NAGS Grip Sport Championship 2013
North American Grip Sport Championship 2013
This past weekend was the 2013 North American Grip Sport Championship. This is the annual championship contest, the SuperBowl, World Series and Sweet 16 all rolled into one day of Grip Sport Mayhem.
The contest was held this year at Andrew Durniat’s Gym, Durniat Strength and Optimal Performance, in Wooster, Ohio. In order to compete, athletes had to qualify through one of many means, including rankings from previous competitions during the season, as well as video submissions of certain feats of Grip Strength.
Before I get into the contest itself, I want to give some shout-outs to people who have been incredibly important to me in my training since Nationals 2012. You see, the Nationals 2012 competition was an all-time low for me. I really struggled, finishing poorly, and feeling totally disappointed in how I finished.
Luckily, I did not let that stop me, as I was able to turn it all around, but not without a lot of help.
I want to recognize the people who have helped me along the way over the past year.
As so often things do, my turn-around started when I hit bottom. In early August, one thing was happening after the other and before I knew it, I found myself extremely depressed. It was my two friends, Mike Rinderle and Rick Walker that got me back on track. These guys are two fellas that I consider friends for life for all they have done for me. We basically had a group counseling session via text messages that day and it ended up making a difference in my life that carried me through the next several months. That may have seemed like just another texting conversation to those guys, but it wasn’t. I know there are plenty of people with worse problems than I have, but that was seriously a bad day for me, and Mike and Rick pulled me out of a deep, dark hole with a big long rope and I won’t forget it.
Big Dude in the Red is Niko Hulslander
The next person I want to give a shout to is Niko Hulslander of Garage Ink. Niko is a renowned powerlifter and an amazing coach, and he turned out to be the trigger that finally got me going on the right track with some serious progress. I told him about how bad my body was hurting, how weak I was feeling, and how un-confident I was feeling and he took me under his wing and really got me going in the right direction. Week in and week out, I shot video of my training and he coached me, primarily on my Deadlift form, and this coaching helped me get back to a 500-lb Double Overhand Deadlift. I have told him a few times how grateful I was, but it has been a while, and I hope he knows just how important of a role he played for me in the last year.
The next person I’d like to mention is Paul Knight. Many of you who follow Grip know that name, but some may not. Paul is one of the world’s BEST gripper closers, having certified on the IronMind #3.5 and the Mash Monster Level 6. If you don’t know what these are, they are serious grippers and world-class accomplishments. Paul coached me for several months last year on Grippers, which helped a great deal, but more than that he got me thinking about Gripper training in a whole new way, something that has helped me out immeasurably. It was like my brain was chained in the corner of a dark room, but with his guidance and inspiration, I was able to finally make some improvements on my gripper training.
The next person I must thank is Mark Gannon. Mark has been a personal training client of mine since May of 2011, but in the Fall of 2012, he and I began hitting a weekly session together. It had been YEARS since I had a steady training partner, and working out with him, even though it was early in the morning and I am NOT a morning person, kicked me and my lifting into another level. Mark has never questioned a single thing I have had him do and he has been an INTENSE lifter ever since he came into the fold, and that did not stop when we started working out together either. He never has shied away from Log Lifts, Squats, Deadlifts or anything. He and I still train together once a week and each workout seems to somehow top the last one we did. Our favorite combination has become Back and Triceps. As I’ve mentioned before, this combination is KILLER, and I strongly suggest you try it. Although Mark does not train Grip with me, the momentum I get with him in the mornings often carries forward into the Grip workout I have later that night, or on the weekend, as he and I often hook up on Friday mornings.
During this time, while I was feeling like an absolute MONSTER in my full body training, my Grip lifts started to decline for some reason. It had gotten to the point that any lifts where I had to bend over were crumbling, and my numbers resembled more of a newcomer to grip than a seasoned veteran. I reached a point where I could no longer perform a full lift with the 50-lb Blob, something that just a few months prior I was snatching overhead in one movement. Something was seriously wrong, so I ended up seeing a doctor and getting some tests, and I learned that I had developed Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
I began attending therapy sessions here in Wyalusing, PA at ProCare in December and continued until February. I did not lift at all from something like December 6th through the end of the month. I was going to go to the Gripmas Contest in December without training the last couple of weeks prior to it, but another injury to my forearm flexors kept me from going. I couldn’t even straighten my arm as I watched highlights of the contest and Kody Burns breaking my mark on the Two Hands Pinch. After 6 solid weeks of no training, I finally began to hit 30% weights in January and returned to full lifting in February. The very first day I was back, I was able to pick up the 50-lb Fatman Blob, the hardest I Blob I have in my collection, and hold it while I hit the speed bag. I owe a great deal of thanks to the skilled therapists at ProCare for helping me come back.
In the still shot, seated, to the right, is Maryanne McKeague
The value she provides at contests by judging, loading, and recording is immeasurable!
Thank you for all you do, Maryanne!
Right around this time in early February, to my surprise, I found out that one of the best steel benders in the world, JT Straussner was living in the area, working in the Natural Gas industry. The truth is, he had been here for 4 months already and did not realize he was only 40 minutes away. He contacted me through Facebook and the next day he was here training. With JT here, I now have the closest thing to a full-time partner for Grip Training that I have ever had. When he isn’t here, we are texting back and forth about training ideas, analyzing lifts, and coming up with new schemes about how to get one more pound on a lift, shut a gripper down a hair further, or hold onto something for just a split second longer. I can’t say enough about how much he’s helped me, and we are already working on a plan for the next several weeks of training.
Finally, I must give recognition to Robby Sparango. I have been coaching him on-line throughout much of 2013 and despite the fact that we have never been in the same State together, his energy, will to learn and desire to improve has been inspiring. I feed off other people’s energy and Robby has that in spades. This guy is going to be great!
To each of these people, as well as every single person who has sent me messages, emails, youtube comments, etc., I owe a huge THANKS. Believe me, I am just like everybody else and have bad workouts, bad moments, and I get frustrated just as much as you all do, so when I get a note from you, it makes a difference. I am extremely lucky to have so many people who support me, so thank you to you all.
Now, after all that, here’s the run-down on the NAGS Championship 2013
Event 1: Grippers
The first event was Grippers. In 2010 and 2011, I closed a 182-rated #3.5, but in 2012, I couldn’t even come close. As I look back, with as poorly as I did at NAGS 2012, that was probably right around where my Thoracic Outlet Syndrome either started or where it reached the point of volatility where it began pulling my numbers down. I don’t recall what I got last year, but it might have been in the 170’s. This year, I closed a 182.1 gripper on my first attempt, and then a 185-rated gripper on my second. I tried a 187 on my third attempt, but it was quite a ways from closing, so I waived my 3rd attempt.
I did not get the 182.1 close on film, but I got the 185 and it is posted below.
The 185 was an outlier gripper. What I mean is it rates 185 on the device time and time again, but when squeezing it, it feels less. I should have gone for it immediately on my first left-handed attempt, but did not do so until my 2nd or 3rd attempt. It’s funny how memory clouds up after less than a week, even after such an important event. I was close to closing it with my left hand, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, so I had to settle for a 150 or so close with my left hand.
Event 2: Two Hands Pinch
The second event was the Two Hands Pinch. As I stated before, Kody Burns exceeded my mark of 268lbs in December, moving it to 270 plus change, and this would be the first time he and I would compete against one another since doing so, so it added a bit of drama to the event.
I struggled to lift 255 last year at Nationals, missing on it 3 times before finally lifting it on the 4th. With such a close call last year, this year, I decided to play it safe and started much lower. I remember my first pull came up extremely easy, pulling it well beyond the stick and setting it down under control. Although we were lifting on two separate implements, Kody and I ended up hitting our attempts at the same time and we switched back and forth for each one to go. I thought that was cool, although I have heard feedback since that it drug on too long. Oh well.
Kody had hit something around 245, so I went on to 253. I missed it on the first attempt, but I shouldn’t have. I noticed the spacers had partially popped up out of the steel frame prior to lifting, and I should have asked for it to be re-adjusted, but instead I just lifted. The result was the implement only came up off the ground a few inches. This REALLY pissed me off, because I knew I had the strength to pull it plus some more on that day.
I came back and hit 253 clean while Kody couldn’t quite get 262 to cooperate, so I won the Pinch event with my pull of 253.
By this point, I knew I was in good standing in the overall and was probably either 2nd or 3rd. We were now going into the Axle Deadlift.
Event 3: Axle Deadlift
Thick Bar has always been a struggle for me, despite my willingness to train it hard. In actuality, I trained Axle much harder the last two months than I did the Two Hands Pinch. I am not sure if that helped me as much as I would have liked…
Again, I started out light here, because last year I totally BOMBED on all my lifts. This year, being more careful, I got two successful lifts at around 355 and 365, then missed 375 during my final two events. I was really trying to focus in and squeeze as hard as I could, and while on the second attempt I think I actually pulled it higher, it was still nowhere near lockout.
Going into the 4th event, the Medley, I was now in 3rd place, trailing Andrew Durniat by who knows how much and behind Brad Ardrey by 7/100’s of a point – CRAZY.
Event 4: Medley
This year, I attacked the Medley. Strike that. JT and I attacked the Medley. We had a list of the challenges and analyzed it both during each workout and while we drove to the contest. We had gone over everything so many times, that it was like we practiced on the actual implements that were in the Medley, we were so confident. While Andrew again won the event with an awesome 51 points, I came in second with 45 and Brad Ardrey got 44. Now, I had pulled slightly ahead of Brad in the overall standings, so I knew I had to take it to the next level mentally on the final event, the Wrist Roller.
Big thanks to Brandon Gerber for filming and providing commentary
Event 5: Wrist Roller
I have done the Wrist Roller in several contests over the years, but this would be the first time on this type of design. The wrist roller had a cable attached to it and on the other end of the cable was a big, long lever arm. Attached to the lever arm was a GIANT MASS CHAINS that looked like the tangled mess of Christmas Lights that Chevy Chase pulls out of the box in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. However, despite the scariness of that knot, I had no fear going into the event. I had trained it so hard, I knew going in I would feel no fatigue, no burning, or discomfort as I powered through it.
The way the event was timed, was like this. The cable had a piece of tape wrapped around it, and once that tape hit the spool between the hands, time was up. When it was my turn to hit the Wrist Roller, the leading time was something like 8.02 seconds, set by Brandon Gerber. JT came very close to that mark, although I don’t recall what he actually hit on it. I was the first to go sub-8 seconds, hitting 7.98 seconds on my turn. I thought I was good to go, but Brad Ardrey finished just behind me with 7.96 seconds. Unfortunately, Andrew was on his game this day, as he vanquished both our marks with a time closer to 7.5 seconds than 8.
In the end, Andrew had come out in the Top spot in the overall category. I came in at the top spot in the 120-kilo class and finished 2nd behind Andrew in the Overall, and just ahead of Brad. The separation between us had to be less than 1/2 a point.
The 2013 National Championship was a good day for me. I can not say I am perfectly content with all my performances, but I am happy to have finished how I did.
Once again, I thank everyone who supported me over the last year. It means so much.
Finally, I want to send a shout-out to Dan Huff, Joe Carabase and Corey MacGregor, three guys I am in a business team with. These gentlemen have helped me out tremendously with my diet. I was actually down nearly 25 pounds for the 2013 comp, weighing under 255-lbs, compared to the portly 279 of a year ago. I feel so much better that is hard to described, but I wouldn’t have been there without those 3.
In closing, I just want to say that anybody reading this is just as capable of attaining this level of performance as I am. You just have to believe it and take the good information that is available and put it into action.
All the best in your training, and I hope to see you at a future competition, some time soon.
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