– Old School Weight Training Strength Strongman Power Vintage Bodybuilding: Ego Lifting Or Just Lifting?

There is a popular term that people who work out like to use nowadays.  “Ego Lifting” is something that I never heard until recently.  Like many other phrases, it can have different meaning for different people.  And, like many phrases and words associated with lifting, I’m not entirely sure of what it quite means.  For instance, I have never understood the use of the word “Jacked” when referring to a person who lifts weights.  Is it supposed to be an adjective describing someone who is big and strong?  If so, does it make a difference if the person in question is drug-free or using steroids or other PEDs?  And, if he/she is not clean, then can we describe them as having used “Gear?”  Incidentally, “Using Gear” is one of my favorite sayings.  A neat and curious phrase.  It certainly is a cheerful euphemism for using steroids.  

     Incidentally, I have always gotten a kick out of some of the different phrases people use to describe those who take steroids.  Larry “Bruno” Licandro would refer to such a person as “Being on everything from A to Z.”  Legendary strength coach Kim Wood refers to steroids as “Gak,” which I think is pretty cool, too.  Tom Tedesco would refer to a user as someone who is “On the sauce.”  Over the last few years, I’ve used the phrase “Steroid-bloated druggie,” and I guess it kind of hits the nail on the head.  Of couse, Larry, Tommy, and Coach Wood were vehemently against the use of such drugs, so it’s not hard to see that those gentlemen had a great influence on how I view the whole issue.  

     I don’t mean to devote so much space to drug users, but I think the idea of ego lifting and drug use goes hand in hand, to a certain extent.  But the concept of ego lifting is something that is readily recognizable, if you train in a typical commercial gym.  Let me paint the picture:  A guy is training on a sled-type Leg Press machine.  He has loaded the machine with just about EVERY 45 Lb. plate within reach.  Imagine the machine loaded to the point where there is not room for any more plates.  Let’s just say twenty-four 45 Lb. plates ( 1,080 Lbs).  He now wraps his knees, tightens his belt, and gets in position in the machine.  He has two “gym bros” assist him in moving the weight off the safety pins.  Then, to the accompaniment of his screaming retinue, he will lower the stack roughly 6 inches or so, and then whilst using his hands to assist his legs, he will move the monstrous poundage to the completed position.  Upon completion of his “rep,” he will be cheered by his supporters while proudly proclaiming to the world that he has lifted nearly 1,100 pounds!  He will post this ( there is no way he will NOT have someone taking a video of this accomplishment, I mean, come on, this has to be shared).  Sometimes they will proclaim a new world record, as if there is a world record for such a silly movement.  If he’s lucky, at some point in his lifting journey, he will recognize how funny he looks, and correct himself.  Hopefully, before he injures himself.

     One time, years ago at The All-Natural Gym, Tom Tedesco came into the gym one night and decided that he wanted to Leg Press 1,000 Lbs, something he had never tried.  He didn’t make a big deal of it, in fact he mentioned it so casually that I didn’t realize what he was doing until he started loading plates to each side of the machine.  Even when it was loaded to one thousand pounds, he approached the poundage with  a cool professionalism that bordered on nonchalance.  I should not have been surprised, because I had never seen him display any emotion while competing.  In direct contrast to many powerlifters, he would approach each lift with a quiet confidence, confidence that had been developed through years of steady training.  As he settled in the machine ( no belt, no knee wraps), he simply unracked the weight, moved the safety handles, then slowly lowered the massive weight until his knees were on his armpits, then smoothly pushed the weight back up to the completed position.  He didn’t make a sound, and aside from myself, nobody in the gym noticed what had happened.  He could have easily done more, but he simply wanted to prove to himself that he could do it.  

     Now, who do you think is engaged in “ego lifting?”  Which brings me to an important point that I would like to make:  Just because someone is training hard and/or heavy, that does not mean that “ego lifting” is involved.  There are many lifters who are brutally strong, yet they toil away in near anonymity, content to lift for themselves and not for “Likes,” or followers in social media.  The fact that they can lift tremendous poundages is no reason to carry on like a mad banshee.  And when you consider that most of the “lifters” who do carry on can’t hold a candle to the truly strong individuals who train in a professional manner.  

     I used to enjoy watching people lift, back when I trained in a commercial gym.  I always got a kick out of a group of guys who do Deadlifts every Friday night.  They would set things up on the platform, and work through their warm-ups until they reached their working poundages.  What was funny was that as the weight on the bar increased, they would make a point of deliberately dropping the bar.  Not withstanding the fact that such behavior would result in the lift being judged “No Good,” I couldn’t imagine why they would do something like that until it hit me:  NOISE.  They just had to make noise to draw attention to themselves.  Certainly their lifting ability was no cause for anyone to notice them, but drop a loaded barbell and the whole place took notice.  A sudden, loud noise will cause everyone to stop and see where it was coming from.  It’s human nature.  Now, if having people pay attention to you is important, and that’s a big “if” in my opinion, wouldn’t it be more gratifying for it to be for your lifting ability?  I mean anybody could make noise.

     I suppose another form of “ego lifting” is that special type of individual who just has to make some outlandish claim about their ability.  The guy who claims to lift a certain amount of weight, yet when asked to provide proof of their ability, they fold like a beach chair.  We’ve all encountered the “Toppers,” those people who, upon finding out what you lift, they always come up with a number that is always a little bit higher.  Always.  Again, when it comes time to back their claims, they try to change the subject.  One good thing about competing in sanctioned competition, is that the Meet Results are there for all to see.  

    Years ago, there used to be a lifter who competed in local meets in the NY tri-state area.  He was in his forties, and claimed to have been a former weightlifting champion, powerlifting champion, as well as decorated Vietnam war veteran.  He also claimed to hold a Master’s degree as well as a PhD from a well known university.  His weightlifting claims were debunked by several prominent Olympic weightlifters who had never heard of him.  His education claims, likewise were found to be bogus ( a prominent lifter and meet director had attended and was a professor at the university in question).  And his military claims, similarly were found to be untrue by another lifter who HAD served and who had worked for the Veteran’s Administration.  Why anyone would make such outlandish claims is beyond me.  Oh, and the liar in question also claimed to have won over 300 trophies during his career.  This guy was George Santos before there was a George Santos.  If I believed in reincarnation……

     So, the next time you see someone drawing attention to themselves, either by their behavior, or outlandish claims, just try to get a laugh out of it.  It’s true that some people serve as an example of what not to do, but it’s also a fact that some people were simply put on this earth to make us laugh.

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