Written by Greg Panora
I believe we are in total control of how strong we become.
It is a mind game that you’re either going to win or lose.
A few months ago, I had a friend say, “We aren’t trying to be world record-holders.” My answer back: “I promise you never will be.” That is a guy who lost the game. The biggest mistake I see with lifters is subconsciously setting sights way too low.
When I started out in this game, I was an awkward, skinny fat kid without great genetics. I benched 405 at 16 years old and squatted 500 right around then. I did something a little bit different than most kids when I started. Instead of looking at the 240lb senior with the 275 bench press, I looked at Ed Coan to define where I was headed. This was not because I was a sports psychology genius; it was because I was too dumb to realize I couldn’t get there.
In every gym, you are going to have the huge, strong guys. There are usually three or so guys with similar numbers. They establish what strength is in the area and you hear people say: “See that guy with that sick string tank and gold chain? That’s Big Mike. He benches 350! I can’t imagine being that strong.”
Guess what? You won’t ever be that strong. You folded, playa, go sit down. We all have that ceiling that we put on ourselves that determines how far we will go. This is called the power of expectation. It’s basically a predetermined limit we put on ourselves in every aspect of life. Without sounding all Tony Robbins, you have the power to determine how far you will go in powerlifting.
I like to use my friend Carlos Reed as an example. Carlos showed up a little over a year ago and wanted to learn to bench. He had never lifted and had no real concept of what strong was. In other words, Carlos came in without a ceiling and had nothing holding him back. A 275 bench is considered a strong bench at the CrossFit I coach at, yet he is nearing the 350 range. I never hear him say “I can’t,” and he trusts himself unequivocally, which brings constant gains.
How does one learn to do this? I knew early on in my career that I had to build a higher ceiling to move forward. I had competed for about six years and had nowhere left to go competing in Maine. I was a geared lifter, so I went to the geared lifting capital of Columbus, Ohio. I was now in a place where 1,000lb squats were semi-common, and my ceiling got higher. If you surround yourself with greatness, some of it rubs off. I benched with Brandon Lilly a couple of months ago, and my bench hasn’t stopped moving up. I hit a 540 in competition simply because of one training session in which I trained with someone stronger. My advice for beginners is simple: Set a goal to be the best you can be, ditch the people who are holding you back, and find strong people who are better than you. Never ever say “I can’t” or assume you will miss a weight. Build your ceiling to the moon and train your ass off!
Greg Panora is a certified legend in the sport of Powerlifting. The former World Record Holder (and current American Record Holder) with a 2630 total (Multiply) in the 242 weight class, Panora now has his sights set on breaking the 242 raw total world record and is off to a strong start already having recorded a 500 raw bench and 750 raw deadlift. Greg coaches powerlifting at Crossfit Casco Bay in Portland, Maine.