Below is a great guest post by my good buddy Adam Glass. I’ve known Adam for almost 5 years now and every time I see him I learn something new. Adam does not just talk the talk, but walks the walks by putting it on the line in competition. Heck, a couple weeks ago I was lifting him and I hear “Hey Mike, check this out” I walk into the other another room and Adam deadlifts almost 500 lbs…..with ONE hand. Insane. It is pretty bad ass to be lifting and see someone pull over your 2 hand deadlift max with one hand. I also have Adam to blame with my crazy obsession of lifting the Dinnie Stones now too.
Sit back and learn a few things from one of the top grip competitors in the world.
Take it away Adam!
Mike T Nelson
Lessons From the Platform: 10 Things I’ve Learned From 16 Competitions In 2 Years by Adam Glass
Lifting weights is one of my favorite activities. It is my secret garden, my escape from the universe. For an hour or two a day I get to put aside everything else and invest in something which ALWAYS makes me feel better and produces measurable return.
Strength sports appeal to me. Since I was a little kid reading X-Men comics I have dreamed of building super human ability, like most kids right? Rather than grow up and continue to fantasize about it, I have been doing something to try and achieve it.
There are a thousand ways to be strong, and no one “strong” is better than another. Of course that is the topic of heavy debate across the world and web, men less secure in themselves do everything that can to assure themselves of their strength and ability.
Rather than talk about it, I prefer the platform.
Competition is where all excuses end and where all training can be tested and compared. Many people have wasted many words on the apples to oranges comparison of “what is better, a heavy clean and jerk or a heavy bench press” when the better question maybe “why are you not lifting in an event and seeing how you are stacking up?”
There are many reasons I respect Mike, and one of them is he is never one to shy away from stepping up on the platform to lift. In fact, Mike has participated in 10 different strength competitions at Movement Minneapolis plus a few Power Lifting meets and Tactical Strength Challenges since I have known him. I don’t know how you are reading this, but I will wager you haven’t put your skills on the line as many times as Mike has in the last 3 years.
As I prepared this article, I wanted to reflect on what I have been up to with my sport. I compete (and dominate) in Hand and Grip Sport. It is a combination of both old Strongman feats and All-Round lifts plus some very unique events. To say Grip Sport is new would be to say O lifting and Power Lifting are infants, the first grip contest on record was a card tearing contest in France before the turn of the 20th century. Since then nearly all of the famous and celebrated strength athletes of history have been noted for their tremendous grip strength. Many of the modern events are based on the old timers famous lifts as tribute and remembrance of their power.
Unlike some others who dabble in their strength sport, I train and play to win. I do not pull the “I didn’t train for this meet” card which I disgustingly see thrown out to mask poor ability. My scores are a testament to what I understand and do in my training. I specifically point this out because I am frankly tired of the continuing trend in the fitness world of “coaches” who do not compete and sucked when they did (usually that one time). I am not a fan of titles but if you pin me down I represent myself as an athlete, not as trainer or coach first and foremost.
I am going to high light the three core lifts as a marker for the changes I have made as I have moved through the last two years. In grip sport we have a total made of the highest rated gripper close (using the RGC method) heaviest two hand pinch on the standard apparatus (looks like a disc with a loading pin) and the overhand deadlift on the 2” bar or Axle.
In 2010 a new North American League was established by key leaders in the grip community including US National Champions Jedd Johnson and Andrew Durniat. One of the established standards was the Elite total of 800 lbs. I decided that would be a great place to aim for my goal of grip mastery.
Over the last two years I have competed in the following events.
Here they are along with my total (when it was contested) and position in the meet.
Amateur Strongman Contest, 1st place 2010
World’s Strongest Hands Series 2010 (10 contest sites globally) – 4 legs (10th place globally/1st local, 11th place globally/ 1st locally, 11th place/1st place globally, 11th, over all 11th out of 91) best total for the series (148/186/385-719 lbs) – Set World Record for 2” Vertical Bar lift
Tactical Strength Challenge 2010 (500/10/120)
Certified Mash Monster Level 1
Certified Captain of Crush Dec 2010
Metroflex 2011 (3rd out of 31, 165/211/386- 762 lbs)
Movement Minneapolis Grip Decathlon I May 2011 (1st Place, 179/222/407.5- 808.5 lbs ELITE)
US Nationals (2nd place, 240 pinch #10 All time best pinch record)
Certified Mash Monster Level II
Certified Mash Monster Level III
World’s Strongest Hands Series 2011 (11 Contest Sites World Wide)– 3 legs (3rd place globally/1st locally, 26th place/ 2nd locally, 6th place globally out of 122/1st locally) World Record for Half Penny Lift
Frostbite Grip Challenge (1st place)
USAWA Minneapolis Meet (World Record 2” Vertical Bar, US Records Dinnie Stone Lift, Bent Over Row, Two Hand Pinch)
Minneapolis Iron Grip (1st place, 182.5/216.5/404.23- 803.23 lbs) World Record 1 Hand Pinch
Movement Minneapolis Grip Decathlon III 2012 (1st Place, 182/243.41, 433.66- 859 lbs) World Record Two Hand Pinch/8th all time heaviest pinch record, One hand pinch total Left + Right, Rim lift.
Ok hooray for me, time for the lessons.
#1 Practice what you will do and do it exactly how you will do it.
Of all of the improvements I have made, my personal favorite is the pinch numbers. Without judgment, there are many who have been in this sport for 4-8 years longer than I who still have not hit a 100kg lift in a comp, and who add 1-2 kg a year. I added over 57 lbs in 18 months to my competition score. In training I have done more.
I was able to do this because I train my pinch often in the exact style it will be contested in. Few warm ups, then 4 lifts to hit max weight. On my volume days, I focused on achieving a better average rather than maxing out. I typically do 7-9 volume days for each max day. An observation I have made, too many people are attempting for max weight far too to often. The other big thing holding them back is they take too many attempts before hitting their maximum weight.
#2 Get on the platform often to drop the jitters
Many people experience jitters and nervousness before they hit a lift in a competition. It doesn’t seem to matter if it is in front of 3 people or 3,000, it happens. I believe the best way to get around this is get used to stepping up and hitting those lifts. You can train this on any given day, get some people and throw an informal contest. It sounds so simple, but it makes a huge difference in your performance.
Adam deadlifting more than me, with ONE hand!
#3 Build a ritual of success
I have all sorts of goofy little things I do before my lifts. Some of them serve no purpose, except that I have now done them so many times they are all part of the switch.
“the switch” is something you see or hear about for almost all competitive lifters. It is the mental gear change over where the world goes away, and all that remains is the challenge.
I do not think learning to switch has anything to do with getting pissed off or emotional. I personally do the exact opposite. I feel everything go away, everything is silent. I feel nothing other than the pressure of the weight in my hands. It will probably be different for each person, and of course each event.
This is an example of what we refer to as “State before skills” which Mike has written about a number of times. Many people are trying to maximize their skill sets, but they do so in a poor state. Fear, anger, nervousness, and excitement all can seriously DEGRADE performance. I feel it is a safer strategy to learn to abandon these feelings rather than figure out how to work around them.
One way of doing this is associating different patterns to the lift. Before a big pinch I sandwich the plates and rub them, then position myself, and clap my hands together. I set my hands, lower my hips, then look directly down. If you watch other champion pinch lifters, they do different things. What matters is not what is done before the lift, it is what happens with the lift.
#4 Learn to roll with the punches
In a lifting event you get points for putting numbers on the board. It doesn’t matter how good or bad it looks, or how hard you struggled, it only matters what is lifted.
In the 2011 series of World’s Strongest Hands I bombed out my pinch. This means I missed all 4 lifts. I had to step away for a moment and collect myself. I just pissed away a top 5 finish for the series. I was fairly upset, but I pulled it all together.
I walked back in, and went on to finish in the top 4 world wide for the next two events. In contrast I could have wallowed on the failure, kicked myself in the ass, and generally been a baby. Instead I did what I had trained myself to do, go numb and lift the weights.
In contrast I have have seen a lot of other people who miss a lift and completely lose their shit. Their state management skills are too shitty for them to get it all back on track. The rest of the meet goes poorly, they go home, and beat themselves up. In my opinion this breeds a cycle of failure. Next time they come out, if they come out, they will be haunted by the miss. If you are not a competitive lifter, this may all sound silly…maybe it is. What is accurate is a number of people have not resumed competition because of a miss, and the real problem is purely their ability to roll with the punches. Even Ali was beaten in the ring. Everyone has a bad day. Keep yourself cool and collected.
#5 Turn set backs in to opportunities
In Oct 2011 I was setting a spring loaded gripper in my hand, and the handle snapped off. It was pretty amusing at the moment to be strong enough to break off a steel leg, until I realized the damage it did to me. I partially ruptured a ligament in my right hand, on the dorsal side right below the wrist. It looked like a hole was in my hand. Within 7 days the pain became so severe I was unable to twist off the top of a plastic water bottle or turn a door handle.
Maybe you can imagine how severe of an injury this is, particularly to someone who does a sport of squeezing and crushing things. It was honestly depressing. I was rampaging towards a shot at the Mighty Mitts competition at the Arnold, the premier event in our sport. I knew I would be in big trouble.
After a few weeks, I still had a lot of pain. I did however discover I could lift most of my thick handle objects without discomfort. My entire training moved towards the Thomas Inch Dumbbell and the Axle.
The Thomas Inch DB (trust me, it if freaky hard)
Even though I still couldn’t set a COC 1 gripper, I was now hitting thick bar almost daily. In several months I went from being able to lift an Inch DB 5-10 times every few days, to being able to lift it 50-100 times in any given workout and lift it day after day.
In the same way, you will probably get hurt if you are training to win. My challenge is for you to find things you can still do without pain to keep getting better as you heal.
As a side note, the expected healing time for the injury was 6-9 months. I was able to compete again in 5, and now 8 months later I am stronger (far stronger) than before I was hurt.
#6 It’s always a contest, even if the other guy doesn’t know it.
I feel it is accurate to say in my tiny little sport the 105kg class is the most competitive of all. The best all-round grip athletes are in this class. I don’t know if they know it, but I am competing with them everyday. If I see one of them hit a new PR, I will hit 5. If they are training 4 days a week I will do 6. If they are planning on taking some time off I will be hitting the gym even harder.
I love these guys. Without them I would not have the same drive to train. I have always been motivated to lift, but when I look at the incredible strength of guys like David Horne and Andrew Durniat I feel an urge to RUN to the gym NOW and do more work. On a side note these guys are great friends to me too.
Whatever your sport, you have to find the best guys. Then you have to be ready to stack up to them. In many ways your competition are your best friends, without them you have no sport. Pay attention to what they are doing. Plus that cuts down on the surprises.
On the note of surprises, I feel there is not really a true surprise in a strength sport. In a base ball game you never know who will come in and hit that game winning home run. In a strength sport you will know (well you should know) pretty much what you are going to open with and what your capabilities are. In the same way you will know how the other guys in your class are doing.
#7 Run the numbers, and pay attention to what they are telling you
There is a very specific reason I decided on the 3 event total as a goal- it is great measuring stick. Everything I do can be traced back to a very good question “did that improve your total?”
Of course there are plenty of things which I do which are not directly connected to it, but as far as my sport specific stuff it all must go to it.
I know this sounds like preschool, but how many people are doing things right now which are supposedly “sport specific” yet have zero improvement on their sport specific numbers? I had a guy on a coaching call tell me about his burpee training for softball. Does that make any sense? How would more burpees improve batting average, throwing distance, or hand/eye coordination? As soon as I asked him that he agreed it wasn’t helping.
On that note, less than 10 men in North America have totaled over 800 lbs in grip as of this month. Of the lot of us, only two of them have a higher total then me. I am the lightest weight/youngest of the group. All of them were great in the sport before I started, but now only two of them could beat me in an all-round contest. I suppose I will find out next month at US Nationals 2012.
I did that by paying attention to the numbers.
#8 Get yourself some strong people to play with
If you are in strength sports you must be the one who is not always the best if you want to be the best. It’s great to be #2, because you get hungry. Find some strong dudes, and lift with them as often as you can. If you can’t, then connect virtually using the web then do some contests and such. You know the saying “there is always someone stronger” well go find that fucker. Plus it seems everyone I know has a 6′6” 280 lbs brother/friend/neighbor/cousin who can out lift me. I can’t seem to ever find this person, but they always tell me he exists. Try and find someone who is stronger and work with them. If that is not possible, find someone who is equally excellent in their sport of choice and lift with them. Champions are champions, regardless of sport.
#9 Prepare for realistic problems
I typically sleep very shitty before a meet. Luckily for me (not really) I typically sleep shitty most other nights too. I have learned to perform with fairly crappy sleep. I have also trained myself to lift well with crappy food, dehydrated, bad climate, and fatigue.
I spent almost a decade of my life in the armed forces, and the number 1 lesson I was taught was the value of preparation. Things always go wrong, so you better not be counting on perfect conditions. That is a fun thing to dream of, but on a given game day something will be off. So train for it. I believe over the long run bullet #1 + this one will make you the most consistent athlete in your class. Sadly most people do not understand the true nature of specificity.
#10 Have Fun!
I hope it would be clear I love doing this stuff. Sports are one of the fine things in life. Rather than sitting on your duff watching others enjoy them, get out and do them yourself. You will make new friends, find new motivations, and who knows? What if you are the next great thing for some sport? There is only way to be certain, you got to get out and do it.
Once you find “your sport” you will find a path to good times. I have had some really crappy things happen over the last few years in my life, but I do not regret even one moment I have spent preparing for and playing my sport. It has carried me through somethings with a positive note, and allowed me to stay focused when many things were a blur.
If I have learned anything at all on the platform, it was how to have a good time
I believe your sport training is relevant. Maybe you are working towards a professional ticket in the NBA, or you are a minor bowler in your local league. What other people think about it pales in comparison to how you feel about it.
If you are going to do something, do it to the best of your ability. Train for it with conviction. Compete with honor. I believe if you do this, you will find satisfaction and a vehicle for your personal development.