The Quest350 Story
December 28, 2013
It is time to reveal Quest350!
The story begins in 2009 just before my 50th birthday. (For more background, read Mark's Story) I had gotten serious about lifting again and was making good gains. Both my strength and size were improving. I knew that my half century mark was just around the corner and I decided that I wanted to achieve a life long dream before hitting this milestone. I am a person who believes that you can achieve whatever you want to achieve if you truly believe that you will succeed and you put your heart and soul into the endeavor. I wanted to be able to bench press 300 pounds before my 50th birthday!
I had never benched 300 pounds before. In college, weighing in at 185 pounds, the most I had ever benched was 283 pounds. And now, in January of 2009, I was able to bench 275. I needed to add another 25 pounds to my bench before the middle of May! I put together a program that would allow me to hit my target date along as everything went well. Within three weeks, I lifted my lifetime max, pushing up 285 pounds. I was ecstatic to do this but I didn't want to lose my focus for the bigger goal. Some of the guys in the gym were asking me about my program and why I was doing it. After explaining, I got a lot of discouraging words from them, mostly about the fact that I was too old and that I couldn't make gains at this age. This just fueled my desire even more!
I began to develop pain in both of my shoulders. Pressing the heavier weights aggravated them and I had to adjust my plan of attack a bit. But I kept moving forward. By May 1, I was pushing 295. I had twelve more days to go. I didn't quit reach my goal on my birthday, but one week later, I benched 300 pounds for the very first time in my life! It was awesome! I jumped up off of the bench and was congratulated by some of my friends (even the ones shaking their heads in disbelief) and immediately I said, "Now it's time for 350!"
A short time later, I put together a program that I believed would increase my bench by thirty pounds in six short weeks. The guys in the gym thought I was nuts when they saw me benching three days a week. They wondered what I was up to. This time they told me I was absolutely crazy. "You'll never do it" some of them said. That just meant I had to! I convinced a friend of mine to be my lifting partner and to participate in my program throughout the six weeks. He thought I was a bit off my rocker but he agreed. I had rehabbed my shoulders for a couple months before starting this program and I felt ready to go.
Six weeks later, I benched my all time max of 330 pounds and my lifting partner had added 35 pounds to his max, benching 295! There were naysayers lined up wanting me to explain the program to them! Now they wanted to try! I was pumped! The hard work had paid off...but my left shoulder was beginning to kill me.
It was at this time that I decided to actually start training for the 350 pound bench but I needed to rest my body first and pay more attention to my other body parts. I cut back on my benching a bit but I was still maxing out once a week to keep my max up. It was during this time that things started to deteriorate. My left shoulder was causing me severe pain every time I would bench or do shoulder exercises. My right shoulder was giving me some grief too. Once I warmed up, the pain would lessen but heavy weights were becoming more and more difficult for me to handle and my bench press max was steadily decreasing. I was getting frustrated and somewhat depressed. Going into the gym just wasn't the same anymore. My shoulders began hurting even when I wasn't lifting. Simple tasks, like putting on a shirt became difficult. Even lifting a gallon milk jug out of the refrigerator caused great pain!
It was October 2012, and I walked into the gym ready to attempt, at least, a light bench press session. I decided to warm up with an empty bar so that I wouldn't put a strain on my shoulder. I remember reaching for the bar and feeling the pain shoot through my left shoulder. I grabbed the bar and lifted it off of the rack. It came down faster than expected and I needed help lifting it back onto the rack. An empty bar weighs only 45 pounds. I knew I was in trouble!
Going to the doctor is not something I usually do, but I needed to know what was going on. I believed I knew the diagnosis but I just needed some conformation. Doc told me that I had a severely strained rotator cuff. That was actually good news! He told me that I might have a small tear but that I needed to lay off of the heavy benching and anything else that would cause me pain. I was treated with prednisone to relieve the inflammation and in about eight days, I was pain free, except when pushing heavy weight (well I had to try)!
From October 2012 until April of 2013, my workouts consisted of shoulder rehab exercises and lighter full body workouts. I wanted to keep in shape but not re-injure myself. There were many exercises that I was performing where I would have to be careful not to put too much strain on my shoulder. One of these was in April, 2013. I was doing heavy dumbbell curls and while concentrating on my left arm I felt a severe pain shoot through the front of my right elbow. Great! Just what I needed! I knew I had strained my lower biceps tendon. A few weeks rest and some light work outs and I would be as good as new!
Picking up anything in my right hand became difficult. I would be training a client and just picking up a five pound dumbbell to hand them caused excruciating pain. I did not alter any of my clients workouts though. I continued to throw medicine balls, pick up weights, and demonstrate exercises. But the pain was terrible and my personal workouts began to suffer. I was in pain every day. My arm hurt and both of my shoulders were beginning to hurt. And now the musculature along my spine and into my neck (trapezoid muscle) was hurting and getting harder to move each day. I didn't look forward to the afternoons because that is when my headaches would kick in from all the muscle tension. I was a mess. Just getting out of bed each morning was a chore because I hurt so badly. My workouts came to a complete halt. I knew I needed help.
I was working for a physical therapy clinic at the time and I made an appointment with one of the therapists. After my initial assessment, my therapist informed me that I was in pretty bad shape. She had watched me work with my clients everyday in the gym and wondered how I could have hidden what she had found. She believed that I had slight tears in both of my rotator cuffs and a torn lower biceps tendon as well as a severely strained, if not torn, upper biceps tendon. The pain in my neck and back were from my body trying to use other muscles to compensate for my injured ones. It was nothing I didn't already know. I just needed relief! Diagnosis...I was pretty messed up.
I went through one month of therapy to correct the issues in my neck and back. I also began rehab exercises on my shoulders and bicep. I was told, by more than one therapist and a doctor, that rehab would only get me so far and that I would have to either live with my issues or have surgery. I was also informed that the most likely cause of all of this was my heavy bench pressing. I was told that I would not be able to flat bench press again and strongly warned that I should never try! I was also told that heavy workouts were now not going to be a part of my life any more and that I could only use light weights just to maintain some muscle tone.
None of these were options!
With the pain in my neck and back managed, I set out on my own to rehab my shoulders and bicep. From July 2013 to October 2013, I worked slowly and diligently to get myself back to where I had been. I knew I could do it regardless of what others had told me. Perhaps the heavy benching would never be a part of my life again, but I was determined to get back to where I was and to feel good again. Slowly, things started changing and in October, I decided I was ready to try a full work out again. It felt great, more emotionally than physically, but I was moving forward. My biceps tendon was at about ninety percent and my shoulders were feeling pretty good. I started a flat bench program determined to push up at least 300 pounds again. The program was very slow and calculated and it was working. By November, I felt great and was back into my routine of full heavy workouts. My strength was coming back faster than I expected and my size was starting to come back. It was at this time that the idea of Quest350 came about.
Things were going well and I told my wife, Jackie, that I wanted to attempt to work towards a 350 pound bench press again. I believed I could do it and I explained to her that I wanted to go public with it. I wanted it to be a learning experience for everyone and I wanted to be transparent with my clients. I felt that it would also hold me accountable, and no matter what the outcome, there would be great lessons learned for everyone. I have something to prove. I want to prove that anyone can achieve anything if they ignore the naysayers and put their heart, mind and soul into it. That doesn't mean we don't listen to reason. What it means is that we go at it in an intelligent manner....but with every ounce of zeal and desire!
Scared? A bit. Because at the inception of this idea, I was only benching about 250 pounds. That meant I had 100 more to go! Am I crazy? Perhaps. But I know I can do it. I need to go public and share with others what can be done!
At the time of this writing, I have successfully put up 310 pounds with no pain and with some ease. I am actually ahead of where I thought I would be. I am excited, but I will not let my excitement take me forward too fast. I like feeling good and I want to stay this way. But I do want to prove that we should not listen to those who say things are impossible or that we can never achieve them.
So, this is Quest350! My goal is to flat bench 350 pounds by June 2014 and enter the Lancaster County Senior Olympics and take the gold medal in the bench press competition.
I hope you will follow me in my journey. I will be posting my results once a week, good or bad. I will be truthful with you about what is going on inside of my head and what I am feeling in my heart. You will experience with me everything that I am experiencing in an attempt to help you get through your personal struggles. If I can do it, you can do it! So, if you are facing a personal challenge and desire to move forward, let me know, and we will journey together!
In a few seconds, when I hit the "Publish" button, there will be no turning back!
Quest350...here I come!