The Weakest Guy in the Gym

It’s not this guy.

If you put a bunch of strong people in a room, they’ll find a way to make each other stronger. You put a bunch of weak people together, and they’ll probably spend their time bitching about how life isn’t fair.

I moved to Denver around six months ago, but still make the trip back to Spearfish, South Dakota every once in a while to keep an eye on our facility here, meet up with friends and train with my old workout partners.

A few days ago I was training with my friend Jesse in Spearfish at his facility. We were going back and forth on the deadlift; pulling a rep or two, adding weight and taking turns at the bar. We never stop working, but we maintain a casual conversation most of the time between sets.

The combination of random bumper plates and iron on the bar made it difficult to guess the weight at a glance, so I didn’t bother counting the exact weight on one of my last pulls. I knew that it was heavy, felt my heart rate rise, my nervous system pick up and bumped my shins into the bar with the buzzing feeling that I get before a big lift. I flicked the chalk off my hands, took a deep breath as I watched it make a little cloud in the sunlight coming through the window, dropped down to the bar and drove my heels through the floor.

Jesse was at my shoulder yelling, “Hips!… Hips!…”

I locked the bar out, paused for a second and let it drop, then looked at it and cocked my head in the “curious puppy head tilt” as I tried counting out the weight and asked Jesse to confirm how much it was.

“505. Nice work.”

I had pulled 500 a few times before, but this was a new personal record and the odd thing was that I hadn’t even thought about it. In this environment, working with guys who squat, bench and deadlift 2,000 pound totals; the weights I work with seem insignificant, so I usually don’t pay much attention to what’s on my bar. I just try to keep up.

This is the great thing about being the weakest guy in the gym full of powerlifters. I inevitably find myself drifting up to their level. If I were training in a Bally’s full of Jersey Shore wannabes screaming and grunting about their 225 pound bench presses, my frame of reference for strength would be altered and I would be less likely to push myself. I would look at them and feel strong enough. When you’re lifting with guys who use your max weights on their speed days, that’s just not gonna happen. You have to keep striving or leave.

I try to do this with everything. When I do conditioning workouts, I find guys who are going to be nearly impossible to keep up with like Marshall or some of our pro fighters like Joe Warren who seem to be capable of turning off the part of their brain that recognizes pain. Jesse often works out with us, facing his own weakness in our conditioning sessions. (This is how he earned the nickname World’s Most Athletic Fat Guy)

In business, I try to have conversations with people who are already much more successful than me. If you ever think you’re doing enough to justify a little complacence, sit down for lunch with guys like Nate Green or John Berardi. You’ll realize how much further ahead in the game they are and how much unrealized potential you have.

When it comes to studying and reading, I try to talk books with the kind of guys who are actually writing them, like Dr. David Scarborough, a professor and client at the Barefoot in Spearfish. After reading his book, Neural Networks in Organizational Research I realized that I’m, well, not all that smart. But there is a lot I can learn.

Most of the people I’ve mentioned here who have in some way helped me become smarter or stronger are in this small 10,000 person town. A glance around the handful of people in our gym would show you a world class powerlifter, an incredibly talented A.R.T. practitioner and a brilliant professor with a penchant for 4,000 mile motorcycle trips. This isn’t the only place like this. If you were to look hard enough, you could find people like this somewhere around you.

Are you surrounding yourself with people who are going to make you a better, stronger, more capable person, or are the people around you keeping you complacent? If your answer is the latter, perhaps it’s time to do something about it.

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