Being A Maximal Strength Trainee

Posted on 06 Dec 2013 22:18

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By Ashiem Matthn

This post is going to have a lot of swear words in it and I state this as a disclaimer. I'm writing this from the heart so bear with me, please.

I've been thinking about this and I don't usually go about talking about my numbers but several things have unfolded recently both on my Facebook page and unrelated to this page on other fitness pages. I don't like to toot my own horn as they say but I've found that every so often you have to take a stand even if it means praising yourself.

I am a regular dude with regular average genetics who has a really heavy Deadlift because of my hard work and the ridiculous effort my mentor Eric Troy has put into me over the last 5+ years.

I pull 500+ pounds week in and week out. I have a Front Squat in the low 300s. I can do Pull-ups with 90 pounds added to my body. I can do single arm rows with 80% of my bodyweight for reps!

I HATE stating how strong I am but sometimes some people need a wakeup call on this. There are maybe 3.5 billion men on this planet and of those there are MAYBE 10 million guys who can lift more than 500 lbs on ANY big movement. And I'm one of them. I'm one of that elite 0.277778% of the world's population.

I've been sitting around injured all of 2013 because I made the mistake of disregarding Eric's advice and doing Krav Maga when I shouldn't have and I got my lower back all tight and stiff. So, thinking it would alleviate my pain, I decided to foam roll my lower back and it tore a large amount of muscle tissue.

Now when you're a 500+ pound deadlifter and you tear muscle tissue it not only means you're in constant pain but the whole mechanics of the movement change. Your form isn't the same.

When you tear your muscle tissue the movement becomes alien. It hurts. Every rep hurts. And you're stuck in a bad place. If you don't exercise and you don't bite through the pain you get scar tissue that forms and later when you return to lifting that scar tissue will tear and you'll have to begin from scratch and work up having lost it all and you'll have been gone from the game for a very long time. On the other hand, if you over do it and you're able to bite the pain on every rep (whether it's 100 lbs or 200 lbs or 300 lbs on the bar because the pain WILL be there): you could still make things worse for yourself. So I've been stuck in that terrible place where doing too much is an issue and doing nothing is equally harmful. I've had workouts where I'd go up to the bar and I'd prepare to pull and I'd have a hundred thoughts raging through my mind about form, about my previous strength, about feeling healthy and whole and mostly about how I need to convince myself to brace for the pain that would hit me mid-rep and how I'd have to fight my way through that to complete each and every rep.

Eric's helped me try to get my form down right for a WHOLE year and it's still not there yet. Blood sweat and tears? Forget that wannabe hardcore BS. At the end: it's a GREAT deal of frustration and fear because you feel everything you've worked for in the last 5 years - all of that is being washed straight down the drain. To get back up after something like that is not easy - it's not easy physically and it is definitely not easy psychologically.


I am not someone who's part of the fitness industry. My life isn't dedicated to training even though I take it so seriously and I train a few people. I don’t put food on my table or provide for my family because of my lifting. This is PURE passion. Heck, I run someone else's business. I am a regular guy. I don't take steroids or anything other than whey and multivitamins and fish oils. I don't take pre-workout stimulants or anything of the sort. I have no chemical crutches. When someone in my position gets knocked down like this, you wanna know what goes through my mind? I worry that perhaps I didn't deserve that 500 the first time itself. Perhaps I didn't deserve the big numbers I had.

You know who held my hand and helped me back up? Because I am back up. I'm slinging 455+ pounds for REPS week in and week out and I look like I was born to do this. You know who helped me back up? Eric.

I've been referred to as Eric's big black dog. I understand that. I'm furiously loyal to him and I've put all my faith in him. There is nobody else who has invested so much time and effort and emotional support in guiding me back to being this strong – and he’s had to help me on issues related to life even more than he’s had to do with training related stuff.

There was a workout a few months ago where Eric had peaked me to pulling 495 lbs. This was the first 495 lbs pull in 2013. Not everyone will get this but it's not easy to sit around twiddling your thumbs the day before your Deadlift workout. You feel like you've been waiting for this the whole week and instead of happiness and excitement I was scared. I had lost it all. I was down and out for the count. 495 pounds? Are you kidding me? I was a nervous wreck and I couldn't do anything. You know that whole fight vs. flight thing that should kick in? I was failing the fighting instinct that should have been there. Eric talked me into pulling big. It's not something that someone can just tell me "oh hey kid just believe in something greater than yourself and it'll happen." It's not like that. This isn't a one off workout. This is 12 months of non-stop similar workouts where I'm feeling this low and anxiety bound.


I'm not pleasant company to be around when I'm injured. I can be a real grump. If you're close to me you'll know of my insecurities and let me tell you who don't know me: being hurt physically, having a bunch of work stress and career stress weighing down on me, real life issues playing on my mind and at the same time finding a way to rebuild whatever has been taken away from me: all of my hard work over the last 5 years being reduced to nothing: this stuff takes a big toll on me. It didn't stop me from helping other people though. Two of my trainees are at their strongest in their life right now: Kanishk is pulling 400+ and Dipen is flirting with a 455 Deadlift. This is nothing to laugh at.

But here's what I've figured out: getting hurt is part of the game. This is strength training after all and this is MAXIMAL STRENGTH TRAINING - not chess. There's a risk. This isn't my last injury. I don't want any more and I'll always try to never be hurt but that doesn't mean it won't happen. It will.

I want people to understand that this whole strength training thing: it isn't something you do mechanically. It isn't about plugging some numbers into some stupid percentage based program and just doing whatever the program spits back out at you: if it was there would be a hell of a LOT stronger people than there are. Everybody would be a world champion. I'll never be a world champion. I'll never EVER be able to Deadlift 750 or anything major like that to take me to that super elite 0.002% of the world's population. I don't do this to be "healthy". I don't do this stuff to be a huge badass who can knock out ten guys in a handicap fight. I'm not training to be a strong "overall" lifter. I don't care about being a big front squatter. I'm a DEADLIFT-only guy. I care deeply about my performance to that effect. To be a guy who only wants to improve ONE skill and is dedicated to just that: I don't need all that fancy fluffy cookie cutter BS. Eric has taught me that to be a great deadlifter you have to train heavy and train hard not think of it as a walk around the park. I have him to guide me so I know I'm going to be okay with all the injuries and things life will throw at me.

I'm like the dude that sports a set of 6-pack abs week in and week out all year round. Except I don't have a 6 pack. I have a big ass deadlift.

There are two big things that I learnt this year due to this injury and thanks to Eric. First: you have to be grateful for what you have and show respect for it at all times. I am lucky that my injury allows me to come back to my old strength levels. In life, it might happen that due to some other injury I'll never be able to regain what's lost. So I have to respect my achievements. Two: it is I who views this whole injury as a "set-back". In the grand scheme of things this is a drop in the water and on par for the course of being as strong as I am - Eric has explained this to me. I don’t see it that way all the time but that’s the thing with being a performer and an audience member at the same time.

GUS Native Comments

This page created 06 Dec 2013 22:18
Last updated 18 Jul 2016 00:48

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