Steak and Eggs and Fives

by Jim Steel | November 01, 2023

small steak with two eggs on a small plate

Bobby’s deadlift had been stuck at 405 pounds for 2 months and he was frustrated. He had just finished a training session where he went for his maximum lift again, trying again the 410 pounds that had eluded him for weeks.

He missed the lift and yelled out in frustration. “I can’t believe I missed it again!” The 16-year-old was angry and everyone in the gym knew it.

His Uncle Randy, who had at one time deadlifted 750 pounds, was across the gym performing bent-over rows. He heard Bobby yell and walked over to where Bobby was training. Randy was 54 years old now, and his days of deadlifting over 700 were behind him, but he was known as the most knowledgeable guy around when it came to pulling heavy weights.

“What’s wrong, Bobby?” Randy asked, “missed your max again?”

“Yessir,” Bobby answered.

“I told you that you can’t max every week,” Randy said, “When was the last time you maxed?”

Bobby put his head down. “Last week.”

Randy sighed loudly, “So now we're at the point where you are approaching being uncoachable. I tell you what to do, and you won’t listen. That makes me wonder if you really want your max to go up!”

“Sir?” Bobby asked, trying to understand what his Uncle meant.

Randy said, “I mean, I teach you and teach you, but you don’t listen, and you are actually getting weaker. How does that feel?”

“Not good,” Bobby said in a quiet voice.

“What’s that?” Randy asked.

“Not good,” Bobby answered, louder this time. Randy had heard his nephew the first time, but just wanted to make him say it again.

“Right. So you have to ask yourself why you're going against what your uncle says, when he deadlifted over 750 pounds and has trained hundreds of lifters, and you haven’t even broken 450? Do you think that you know more than I do?” Randy asked.

“No, not at all,” Bobby answered.

“Then why are you doing your own thing?” Randy asked.

“I just figured the more that I do it, the stronger that I will get. I can see now that’s wrong.”

“Damn right it’s wrong,” Randy said. “Do you listen to your football coaches, or do your own thing on the field because you ‘figured’?”

Now Bobby felt silly and suddenly felt very small. “I understand, but there's just a lot of information out there and I got confused.”

“Oh, I get it. With YouTube, Instagram, and Tock Tik out there spewing all kinds of different info about programming and training, I’d be confused, too,” Randy said.

“TikTok,” Bobby corrected his uncle.

“What’s that?” Randy asked.

“Nothing”, Bobby said.

Randy continued, “Look, Bobby. Stay away from that stuff. Most of the time, they are trying to sell you something. Most of them have never done anything in a meet or even in the gym that even approaches being really strong.”

“But some of those guys on there are shredded,” Bobby said. Randy looked at him with a frown, and Bobby immediately regretted his comment.

“Oh, shredded!” Randy said, “Now that's important.”

“I just mean that they look good,” Bobby said, “They are all ripped up.”

“If you are all ripped up at 275 pounds and pulling 800, you have my respect. Just how big are these guys that you follow?” Randy asked.

“I don't know, I think the one guy is 5'10”, 175, something like that,” Bobby said.

Randy feigned a heart attack, holding his hand on his chest. “Well, I can see why you listen to him. Let me see him,” Randy said.

Bobby reached in his gym bag and took out his phone. He pulled up a video on YouTube that showed a teenager preening in the mirror, then walking over to a bar with 315 pounds on it. He pulled the weight, rounding his low back and with legs quivering, for a hard set of 5.

“That's the guy you are following and listening to?” Randy asked.

“Yessir. I bought one of his training programs that he sells also,” Bobby added.

Randy said, “Okay, I see that this has gone too far. I wrote a program for you and you went with Mr. Spindly Universe. I can't even get mad at you, I’m just gonna chalk it up to youthful stupidity, or rather enthusiasm. You just need some re-education.”

“I have a few more sets left,” Randy said, “then we can really talk.”

Randy finished his bent-over rows and then did a few sets of chin ups. He toweled off his face and walked over to Bobby who was sitting in a chair by the front door, sipping a protein shake.

“Come on, let's walk to the diner and get us some steak and eggs.” Randy said.

When they arrived at the diner, Randy ordered them both steak and eggs, rare, with 3 over-easy eggs and hash browns, with coffee for himself and milk for Bobby.

The server brought over the coffee and water right away. Randy took a sip and began talking to Bobby.

“First off, I appreciate your enthusiasm. And I have a confession to make. When I first started lifting weights, I followed the program that the football coach gave me and I would train with the team in the morning, but I used to go lift extra in my basement or at the YMCA in the evening. And just like you, I got frustrated as heck when I got weaker and smaller. I maxed all the time and couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. Just like you, I thought that the more I did, the stronger I would get. It took me a while to realize that what I was doing was all wrong.”

Bobby asked, “When did you realize it?”

“It was the summer before my junior year in high school. My buddy Carlo was a rising senior on the football team. He did exactly what the program called for: Squats, bench press, press, cleans and deadlifts. He wasn’t much on assistance work. I think I saw him do a curl once. After the training was done, he’d go home, eat pasta, steak and drink milk. Then he’d take a nap, wake up and repeat the meal that he had eaten before. Then he’d go out and do some sprints. He worked a few hours in the evening at his father’s gas station, and when he was done with work, he’d go home and eat some more good food. I was lifting twice a day and eating tuna from the can because I read in Muscle and Fitness magazine that Arnold did that.”

“At first, I thought that Carlo didn't work hard enough, but then when I saw how big and strong he was getting, I began to ask him about what he was doing differently. When he told me, I began to train and eat like he did, and I grew like a weed and got very strong, quickly. I watched him train. I was always go, go, go, between sets. Carlo took his time, made sure that he was fully recovered and then did his next set. It was tough for me to just sit there for a few minutes, but the gains came so fast doing it that way that I just forced myself to rest more, and it worked.”

“How often did you lift once you made the switch?” Bobby asked

“Three days a week. That's really all that you need. Four days, maybe, as you advance, but usually three is enough. And you can't max out all the time, either. Your program calls for some heavy lifting and it's leading you up to a max lift at the end of the summer. If you max all the time, you will regress. You need to do sets of 5 in the bench, press, squat, and deadlift, and do your sets of 1-3 reps in the clean for a foundation. Make progress in small jumps and rest a bunch between sets. Never miss a rep in training. And eat like Carlo. It’s pretty much foolproof if you follow it to the letter.”

The server brought their food over and they ate heartily. Between bites of steak, Bobby asked, “So should I start the program tomorrow?

“Nope,” Randy answered. “It's Wednesday, right? Take the rest of the week off and just eat and rest. Recover from all the pounding that you have been subjecting yourself to. Then on Monday, you start. Do exactly what the program calls for and eat your ass off. Do your sprints for football but when you aren't training, rest, stay calm. You have what, 8 weeks until max testing for football?”

“Yes, exactly 8 weeks from next Monday.” Bobby answered.

“Good,” Randy said. “You'll see. Follow the program and you'll make crazy progress.”

“I’m ready,” Bobby said

After a month of following the program that his uncle laid out, Bobby called Randy one night and asked if he would come to the gym the next morning to watch him deadlift, to check out his form.

Randy walked into the gym the next day and Bobby was already on the platform, warming up for his deadlift. He had finished his squats and bench presses for the day. Randy watched as Bobby worked through his warm up sets of 225, 275, 315 and 375 pounds, all for 5 reps. He then loaded 415 pounds onto the bar. “Are you maxing again?” Randy asked. “Haven't you learned anything?”

“I'm not maxing,” Bobby said, “415 is my work set of 5 today.” Randy nodded his head and watched Bobby approach the bar. His first 3 reps were hard , but the bar moved fast. He struggled some on his last 2 reps, but he completed them, with maybe one rep left in the tank. Bobby took off his belt and smiled at his uncle.

“What do you think?” Bobby asked

“I think that you've gotten much stronger,” Randy said. “That's super. I guess that you're a believer in the program now, huh?”

“I am, and I'm sorry that I didn't listen before. I would have been much further along by now.” Bobby said.

Randy said, “That's okay, and no need to be sorry. You had to go through all of those mistakes to realize how and why to do it right. And now that you know, what do you say?”

“I say that I'll never make those mistakes again. I like my progress too much.” Bobby answered.

“Good,” Randy smiled. “Keep it up and you will reach all of your goals. Now let’s go get some steak and eggs. You’ve earned it.”

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