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By John Davies

For those familiar with the setting and the infamous “guerilla training series” this is a day that desperately needs to be re-told….and so the old adage of not judging a book by its cover…

A fter what some would consider further proof of my suicidal tendencies on the slopes practicing a stalefish grab with a selection of tenuous injuries, I grabbed a ridiculously good meal at a simple roadside diner and went to train at a local gym. A gym where I am best described as a “regular visitor” in that I seem to find my way there maybe once a month, and one that I am appreciative of the anonymity it provides me. Except for one local who knows me only as a snowboarder “bro,” it is a great place to get a workout in during those many hours I’m traveling.

With the Xvest™ and some new bands from Iron Woody Fitness I made my way in to the gym, paid the day fee and got to it. For those who are unaccustomed to my workout gear, it is…well non-existent: no belts, no wraps, no ridiculous gym shoes best left on a 1950s basketball court, no straps, no special lifting sweats with a tiger pattern – I train how I live and it just doesn’t make sense to train in something that you’d never wear outside the sterile gym walls. However, for many that isn’t the case and today…well, today in this little gym, an epic revival of the 80s unfurled.

Finding the power racks, I adjusted the pin height to just below where my parallel squat position would be, placed the bar on the racks and began loading it for an opening set of dead stop squats. A dead stop squat is a tremendous strength builder as it eliminates the SSC cycle from the lift by starting from the lowest part of the lift. The key to this lift is getting under the bar, having perfect torso angle and driving through the floor and up with your legs. One problem with the lift that many have is not setting up right and I’ve found with the Xvest™, alignment and more emphasis is on leg development because posture is improved. Of course coming out of “the basement” of the lift is quite hard and to add extra tension I added a few of the Iron Woody bands, thus adding to the overall resistance throughout the lift…but enough of the gym “housekeeping.”

And so with the bar loaded at 225lbs, and the Xvest™ on – I was ready for set 1. With some boy-band blaring, I wrapped my hands around the bar and began to dig in when I heard from across the gym, two guys yelling “who’s your daddy!?” Now, I’m known as, amongst other things, someone who believes in adding chaotic and random events to your training to stimulate real-world intensity but this…this is just too much. Teetering on the brink of falling over laughing I banged out the first set of three, got out of the racks, squinted across the room at what must have been a dream state. Permed mullets (famed “Zieringesque” 90210 mullet, I might add), harem pants and enormous weight belts. My first thought…ok these last 15 years really have been a bad dream but of course before I could throw on some Mudhoney, flannel and another coffee (wait, did I ever leave that era?), sanity prevailed.

Plowing through 4 triples of dead stop squats, I moved to a high box step up to further denote the legs. The high box step up is simply one of the best leg exercises pound for pound. It isolates the glute, hip, hamstrings when set up correctly but with a total elimination of injury factor and stress on the back because of heavy training load. Even a simple bodyweight squat at this exercise is tough much less with an Xvest™ on. To set up the exercise properly place a box such that when your lead leg is planted on the top of the box and your base foot is off its heels, the lead thigh is parallel to the ground. Squeeze the toes of the plant leg and drive upwards with the plant foot on the box. Finally after completing 4 triples of this movement and with the demonic “who’s your daddy” crew was tiring out, I headed on to assistance movements.

Nearly the completion of the session, they came over, commented on how good my session looked and wanted to give the Xvest™ a try. A bit of chit-chat and before you know it…Renegade converts. Now I don’t know if that means they’re going to get rid of the harem pants and roll in with cargos but you get the picture – we all can get along, different walks of life, enjoying just plain and simple hard work.

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