This Scotch-fueled episode of Barbell Shrugged is intended for mature audiences only. The stories and lessons we share with 5/3/1 author Jim Wendler are not for sensitive ears or the easily offended, but they just might make you incredibly strong.
Enjoy the show, but brace for impact. Jim is one of the most passionate and real human beings I’ve ever known. His point of view is raw and honest, and it could change the way you live and train forever.
The Real Deal
Matt Vincent and I have similar stories, although I admit, he’s the better athlete.
Yes, he looks a lot like a jacked Bobby Moynihan, only with cooler hair. But he also happens to be a Highland Games World Champion. But still, both of us owe a lot to Jim.
At a time when we were both still raw and in the fog, he took the time to answer our endless training questions. We trained and talked shit. Religion. Politics. Sludge, whatever. And when it came to life and purpose, Jim wouldn’t ever bullshit anyone. There was not time for that. To borrow a phrase from Henry Rollins, Jim would always kick you the real deal. The truth.
I’ve never thanked Jim for some pivotal advice he gave me about a decade ago now. I’d like to do that.
April 17th, 2005. Jim squats 1k, and I look like a Goth Shrek?
There was a time when I took powerlifting very seriously. It’s an easy thing to see in hindsight.
The truth is that I could have trained a lot more effectively (less skull-caps and triglycerides), with plenty of time left over for leading a more balanced life. But that wasn’t my mindset at the time. I figured that extreme results required extreme methods, which just isn’t true.
At the time we were both training for the 2005 Iron House Powerlifting Classic in Janesville, OH. I made the drive up from Memphis to Columbus to put in a week of Circa-max training at Westside Barbell (very high band-tension box squats).
I wanted to train with Jim for a very simple reason – He was one of the most explosive squatters I had ever seen. I knew that if I wanted to also squat 1,000 pounds, I was going to have to TRY and be just as fast, every single set.
I never caught Jim, but the chasing made me much stronger and explosive.
I knew that I was going to do well in the upcoming meet, but the truth was that I could do MUCH better.
At the time I was distracted by life. I was desperately trying to wedge myself into a PhD program for Physiology and Sports Science, but I was struggling to find a fit. I was freaking out, honestly. I didn’t have a vision of the future that didn’t include a world championship of my own.
I asked Jim what he thought about it as we wrapped up our assistance work. “What do you think, should I move up here? I think I have a shot.”
I didn’t get the answer I wanted, but it’s what I needed to hear.
Almost any coach or lifter would have rumbled about what it takes to be a world champion. They would say that, if I really wanted it, I would need to go all-in. And that’s true. But Jim Wendler is not the typical lifter, coach, or human being. He said what was true, not the thing that I wanted to hear.
“Why the fuck would you do that, dude?” he proclaimed. “You could do this shit anytime you want, but you can’t put off your studies. Finish your work.”
I took Jim’s advice. And as it happens, that was awesome advice. My additional time hanging around Memphis gave me time to get to know a few knuckleheads that I would go on to start a podcast with 6 years down the road.
Jim, thanks for everything you’ve done. My guess is that you’ll never quite understand just how many lives you’ve actually changed for the better.
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The Drifta Lifta
Matt’s actually feeling generous. Visit his site now and you can save 10% on anything in his shop by using the code SHRUG at checkout. Thanks, Matt. You should check out his Drifta Lifta video series, he does a really good job with it. If nothing else, go watch him get tortured by Kelly Starrett.
Don’t miss Matt’s book, STRENGTH LAB. It’s a no-BS guide to maximal power & Strength.
Jim, Matt, we had a blast drinking and talking shit. Let’s do it again soon.