everything is neatly organized, you will have clutter and a bit of chaos. It’s not meant to be pretty but it creates beauty in every way. It reconstructs our bodies, souls and minds. I have ditched an abuser since beginning the Iron. The Iron made me realize that I really DON’T have to take that.
One last word of caution, beware of the “Safety Hooks”. They came with my barbell set. They are intended to keep the bar on the rack while you’re not working with it. If a curious child wandered by and you had left weight on the bar then, theoretically, if that child was strong enough…he could get the bar off and hurt himself. I don’t know if that’s ever happened but I do know that I nearly killed myself with those things more than once. If you leave them on the rack while you’re lifting, they will hinder you when you lift. Nothing, nowhere tells you to remove them or what can happen if you don’t. More than once when I loaded the Iron onto my back, 115#, those damn things grabbed it. It was dangerous but the worst thing that they did was during a bench press. I had 70# on and they grabbed the bar. While 70# may not be a problem for some, it was my max bench press and folks, by the Grace of God, I avoided smashing my head with that barbell. You should always have a spotter. There, I said it. I never do, so I sure didn’t need those things trying to kill me.
Is power lifting a lot of work? Yes. Can it be dangerous? Yes. Is it worth it? You better believe it. While it’s a lot of work, it’s not nearly as much work as some of the ailments and mental disability that I believe that it prevents in me. Being sick, broke down and crazy is a lot of trouble. While it can be dangerous, so is driving to work, while texting and putting on make-up, but some of us have been known to engage in such activity. We take huge risks, that don’t pay dividends, with our health and welfare daily. I have no qualms about the risks associated with the Iron. I get stronger and stronger and more agile as i progress. If anything goes wrong, I should be able to recover and escape unscathed. Nothing has ever benefited me like this and nothing will ever make me give it up. We have a thing.