By Chad Aichs Elite FTS
We are already deep into yet another holiday season and there are many things a powerlifter can enjoy this time of year. Tons of great chances to pound down loads of weight-gaining calories such as egg nog and my favorite white fudge covered Oreos. Extra days of work to sleep in, grow, and recover. Most of all, if you were ever fortunate enough to have parents like mine, you got great weight training gifts. The top gift I ever received on Christmas involved weights and training equipment. I think that says something about how important lifting is in a person’s life when their best Christmas gift ever involved things for the gym!
As most people know, I started lifting after my freshman year of football. I didn’t make first string and was pissed. All I knew or could think was, “I need to get bigger and stronger.” To me this meant lifting weights, but at that time I had no idea where I would end up or how important lifting would become to me. I proceeded to set up a gym in our basement. This ended up being an old bolt-together DP bench my dad found for my brother a year earlier, but which he neglected to use. I had a standard bar, dumbbell bars, and a hodgepodge of weights including those bloated, plastic, concrete-filled ones. I would take pretty much anything anyone had lying around and was willing to let me have. I remember the collars on the dumbbells required a wrench every time I wanted to change them. It was pretty pathetic but I got stronger and I got bigger using them. I loved lifting and I loved reading whatever I could get my hands on to help. Most of this was bodybuilding stuff at that time. It didn’t matter much to me what kind of equipment I had or what I had to read because I loved lifting. I loved how I felt while I was training and the complete exhaustion when finished.
After a good year of training, I was still as serious and never missed a scheduled day of lifting. My parents were always very supportive of my siblings and me if we were serious and willing to work at a goal. We were not rich, maybe lower- to mid-level middle class. We never needed anything but we didn’t get all the extras either. My parents both worked very hard for what we did have. One day, my dad came down to the basement to workout with me. After watching me bench and seeing how that little bench would wobble and wiggle all around he decided something needed to be done about that because it just didn’t look safe. He took me to visit a couple of gyms. Back in those days, gyms (or at least all the gyms around us) had start-up costs and expensive monthly dues. There were no ten- or twenty-dollars- a- month places like you see all over now.
Chad Aich’s recently upgraded home gym!
Like I said, my parents didn’t have a lot of money and this was just too expensive. Taking a new route, we started looking at the possibility of getting new equipment. Again, this was very expensive and it didn’t seem to me like we would be able to do it. It really didn’t matter in the end because I was still going to lift and do whatever it took to keep getting stronger, even if that meant lifting rocks. In my mind, I just had to be more creative with what I had and figure a way to make it work. I will admit though, I hung out in one of the real gyms when I got the chance. There was one that was near a movie theater my parents would drop us off at. I would go to the movies with my best friend and then always drag him over there so I could dream big about having my own heavy-duty equipment.
Going into Christmas of my sophomore year of high school, I didn’t really have big expectations under the tree. Money was tight, my brother was kicked out of the house, and I didn’t care to be off from school. Christmas morning came and almost all the gifts were unwrapped. Then my dad handed me this box that was about 12 inches by 8 inches, and maybe 6 inches deep. It was heavy too and I thought it was probably some joke gift. As I opened it up I realized it was two Olympic collars; the old school big ones with the star-shaped spinning lock to tighten the weights. At first, I was pretty happy because I thought I got my first Olympic bar. Then I saw a note on the inside of the lid on the box. It said, “Your new bench and weight set are in the shed.” It also said, “These were very expensive and you’ll have to pay a portion, when you can.” I couldn’t even talk and remember tearing up. I remember my dad smiling and saying something like he finally got me. I am generally not surprised by stuff, but this time I was definitely caught off guard. It was, without a doubt, and still to this day, the very best Christmas gift I ever received. It was a very big deal to me.
I put it all together that day, and yes, I trained that Christmas too! Plus, I did not shoot my eye out or step on my glasses! It was a really nice bench that could also incline, and it had the leg extension/curl and a preacher curl. I even ended up getting a free upgraded bar. The guy in the shop gave my dad a Texas Power Bar because he was out of the standard ones and knew it was a Christmas gift. That Christmas started a tradition of strength equipment for me. From then on, it was all I wanted and all I would ask for. Even if money was tight, I would ask for something inexpensive like a curl bar or something. I got a lat pull for my birthday, a squat rack the next Christmas, and dumbbells or plates here and there. I kept that first bench for a long time and I moved it all over the country. Eventually, I ended up giving it to my brother because a power rack and bench was all I had space for. Once, I even set everything up in my condo on a slap instead of a subfloor—bet my neighbors loved that!
Fast forward some 28 years, and I’ve trained in gyms for probably for ten years. I am unbelievably lucky to train at American Iron Gym but still I get that yearning for my own space. Although the gym has such amazing equipment, and it always seems like we can find some guys to help spot, there is still something about having your own place. For one, you get to pick the music. Second, you can do pretty much whatever you want. Third, you also have the convenience of walking out the door to the garage to train instead of driving somewhere.
This year I’ve been saving up and finally get to “one up” that Christmas from so long ago. Earlier this month, I purchased an elitefts™ 3×3 rack, an elitefts™ competition bench, and a glute-ham raise. I got some hundred-pound plates on a deal from a friend and ordered a full set of bands from elitefts. I already had a couple of old bars and some plates. I even started scrounging up some dumbbells. I have already made boards and a box for squatting, even made a new shelf with hooks to hang my bands. Of course, a true lifter’s “want list” never stops growing. I still lust after purchasing new squat, bench and deadlift bars, but have enough to start. I set everything up the first day they arrived and have already had a training session with my team here. I will still train at AI gym because its like my home away from home and they will always have way more equipment then I can afford or have room for, but I am going to really enjoy the home gym sessions. I am also excited to have a quieter and more convenient place to start doing some instructional training videos.
It’s funny to look back and remember all the crazy training things I have done, including setting up and training on Christmas day. I was talking to my mom the other day about getting that first bench. Right off the bat she said, “You listed a squat rack, lat pulldown, and more and more weights!” I remember one time she had to come running down the stairs to help me get out from under a big bench (well it wasn’t really so big looking back at it, but it felt big then). Lifting has been such a huge part of my life for so long and it will continue to be.
I will always remember that Christmas and the bench. I have always loved powerlifting and the support of I received from my family definitely set my lift in the direction it continues to this day.