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Paper: Heart and Balls

Heart and Balls

By Mike Stuchiner

For those of you who don’t know me by my birth name, you may know me by my nickname Paper. I’m an elite-level powerlifter and now in this wonderful sport for officially 21 years. I’m quite proud to say it took me 15 years to total my elite. Yes, that’s correct, I did say 15 years but, don’t be so quick to laugh. I have some news for you, 99 percent of this sport is just like me. No, I am not a pro and I don’t know if I’ll ever total at the pro level. The pros in this sport make up about 1 percent and yes, they are great lifters. Through the combination of hard work and great genetics, this 1 percent achieved huge totals. I saw a lot in this sport. After 21 years, I trained with some of the best lifters in the world and learned so much from them. I saw a lot of lifters come and go and what I’m going to tell you may come as a shock, but I learned a great majority of what I know from lifters…just like me. That’s right, the 99 percent. I’ll tell you something else, what I did learn from the biggest and the best I got from keeping my ears and eyes open and my mouth shut. I did the best thing in the world, I observed and applied what I thought may work for me. Were my training partners and I ever wrong? Yes, of course, but how else are you supposed to learn? Through taking advice and learning from others’ mistakes, as well as my own, I feel like I avoided many disasters. There’s a reason why birds of a feather flock together.


I told everybody that what sparked me to write this article was something that happened this past weekend (March 3).  I was competing in the XPC Lexen Coalition meet in Ohio, and the evening after I lifted, my training partners and I went out to dinner. We also had a few guys at our table from a local group near us. They don’t train with us, but still came to the meet. That night, one of these young men and I were having a conversation, and I was trying to teach him something. Well, needless to say, he’s the type who thinks he knows everything. I explained to him that with his bad attitude he wasn’t going to get very far. He came back and said to me, “Well how long did it take you to total your elite?” as if to be a smart ass. I take no shame in the fact that in my first meet I only totaled 1000 pounds and scratched and clawed my way to where I am now – a 1950 total. So, the first thought that went through my mind was that this little bastard doesn’t “get it” and it also made me wonder how many others think this way. Have people really lost touch with what this sport is really about and what it takes to get to your goals? There are a lot of great lesson to learn from this sport, but I’m going to talk about three that I see as being important.


First, what the best do may not apply to you. I know what you’re thinking…you want to be just like one of the top guys. So, you figure if you do what he does that’s all you need, right? Look, I’m not saying that you won’t be like one of the big boys someday, but whether it’s now or 15 years from now, you’ll still be you and they’ll still be who they are. You’re not them and they aren’t you. So, my point is simply this, since everyone is at their own level and fighting their own battles, simply apply the parts of the training method that apply to you for where you’re at right now. This is how you learn and how you become a smarter lifter. This is how you grow as a lifter and a person as well as prevent mistakes.


Next, instead of trying to be like the people you respect, use what they’ve done to motivate you into becoming your own lifter. One of my training partners is John Bott, who isn’t just very well-known, but he is well-respected. One of the most impressive things I ever had the privilege to see was John squat one year to the day that he blew his knee off. He squatted 100 pounds under his PR in that meet, which was his first meet back. Many lifters I know would’ve packed it in after an injury like that, but not John. He had a life-time goal of wanting to squat 900 and in due time, he in fact did squat 905 pounds. You’re probably wondering why I felt that was the most impressive thing I ever saw considering all the great lifts I watched. Well, it isn’t because the other events didn’t excite and motivate me to want to do more, but in fact it was because John, too, will tell you he is one of the 99 percent and that gives people hope and says a lot.


Finally, it takes more then big numbers to earn respect. In fact, it takes heart and balls. As I mentioned before, I saw a lot of lifters come and go. As many of you may or may not know, quite a few of them were only in the sport for a short time and many of them had one thing in common. They were very gifted lifters who quit when they stopped making progress and it got too hard. There is really something to be said about struggling to achieve your goals. A good friend once told me that if you can’t find the solution to your problem, you aren’t desperate enough. Think about it, if you have $50,000 in the bank and are unemployed, you’re not going to go out of your way to find a job, or start a business to make money. But, if you were broke and about to be thrown out on the street, I have a funny feeling you would do what it takes to survive. Hey, maybe I’m wrong. You may roll over and play dead. You may be like those that quit when it doesn’t come easy anymore. This is what shows if you have the heart and balls to push forward no matter what is in your way. This is what shows how badly you want it no matter how many people say you’ll never get it. My point is you should not just respect the lifter for their numbers, but the struggle it took for them to get there. Remember the one percent…while they do train hard and give it everything they have, they still have a gift which is what makes them the one percent. But, they are in fact, the minority. You need to look at who you are and what you’re willing to do to get there. I remember Dave Tate in one of his videos when he was asked a question about who he thought the most dedicated lifter was that he knew? His response was me – “Mike Stuchiner.” He said my elite total was one of the greatest totals he ever saw because it didn’t happen with genetics, but it happened with heart and balls. I can’t begin to tell you what that meant to me and how flattered I was.

The Bottom Line

Here’s the bottom line, you’re probably part of the 99 percent and you should be proud. Don’t use excuses that you don’t have the genetics or potential because that is  all bullshit. So, this only leaves you with one question to answer. When you look in the mirror and strip away the gear, possible genetics and fancy programs, what do you see in front of you? I will tell you what I see and that is all you will ever need to take you where you want to go. I see HEART AND BALLS.