Social media has given us Throwback Thursday; an idea from which we can reflect on and share people, moments, or situations from our past. I enjoy seeing what others have to share. I also sharing my own experiences. In times when social media can be chaotic, clumsy, and ridiculous, TBT is simple fun.
Like some kind deconstructive self-evolutionist, I spend much of my internal life reflecting on fingerprints of others; the persons and moments which have been most pivotal in my life. There is one person though, who has had more influence in my life than anyone.
The Person, The Place, And The Cause…
I was waiting outside Russel Dorren’s homeroom class in the west building of Cherry Creek High School in 1976. The kid standing next to me was a year older. He and I knew each other casually through the weight room of the local recreation center. He was short, had pale skin, wore tight fitting Levis, had a small waist, and shoulders so wide that they stretched the back of his tucked in flannel shirt to extremes. He was Scott Rupert.
Scott was the only kid in school with that bodybuilder look; broad shoulders, a small waist, and round arms barely contained by sleeves. We see that look everywhere today, but in the 1970s it was rare, especially in high school.
Waiting for the classroom to open, Scott invited me to workout with him sometime at the 20th Street Gym in downtown Denver – a more serious weight room he had discovered. He described it as the “Gold’s Gym of Colorado”.
A week or so later, I stepped out of my comfort zone and went with Scott to the 20th Street Gym. It took 3 bus connections and about 90 minutes to get there one evening after school. I walked in and the place smelled of effort and intensity – what others might have called sweat. Disco music provided a faint soundtrack, but was good accompaniment behind the rhythm of clanging weights.
I had never seen such a concentration of bodybuilders. I immediately keyed in on one man, John Suddemeyer. John wasn’t big, but he had a very tight physique; vascular, and athletic. He had what bodybuilders of the day called the finished look.
Through the evening Scott would point out all the local bodybuilders and powerlifters who comprised the regulars. There was JT LaSasso, whose acne covered back left droplets of blood on the bench press after set he performed. Rich Clench, Mr. Colorado, with arms that looked more like adult water wings. Steve Ponzi, a local powerlifter who made his living bouncing at bars and collecting hard money loans. Finally, there was Al Mack. Al had a 22” neck and more resembled a brown bag full of bowling balls than a human being. Al Mack would become an early mentor to Scott.
My 132 lb. high school frame felt very out of place, but I stuck around and trained legs and shoulders, feeling inadequate while Scott and Al Mack did 45 minutes of uninterrupted pull-ups. Mostly, I used the time to observe. I learned more that night by watching others, than I had in my previous 2 years at my local rec center gym.
Sometime after that 1st workout at 20th Street, I decided I would put all my eggs in one basket, and cover that basket. Due to the long bus commute, I couldn’t train at 20th Street too often, but frequently enough so I could keep observing, and keep learning. Inspired and better educated, I would transfer what I learned at 20th Street to my rec center workouts. Within a year I weighed 165 lbs.
Scott would later
runaway release himself from high school on his own recognizance, and head to Brownwood, TX to learn from world class powerlifter, Doug Young. When he returned from Texas Scott was larger, stronger, and better informed. Scott would share that knowledge with anyone who would listen. I listened.
Scott spoke of Doug Young’s unusually slow eccentric (negative) phase of the bench press. In Scott’s words (paraphrased), lowering the bar to the chest more slowly, provided a better opportunity to connect with one’s power zone for an increased maximum lift. That ideal – the slow negative, changed my life forever.
Over time I would make my own study of slow negatives based on Young’s technique. I dissected it, studied it, and applied slow negatives to virtually every strength exercise I would ever perform or teach.
From that study I would understand that slow negatives, a full range of motion, and a very slow transition during the cross-bridge cycle, are superior for stimulating muscular growth, increased strength, and the best dividend of all, an increased awareness and command of one’s physicality which applies to all functional movement beyond the gym doors.
I have made a good livelihood teaching the value of slow negatives in strength training.
Sir, Yes Sir…
Scott would go on the enlist in the United States Marine Corps, and have an excellent career. Now retired, Scott and his wife live in Las Vegas where he continues to powerlift and train with weights regularly. Through social media, Scott and I reconnected a few years back and I am grateful.
Nearly 40 years after he took me to the 20th Street Gym, and decades after he taught me about Doug Young’s slow bench press style, I can say Scott’s presence in my life has impacted me more, and steered the direction of my life more than any other influence.
We are the sum of many influences; from the date and zip code of our birth, to who we meet and when we meet them. Whether we realize it or not, we are guided through life by the presence of others. I’m certain Scott will read this, though I’m pretty sure he’s had no idea how much his presence influenced my life.
As we are guided by the influence of others, we should care to remember that we also do a fair bit influencing – of leaving our own marks on others wherever we may go. I know the fingerprints I have left behind haven’t always been clean, but I try hard these days, to be cautious when I touch the lives of anyone else. Be well… rc
Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Bad Company – one more fingerprint Scott left on my life. Enjoy…