A Samurai and his Sword

by

Jeff Miller

                  They say the soul of a samurai lies within his beautiful, deadly and honored sword.  John F. Murphy writes on HistoryNet.com “So vital to the samurai spirit was the genesis of such a magnificent weapon that Shinto priests would be called in to bless the beginning of the process and the swordsmith often underwent a spiritual purification before he began his work.”  So what does this have to do with powerlifting?   More importantly, what does this have to do with geared lifting?  A lifters gear, such as bench shirt, squat suit, and briefs all become more than a weapon to push weight in training or your upcoming meet.  To the very elite in the sport, their lifting “soul” lies within their gear.

          We have all been on websites like EBay, Powerliftingwatch, and the several groups on Facebook where lifters buy and sell their used supportive gear.  Sometimes it isn’t used.  One can often find listings for brand new equipment that “just didn’t fit the person lifting the item” and they weren’t able to return it to the company they bought it from.  Geared lifters are always looking for a great deal on an expensive piece of equipment.  Sometime the deal is even half off or more than the original price.  As long as the sport has had gear, people have been buying others used equipment in hopes of finding big numbers when they open a package delivered to their mailbox.  A word to the wise, if it sounds too good to be true.  It probably is.  In other words, what’s slightly used to someone selling doesn’t always match what’s slightly used to who is buying.  You don’t want to spend your hard earned money on equipment with less pop than bottle of flat soda.

          Many gyms with geared lifters will have all sorts of used equipment left or donated by someone back in the day that used to powerlift and now does CrossFit, Parkour, Hot Yoga or something along those lines.  They get a lifter in and say something along the lines of “Hey, I wonder what you could do in a shirt?”  Then they proceed to dig through storage bin after storage bin trying to match up said Raw lifter with something that will make them fall in love with equipped side of the iron game.  Often times though the gear is too much for such a novice lifter or just not a proper fit.  I would say that this category is how most athletes begin their transition to THE DARK SIDE.  While this is ok when learning what the gear is and how it works, most lifters will only go so far in hand me down equipment.

          This brings me to my point.  A samurai doesn’t just go to sword and pick out a blade from the clearance bin and start fighting wars.  His sword is made specifically for him.  The elite in geared lifting have gear that is made specifically for them.  Yes, it might start out a stock item but after using a time or two the real gamesmanship begins.  Before my wife Rae-Ann Miller became a sponsored Anderson athlete she wore hand me down equipment.  In 2014 she won best lifter at The Mr. Olympia Bench press competition wearing bench press legend Tom Schmidt’s old single ply Titan Katana that had more holes in it than Swiss cheese.  After we got home I had a conversation with Ken Anderson and he sent her a brand new Katana of her own.  When it arrived, then Tom started to explain the nuances of how to get the most out of your shirt.  From taking the arms in, tightening the chest panel, scooping the collar and all the little tricks that will literally add significant weight to your lifts.  He then explained that you always start out small in those alterations.  A half inch tightening of the arms on an already tight bench shirt can make a big difference.  Also if you go too much then you have a piece of equipment that is now too tight and rendered useless.  It might take sending that gear back multiple times to get it just right.  That is the process.  Your gear might fit great.  Then after box squatting for months to parallel or below you begin to notice your briefs don’t have the pop they used to.  So what do you do? You get it taken in a half inch or an inch in the hips.  Once again, that is the process. 

          Are there exceptions to the rule? Are there elite lifters who use hand me down equipment and make it work?  The answer is yes.  However, the real question is how much more weight would they lift if they had their own, custom fitted gear?  Is it costly to get brand new equipment?  Yes.  Are you going to have to find a good tailor who has machines capable of sewing through powerlifting gear? Yes.  (If you buy your equipment from Andersonpowerlifting.com they will tailor your equipment.  Fees on the website)  Can the process be a headache of trial and error?  Yes.  Is it all worth it to get the very most out of the gear you paid good money for?  Yes.  Is it all worth it to perform at your highest level at meets that you spend upwards of two hundred dollars to compete in? You’re damn right.  In the movie The Last Samurai Tom Cruise’s character Captain Algren is given his own sword by the Samurai crafted by the local swordsmith.  The inscription on it reads “I belong to the warrior, in old ways have joined the new.”  Be a warrior and arm yourself with weapons that will become part of you as you wage on the platform.  #ShakeTheGround

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