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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Metroflex Grip Contest Write-up

I recently traveled to Arlington Texas, where I competed in the grip contest called Metroplex Mayhem at Metroflex. For those of you who may not know, Metroflex Gym is one of the last hardcore gym in the nation, and also it is where Ronnie Coleman trained for years and where Branch Warren trains these days, along with some other freaking huge monsters.

MMM was promoted by Paul Knight and Eric Milfeld. The events were Grippers, Two Hands Pinch, Axle Deadlift, Reverse Bending, and the Medley.

Event 1 - Two Hands Pinch: For the last couple of years, I have been chasing the world record on this lift. In 2005, I lifted 220 lbs when the record was 231. In December 2008, I lifted 246 lbs with the record standing at 253. After an excellent run in training where at one point I pulled 255 lbs to lockout for a 3-second hold, I felt very good going into this contest. I had heard that Eric Milfeld’s official apparatus was very well-seasoned and I thought that a World Record pull might just be possible. However, the word I received about the level of seasoning was not so, as Eric recently cleaned the apparatus down to the bare steel.

At MMM, the pinch was contested differently from what I have seen in the past. When we hold the Two Hands Pinch at GGC, we use rising bar format, where the weights on the apparatus are never taken off; they only go up. What this means is that you can not afford to make too big of jumps up in weight because if you go too heavy and can’t pull it, you are essentially out of luck because you are not permitted to reduce the weight on the subsequent attempts.

At MMM, rounds rules were applied, meaning each athlete would go once in a round and the weight would be changed each time. Also, athletes were permitted to start out high and take weight off if they missed. Once I heard this, I knew I would try for the record on my first attempt. I just didn’t see any reason to waste pinching power on a weight that was not at least 254 lbs.

On the first pull of the record weight, with barely any seasoning on the plates, my left hand literally slid partially off the implement. For the next round of attempts, I would desperately jump up and pat more chalk onto the outside plates, trying to get more chalk to adhere to the steel. My training was just too solid to not try one more attempt at the record. Finally, it was my turn again. However, it just wasn’t to be. I might have broken the implement a few millimeters from the floor and no more. I abandoned the World Record target, and now it was time to score points.

In a grip contest where you have perennial contenders like Paul Knight, Rex Hubbard, and Eric Milfeld, fast up-and-comers like Ryan Johnson, beastly unknowns like Rendy Delacruz, and legacies like Shane Musselwhite, dark horses like Mark Souza, and bands of brothers like Casey and Kevin Emery you can not afford to get a zero in an event or you risk losing the entire thing. I’d traveled too far not to win, so I decided to take an easy lift. I had heard that Eric and Rex were hitting near 230 in training, so I chose 235. This came up easy for me so I decided to move up to the next weight for my final attempt at 241. When I strode to the platform for this last attempt, I got incensed for once again not breaking the record and I decided to grasp the plates hard like I was trying to break them. I swear I felt the rubber inserts squish as I pulled 241 up through the stick, to near lockout, and held it there, giving a growl before returning the plates to the ground. Another contest without bringing the record to the states but I will continue to prepare for my next chance to go for it!

Event 2 - Grippers: Paul and Eric went to great lengths to make this contest legit, re-calibrated all the grippers for the gripper event, making sure each one was properly oiled. In some cases, this lowered the poundage rating by double digits! The top gripper closed was rated at 183 lbs, by Paul Knight. I closed a 163-rated gripper, a solid Beef Builder Elite.

Adding to the difficulty of the gripper event, was the strictness of the set and close. Eric would call out “good” when he saw that you set the gripper squarely to parallel, which caused you to pause the gripper in the set position for an instant before going for the close. This set technique favored Paul Knight, who has become well known for his ability to close heavy grippers in this manner. Just a week or two ago, he was featured on our site closing a Number 4 gripper. This set has now been deemed a PKS, or Paul Knight Set. This was a very interesting way to contest the grippers event. No drift setting was permitted, so everything was a genuine parallel set close.

Event 3 – Axle Deadlift: The Axle Deadlift was contested with the Official IronMind Axle, at about 2 inches thick. This event has giving me consistent trouble over the last few months. I have been hitting the axle on a weekly basis for the last few months, but I believe I made a mistake in working high reps with less than 70% of 1RM for a few weeks recently. In my first pull at MMM, I was unable to lockout 386. I dropped to a safe 365, and then 371. This was a tie with both Paul and Rex, so I decided for my final pull, I would jump back up to 386 and try to forge some breathing room. This time I was successful in pulling 386 to lockout.

At the conclusion of 3 events, I was ahead of Paul by .8 points. I was unsure about the spread between myself and the rest of the group.

Event 4 – Reverse Bending: Eric Milfeld was one of the first to bend a red nail starting it out reverse style, and he has taken Paul Knight under his wing for this craft, so I knew the challenge was a hefty one. All of the bars were calibrated using Eric’s calibration set-up he has used for years. I bent a 585 lb rated bar for my second attempt. For my third, I wrapped up a 635 lb bar, the hardest featured in the spread of bars. About 20 seconds into the bend, I felt a burning sensation in my right thumb so I conceded and pulled the wraps off. This was a big mistake. I should tried switching hand positions or adjusting the bar to hit a different area, because I actually kinked it to 30 degrees. Paul then wrapped a 635 for Eric, using a different wrap set-up than what I had. My wraps are just some thick suede, but Paul uses a combination of IronMind wraps and suede. Eric was feeling some pain in his hands as well, so I asked Eric and Paul if I could give it a try. I couldn’t believe the difference. The soft towel around the outside made it much more comfortable, and I was able to get a legal bend with Paul’s wraps.

Event 5 – Medley: The Medley event featured 5 disciplines: Thick Bar, Vertical Bar, Hub Pinch, Block Pinch, and Thin Pinch. Completing all the implements would yield 250 points. I couldn’t muster a full pull with the Metroflex Dumbbell, the heavy Two-Inch Vertical Bar, or the 45 lb plate loaded with 15 extra pounds, so I managed only 220 points. Paul got the 45 lb plate plus weight, but missed the Metroflex Dumbbell, the Blob plus 10 lbs, the Heavy Two-Inch Vertical Bar and the Euro One-Hand Pinch, so I secured 10 more points on him, which was enough for the win.

At the end of the contest, I stood on top with 1159 points, but Paul was close by with 1140, Eric Milfeld with 1088, and Rex Hubbard with 1026.

I want to thank Eric and Paul for running a great show. Paul and his wife were nice enough to put me up for the weekend, which was greatly appreciated, and Rex for picking me up at the airport and driving me all over the city. It is nice to compete with good sportsmen and good friends.

As I get more time, I will post more clips from this contest. For now, I’ll leave you with a short one of up-and-comer, Ryan Johnson, lifting the Metroflex Inch.