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Why We Lift II

I have had a lot of incredible and unforgettable workouts in the past.

For instance, I’ll never forget the time I deadlifted 405-lbs one repetition every minute for about an hour and then ended up with a total of 100 reps in 75 minutes or so.

I remember marathon training sessions doing strongman training out in the yard with half a dozen or more friends on more than one occasion. These were the types of workouts where you just knew it was going to take two or three days to recover from them, but you were having so much fun enjoying training that you couldn’t stop.

And I’ve also had days where the lifting I did was no fun at all, in fact it was downright scary, like the time I found one of my long-time friends tipped over in her SUV after a car accident on Christmas Day a couple of years ago and had to pull her out to safety.

But the toughest lifting of my life, in fact the downright scariest lifting of my life, took place yesterday.

The Call

I got a call from one of my best friends in the world, Tom, from where I used to work. “Hey would you be able to help John (another guy from work I am friends with) move something this afternoon?”

“Sure,” I said, “Just tell me where to be and I will be there.”

Now, ever since I was 12, I have been known as the tall guy
. I was almost as tall then (6 feet) as I am now (6’ 2”), so it wasn’t unheard of for a teacher to ask me reach something for her in a classroom or for an elderly person to tap me on the shoulder at a store, or even for my grandmother to call me to come to her house and grab something.

But now, as an adult
, since I worked at a company with a 1200-employee roster where I met about 3000 people from 2001 to 2010, and I was practically the only guy there that lifted weights seriously, I was also known as the strong guy. There haven’t been that many requests to help move stuff, but there have been a few. And if it is someone that is a genuine friend, I always go help them out as long as I am not sick, hurt, or out of town.

The Lathe

This Thing is a Lathe

So, around 4PM, I drove to the spot where I needed to be and found that the thing that needed to be moved was a 600-ln lathe. If you not familiar with what a lathe is, or does, then you are not alone, because I barely know either, but I do know two things about lathes:

1. Lathes are capable of extremely precise work, able to work within ranges of accuracy of like .000002 inches

2. Lathes are very heavy

I soon found out that this particular lathe, which the original owner used to craft replacement parts for guns, and that it was also upwards of 600-lbs. In fact, when it was first purchased by the original owner, the factory wouldn’t touch it. They had it strapped to a pallet, lifted it with a fork truck in order to load it into the owner’s truck and then they said they had no responsibility for it whatsoever.

I also learned that this lathe was extremely unbalanced. Talk about odd object lifting, 400 of the 600 pounds were on one side and then the rest of it was spread throughout the rest of the nearly 4-feet of length of this piece.

Also, I’d estimate the head of this lathe stood about 2.5 feet in the air, making it extremely top heavy.

I chatted with the original owner for the first few minutes and he told me some stories about being in Kuwait during the most recent gulf war and also time he spent in preparation for Desert Storm, although he never went over. His tale of a trip from one city in the Middle East to another city 8 hours away just to test fire some equipment in an area with enough sand dunes for a good backdrop in 150-degree plus heat seemed to be an eerie foreshadowing of what was about to come as we embarked upon our trip to relocate this immense lathe.

The Crew

Not sure how good at lifting lathes these guys are…?

After a couple of his stories, I heard some cars pull up and I saw the new owner, another man of about 50+ years old and two other men who I know are in their 40’s. The original owner would be of no assistance in the move, as he has a very banged up knee from his time fighting. Also, the girlfriend in the car ended up never even touching the lathe throughout the whole entire day.

I knew right away that this move was not going to be an easy one. I knew all three of these men very well, and none of them did any sort of regular exercise aside from their day-to-day jobs. In fact, I think all of them were full-time smokers putting away at least a pack a day.

Let’s just say it was clear without stating it that I would be carrying the heavy end of the lathe.

The Planning

We began assessing the weight, bulk, positioning and other factors about the lathe and how it would be best for us 4 guys to move this thing off a 4-foot work bench, 5-feet to the doorway and then another 4 feet to the truck. At the same time, the heavier end of the lathe had some sort of a gear box in it that wasn’t very sturdy, so it would not serve well as a spot to hold it.

Instead, the holding spots were four 4-inch handles that could be pulled out. Unfortunately, they were almost completely even with the bottom of the lathe, meaning we could not get our fingers under the handles unless we tipped the lathe up using a sturdy object like a board. Of course, every time we did that, the top-heavy 400-lb end of the lathe would try to completely turn over so we had to be very careful.

We got into position, holding what we could, and attempted a lift. With these three guys, it would have been impossible. We stopped the job and two of the guys went to get another guy, a friend of theirs from a nearby bar.

Fantastic. Another helper whose the better part of a 6-pack into a Thursday night bender. Awesome.

That took about 45-minutes, as I believe the two guys that went and picked up the 5th guy had a can of Old Milwaukee inside the bar, but they finally got back and I was relieved to see the 5th guy in the equation was about as big through the belly as he was tall.

Again we planned and postulated the best methods for moving the lathe. This time, we decided that instead of crushing our fingers with the lathe’s actual handles, we would use ratchet straps wrapped around our hands in sort of a human-link type of fashion to support the weight of the lathe.

This was my idea as I had seen some sort of professional movers’ commercial on the Yankees Sports Network utilizing straps, and it seemed to work very well as we were able to pick the 600-lb lathe up and move it the 5 feet toward the doorway.

The Wife-Beater

Unfortunately, once we got to the doorway, we were in trouble. The doorway was just a regular-sized doorway and there was no way for me, the lathe and the guy across from me to all fit through the door at the same time. As we all strained to support rh weight of the lathe, I tried to let the guy across from me go through the door first. To my dismay, not only did his shoulder or elbow knock a phone off the wall (and I am talking one of those out-dated phones with the obscenely short spiral cord on it) but he also got one of the little “spinny-turny” (sorry, I don’t know the terminology) handles of the lathe caught inside one of the shoulder straps of his wife beater. Yes, he and his brother both were wearing the plain-jane white wife-beaters like Eminem, and matching faded black stone-washed jeans. I am not creative enough to make this stuff up.


Incidentally, I think Eminem could out-lift all four of my partners, put together.

The Panic

So once this handle got stuck in this guy’s favorite wife beater, he started to panic, which in turn caused all the rest of us to panic, and before I knew it, the lathe was on the floor. I don’t know how it didn’t end up on someone’s foot or over on it’s side, but it was still in one piece, an unscathed lathe, if you will.

This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as now, we could do the unthinkable – push the lathe the rest of the way to and outside the door. In our rush and apparent Groupthink, we never even considered just lifting the table down carefully off the table and down to the floor in order to scoot it around. This was an important lesson that we built on later on this story though…

The Dog

Once we got outside, it was time for refreshments and recovery
. I was given a Pepsi, while the other gentlemen somehow managed to score more cans of crisp, clean, Old Milwaukee. We took a break and I watched the original owner of the lathe throwing this mangled dog toy out into the grass and then his dog, which I am told is a cross-breed between a one sort of nice, peaceful kind of dog and a Dingo.


If you don’t know what a Dingo is, they are these fierce, crazy pack-hunting dog-like creatures from the Australian outback which are famous for eating children. They get wild like an LSD Zombie. This dog would jet across the yard like a flash and would nearly catch the dog toy in the air, or sometimes on one bounce and I thought that it would probably be real tough to beat him in a game of Kickball 500, where you kick a ball back and forth to a guy and they have to catch it either in the air or after as few bounces as possible because they get fewer points after each bounce, and you go to 500. The original lathe owner told us that he was walking the dog one night around 10:30 PM and a pack of 6 coyotes came up along the trail and his dog, Mr. 500, killed 3 out of the 7 of them by gripping their bodies in his mouth and shaking them until their necks broke.

Would have been nice to have had
Dingo Warrior involved in this move…

After everyone finished their cold one, we tackled the lathe once again, utilizing the straps to the best of our ability. This time, the lift wasn’t nearly as hard, but somehow the original owner with the bad knee got involved and somehow crushed one of his fingers to a certain degree, but I am not sure how bad. We pushed the lathe further into the bed of the truck and they took one of our ratchet straps and harnessed it down.

The new owner drove very carefully with his new toy the entire 5 miles back to town where he lived. I am pretty sure I could have scored perfectly in the full first round of Angry Birds, playing one-handed during this drive, we were going so slow.

Then there were two surprises…

1. The two brothers, the girlfriend, and the guy from the bar all of a sudden took a mysterious detour. I was in the end of the caravan, and then they turned off the road and I was now driving behind the new owner. I followed him the rest of the way. He continued to drive very carefully throughout town, that is until he got to his driveway, at which point he decided to seemingly “floor it” and I saw the lathe wavering back and forth like a buoy out on the ocean.

2. Finally the two brothers with matching wife-beaters and faded black stone washed jeans came pulling in with a giant monster truck looking vehicle following them. To our surprise, they had enlisted the help from the brother of the 5th man in the equation, who had also been at the bar drinking as well. We were now 6 strong.

The Finish

The last part of the job would be to lift the lathe out of the truck and move it into the new owner’s machine shop, which was very dark and extremely hot.

The idea was to put this 2 by 6 board beneath the lathe and then carefully rock the lathe over the edge of the pick-up truck’s gate and then slide it down the floor. Good, efficient idea right?

Immediately upon trying this, the lathe started to slide all over the place and it nearly fell out of the truck.

So at this point, I am starting to get scared. Not only are these guys up in years, but they are also severely out of shape and now fatigued (not to mention some of them half drunk).

The Manager

When I was still at work at the company, I was in the Safety and Training field, so I had trained most of these guys on one or more occasions. I guess they felt used to listening to my guidance, because when my worry hit a climax I finally spoke up to them…

I said, “Wait guys. We need to make sure we’re doing the right thing here. That lathe almost fell off that board.”

We decided to get the 2 by 6 board out of the equation completely and we got extra straps, this time, legitimate 3-inch broad tow straps in order to lift it up from the bed of the truck, and then one of the women’s wives would pull the truck away and we would gently set it down.

Plus, at this point we had another extra guy added to the mix, the new lathe owner’s son-in-law, who thankfully had on what looked to be Spider Man sandals. We might not have noticed them, but thankfully the new lathe owner pointed them out to us under his breath, “Oh God, he’s got on sandals.”

The Work Bench

We were getting smarter with each step of the game and we were able to lower the lathe out of the truck very easily when the wife pulled the truck out from under it. Now it was a matter of pulling the lathe in through the door of the shop. I hooked the original ratchet strap under the heaviest part of the lathe and with both hands performed a partial deadlift and then scooted it backwards on top of the step-up leading into the building.

We then scooted it along the floor over to his work bench, when we got the final shock of the day…

There was no work bench.

Instead of a work bench, the new owner had a wobbly particle-board table. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It looked like it would snap if I leaned against it, let alone if we loaded it with a 600-lb lathe. The new owner assured us it would hold, as apparently he had been storing something else of a comparable weight on that very same table.

The Lift

In our final lift of the day, we hoisted the lathe up onto that table. During this maneuver, I was clenching the straps that were wrapped around my hands so hard that I popped seemingly every blood vessel in my left hand. The lathe also was sat upon the new owner’s leg for a short time before it made its way fully to the table. All 6 or 7 guys that helped on this lift (I had tunnel vision at this time, so I don’t really know who all pitched in) were huffing and puffing, thinking we were done.

The Handles

I say thinking because we had made one critical error in our planning process – the “spinny-turny” handles were positioned facing the wall, and the back of the lathe was facing out. We then had to turn this thing all the way around in order to get it facing out the right way.

At that point we were done with this insanity, and I made my way home to be with the family. While the temperature never hit 150-degrees and the trip didn’t take 8 hours down and back, it still seemed like a nearly endless affair.

The Reason

Earlier, I called this the Scariest Lifting Session of my life, or something like that, and the reason is because it was downright scary how out of shape these men were.

I found myself not only worrying about my lifting form and how to keep this monstrosity balanced so it didn’t clip off one of my fingers or jack my back, but I was also trying to best situation these guys based on their height and abilities so they didn’t get hurt as well. All of these guys have manual labor jobs they do, so through my head was running all of these thoughts like how I could make it easy on them as possible, but there was no EASY about this at all.

It made me glad to be in good enough shape to carry the brunt of the work through many of the efforts but at the same time, I was just in disbelief.

I never want to be in that position. I started lifting all those years ago so that I could be in shape all throughout life. So that I could be the grandfather that all the kids talk about as the strong grandpa.

I hope this is why you train as well. Sure numbers in competition are impressive.

Of course it’s good to look great in a swim suit…

The Health

But the most important thing is about being healthy. The strong, the size, and the power should all be the by-products or the coincidences of being healthy.

Keep that in mind DIESELS. I don’t want to sound like I am preaching, but my eyes were certainly opened up yesterday.

All the best in your training and health.


P.S. I am very thankful that we got the lathe to where it needed to be without any serious injuries and without damaging the equipment.

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One Response to “Why We Lift II”

  1. Rick Walker Says:

    Good stuff Jedd. Made me laugh out loud, especially since I could invision Motley Crew and you trying to move that lathe. Classic. Surprised being a baseball fan you didnt know what a lathe was…ask the guy who you helped to make you a baseball bat with it!

    Health is number 1. The rest is just by-product. If you cant run, jump, hit, roll, etc. then you are out of shape, no matter how much you can lift.

    Hope all is well big man-


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