If you were to look at my last 15 years, you’d likely say, “Brian Walsh is a runner.” And that is true. I love running more than is probably good for a person. That said… I’ve put on a few pounds, and got sick of overuse injuries, and re-discovered CrossFit with my wife (Amanda Walsh) when we moved nearly next door to the gym in July 2020. Then I started to get strong…
Fast forward 2 years, and in October I got a relatively standard marketing email from Rogue about one of their challenges, though this one really piqued my interest… The 1000 lb club challenge. For some general context, this is a common aspirational goal for the combined total of the 3 powerlifting lifts: Bench Press, Back Squat, Deadlift.
For a while now I’ve been contemplating this task, and after pulling a 425 deadlift during my second strength cycle with Crossfit SoChac about 18 months ago I had an inkling I might be able to do it. Though, I would need to really work on my bench, and ensure I could get to proper depth on the squat.
To my delight, when Rogue posted the challenge, I figured I’d been through 18 more months of CrossFit and strength training, and had made significant progress on my bench and squat, so perhaps it was my time. Lacking complete confidence, I briefly floated the idea to a few of our coaches (Amanda and Josh), who were pretty stoked on the idea. So…. for $30 I signed up and decided to give it a burn.
Timing gets a little crunched around the holidays but I had until Dec 31 to complete the challenge. That said, I’d need access to a gym, and at least one spotter. Turns out that those lifts need to be HEAVY. While running one morning, I mentioned to Amanda that my folks would be in town Thanksgiving weekend, and it’d be pretty cool if they could see me make the attempt. She graciously offered her services (as a spotter and keys to the gym!) if I wanted to give it a shot.
At this point, all I needed to do was read the rules, and show up in good health. I’ve got this…
Well, it turns out the rules are a bit more challenging than expected. First, all 3 attempts must be done in under 1 hour. That hour also includes weighing the weights. (Quick aside, for those who doubt, all of the weights at SoChac are within ~0.25 lbs of what is listed… I weighed most of them myself for verification.) The attempts must also be completed in the order of Bench – Squat – Deadlift, which is not the order used in powerlifting competitions.
Saturday morning rolls around and after a brief conversation with Coach Amanda the night before, we’re ready to roll. We show up to the gym with a digital scale, and my whole family in tow (minus Mama (our dog)). My folks watch me start to warm up my bench press and stare in awe at the incredible fitness of our coaches as they’re doing a descending ladder of deadlifts and bar muscle ups. Eventually I warmed up to ~235 for bench, and figured my next go at 255 will be my opener for bench. Here’s where things start to get fun/hard/strange…
Enlisting the help of my wife, Amanda Walsh, and my folks, we bring out ~435 lbs of weights. The bar, 3 sets of 45s, a set of 25s, 3 sets of 10s, and a set of 5s. Now, each of these has to be weighed and initialed, on camera. Luckily, a number of our coaches were in the gym, and hopped in to help to make this process as fast as possible. After realizing our first digital scale was off, we were able to enlist the SoChac coach army to move weights to and from the scale so we could efficiently get them measured and I could get started.
Weighing the weights and initialing took much longer than anticipated, given we needed to have Amanda (Walsh) run back home to grab a different scale, so I had cooled down more than desired before my first attempt. Regardless, after 10 minutes of weighing weights (I want to reiterate, all our weights weigh what they say they do), I settle in for my first attempt at bench press. Coach Jen, despite lifting in her own preparation for competition, very graciously offered to spot me. While it wasn’t my best lift, I got 255 down and up without much issue. I was really pleased, as that was a 10 lb PR. That said, I knew that I had done all I could do, and we turned off the camera. Had I wanted to attempt it again, we would have needed to reweigh all the weights. So… That was NOT going to happen. At this point, the question became, “What’s 1000 – 255?” Ok, I just need to lift 745 between squat and dead. Well… My PR squat is 345 and my PR dead (from 18 months ago) is 425… I should be able to do this if my squat holds up.
I start warming up my squat and I’m taking the warmup fast… I’ve only got 47 minutes to warm up for and complete 1RM for both squat and deadlift. I spent some time discussing the best way to warm up for the squat with Coach Josh, who provided some pretty sage advice about the jumps I should be making. Josh and Heather then wished me well and left. After about 15 minutes I feel pretty warmed up and ready to take a crack at 355 (a 10 lb PR). I squat it and feel pretty good, but get some discerning glances from Coach Amanda and Coach Jen. Both were concerned about my depth, but felt I looked really strong. Jen encouraged me to add 10 extra pounds, but make sure I squat deeper. As always, I took her advice. For my 2nd attempt I squatted 365 (a 20 lb PR!). Now, all i have to do is deadlift 380 and I clear the mark!
We pull most of the weight off, and I ask Coach Jen and Coach Amanda what their warmup strategies for this lift would be, since I only have about 18 minutes left. This is where you really have to appreciate the wisdom and candor of our coaches, because the very abbreviated response was, “You’re warm. Just dial in your form a few reps.” So, I go through a few warmup sets… 135… 225… 315… and ask again, “Where do I go from here?”. Jen suggests a single rep at 335, 355, and then on to my attempts. Trusting her judgment, I run through those and load 385 up. I’ve got about 10 minutes left. Wife Amanda gets the camera rolling, and I easily lift my 385. That weight has never felt lighter. And with that, I made it. I was 5 lbs over the 1000 lb threshold. I set 2 PRs in the process, and was shocked by how easy it felt having my family and friends (coaches) around to help, and guide.
Then… I did the dumb thing. I really wanted 405, perhaps more. So, with 8 minutes left, I get into position, breathe and brace, and pull that 405. It goes up relatively easily, but I felt my right SI joint grind a bit on the way up. I control it down and get a good rep out of it, but know that I’m done for the day. Not a bad day though, 1025 lbs… I did it. I haven’t felt that sense of accomplishment, and the prompt anticlimactic drop, since I was running ultras relatively competitively… It felt good to do something really hard.
Thank you to all of the coaches, but especially Amanda and Jen for being there through the whole thing, and especially the moment to moment coaching during the 2nd two lifts. Thank you Josh for letting me bounce the squat warmups off of you, and Heather for jumping in to help with weighing all of those f****ing weights. A huge thank you to my wife Amanda as well for videotaping everything, and my folks for cheering, keeping me distracted, and helping us bring out and put away all the weights.
I absolutely love what Crossfit SoChac comes together to do with, and for, its members. Y’all encourage, and help, us to be awesome, and do awesome stuff. I’m so glad we are a part of it.