Cheers to Adam for posting up parts 1 and 2 for me (what… no by line Adam? ;) ). Anyway onwards.
In part two I mentioned finding out about competitions. I won’t bore you (at least not today) with my efforts over the past 10 or so years but I will talk about my approach, what changed and what I learned. Some, naturally, will also apply to other sporting activities.
In my first ever effort I was up against Mike Daly and David Horne in the open class. Pretty much in at the deep end as they say. By rights I could have, never having competed before, gone in as a novice but it would have been silly. None of the novice class had ever closed a Captains of Crush No 3 gripper and all of the open or pro class had. So David declared ‘don’t be silly, open it is’ and that was that.
I did very well on grippers, as expected but came 3rd. Not bad, as they say, but there was just me and the other two… so last. I didn’t learn bugger all as the next year, in a much bigger group of eight, I was briefly eight then moved to the seventh place spot after scores were adjusted. In other words, as I have said when retelling the story, next to last. Now the penny began to drop. I was, in effect, a one trick pony, very good and getting better all the time on grippers but not as well rounded on other events as I needed to be if the podium was going to become a little more familiar.
Various chats and words of advice from David slowly but surely hit their mark and I began to, bit by bit, bring up the other competitive lifts. These changed year by year but usually included some sort of pinch lift, some thing with a thicker handle, bending of steel and so on. My slightly larger than average (but proportional for someone my height… I’m no giant handed freak) hands and thumb helped on both thick bar and pinch. (As an aside I am, as a pseudo-expert of sorts often asked for tips by well-known strength athletes on improving grip. I am occasionally surprised how short their thumbs are. Even the might deadlifter Andy Bolton has what I’d consider a short-ish thumb as does WSM competitor Laurence Shahlaei) I worked hard on the steel bending portion and in time managed a gold medal one year at a European Championships.
The key, as one might imagine, is not only to continue to raise ones personal bar on the lifts and events you personally favor and do well on but the other harder for you events too. Going back to the bar bending… at competitive levels I’ve never liked it. Yes I’ve placed in the top three here in the UK and in Europe, if not the US of A when I’ve been there, but it damn well hurts at the elite level. I used to get really quite painful pumps from the fascia in some forearm muscles when they were bent at an angle as I tried to get a bend going. The time under tension combined with the incredible effort to get a kink… ouch! Yet sheer determination and a hunger to do better drove me on. Another aside: I think I still hold the official (as of Sept 2011) European double over hand Ironmind’s Apollons Axle (a 2” thick tubular bar) deadlift record and on the Rolling Thunder (a rotating handle, clip and loading bar set up again from Ironmind) tied for 2nd with the HUGE 200-kilo+ and 6 feet 8 tall Brian Shaw to world record holder Mark Felix in an event at this years Bodypower. I am also, along with Laurence Shahlaei, second in the world on the 2 hand euro-pinch. Not bad eh?
The lesson again: don’t just be good at one thing… improve to a contest ready standard on EVERYTHING.