Growing up I loved Skateboarding. I spent everyday skateboarding whenever I got the chance. I wore skateboarding clothes, I pinned up pages from Thrasher magazines onto my bedroom wall, I watched skateboarding VHS highlight videos, and you could always find my friends and I talking about our skateboarding idols. I remember always trying to push myself to get better and better hopes of one day being as good as the characters on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
Fast forward 15 years and my passion has shifted from skateboarding to Powerlifting/Strongman. Nowadays, you’ll see me wearing clothes related to strength training, I have posters of Strength athletes in my gym, I love watching YouTube videos of other Strength athletes, and you can always find my friends and I talking about some of the strongest men past and present. Although my passion has changed, not much else has.
I’m sure some of you share a similar desire to learn more, watch more, try more, and do more in your respective passion.
YouTube has become the dominating force in spreading knowledge and connecting people. YouTube allows us to connect with people and learn from them regardless of location. Oftentimes we grow to really admire someone without evening meeting them in person! We dream of meeting this person and seeing what they are like when the camera is off.
For those of you in the Strength community you probably dream of training in the famous “unicorn” YouTube gyms; Barbell Brigade, SuperTraining, Juggernaut HQ, Kabuki Strength Lab, Westside Barbell, Boss Barbell, etc. These gyms have it all; top of the line equipment, elite lifters, great atmosphere, and Powerlifting “Celebrities” (or at least YouTube celebrities).
Unfortunately, for most of you it would take an extremely expensive plane ticket and some vacation time to visit one of these gyms. Luckily for me, I’m about 25 minutes away from the Strongest Gym In The West, THE SuperTraining Gym; home of Mark “Smelly” Bell. For those of you who are unaware, Mark Bell he is an elite level powerlifter who gained popularity for his role in the Steroid documentary Bigger, Faster, Stronger. Mark has an informative YouTube channel focusing on powerlifting and strength training. Mark is also the creator of a product called the SlingShot. Since his original product he has expanded to other supportive powerlifting gear including knee/elbow sleeves, wrist wraps, apparel, etc.
On top of all of this Mark owns a gym located in Sacramento, CA called SuperTraining Gym. This gym does not have a membership but I wouldn’t call it a “Free” gym.
Members are expected to pay their dues in sweat, hard work, encouragement, and labor.
You have to show up day in and day out, work hard, cheer on anyone going for a big lift, help rack/re-rack weights, and spot. If Mark ever hosts an event you are expected to be there to help set up, break down, load plates, spot, etc. He is trying to create a team atmosphere full of dedicated men and women. You cannot just show up here and there and use the gym as you please. If you are in the corner squatting with your headphones on while everyone else is benching you will probably get snatched up and corrected or told to leave.
Some might think this is a bit of an elitist attitude but I think it’s awesome. The gym is “Free,” Mark can make whatever rules he wants.
I’ve been asked many times why I haven’t been to SuperTraining (Untamed Strength is only 25 minutes away). Aside from being extremely busy I know SuperTraining is by invite only. You can send an email if you’d like to stop by and check it out but if you want to regularly train there you have to be invited by one of the current “members.” I do not walk around town with a big head and I do not expect Mark or Silent Mike to know who I am based off of my YouTube subscriber count. I never thought to “bless them with my presence.” Basically, I didn’t want to show up expecting to be invited to train.
Along came Omar Isuf….
Omar contacted me and said he was stopping by Sacramento. We spent a few days together recording footage and training and eventually we started talking about SuperTraining. He said he would put Mark and I in contact and before I knew it Mark invited me to be a guest on his PowerCast. I gladly accepted and it was during that time that I received an invite to come and train!
My First Day
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t know what to expect but I was extremely excited about getting out of my same old routine/comfort zone and lifting with a bunch of guys that I didn’t know. I felt like I was walking into try-outs.
I had been to the gym before to film a couple YouTube videos but I haven’t trained with the group until now. When I got there they were filming some videos with Colleen Fotsch. It’s cool to see the YouTube videos from the other end of the lens. While we waited for the filming to wrap up I chatted with a few guys who recognized me from my YouTube videos (so much or flying incognito). I immediately realized that these were just a bunch of guys who enjoyed lifting weights. There was no “holier than thou” attitude. They were very welcoming and motivated to train.
Thursday is Bench Press day at SuperTraining. The gym has multiple benches and I noticed quickly that everyone groups up on a bench based on their strength. If my working sets are around 250 lbs. and Mark is using around 450 lbs. it doesn’t make sense to share a bench with him.
There is no posted workout for the day, everyone does what they want for set and reps. However, at SuperTraining they will use straight bar weight for 3 weeks, bands for three weeks and chains for three week. Everyone seems to follow this progression. This particular day week they were using straight weight.
The group of guys that I was training with said they tested their maxes the week before and now they were back to working with higher volume. I decided to follow along.
We warmed up to a pyramid workout of 15, 12, 9, 6, 3 reps. Aiming to increase weight as the reps went down. I started with 185 lbs. for 15 reps and as soon as I finished Mark Bell and a camera man rushed right up to my face! Mark was going to take a look at my bench press and give me some tips. I laid back down on the bench and performed a few more reps.
Lately, I haven’t been focusing on using leg drive during the bench press because I’m entirely focused on strengthening my upper body. Mark quickly called me out on this. He said I was touching the correct spot on my body, my bar path looked good, and my elbows were tucking like they should, but there was a disconnect with my feet. As soon as he made the correction I thought “shit, I forgot to focus on what my lower body was doing.”
He told me to lay my feet flat on the ground and drive my feet into the floor with my quads while trying to drive my upper back into the bench and towards the barbell. “Do NOT relax your quads” he told me. I preformed a few more reps and they felt better than the first set.
The next thing he did was put a SlingShot on me and instructed me to pull my elbows back until I my arms were 90 degrees. Then he told me to pull my elbows back as far as I could like I was pulling the bar to my chest. I immediately felt my lats and upper back tighten and I started to shake. “THAT is how you should feel at the bottom of the bench press” Mark said. This drill was meant to teach me how to pull my chest to the bar as well as pull the bar tight into my body when I’m lowering the weight.
Once Mark was finished helping me out I continued the workout and performed
-12 reps with 195 lbs
– 9 reps with 205 lbs
– 6 reps with 215 lbs.
– and 8 reps with 225 lbs. I only had to do 3 reps but I decided to do more.
One of the guys commented that my bench was slow off my chest but very strong at lockout. He suggested I perform one set of 10 reps from my chest to half way up, keeping the tension on the bottom half of my bench press for all 10 reps.
We then moved on to the Earthquake Bar. This is a very flexible bamboo bar that bounces and swings back and forth and side to side as you press. This instability training will not make you any stronger but it is good for teaching you how to stay tight and engage your lats as you lower the bar. It was extremely exhausting on the triceps, shoulders, and forearms. This bar was a lot of fun but more importantly, it looked cool.
We finished up with some DB Flyes and barbell biceps curls.
Overall the training session was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the atmosphere. I’m looking forward to more training days, training logs, and possibly some training VLogs.
Thanks for reading. Be sure to Subscribe to the Newsletter for future posts.