The atmosphere of the gym became more acute as he sat and stared intensely at the bar. An air of nervousness affected the other lifters as if something dangerous loomed on the
immediate horizon. Gym regulars, going about their workouts, continually stole glances at the corner that was home to the power platform. He sat at its edge in deep concentration.
Directly in front of him, rising from the wooden platform like the skeletal ruins of an ancient and long-abandoned castle, stood the welded iron squat rack. The rack challenged
anyone foolish enough to enter and threatened him with certain doom should he accept this test. This was the domain of very few men. The gym stayed busy, but this squat rack kept
its secrets. The regulars had access to all lifting areas, but they knew not the courage to stand before the power platform. It was sacred ground where only massive iron could be
used to pay homage. Only a select group of the barbaric gladiators had the ability to approach the power rack, and only the best of them ever engaged in true battle with it.
Today the power bar spanning the squat rack was loaded. The strongest of the iron warriors, a man thicker than the laws of nature should have allowed, sat on a bench facing it. This was a man so physically dense that he pushed air in front of him as he walked. Assembled before him was a mass that would splinter the spine of any average man reckless enough to get under it, but the behemoth had already conquered it many times. Those who knew him understood that his mind was far beyond this challenge. The weight before him was not his final destination today. This would be a special day. The iron-bending beast would face the power rack with more weight on it than he or any other man had ever loaded before. He would pry loose the secrets kept by the power rack with pure, brute strength.
Preparation came first. He had to work up to the ultimate weight. His hulking body rose to a standing position. He held the bar in his mind with a gaze that a herd of buffalo could not break. He approached it with a black leather power belt secured about his solid midsection - the belt that long ago had become his most trusted lifting partner. His enormous legs were wrapped at the knees for support. He grabbed the bar with a grip that would have crushed flesh, lowered his head and ducked beneath it. As it rested on his massive traps, he freed it from the bounds of the iron skeleton. The bar bent as it fought the weight, trying to give itself back to gravity. The monster of a man stepped back from the rack with the weight riding high and set his feet in a foundation that looked solid enough to support a house. The other patrons of the gym all stopped what they were doing to watch the spectacle. Unaware and unconcerned with his gathering audience, the man slowly sat down deep as if an invisible chair that only his mind knew was there, awaited him. With envied power he stood up from this imaginary support to a full upright position and returned the protesting bar to its iron keeper.
He removed his power belt, unwrapped his python-thick knees, and went to gather more weight. The regulars of the gym had seen this feat accomplished before by the beast, yet each time they still walked away shaking their heads in amazement. "How could a man of flesh and blood accomplish such a feat?" they had asked many times.
He grabbed two more 45-pound plates and loaded the bar heavier. Dominating the weight, he repeated his earlier feat and racked the bar once more to the even greater disbelief of spectators. Now he did the unthinkable. After taking off his belt and unwrapping his knees, he grabbed two more of the big 45-pound plates and loaded the bar to the point of being ridiculous and dangerous. Even with the support of the power rack, the center of the already-compromised bar warped into a bend as the insane amount of weight on each end reached for the floor in search of safety.
Once again the man sat before the power rack and its obscene load. He rested his huge, thickly veined forearms on his stone-carved quads and tilted his head up. A deep concern swept through the gym as the others realized the beast was going to attempt to conquer the unconquerable. Surely no man, no matter how thick, could possibly face an opponent so overwhelming. To witness greatness is always exciting, but to witness tragedy is unsettling and undesirable to those not sick of mind. The atmosphere of the club became [ even more ominous. Everyone's thoughts grew dark and heavy.
Seated before the weight, the freak of nature stared at his nemesis with rage in his | eyes. He actually hated this weight because he understood its only purpose was to be heavier than he could lift and therefore not only defeat him, but also bury him if it could.
The surroundings of the gym faded from his mind. The rest of the world slipped from his consciousness as he focused only on the bar and its hated weight. He sat unmoving, drifting deeper and deeper into his mind. No one dared to approach him. Some even moved to the other end of the gym out of fear for what was to come. They believed what he was about to attempt was both implausible and impossible. This was where he had the ad-vantage over all others. To him nothing was impossible. If he could see the accomplishment in his mind, he could do it in his heart. With this knowledge he believed he could bend his physical surroundings to serve his will. He sat for a long time in front of the bar, seeing only its defeat. Over and over again he saw himself conquer the weight with a successful deep squat. He came to the understanding that the weight, no matter how great, could not defeat him. He was ready to squat.
The wraps tightened around his knees as his conquest played over and over in his mind. As he wrapped, he repeatedly whispered to himself his mantra, "It is good to be strong."
Nothing else was seen, perceived, or known to him. Had the building suddenly been engulfed in flames, sending the other lifters running into the street, he would not have been aware of the crisis until after the bar was racked.
Tightly wrapped, he stood and again belted up with his trusted leather partner. He stepped before the bar. He knew he could have no fear of this enemy, for fear creates doubt and doubt is closely followed by failure, and failure is unacceptable.
Once again his massive traps received the ponderous bar. They stood at attention, more than ready to support it. With tremendous power he tore free of the rack's iron grip. The steel bent sickeningly to the floor as the iron plates sought desperately to return to Mother Earth from which they had been taken. The heavy collars struggled valiantly not to lose their battle with the weight.
The army of iron plates riding the man's back at this moment was bent on one goal - to crush this arrogant man beneath it. If he faltered even slightly, the weight would be merciless and unforgiving. It would take him down with speed and force that no one could stop. He felt the oppressive weight as it rode his shoulders, trying to prevail over him with all its mass. A complete silence overtook the gym. The other members were about to watch a man try to lift a weight that only God himself should be able to move.
With the leather belt cinched tightly around his midsection and the tourniquet-like knee wraps encircling the girth of his knees to the point of tearing skin, he began the impossible. He began to sink into the depths of the squat. Slowly he sat down in search of that spectral chair that again only he had confidence was there. He knew it was there and he knew it would hold him.
The bar wrapped grotesquely around his neck and traps while he continued his descent. His eyes became deep crimson windows to his soul as the small vessels in and around them ruptured from far too much pressure. The veins in his head and neck looked like pipelines struggling to maintain their integrity.
And then he found it. He found his imaginary chair. To the astonishment of the others it did hold. He sat in it only for a split second before reversing his movement to rise again. He was actually ascending from the depths of demise with a hostile enemy outweighing him fivefold on his back. A thunderous roar, originating deep within the beast's chest, echoed off the stained, cinder-block walls that had reverberated yells before, but none such as this. He then stood up to his complete height.
Surrounded by widespread awe, he returned the bar, which now hung around his neck limply in resounding defeat, to its keeper. As he turned away from the rack in triumph, he released his knees from the confines of the wraps, loosened his belt, and murmured, "It is good to be strong!"