The World’s Greatest Deadlift

If you were to research the heaviest deadlift ever performed in a powerlifting competition, you would come across a lift of 1,015 lbs by Benedikt Magnusson from Iceland on April 2, 2011.  In fact, our good friends at YouTube even have a video of the momentous occasion by this mountain of a man:

Sweet. Mother. Of. God.

He makes it look insanely easy and your jaw just sort of drops as you see that bar bend as if it were a plastic straw.  It’s incredible.  It’s utterly amazing.

And to me, it’s not the world’s greatest deadlift.  Not by a long, long, long shot.

See, today I saw the world’s greatest deadlift.  It was a full 700 lbs. less than what Mr. Magnusson pulled off.  Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense does it?

Here’s the the thing: the lift was from one of my absolute best friends, Sam.  What makes it the greatest deadlift I’ve ever seen or been aware of is that Sam has been through an absolute war with leukemia over the last several years.  I’m not even sure I can recall how all the rounds of treatment went, but if I’m not mistaken, it was something like:

  • Diagnosed with leukemia.  Goes through traditional treatment and chemo.  Leukemia in remission.
  • Leukemia returns a year and a half later.  Doctors change the game plan – Sam gets a donor stem cell transplant.  The process to prepare for a stem cell transplant is hell – utter and complete hell.  Your immune system is essentially wiped out with more noxious chemicals than you can imagine and when you are near death, they give you a blood transfusion with the stem cells.  The transplant put leukemia into remission again.
  • A year or so later… leukemia returns.  Again.  A stem cell transplant is currently the closest thing to a “cure” for blood-based cancers, so when remission kicks in, it’s usually a good sign that it won’t be coming back… unless it does.  Sam goes through the whole process and gets a second stem cell transplant with the same soul-crushing prep process.  Thankfully, it takes and leukemia goes into remission again.

Well, today I have a less-than-stellar lifting session as many of mine have been as I’ve increased my running.  This doesn’t put me in a great mood, of course… and then out of no where, a text message pops up on my phone, I see my buddy pulling that damn 315 lbs. up for a single rep and I’m completely, totally amped.  Because I know what that single rep means.  I know what the struggle has been for him.  And I know that while he has pulled FAR greater weight in his time on many an occasion, maybe this one rep was one of the sweetest.


So here’s to Sammy (pictured front left from about… damn… 15 years ago) and the fighters everywhere who inspire us and put our own problems into proper perspective.  It’s not about the weight on the bar, but about the fight in your heart and soul.

Way to go, Sammy.  Way to go.

P.S.  Yes, that is me front right with actual hair.  Shocking, I know.

Fight the Fear

I like to be fairly regimented with the training schedule I keep and do my best not to skip days because of some lousy excuse I came up with on the fly.  Missed sessions (I try never to call it “work outs” because that tends to sound more random and unplanned) have a cumulative effect and it really pays to sometimes have what a lot of coaches call a “punch the clock” sort of session.  It may not be great, but it’s always better than a complete miss.

However, there are also certain sessions I might delay for a few reasons.  One is that I might just be completely wiped from lack of sleep, stress or poor eating.  The second (which is closely tied to the first) is that for a lifting session where I know I need to dig down deep, I want to be sure I have as many factors as possible in my favor.


Because for those sessions, I am fighting a fear of failure.

Perfect example is shown in the video below:

Watching my final “work” set of deadlifts, there probably does not appear to be anything all that unusual with the moments leading up to my initiating the lift.  I walk past the camera… get some chalk on my hands… mark my shirt with some chalk (I will explain that some other time)… set up for the lift… hit a particular part of the song I am listening to and boom!  Go time.

What you don’t see is how incredibly keyed up and anxious I am as I step up to the bar… how my stomach is completely fluttering and I am wondering if the exertion of the lift will make me throw up half way through.

A sane person would likely ask, “Umm… I thought you worked out and lifted and all that because you enjoyed it.  That doesn’t sound like something too enjoyable.”

Not a totally unfair point, but the reason I get so keyed up is that part of what makes weight training so meaningful to me is the chance to face that fear of failure and go at it head on.  I don’t always win in these fights, but the effort of doing so is worthwhile in its own right.

And when I do win the fight?  When I know my best before was deadlifting 400 lbs for 10 reps and today I did it for 11?  That brief moment of exuberance punctuated by my personal war cry kind of carries me through the day.  It’s amazing… and that, my friends, is serious fun.  That’s why I will be doing this for the rest of my life.

Fighting the fear can be fun… and lead to alliterations (but that is a different kind of fun entirely).

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