I have been blessed to train with some great people in some amazing training environments. In the early years of your training life, a lot of habits are formed – good and bad. Some of those habits will be determined by both the people you train with and the places that you train. There is a reason why many of the strongest people in the world train together. They share common goals, similar work ethics, and they know how to get the job done.
Being a plump, unathletic, terribly weak 14 year old freshman offensive lineman I knew I needed to get stronger. So needless to say, I got hooked on weight training at a very young age. My high school coach introduced me to the basics of lifting, and eventually became my training partner. He had a solid training background being a college track athlete so I trusted him and his philosophies. We had a big focus on the big three lifts, but understandably it took me a few years to get my form and technique down solid. As a senior, he introduced me to a local powerlifting group, and this is where I learned what a REAL gym was.
As a douchy 17 year old, I thought I was strong. Boy was I wrong! Walking into a real gym, let alone a real powerlifting gym was a rude awakening for me. The gym was an old building out back with a concrete floor, no ac, and no heat. There was a water spicket out back, turned upside down so it would blast you in the chest and face to wake your ass up from the NC heat. We had very limited equipment, and nothing was what anyone would consider “nice”. There was a bench, squat rack, platform, leg extension/curl, leg press, pull down machine, and dumbbells that went up to 150lbs. Most of the equipment was made by the gym owner who was a welder by trade.
It was here that I learned the basics of how to develop training, basic coaching points, and basically how not screw up. We had very simple rules, but it really made the environment both intimidating and perfect at the same time.
1. No talking, unless talking about training
2. Do not load your own weight, the rest of the team does that.
3. Be on time
4. Don’t miss, even if you are hurt
5. Shut up and take coaching.
Just like most teenagers I struggled at times, not only with the rules, but seeing how strong these guys were was a direct kick to the nuts. I knew then and there it was time to check my ego and listen to people who were much stronger than me. The gym was loud, dirty, bare bones, but full of strong motherfuckers.. On any given day you could hear Montrose, Ozzy, or Ted Nugent blasting on the radio and I 100% saw Jesus on more than one occasion during those hot summer training sessions. Those days fully prepared me mentally and physically for college football and that is something I will forever be grateful for. The environment was built to either turn you into a man or send you home with your tail between your legs. If you didn’t get strong here, your ass either didn’t listen, or powerlifting just wasn’t for you.
Fast forward to 2012- Before I made the move to Florida, I had harassed Brian Carroll and Adam Driggers about training at Team Samson. I had contacted them beforehand and had a made a few trips down before the move, and knew it was the environment I needed to take my training to the next level. It had very similar elements to my first gym, but took everything to the next level. Albeit a garage in the middle of Adam’s backyard, it was a powerlifting heaven. Multiple monolifts, competition benches, and every bar you could ask for – competition and specialty. The level of lifters there was as good as anywhere in the country. We had at least 4 guys with pro totals, as well as a 900lb bench presser and multiple 1000lb squatters. The knowledge in the room was amazing, and so was the shit talking. The guys at Samson never let you cut corners, and if you tried, you damn sure heard about it. Like my previous gym there were very little in the way of rules.
1. You are required to attend at least 2 days per week, one of those must be Saturday mornings.
2. You must be willing to compete in the sport of powerlifting
Truthfully, I am sure there were other rules, but these were made very clear at all times. This created a training environment that forced you to be competitive, forced you to show up, and forced you to get on the platform. If you didn’t get with the program you weren’t invited back or unpoetically asked to leave. There were no fees to train at Samson, but we did pitch in to buy additional equipment. Adam Driggers had created a gym that in my mind is one of the best ever.
Both of those gyms had things in common that made the environment a breading ground for success. While neither had a monetary fee, they both required a fee in terms of commitment to the group and yourself. Excuses were not tolerated and anything less than your best was considered an insult to everyone else. Value was placed on powerlifting specific equipment and not that of making money commercially. The biggest, and ultimate deciding factor was the people. The people in each of the crews were what made me and the others around me successful. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would have never reached the numbers I did without the people I trained with along the way.
If you step away from powerlifting all together, in order to be successful in life, you need to find yourself a group of likeminded people who all want to reach the same goals. So what does that mean? Find a gym, club, or a garage that will help you push limits of your training. Hell, I know some people that would drive three hours round trip just to train at Samson. Powerlifting is as draining mentally as it is physically, and for that you will need the right environment to reach the pinnacle of your success.