I recently spent a month in St. Louis and I always publish a story about the homeland. I got the deal to do the Eagle Gym website. I train at Eagle when I’m in St. Louis, and it’s not just a gym. It’s a family, a following, and an artifact of American culture.
Weightlifting in Latin America aside, I don’t write much about a subject that’s been a huge part of my life for over a decade. I wrote Weightlifting in Latin America to make fun of how Colombians train, and I stand by it. But many Americans train like wimps too.
I recently read about the pussiest gym I’ve ever heard of, Planet Fitness in the United States. They don’t allow deadlifting, grunting, and they don’t have standard barbells. They give out pizza and candy. They want to create an environment that doesn’t intimidate new gym goers or the otherwise un-hardcore. Planet Fitness is not alone. 24 Hour Fitness and most big corporate operations cater to women and casual gym goers. They’re more health club than gym.
If that appeals to you at all, then Eagle is NOT for you. Eagle’s hardcore. People grunt. People scream. People get seriously injured. One guy got a staph infection after cutting off a callus (developed from years of heavy deadlifting). Eagle doesn’t have elliptical machines or treadmills. You don’t have to carry a towel. They don’t play techno. There are almost no women. Most guys have 300 lb benches under their belts. Eagle holds regular strongman and powerlifting events. On any given day you go, it could be Deadlift Wednesday when ~10 guys work on their deadlift.
One of the days I went a bunch of guys were push pressing. I hadn’t push pressed in about a year, but I jumped in with them to see where I was at. Here’s me push pressing 225 lbs (Push Press is an Overhead Press plus leg drive). The Olympic Jerk is when you split your legs to get lower. In an Eagle strongman event one guy tried that style for the Log Press and dislocated his knee under 300 lbs. I don’t do that.
That means I can Gorilla Press Slam your ass (see Ultimate Warrior finishers).
I missed 245 on the next set, but it’s respectable given how long it’d been since I practiced. The other guys went up to 305. Guys at Eagle take video of their PRs (personal record) and other feats. They share them on FB and talk shit. It’s a bona fide community.
Eagle recently held a push-pull competition at their 30 year anniversary. Here’s the push winner benching 525 lbs.
Sidenote: dudes who grow up on farm dominate strongman. Something about farm work makes strong dudes.
There’s an Eagle Gym tattoo. I have it, on the right:
One night in STL I was drinking with some guys, but only one trained at Eagle. He mentioned the anniversary party. They would be barbecuing, drinking beer, and there was a push-pull competition. Somebody at the table laughed at how silly that sounded, how he’d never go drinking with a bunch of meathead rednecks and lift weights. I noted the stark contrast between that guy and me. I wouldn’t have missed that party for anything if I were in STL.
But I know it’s not for everybody. To help those understand us, I highly recommend watching Bigger, Faster, Stronger. It’s a documentary on steroids, but the byline is “The Side Effects of Being American,” and it really touches on something in the American male psyche. Many of us who grew up watching Arnold, Rocky, Rambo, WWF, and the rest of Team America kicking ass and taking names. This gave some of us complexes, a psychological need to be the toughest guy in a room. I have it. Sin duda.
The growing up in America created the physical culture, but so did living in St. Louis. It’s a high crime city and it is NOT cool to be white in many parts. I waited tables downtown for years, and bartended on Delmar. Muggings are common in both areas. I learned the best defense is a strong offense. I tried to be someone the thieves would rather pass up for somebody weaker. I passed some shady niggaz in STL, but I never got mugged. This is how I live my lifestyle in Bogota as well.
One reason Latinos train like wimps is because the Spanish web is very undeveloped. Good information simply isn’t out there. So I recently had the idea to publish a strength training blog, pesasyfuerza.wordpress.com. I realized I don’t write in Spanish like I do in English. And I’m not passionate enough about training to maintain an industry-dominating blog. But the plan was to sell personal training sessions. If anybody here in Bogota wants to get big and strong, drop me a line. Only 40,000 pesos / hour, 3 days a week. After a month you won’t need me anymore because you’ll know the program. I’ve packed muscle on many other guys.
Once guys get brawny they never want to go back. People will treat you differently. Not just girls, guys too. I hear stories from others I can’t believe or imagine someone doing to me. Bartending on Delmar, many other servers were scrawny hipster types. They’d tell me how customers would disrespect them or act in some unacceptable why, and I’d always be shocked because that stuff never happens to me.
How I train always evolves. Here’s my current workout (48 hour rests between alternating workouts):
Handstand Pushups 3 sets
1-arm Chinups 3 sets
L-sits 3 sets
1-arm Pushups 3 sets
Pistol Squats 3 sets
1-arm 1-leg planks 3 sets
For squat and deadlift I go up in weight every day. So if I do 3 x 5 x 315 on Monday, I’ll throw 2.5s on each side (320) on Friday. I go up until I fail to get 3×5. I try again and again until I get it.
Lately I’m focusing on bodyweight exercises. I used to think you could never get very big and strong doing bodyweight. In 2002 I timed how many pushups I could do in a minute – 83. That’s a lot and I was fit, but I wasn’t powerful at 6’3 175 lbs. I never tried to do more difficult bodyweight exercises, only pushups and pullups.
Anybody who doesn’t think you can get big and powerful with bodyweight exercises should check out Hannibal on YouTube.
I read a few strength and conditioning blogs. StrongLifts is by far the most applicable to beginners and intermediate athletes. Until you can squat 150% of your bodyweight for 5 sets of 5, do StrongLifts. It’s what I put trainees on. Jason Ferruggia has become my favorite. He’s the best. He trains professional athletes in all major sports. But reading him is for passionate athletes. I’m starting to pay attention to Travis Stoetzel, and I like how he publishes a lot of impressive videos (check out Death by Barbell). Finally, I can’t actually do a strict rep for every bodyweight exercise I listed. For the ones I can’t do one of, I’m starting progression variations. You can find those progression tutorials on Beast Skills.
Music is important to the most guys into powerlifting or strongman. The intensity is so high you need something to pick you up. Last summer I squatted 385 lbs for 3 sets of 3. When I put that much weight on my back my face turns beet-red and veins pop out of my forehead.
At that level of intensity your nervous system becomes just as important as the muscles. Your nervous system takes longer to recover. Your body will try to talk you out of picking up that much weight. So music helps get us there mentally. 99% of workout music is metal or rap. Here are my heavy-ass-weight-training pics:
Coal Chamber – Big Truck
Pantera – Walk
Marilyn Manson – Beautiful People
White Zombie – Thunder Kiss ‘65
Rage Against The Machine – Guerilla Radio
Disturbed – Down with the Sickness
Ram Jam – Black Betty
Very honorable mention for Twista’s entire Adrenaline Rush album and Raze it Up by Onyx (not on YouTube).
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