When I began powerlifting, my goal was to break one all-time world record.
I used to say that being the only person in the world who can do what you do (in your weight class, anyway) was my lifelong dream. For me, it doesn’t get better than knowing you are the best in the world.
After accomplishing this in 2014 with a 722-pound squat at 198 pounds bodyweight — a record I would go on to break five times and now sits at 804 pounds — I found myself happy and grateful, but not satisfied. My goals quickly expanded, and the idea of being the first man in history to accomplish something became an obsession for me: I wanted to become the first man to hold a squat world record in four weight classes simultaneously.
From my background in bodybuilding and nutrition, I had a good idea of how to manipulate my bodyweight. The first three records — the 722-pound squat, an 821-pound squat at 220 pounds, and a 828-pound squat at 242 pounds — went relatively smoothly, but I had to really fight for the final record: 762 pounds at 181 pounds bodyweight. (Editor’s note: Sapir lost that record to Dallas Norris, but later regained it with a 785-pound squat.) I trained through injuries and losing records and having to regain them. It took a year and multiple failures to attain the fourth record and even though it is the lowest number, it is the one I had to work the hardest for. Here are a few things I learned through this process.
1. You can compete MUCH more frequently than you think.
I have written a full article on this subject alone, seeing as it was a significant learning point for me. I have heard over and over that you should only compete a few times per year.
I competed four times in five months, and I’m only sorry I didn’t compete more.
If you do it right, your body is capable of competing quite often — I aim to compete at 8 weeks, 12 weeks, 16 weeks, and 20 weeks in a “season.”
2) Never give up.
I always gets what I want or will die trying to get it (I even tattooed “Win or Die” on my shoulder.) When you are willing to do everything it takes, and to lose a lot on the way to the top, you will likely get there. It’s extremely difficult to beat the man who never quits.
I went through hell and back getting that fourth squat record. Everything that could go wrong personally, physically, and emotionally, did go wrong. Meets themselves seemed to be against me: there were late rack commands, equipment issues, missing making weight by one pound (I was supposed to get to 181 and my body shut down by 182 and wouldn’t go down further), and more. Once, I even passed out in the middle of a weight cut — this happened in the meet prior to the one where I broke my final record. I tried to lose ten pounds in a sauna and when I came out, I felt dizzy and the next thing I remember was seeing black.
But I just kept training and grinding. I always did what i could even if at times it was the bare minimum. No matter what happened, I was in the gym trying to hold on to my career for dear life. Be persistent and never give up even when it looks everything is going to shit. Keep putting the effort in day in and day out and life will help you out when you need it.
3) Your body can be manipulated way more than you’d think.
I’ve never been a big eater and, to be honest, ascending into the higher classes is as challenging for me as going down into the lower ones. (My body “likes” to settle around 210 pounds, and it’s extremely hard work to move the needle above or below this.) It’s certainly not new information, but it became very clear how manipulating carbs and fluids can make a world of difference with my weight, even helping me to lose 50 pounds in one month.
As long as your mind is strong, the body will adapt and follow. Of course, you need to know what you’re doing whether you’re losing or gaining, and I don’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t very high level, as there is a lot of risk involved. But here are a few tips.
For Cutting Weight
* Use a long water load: start 7 to 10 days before the meet, depending on the size of the cut.
* Deplete carbs and sodium but don’t over do it. Too much and you’ll lose strength which is where a lot of people go wrong. For a big cut, I usually cut carbs five days out from weigh in and three days out for a smaller one.
* Be prepared for the mental game – it’s as much a mental process as physical, and this is often what gives out first.
* For losing water weight, use things like hot tubs, hot showers, and saunas. (Or all three; you never know if one will stall and another work.)
* Utilize a pre-workout like Plazma for the recomp process — it makes a huge difference.
* Eat frequently, six to seven times per day, with carbs in every meal.
* Get lots of sleep; this is when you grow.
* Keep fat to more “medium” levels — don’t overdo it.
* Don’t rely on junk food. Fuel your body properly and utilize junk as an “extra.” This will improve your performance for sure.
4. Injuries aren’t the end.
If you’re a serious lifter, it’s only a matter of time before an injury of some sort happens. They are frustrating and emotional, and certainly can be discouraging, but if you work hard enough you can power through.
I have battled two complete bicep ruptures, a pec tear, two major hamstring tears, and an axillary nerve tear — this was the worst of them, and I thought it would be career ending. There were so many times that it seemed I would never be able to train at the level I was used to, and the emotional challenge of this was huge. Luckily, I found a good physical therapist, and bit by bit, my numbers climbed back.
What I’m constantly reminded of is that the body wants to be better, it is just a matter of finding the right PT — this alone can be what saves you. The only other note I would add here is that I also firmly believe in solid supplementation and I would never have been able to recover from any of these injuries without the support of my sponsor Biotest and their product line.
There’s one last thing to note. At 21 years old, winning and being the best was everything in life to me. I didn’t care what I had to do and I was willing to sacrifice anything.
At 35, with two beautiful children and a more mature perspective on life, I think there are more important things in life than just my records and professional achievements. If you have big goals, that’s awesome. Give it everything you have. But also remember to take a step back, enjoy the journey, and keep in mind what’s really important in life.
Editor’s note: At the time of writing, Amit Sapir’s squat records sit at 785lb at 181lb, 804lb at 198lb, 821lb at 220lb, and 828.5lb at 242lb. He broke the 198-pound record five times and the 220-pound record three times.
This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
Featured image via @ifbbproamitsapir on Instagram.