http://www.elitefts.com/documents/comeback2.htm As the IPA World’s loom on the very near horizon, I sit and think about all that I’ve learned in the past ten weeks. These last ten weeks have been the best training cycle I’ve ever put my body through. The reasons for that are solely based on the people that I surrounded myself with. I avoided internet bullshit, I focused on the future, and I trained my ass off every damn day I went to the gym. I’m prepared, and I’m ready. On June 24th I’ll fight my demons in an epic battle. I’m ready for war. I was trying to decide what to write for part two of this series, and then it hit me. Why not write about what I’ve learned? Why not share the things that have taken me from an average lifter who didn’t “get it” to a fairly strong lifter who is closer to “getting it.” Instead of learning from the upper echelon of the sport, which we all do every day, pull up a chair and read the ramblings of a man climbing the ladder. See if you can learn from what I’ve learned. Surround yourself with good people. This has been the most important part of the puzzle for me. For years, I trained alone in my garage. Ten weeks ago, I made the decision to drive an hour one way every Sunday on my day off from work, put 4–5 hours of work in, and drive home just so that I could surround myself with good people. My new training partners are passionate about strength. They push themselves to the absolute edge and love every sick minute of it. I liken the atmosphere to Westside Barbell because everyone gives 100 percent. No one backs down, and no one dares to quit. We push each other, feed off one another, and give technical pointers and tips the whole time. If someone is having a shitty day, we lift them up and tell them to suck it up and get it done. The atmosphere breaths strength and you simply can’t go through the motions. Even if you’re hung over, you’re expected to perform. Even if you’re hung over and the lift of the day is max effort safety bar squats, you’re expected to perform. Ugh. Dave Tate is 100 percent correct—attitude is everything! What is your excuse? Your elbows hurt? Your hip hurts? You’re having an off day? Suck it up, quit your damn crying, and lift the fucking weight. I used to make excuses. Yeah, my elbows hurt, and my hips are torn up. So what? I’m walking, aren’t I? I still have two legs, don’t I? There are guys in wheelchairs who would give their lives to have sore hips again. Some people are missing their arms and would love to be able to bench to get tendonitis. So shut the fuck up and lift. Something happened to me over these last ten weeks. A lady I worked with, who had been fighting cancer since 1991, passed away. She fought a hell of a battle. She still came to work every damn day and was still smiling. Even as the cancer spread for the fourth time and even as she battled chemo again and again, she always felt blessed and always thought that things could be worse. I spoke to her often, and she always said how much she loved life. She never once complained of any pain. This past spring, the cancer came back and spread quickly, filling her lungs, brain, and finally her bones. She fought to her last breath, and she was one of the strongest people I’ve ever met. Though I knew her only a year, she taught me about life. Life isn’t about bitching, moaning, and complaining. Life isn’t about giving up and giving in. Life is about fighting your ass off. Clawing, kicking, screaming, and going all out. Do you think that you have it bad? How would you like to be 40 and dying of cancer? How would you like to have spent the last 20 years of your life having chemo, surgery, and radiation? Life is tough, but it can always be tougher. The next time you want to make a damn excuse, think about this. Lance Armstrong nearly died from cancer that ravished his body, but he didn’t. He survived and won the Tour de France seven fucking times. Suck it up, tighten your belt, get your head up, and lift! Fear only exists in your mind. Fear isn’t real. You can’t taste it, you can’t touch it, and you can’t see it. It’s that little voice that spreads from the back of your head, and if you let it, it can ruin your lift and even your life. Can you believe that there are people out there who live in so much fear every day that they can’t even leave their homes? What kind of life is that? I won’t lie. I used to have fear of the weight. When I decided to come back, I knew that I’d have to overcome the obstacle of the fear of having heavy weight on my back again. I was downright scared! Confidence erases fear. Confidence grabs that little voice and chokes the living hell out of it. You build confidence by lifting heavy weight. Whether that weight to you is 200 lbs or 1200 lbs, you must build confidence. You must look at the loaded bar and know that you’re going to lift it. Give fear and doubt an inch, and they will crush you. They will make you feel ten inches tall. Erase fear. Grab the bar, shake that fucker, swear at it, stare it down, and go, go, go! As the weights got heavier, I built confidence. As I won my daily battles with the bar, I erased doubt. Right now as I type this, I have the confidence to get underneath 800 lbs. That isn’t being cocky. That’s erasing fear and doubt. No weight can beat me, and when I put the time in and I earn my stripes, 1000 lbs is going to ride. I have no fear of the weights, and I refuse to let a single negative thought enter my head. I will lift it. I won’t allow it to beat me. Don’t allow fear and doubt to win. Yesterday is gone so what are you going to do today? What did you do yesterday? Did you miss a lift? Did you lose your job? Did you piss off your wife? That was yesterday. It doesn’t matters any more. It’s the past, and unless you’re Marty McFly, you can’t do shit about the past. However, you can do something about tomorrow. I used to let a bad training day ruin my week and even carryover to the next week! If I missed a lift, I let fear and doubt creep in. I carried it with me, treated those around me poorly, and took that all into the next squat workout. Why? Because I was worrying about yesterday. In my last training week, I dumped 655 lbs. I was out of the groove, I got forward on my toes, and I just dumped it. In the past, that would have haunted me. I would have carried that like a 500 lb monkey on my back, afraid to get under it again. Instead, I loaded the bar to 750 lbs and smashed it like it was 135 lbs! Watch Chuck Vogelpohl’s XXX video. He misses a box squat terribly and has to be picked back up. When he racks it and gets out from underneath it, he’s smiling and laughing. Then he adds another 50 lbs and smokes it. Chuck doesn’t worry about yesterday. Elite lifters don’t worry about yesterday. You shouldn’t either. What works is what’s important. Period. My training partner can squat heavy in gear week after week, and he always recovers. I can’t. I have to do it every other week and mix in special bars on the weeks when I don’t wear gear. I found what works for me. You can read articles and watch training videos until your eyes fall out, and you still won’t know what works. You can address weak points, form, and gear, and you still won’t know what works. Learning what works means you have to get under the bar and fucking lift. Plain and simple. I can’t tell you, EliteFTS can’t tell you, and that skinny Bally’s trainer can’t tell you. My entire training cycle, diet, and supplement regimen is completely different from the guys I train with. What we have in common is that we squat every Sunday either with an Olympic bar or a special bar and either in gear or raw. That’s it. I do different deadlift variations. I do speed deads, and I pull sumo in training. My training partners don’t. I like to do close stance rack bottom pause squats with the cambered bar, but my training partners don’t. However, we all get stronger. You must find what works for you and quit relying on what everyone else is doing. I don’t know how much weight you should be using on reverse hypers. I don’t know what the best day is for you to deadlift. I don’t know if good mornings would help you or not. That is stuff you figure out on your own. You succeed, you crash and burn, you get stronger, you tear a pec off, you learn, and you find what works. I emailed Jim Wendler about my torn pec trouble. He said he trained everything that didn’t hurt his pec and he hit a meet PR in the bench. That clicked a light bulb on in my thick skull. I trained triceps hard and the military press hard. The result was an increase in my flat bench every fifth week that I got in my shirt. It worked for me. It might not work for you. I don’t need to feel heavy weight in my hands every week, but you might. I don’t do speed squats. I feel like they beat me up too much, and I don’t get anything from them. My squat still goes up every week. My training partner does them every week and his squat goes up as well. What works is what works. Period. I hope and pray that EliteFTS readers aren’t visiting the site searching for that magic bullet because there isn’t one, my friends. Technique is as unique as a fingerprint. We squat in the EFS cage. My training partner’s ankles touch the edge of the cage while mine are about 5–6 inches away from it. He keeps his back completely upright, but I bend over slightly. His hands are just outside of shoulder width while I jam mine against the collars. Could we squat the same? Sure, but that would make one of us weaker. If I use a wider stance, I don’t have enough pop out of the hole. If I grip the bar closer, it rolls on me as I descend and screws up my ascent. If I try to stay completely upright, I lack strength out of the hole and lose my balance. My point is find what allows you to move the most weight and use it. The major points remain the same regardless of style—sit back, drive your knees out, spread the floor, get some big air, push your belly into your belt, lead with the bar out of the hole, and arch hard. When I first started following Westside and elite, I toke my stance way out, and I got weaker. I brought it back in, and I got my knee pain back. I found my medium, and my squat took off. Do the same. Don’t mirror yourself after anyone else! I hope that you’ve enjoyed this little ramble fest. My personal battle draws near, and I can’t wait to step on that platform again! 220 lbs elite! Rick Walker has a bachelor’s of science degree in exercise science and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the NSCA. He is employed by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections as an activities specialist and is currently working at the State Correctional Institute in Houtzdale, PA. His duties include planning and overseeing all inmate activities and sports and teaching life skills classes in nutrition, wellness, and strength and conditioning. Rick began training at the age of 12 for football and has been active in strength sports since 1996. He did his first powerlifting meet in 1996 and his first Strongman contest in 2003. Rick has competed in the USAPL (ADFPA), ADAU, IPA, and NASS. He currently holds squat and deadlift records in the ADAU.