Monday, April 2, 2012

Powerlifting: The Instant Classics

There are a handful of moments that change and define a sport for decades to come.  They're typically few and far between, but everyone remembers where they were when they witnessed true greatness.  Over the past few weeks, I've had the privilege and good fortune of watching two such moments, both at Lifetime Fitness.

I'm particularly proud that I had the foresight to reach for the camera both times.  If there's ever a sure sign that something video-worthy is about to go down, it's watching a 60-something guy with a potbelly and black denim jeans approach a squat rack.  I was bursting with anticipation as he took the safety bars and set them higher on the rack than I've ever seen them set before.  They were barely below his shoulders--what did he have in mind?  He couldn't possibly be setting up to do squats--he'd surely hit the safety bars if he bent his legs at all!

Well, he showed me...I left Lifetime feeling like a fool that night.  Mr. Black Denim didn't quite pull it off, but I'll say this: that man came closer to doing straight-leg squats than any man in the history of power lifting:

I was simultaneously shocked and impressed.  In fact, I was so awe-struck that I forgot to record anything until his fourth set, though that actually ended up working in my favor.  This rare physical specimen was so pleased with his performance that he continued to load 45-pound plates on the bar after each set.  By the time I'd collected myself and fired up the camera, he was straight-leg squatting more than four hundred pounds!

I'd hardly call myself a geriatric medical expert, but at that man's age, I'd say the days of building lean muscle mass came and went with the Jimmy Carter administration.  Let's just say that I don't see him making a run at Mr. Olympia anytime soon.  I'd venture to guess that a slight increase in flexibility might be a more realistic goal...wouldn't he be better off lightening the load--maybe even take all the weights off--and try bending his legs and stretching a little?  But what do I know?  Like I said, I'm no geriatric medical expert...

This past weekend, I bore witness to yet another unique approach to the very same exercise:

This man has a bad habit of taking the legs on his already nauseatingly short shorts and rolling them up as high as he can before each set.  This video doesn't do justice to how high those shorts can go--this was one of his more "relaxed" sets.  I already considered myself lucky to have captured such an up-close, high quality video; I didn't want to risk shooting another and losing it all.  After all, when you successfully rob a bank, you don't stand around admiring your handiwork--you sprint to the getaway car and exit the scene.

There are a few noteworthy characteristics to keep an eye out for in the video.  Proper stance is critical--note how gracefully this man sets his feet and points his toes outward before he starts his set.  Also, be sure to look for his subtle, mid-set arm flapping--during some of his more intense sets, I thought he might actually take flight. And if you take anything away from this clip, watch carefully at how this guy gently caresses his backside and upper thigh during the lift.

Fortunately, I did not attempt to capture this man's hyper-aggressive shorts adjustment on video.  As I mentioned, he really seemed to enjoy hiking up the legs on those things.  But he also liked fiddling with the waistband on the front of his shorts, and at one point he came dangerously close to a potentially damaging indecent exposure charge.  I averted my gaze so quickly that I nearly gave myself whiplash as I narrowly avoided vomiting on the preacher bench.

It never ceases to amaze me how two men using entirely different techniques--and from two different generations--can each rise to the top and dominate the sport of weightlifting.  And I would have never guessed that a small suburban Minneapolis Lifetime Fitness club would host two record-breaking lifting efforts: (1) world's heaviest straight-leg squat, and (2) squatting with the highest-ever percentage of upper thigh exposure.  Truly legendary.  Thank you both, gentlemen, for finally putting Lifetime Fitness on the map and giving it the recognition is deserves as the premiere training facility for world class athletes.

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