When the Bigger Boys Come to Town
I remember it like it was yesterday, being 12 years old and spending all summer playing Cricket and Football in the local park. For a fat, slow kid I was pretty good; well I could hold my own at Football but amongst our group of friends I was one of the best at Cricket. That was until the bigger boys came!
Sometimes they’d just take our stuff, play for a while, and end their game by throwing my Cricket bat over the fence leading to the railway lines. When in a more sociable mood they’d let us play against them; the aim of this new game was to see if they could hit one of us in the head with the hard composition ball we used. If they failed in this endeavour then some of us would get slapped around a bit, with the bat once again going over the fence. Ah, the delights of growing up in South London in the late 70’s.
I am reminded of this because at Darkside Barbell I’m usually one of the better Squatters; recently Dazla’s been giving me a bit of a kicking but I’m hanging in there. Then the bigger boy showed up!
Kamil is a pro strongman who trains with us from time to time, but we hadn’t seen him in about a year. He has come back bigger (around 130kg at around 6’), and stronger. In his first session back he Deadlifted 300kg for 3 reps; OK, this is like throwing my Cricket bat over the fence but I can handle it. In his second session after I had badly missed 220kg in a Safety Squat Bar Squat, Kamil jumped to 250kg and did 5 reps with it; now the whole Cricket set had just been burnt to ashes!
Don’t get me wrong, Kamil doesn’t beat me up if he misses a lift – thankfully, but the male ego is a funny thing. As Mike Katz says in Pumping Iron, “are you the kind of dog who bites back, or rolls over and dies?”
Back in ’78 the bigger boys had come. I was batting and they were bowling bouncers at me! But on this day I was seeing the ball really well; when they bowled short it felt like I had all the time in the World as I ducked under the hard composition ball as it sailed over my head. If they pitched it up I smashed the ball over the top; this went on for about 20 minutes and then swearing as they went, they left our group alone – for good.
Now Kamil is perhaps the biggest of big boys but in a nice way. Kamil returning to our little club shows me, and probably the other lifters as well, just how damn strong some people are. There might be times when we don’t want to be shown our real position in the pack, but they’re the ones who help us improve.
Training with someone like Kamil reminds me of my trips to Westside Barbell. At most of the gyms I’ve trained in over the years I’ve been one of the strongest guys there, but at Westside I’m nothing. Having said that I get more out of a couple of weeks training at Westside than going to 50 seminars in the UK; it might be uncomfortable at times but if you want to improve, whether it’s in the gym or against short pitched bowling then you need to put yourself in situations where you’re surrounded by the bigger boys; and if you’re lucky you won’t get too badly beaten up in the process.