Iron and Steel (A Guest Post)
FORGING MASCULINE STRENGTH AND MENTAL TOUGHNESS THROUGH POWERLIFTING
Every Sunday morning at nine o’clock, a motley crew of 10 men varying in age from 22 to 67, gather together in a barn underneath the towering gaze of the Catoctin mountain range just beyond the limits of a small city jutting up along US Highway 15.
Dressed in a ragtag assortment of athletic clothing, drenched in testosterone,these men press upon the other in jovial R-rated hijinks to defy the law of gravity and achieve godhood.This is their sanctuary. Adorned with cast iron plates, a barbell, and a single squat rack, this hallowed ground permits each man an escape from the demands of the outside world andbecomes a training ground in pursuit of the masculine archetype. It is a place of struggle and reclamation, of ferocity and affirmation, of violence that begets peace.
For two hours, each man is tested under the weight of their own resolve—pushing and pulling hunks of metal that would otherwise intimidate what society deems a civilized man, and in this each man finds their primal self.As such, the art of powerlifting defines the essence of what it means to be masculine: struggle, strength, and victory.
Struggle is what we men are born into. Struggle doesn’t care who you are, what your name is, where you come from, or what privilege you possess. It will beat you to your knees and grind you into the dirt. It is violent, possessive, cruel, and will enslave you if you let it. You can become a tool of its function orbecome a defiant antithesis in response to its exertion. In powerlifting, iron represents this struggle. Packing pound after pound of humiliating gravitational force, the iron teaches that a man is the master and commander of his own fate. A man must know his limitations, acknowledge his weaknesses, and endeavor do better.
Struggle cannot be avoided. Much like pressing your back into a loaded barbell to perform a squat, life commits you to the challenge that struggle provides. It is your choice to fail and falter, or to succeed. Sheltering yourself from struggle does not build the character and the emotional maturity necessary for manhood, and avoidance of struggle will leave you an immature boy trapped inside the husk of a sickly adult much like the avoidance of weight lifting leaves your muscles soft and weak. Masculinity embraces struggle, because its unionbirths the only proper biological response in overcomingthe world: strength.
Through struggle, strength is gained. Strength is the most virtuous qualities of the masculine archetype. Throughout the history, art, and the culture of every human civilization, strength is embodied in the tales of heroes rising to atumultuous occasion that sets them apart from the mediocrity of mundane manhood. The hero is put through the testing fires that would otherwise break a normal human being, and in the end forges him into the embodiment of the ideal superman. As life imitates this art of storytelling, a man’s strength is built on the struggles that life provides—progressing in intensity the same as the build up of progressive resistance in training. Rep after rep, iron plate after iron plate in the three major lifts of the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift, strength is developed through the repetitive process of time under tension in both physical and mental capacity. Confidence is built up within each man that approaches and executes a successful and technically efficient lift, just as continuous struggle conditions a man’s fortitude in the repetitious practices of life.
Strength enhances a man’s character and will just as much as it does the physical body—permitting him to develop the emotional and mental capacity to endure that which life fiendishly dishes out in periodic episodes of time, and this provides the opportunity for living a life victorious.
Through strength, there is victory.Strength is the vehicle in which mental toughness is achieved and self-worth is found. Applied by the masculine heart, a man’s self-worth is evidence of the battles he has fought and won on the physical, mental, and emotional stage. How he is capable in responding to the inevitable tragedies of this world, creates ripples in time that defines his existence and his memory. For the powerlifter, mental toughness is forged under the bar in the same manner that his physical strength is developed. Time under tension. With a whiff of ammonia, his mind is emptied and pressurized with the tenacity of breaking gravity. It is the culmination of his training to turn the heaviest of iron into an almost weightlessobject of ineffectual resistance. The struggle between man and barbell provides the powerlifter with a conduit to pursue life to its most absolute limit and gives him a lesson in application so that his victory is not left on the platform but utilized in every endeavor to which he sets his mind, and this brings us back to the men of the pole barn.
Success is built in the pressure cooker of life, and the men who train two hours every Sunday embody that which few men achieve. They understand self-value and worth is not gained by the lofty musings of a fair and gentile society, but by the emotional and physical challenges life presents. They are a focused force of intensity, knowing their value both beneath and out from under the barbell, because the iron with which they train teaches them the virtue that has long led to the flourish of man. Strength is the birthright of the masculine soul.
Barry Adamson is a professional, independent writer and editor with a passion for powerlifting. Under the guidance of powerlifting legends, Marty Gallagher, Robert Myers and Kirk Karwoski, Barry trains Sunday mornings in the Pole Barn of Muscle. There, he has gained a deeper understanding of himself as a man, father, and husband through the discipline and execution of masculine strength