I got involved in weightlifting because I wanted to coach. I wanted to be a strength and conditioning coach initially after I realized that I would probably kill somebody if I went to medical school. After I walked away from medical school, I wanted to coach. After doing research…Our research back then obviously wasn’t the Internet. This is over 25 years ago.
I realized that the snatch, the clean and jerk were the best tools for a strength coach to be able to learn. Not just snatch, clean and jerk, but all the exercises that surround it to learn it. The squatting and the pressing in my observation nobody does those exercises better than a weightlifter.
We have to do them with precision or else snatch clean jerk won’t get better. I said, “OK, I got to learn this stuff.” For me, I’m a kind of all-in guy. I said, “I’m going to be a weightlifter, so I can really get a deep understanding of these movements and how to teach them how it feels and what it does to the body, all that stuff, so I could be a better teacher.”
That’s why I started weightlifting, actually. I gave up football. Football was a path that I was on. I needed someone to fill that void, where I wouldn’t have crippled. I was having some neck stuff. Weightlifting was just…it checked a lot of boxes for me. I came out to California in ’94 to start grad school to learn the biomechanics of weightlifting.
I studied with John Garhammer, I think one of the best biomechanist in the history of the sport. I might be…I’m probably biased. I know I’m biased, but he was definitely the most influential biomechanist in this hemisphere. And to study under, who at the time I thought was the best coach in the country, Bob Takano. He was a science guy, biology guy. I was a biology guy.
I read some articles from him early on that made sense. He was talking about weightlifting in a way that made a lot of sense to me. Talking in the language of science. I said, “This is probably going to work.”
I came out, drove out to California and started this journey 25 years ago, and became weightlifter and a student of biomechanics. It was cool. At the same time I was coach. Soon after I came out, I got a job working as the strength coach for Los Angeles City College, men’s basketball.
From that point on, I worked my way through different coaching jobs, professional level, college level, high school. I eventually opened up my own strength conditioning business, which is Pure Strength, a million years ago.
About 10 or so years ago, when CrossFit came into the scene, my goal was always to open up a weightlifting gym, because that was my first love. I wasn’t sure of the condition, don’t get me wrong, but I love weightlifting the most. There was no opportunity. There’s no way I was going to have a business which was just selling snatch, clean and jerk.
When CrossFit hit my radar it was a weird sequence of events. I realized this was time, this was the moment that I was talking of, now we’ve got to seize this moment. I took a chance and opened up Waxman’s Gym, which was at the time, I believe — now, somebody might dispute me on this, and I welcome the dispute — but I think it was the first weightlifting-only gym.
All I did was snatch, clean and jerk. I didn’t have like, I wasn’t on the back of a CrossFit. It was a stand-alone building, towards snatch and clean and jerk. That was my only income. I think I’m the first guy that did that, but I don’t know.