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The Squat Competition
|It had been a while since any of us had been close enough in strength to make a lifting competition fun. At first Mike had been the one to beat and then for a while, he and Justin battled for who was strongest. That didn't last long as Justin blew by both of us in a huge growth spurt. I'd finally gotten the point where my body was ready to do some growing of its own, and with Justin's help I'd packed on more muscle than I thought I'd ever have. We decided that we would do just bench and squat. We figured that we'd be tired enough after that.
The bench contest would most likely go to Justin. I knew he still was stronger, and competition always brought out a little extra in him. The real question was squats. Was I going to be able to be able to keep up with superboy Justin when it came to legs? We decided to start with squats since we were all eager to see how the competition would come out. We started at 225 and worked our way up. Mike, Justin and I each managed the weight without straining and so up to 275 we went.
One of the trickiest things about squat competitions is making sure that everyone goes down all the way to do a full squat. Justin and I were close in height and Mike was only about an inch and half taller, so we agreed that everyone would have to touch their butt to the seat of the bench before coming back up in order for a lift to count. We used two spotters working from the side so that we could both spot adequately as well as see that the squatter had gone deep enough.
While the competition was serious enough, we allowed ourselves more than enough leeway for some mind games. Mike was the first to try each weight. He got under the bar and took his grip. Mike never worse spandex shorts, but he had them on today for our little contest. Justin decided that it was time for mind play with Mike. "Hey Eric, I can see why you like my brother! Look at his ass in those tight shorts! I'd almost say it was smoochie!" Mike turned just enough to look at Justin and as he did, Mike and I said "smoochie?" in unison. "Yeah, smoochie, like you'd just love to kiss it."
Mike shook his head and lifted the bar off the rack. He went down and slow, touched the bench and then came back up even more slowly. He made a good lift, but we could see that he had strained to do it. He re-racked the weight and now it was my turn. Just before I got under the bar, I turned to Justin and asked, "Well? Do I look smoochie?" "Nope" was his one word reply. Then as I got under the bar he continued, "Boy Eric, you really rest that bar low on your back, don't ever worry that it'll fall off?" I thought to myself 'that was weak, Justin. You can do better than that!" I lifted the bar, went down, touched the bench and back up. No problem.
Now it was Justin's turn. Since he'd started the mind games, Mike and I were more than happy to join in. "Hey Justin? Do breathe in or out when go down?" Mike asked. I asked, "Um, Justin? You want a five pounder under your heels? Those new shoes look like they slope the wrong way." OK, mine was weak too, but I knew he wasn't going to have trouble here. Justin didn't say a thing; he just lifted the bar, went down, touched and came back up. He racked the weight and as he did said, "Shoes are fine and I exhale. Thanks for asking." On to 315.
This would be a tougher one for Mike. He'd done it a few times before, but it was closer to his limit. Mike went to grip the bar, and to my surprise Justin was silent. It was my turn, I figured. "Hey Mikey, you need a towel to dry your hands? Looks like you're starting to sweat." He gave me a look that said, 'well, yeah I probably could use one.' Then he lifted the bar. He took a second to balance himself and then slowly went down to touch the bench. He touched the bench rather hard and slowly started to come up. As he did, Justin shrieked, "Oh my god! You killed smoochie!" Mike totally lost his concentration and sat back down on the bench. Justin and I saw it coming and grabbed the bar before his butt hit the bench. We all broke out laughing as Mike shook his head and looked up at Justin. "You little asshole, I can't believe I didn't see that coming!" Mike was laughing and smiling as he said it. Justin waved a little beauty queen wave at him saying, "Buh bye Mikey."
While it was all very funny, I started to worry about what Justin had in mind for me. As I got under the bar, Mike handed me a towel. "Looks like you're the one sweating now, bro." I laughed and told him it was a nice try, but I also took the towel and dried off my hands. They actually were a little wet. I got under the bar and started my lift. Justin didn't say a thing. I went down, touched and came back up. No problem! Even though Justin hadn't said a thing, he'd managed to mess with my concentration. I worried about what he was going to say during my entire lift. Now I was wondering if he was really smart enough to know that messing up Mike and then not saying a thing to me would be the best way to mess with me too. I was clearly thinking too hard.
It was Justin's turn. Mike started first. "Hey Justin, I read that you're supposed to concentrate on a mental image of your hamstrings when you do heavy squats. Do you do that?" He was smiling at me as he said it.
"No, no way Mikey," I said, "you're supposed to concentrate on your quads, I read that in an article by Paul DeMayo."
"No, now that I think about it, it was glutes."
"Mike, are you sure it wasn't breathing?"
"I'm sure it wasn't that, maybe you're supposed to stare at the ceiling."
"Well, I'm sure Justin will tell us right after he make this lift."
As we were badgering him, Justin had lifted the weight off the bar and was ready to go. Down he went, he touched and up he came. He racked the weight and turned around grinning at us. "I just visualize the sorry look on your faces when you get beat badly by a 13 year old." Ouch!
My turn. We went up to 365. They tried similar stuff on me again. They offered me water and towels. Justin offered to get me a pair of gloves for sweat-soaked hands. On and on they went. I knew I could do this; I just had to put those two out of my mind. I cleared my head as best I could and took the weight off the rack. It actually didn't feel that heavy. I went down and came back up. I surprised myself by doing it fairly easily.
Justin took his turn, and despite our badgering he lifted the weight cleanly. I decided to give him just a little more crap. "Hey Mikey, did you see his butt touch the bench?"
"Now that you mention it, Eric - no I don't think I did." Our timing was good and for a split second, Justin started to protest. "What are you two talking about? That was a perfect lift!" He'd started talking before he even looked at as, and as he did, he could clearly see that we were laughing at him. We'd managed to break his iron concentration, Mike and I were totally pleased with ourselves. On to 385.
We were getting more serious now; Justin and I had each done 365 before. Justin even told Derrick Thompson that he regularly squatted 365 - that, however, had been a little lie. We'd only done it recently and 385 was new territory. Rather than teasing each other, we were quietly supporting each other. I went first and managed to do it cleanly. Mike was really happy for me, but Justin was in total concentration. I did my best to encourage him: "Come on bro, be strong! This is for you." He didn't say a word; he just lifted the weight off the rack and started his lift. He was clearly struggling to give it all he had, but he definitely did it. Now it was on to 405.
Mike changed the weights and Justin and I just stood next to each other as he did. Mike finished putting the collars on and silently turned and looked at us. Justin walked behind me and grabbed both of my traps saying; "I know it looks huge, but you can do this, bro. If any of us can, you can." It did look huge. Those four plates on each side of the bar looked monstrous to me - like it would be impossible to lift. No one said anything. Justin and Mike were now standing on either side waiting to spot.
I went under the bar and lifted it. Maybe it was my imagination, but I swear I could feel the bar bending across my back as I lifted it. I closed my eyes for a second as I took a deep breath. I let it out and down I went. I felt my butt touch the bench and I started heading back up. I felt like my knee caps were going to pop off as I lifted the weight. I could feel my left side starting to slightly lag behind my right. I put everything I had into straightening out the bar and continuing up. I heard some unexplainable sound of exertion escape my mouth and then as suddenly as my lift started, it was over. I'd done it! I couldn't believe it, I had just squatted 405 lbs. At the beginning of the summer I never would have guessed that I would be lifting weights like that, but I was. Mike and Justin guided the bar back to the rack.
I put it down and turned and jumped into Mike's arms. He caught me and gave me a huge kiss. He was just as proud as I was. To my surprise, I felt Justin grab us from behind. He was congratulating me too. I knew he'd be happy for me, but I thought he'd be in one of his Justin concentration trances. There was a little bit of me that really wanted him to miss this weight because I knew there was no way I could move up any higher. But honestly, for the most part, I wanted to see him do this too. I knew I loved him like a brother and I wanted to see him to succeed just as badly as I wanted success for myself.
We all quickly became silent again. Mike and I turned to Justin and we both pulled him to us. "You're turn, bro." Mike said. "Make me proud, Justin." I told him looking him straight in the eye. He pushed away from us and stood in front of the weight. He looked at it for what seemed like 30 seconds. I got under the bar and started to get his grip. Suddenly he stopped and backed away from the bar. He walked over to me and hugged me again. "You win on squats, bro. I know I can't do that." Talk about mixed emotions. I was still flying from my own achievement, but I didn't want to win by having him just concede victory. He pushed me away and started laughing, "Besides, I need to save my energy for the bench contest!"
I had to hand it to him, when it came to competition, he was good. He knew his limits and rather than exhaust himself even more, he decided save his strength for the second half of our competition.
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