Posted by on Mar 4, 2014

AdvancedStrength Training

Dat Nguyen, or as he is better known on Fitocracy, meatwad, is the founder of KO Gym in Ventura, CA.

Take a second, close your eyes and go to the archives of your mind.  Logged away in recent memory, a moment you’ve forgotten, a moment that you’ve consciously pushed to the nether regions of your memory.   That time you last failed an attempt at a personal record.

Squat, bench, or deadlift, it doesn’t matter. The bitter aftertaste is still the same.  If only you could log half a rep on Fitocracy, but would Fred even give you points for that?


Now, forget that pain, that isn’t important now.  What’s important is the “why.”

Rewind that record, back to just before the moment, before the failure.

What was going through your mind?

It doesn’t matter.  If you answered with anything other than “nothing,” then we’ve found our problem.

I could recall all the records of my failures… I could tell you exactly what is going through my mind, or my heart for that matter.

The only thing we have to fear is...

The only thing we have to fear is…

I actually say it aloud to my workout partner when I’m taking just a little too long to set up: “I’ve got fear in my heart right now.”

That is what a personal record attempt is. It is danger; it is the pursuit of danger.  To push your body a little further than it has ever been, perhaps too far… but then again, perhaps not.

That uncertainty will kill you.

In these lifts, with this kind of weight, you don’t have room for fear.

Yet we are all mortal, and to be mortal is to fear.

Alternatively, sometimes my attempt is after a 12 hour work day and I’ve still got a million things on my mind.  Documents that need to be filed, motions to draft, patents that need to be analyzed… too bad none of these things will help me rip that weight off the ground.

Whatever it is… whatever the thought in your mind, it does not belong.

You’ve done this motion more times than you can count.

You can do it in your sleep, but you can’t do it with your mind occupied or fear in your heart.

I have a ritual for every lift.

For deadlift,  I like to sit on the plates — 5 makes for a very nice seat — as I rub talc over my hands.  I turn my Pandora to Disney Show Tunes, get into position, strap my belt in…

Open my bottle of ammonia smelling salts, inhale, and after that… the lift is done.

You heard right, smelling salts.  Ammonia, the stuff they give to damsels who faint.  My normal state is the damsel, and I need to wake the beast just for a few seconds.

You should not use whatever you find up in your attic.

You should not use whatever you find up in your attic.

After the inhale I don’t remember much.

I liken the feeling to being kicked in the face. Any thought or fear is kicked out of your head and heart.

My workout partner says it feels like fire ants in the base of his skull and the only way to douse them out is with the adrenaline and endorphins from the lift.

People ask me what the best supplement that I use.  I always respond, smelling salts.  No other product can guarantee you a 10% increase in performance.

You’ll see Benedikt Magnusson at 0:35 break a capsule of ammonia in his nostril before he does his heaviest lift.  Most of the elite level pros use it.  I generally only use it on my heaviest lifts, or when I just need a kick in the face.

Bam, instant beast mode.

I warn you this is not for the sane. Also, please read the warning labels and use with caution. It’s the best $7 I’ve ever spent. A bottle usually lasts 3-4 months.

Photos are used under Creative Commons Attribution Licenses. “Aromatic Ammonia” from Flickr user Matt Scott, “Fear” from Flickr user Sean MacEntee, and “Mitcham Lavender” from Flickr user j-ster.

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