Nothing Comes Easy (or; how to Squat 1260lbs)

Donnie Thompson tells you the remarkable story of  how he Squatted 1260lbs

In 2008, I saw the most incredible thing!

Vladimir Alahozov from Israel was lifting in the same meet as I was; in Columbus, Ohio.  We were in the Holiday Inn Ballroom, which I think is great for Powerlifting meets.  Everyone knew he was a good squatter.  He opened with an easy 1150lbs!  Done.  Then he jumped to 1250!  This is the first meet we used a Mastadon bar for squats.  It is thicker so it can handle heavier weights without whipping.  Now this is his second attempt!  I found it strange he took his squat suit all the way off and rested.  Then when he was about four out, Vlad had his handlers put him right back in the Inzer canvas suit with no problem.  I figured this is some European thing.  Vlad approached the bar.  Determined and confident.  He didn’t waste much time setting up and starting his descent.  The weight looked relatively manageable and you would have never thought it was 1250 pounds. Up he came and in the rack it went.  He nailed 1250lbs.  Then he just shut it down and relaxed until he had to Bench.  Efficient, powerful and explosive.  He didn’t waste anytime.  So I thought if Vlad can do that, I must try and squat that one day too!  I figured he would push that number up immediately but he went through some injuries and for whatever reason just left the sport.

So 1250lbs stayed for over three years.

Immediately I got the Inzer Canvas squat suit.  Everyone that squatted over 1200lbs had one.  Being the exception to the rule is not important to me.  As soon as I got the suit I was attempting over 1200lbs.  I finally got one passed when I hit the all time total for the second time.  It was 1235lbs.  Only fifteen pounds away from Vlad but he was still the SQUAT KING.  My next training cycle I herniated my L-4 to L-5 disc and the MRI showed the two on top of that were blown too!  When I went to sleep on a Friday night, everything was fine.  That morning I woke up in tremendous pain.  I had drop foot and my right leg was partially paralyzed.  Also the muscle in my hip, called the piriformus, was locked up.  It stayed that way for three weeks.  The Neuro Surgeon wanted to operate that night.  I refused.  They made me sign a waiver that I refused surgery to correct this herniated disc.

Dick Hartzell (owner of had shown me the lower back distraction with the bands so I went to work immediately on hanging upside down suspended by two monster bands.  I never stopped moving or training even though I couldn’t sleep or stand up straight.  It took three months for me to not limp.  I didn’t think I would ever be myself again.  Not to mention a few months before that, I tore my bicep trying to catch a monolift that was falling forward.  It exploded like a shotgun and all that was left was a big flat spot where muscle once was.  I opted to not get that surgically repaired also.  So here I am, a washed up, unicep, gimp, powerlifting wanna-be!!  Talk about the bottom of the barrel.  What was funny is no one seemed to care. That Monday the guys found out that I couldn’t train like usual.  So they came to the Compound and got their belts, briefs and all the free stuff I gave them and walked out.  I felt like my wife left me.  There I was in the dark hot Compound, tilted sideways cause of my back and standing on one leg.  It was pretty funny because I am now the wounded beast that the lions are eyeballing.  The zebra with the red X on him.  So I laughed it out and went inside to watch a John Wayne movie called, ‘Big Jake’!

Round One: IPA Worlds York, PA

June 2010

This all happened in September of 2009.  By Christmas three months later, I had worked my squat back to the strongest it had ever been.  Only this  time I had a few new guys to train with.  I had to position my right foot first because it was partially paralyzed still.  I set my sights on Mark Chailletts meet in June of 2010.  Then my weight was back up to 380.  I was doing great.  Suddenly I got the Swine Flu one week and as soon as I recovered, I got the Rotavirus!

My body weight went from 380 to 351 in less than two weeks.  It was mid April and I had to start training for the meet in York in June.  None of my gear fit.  I pushed it and ate and drank fluids until I got back up there.  Training was ok and I was starting to hit the 1200’s again for the first time in two years.  End of June, the York meet arrives.  Vladimir was there!  I was so shocked.  He looked great and many Russian lifters were there to bench.

Now was the time to break this record.

I opened with 1155 and was high.  So what.  I then went to 1225 and flubbed it up and can’t remember what I did but they said I never straightened my legs or knees.  I told Mike I came to break the record and put it to 1255.  I was tired.  It was hot and there was not much left in me.  Strongman Dave Hanson and Mike wrapped my knees.  The bar was too high.  I unracked part of it and the old guy at the rack pulled me forward.  I stumbled with 1255!  My calve immediately swelled up and I couldn’t lift my foot.  I tried again and he pulled me forward again.  I thought I was gonna have no lower leg left.  So the meet director came over and told me to un-wrap and sit down.  I sat up on stage and he brang me oxygen.  They went to work on my knees again.  The super heavy wraps I have take a lot to put on.

Once they were wrapped, I approached 1255 for the third time.  Before I could get the bar out he pulled me forward again.  This was the final straw.  I asked the head Russian judge to please let me try it one more time.  They did not say no, but let me try it anyway.  By this time I was going to get red lighted no matter what.  We had our own guy work the rack and I came out.  I descended and hit right above parallel.  Dave yelled open and I opened my knees and rammed the hole and made it back up.  The crowd went nuts.  The record was broken and everyone there saw it.  Then the lights reluctantly displayed two reds and a white.  I had to leave.  I was so disappointed and couldn’t make sense of it.  The film indicated depth and it was a hard pill to swallow.  Now at chump status, everyone avoided me so I gathered my gear and limped out to the car to head home.  It was five weeks before my calve was normal again.  I wanted to quit.

Round Two: IPA Lexen Extreme – Columbus, OH

October 2010

So Dan Dague calls me from Ohio and asks to do his meet at Columbus Ohio.  I said okay because he offered hotel, free entry fee and gas.  I told him I would be there three nights.  He said no problem.

Back to training hard.

I lost my regular crew to their jobs.  They couldn’t drive here to SC from Charlotte anymore.  So I got all new guys.  Mike was in Columbus so he would wrap my knees when I got there.  My training was going great.  When we got guys to show up, they would help.  John Morrow trained with me the whole time and never missed.  Everyone else had girlfriend date night or their wife was sick with a cold and they couldn’t make it.  The last squat night was great because the crew from Sorinex came and filmed it.

We had about 14 people there.  My one regular guy I have known got a touch of jersey shore in him and whispered to John Morrow, “I guess we are here to hold Don’s hand tonight’??  I never charged this guy to train with me and always gave him extra stuff to use or keep like bench shirt, squat suit and wraps.  Then he goes and sells out on me that last night of training.  That about did it for me.  I did a reverse band squat of 1300lbs.  Everyone loved it.  Off to Columbus.

Mike, John and Billy were great at keeping me paced and organized at the meet.  Everything was going great.  I opened with 1160lbs and hammered it.  Three white lights.  I go to the back to rest.  I am standing there breathing hard like most 378lb SHW’s do and this girl comes up to me and asks me if I do cardio?  I said NO! She said that I should take her advice and get on the treadmill four times a week for 30min and I won’t be so tired from squats.  I told her that perhaps squatting 1160lbs made me out of breathe?

Call me crazy.

Then Dan comes back and says the one name that nothing good comes when you are called it.  He said, ‘Hey Big Guy’?  I looked at him and he began to tell me I need to hurry up and be wrapped when the weight is loaded.  I told him the squat before mine was 800lbs.  He didn’t care.  He said one of his lifters who was there, (that we will leave nameless), was getting mad that I was getting preferential treatment.  And he wasn’t even lifting.

The next attempt was 1260lbs.

I asked Dan: “Do you just want me to rush this world record thing so no one is mad?”.  He said yes!  I was fucked.  So I get out there and do as they say.  I lost balance and focus and got off balance half way up.  No lift.  The girl that was helping us, named Donna, said she heard some neophyte that wasn’t lifting say that if it had a band on it that I would have gotten it.  So much for being liked.  So I said fuck it.  I am going to take my sweet ass time with 1260 and do it my way.

I am the last one in the third round so bite me.  That is exactly what I did. Everything fell into place.  My long time friend Mandy Stafford grabbed my camera to film it.  My knees were wrapped and this is the first time I ever used Velcro on my knee wraps.  It worked perfect.  I shook myself like Samson before a Philistine slaying and got under the bar.

Took it out.  Went down.  Got to parallel and sunk it.  I came up and knew that it was mine.  Three reds!! WTF!!!  Mandy was cheering until she saw the reds.  She had the priceless saying on YouTube worldwide.  She was screaming with joy then did a one eighty.  As soon as they red lighted me she remarked, “you got to be f***ing kidding me”!!!!  I was in awe.  I was at a loss for words and the atmosphere there was like they were glad I got red lighted.

The under developed man coward who made the band comment wouldn’t look me in the eyes!  It was my lowest point.  Ever.  I came home and really didn’t say anything to anyone.  I just got rid of all my training buds who were wishy washy and never invited them back.  I would rather train by myself then have them laughing and talking about everything under the sun but lifting when you are getting ready to lift big.  Then they resent you for it.  I trimmed the waste.  They were the epitome of waste.  Non-powerlifters who wanted a free place to train and no commitment or sacrifice to do it.

I felt I cheated myself and cheapened the sport to have them in my videos.  Watch Ed Coan’s  Squat Video and you will notice his handlers are not laughing and joking around at anytime.  They are focused for him.  It was disrespectful to me and the sport to let them around me one more second.  I went without.

Round Three: SPF SuperTraining Power – Sacramento, CA

March 2011

Mark Bell of Sacramento CA was trying to get me to come to CA since I met him at the Arnold in 2010.  I loved his movie that he and his brother Chris made.  It was called, “Bigger, Faster, Stronger”.  He has just developed the Sling Shot that is an aid to the Bench Press.  A very ingenious invention.  Mark is very kind and always brings the good out in people.  He set me up to come out there.  He and his wife Andee were very good to me.  I felt at home there the first day.  The plan was to train there for about three weeks and then do a meet he was having on the 20th of March.  I didn’t know anyone.  The first night I was there, I met Juan.  He helped me with my shirt.  It was like an instant family.  For the first time in as long as I can remember, there was no less than 15 powerlifters at a time in the gym called SuperTraining.

This was so euphoric for me.  I helped them, they helped me.

I never met one bad person there.  Everyone was so helpful.  My group changed a lot but I made friends with the two Jim’s, Treston, Jew boy, Tara , Cara and Jessica, Bafus, Spencer, Ron, Billy, Austin, Matt and many others.

The training went great.  I got spoiled.  They called me premadonnie! Haha.  Then the meet came.  I felt great.  Finally I was gonna bust this out.  I opened up with 1173lbs.  Juan wrapped my knees.  Third meet, third different wrap.  I did it but it was high.  My weight was around 390lbs so my gear was tight.  I went to 1273 or 83.  We weren’t sure.  It took awhile for the lift to commence.  No ones fault but we were all trying to get it done when the knee wraps were on.  I lifted it out twice.  Both times I fell back.  So Big Ron was there to catch me.  Thank you.

My legs were blue, so I went to rest before my third attempt.  I have been in this position many times.  I wasn’t worried.  My turn again.  The wraps were great.  I stabilized better.   Down I went with the weight.  I got to above parallel and hovered.  It took awhile.  But I opened up and dipped.  Down I went and right back up I went.  As soon as I reached the top,  I drove my back into the bar.  I did this so hard that I fell backwards the last few inches at the top.  So close to finishing and I screwed it up.  This has never happened before.  There was no explanation for it.  I was racking the weight and apologizing to everyone for letting them down.  It was so humiliating.

That was three times and perfect conditions.  The first two meets were on IPA sanction.  I like them and I like the president, Mark Chaillette.  This meet was the SPF.  It is similar but the Fed goes to most of the meets with equipment for the lifters to use that is the same equipment that is on the platform.

I have had great experiences in the IPA, WPO and now in the SPF.  Proud to say that I have been my best and worst in all of  these feds.  Only the IPA and SPF remain of the three.

Back to South Carolina.  Back to reality.  Back home to the same old grind.  But I did learn something from all my friends out there.  Do not be around the negative. If people or situations are continually draining you with negativity, change it or leave it.  So that is what I did when I came home.  Everyone says they like the old Donnie better.  The Donnie that was before CA.  I like the new Donnie.  He is optimistic and doesn’t tolerate negativity anymore.  I was just as guilty of it as the people I accuse.  It becomes the norm.

Round Four: The Final Solution

SPF North Myrtle Beach  SC Powerlifting Championship – N.Myrte Beach, SC

April 2011

The one lesson I could learn from Mark Bell is to be patient with everyone and be nice to them.  Treat people with respect and be light about it.  Have some fun.  So that is what I try to do now.  He is a great example of what a powerlifter should be.  Like some of my old football coaches used to say, “If I had a team of all ______________(fill in the blank), I wouldn’t lose a game!”

Well if Powerlifting was full of Mark Bell’s… There would be one fed and no bashing on the internet and everyone trying to help one another break records and PR’s!  I am serious.  He is a man of great character.  There was another SPF meet in April on the 9th.  It was in Spokane WA.  I figured I would fly back out there and do it.  Wade Johnson told Cara to tell me of the meet in North Myrtle Beach on the same day.  Three hours from my home.

Well, it was a solution to try again and maybe get some respect back from my new friends in CA as well as for me.  I committed to the meet.  Everyone was very nice to me and offered me fair treatment.  Pat Flynn is a powerlifter from that area and he was hosting the meet where he works at the parks and recreations Aquatic and Fitness Center.  It is a real beautiful place with a lot of room.  The board of directors for the city, who endure a national bike week once a year, were very positive about lending their facility for a large Powerlifting meet.

Very cool.

I met Jesse Rodgers… the SPF president.  He is a good ole southern boy so I was happy about that.  I wanted to knock this squat out once and for all.   This was the fourth time at this in a year.  My training for this one squat now spanned one year.  Four meets in less than a year.  That is a lot for an Old SHW!  But not for me!  You see, I don’t know how old I actually am.  So the limitations age brings are not a factor!  I consider myself a powerlifter.  If I can’t hang, I am out.

And who said breaking the all-time world squat record was going to be easy?  I don’t recall many 1200plus Squat attempts in the last three years.  So the old dinosaur came out and gave it a shot.  My stomach decided to do some funky things on Wednesday night.  So about three times a night it was running to the bathroom and Imodium AD in the morning.  I lost six pounds.  It ended up being a positive thing because my gear is fitted for 380lbs max!

I weighed in at 384lbs.  Mark Bell had me buy an Ed Coan DVD when I was in CA.  So I watched him squat every night for two weeks.  I learned a ton from his set up and being focused.  He has a fat boy descent with the bar.  It worked well for me.  The wedging of his shoulders into the bar takes about 30 seconds to do.  I mastered it.  My good buddy, the Breeze, decided to come and stay in my hotel room with me on Friday night.  One because it was free for him and two… he had nothing else to do!  He also sleeps with a C-PAP so we sounded like a Star Wars, Darth Vader, set of twins.  There isn’t much sleeping before a meet.  Not nervous, but just no sleep.

We went downstairs and ate the free breakfast.  Breeze saw my friend Billy, who is a state trooper and commenced to go through the whole saga of how his wife got him arrested a month earlier.  Now, he is very loud, so if you don’t pay attention to him, someone else will.

Finally went to Starbucks and headed over to the Aquatics Center.  I got there early and started warming up with the first flight.  There was three.  I have over twelve warm-ups so it takes about an hour and a half to get to my first attempt.  The way I perceive a meet is all different compared to years ago.  Since I don’t sleep the night before, why not get there early and warm-up?

In the WPO we would yell at Mike Sweeney and the other judge as a collective group and tell them none of us are lifting until we want too!!  It was great.  Now there is no Pro Premaddonas!  You lift like everyone else no matter how strong you are.  I get that; so I get there early.

Adam Kicklighter, Dave Brown and Blake came down from North Carolina to help me.  Donna Armstrong came from Columbia to help too.  Without their help, it would have been rough.  That is about a five-hour drive.  I really appreciate that.  They loaded my warm-ups for me and helped me with my gear.   My briefs were put together by Anita Melton.  They are Inzer Predators.  I used to use three pairs cut and pieced together.  Now they are only the two-ply just like off the shelve.  But we used regular poly from the back of my bench shirt and put them up the seams of the sides of my legs.  They are expansion gaps so the Predator briefs work.

I had to use the same hybrid system as the Leviathon squat suit.  Also, I needed four inches added to the top after much trial and error, I decided not to do a typical opener.  It only tired me out and I could never get worked up for it.  Consequently, it was feeling heavier than the World Record attempts.  I usually went around 1160lbs.  So I had to do it in the warm-up room.  When you go for big weights, there is no point is doing an opener.  You open with your WR or the lift you need.  Take the rest in the back.  Wasting time and energy on a lift that is 50 to 100lbs lighter than what you came there to do is only going to force you to finish the meet with a lack luster total.  No thanks.

Everything went so smooth that it seemed surreal.

Dave Brown and my old training partner and Powerlifting 275lbs legend, Marc Bartley, helped wrap my knees.  I use Velcro on the end of my wraps that are off an Inzer Phenom shirt.  They work perfect.  “The Breeze” worked the rack on the pin side.  We set it high so I could get under the bar.  Then once set, he would lower it.  It is a technique we came up with in CA.

The weight was set and I went to get under the bar.  Got centered, set up and nodded for “The Breeze” to lower the bar.  I tightened up under the bar and pushed all I had into my stomach.  The bar levitated out of the rack.  Everything went out of focus except for the head judge.

I remember from the Coan DVD’s that I would just commit to go down.  That is what I did. And It went right back up.

Nothing was off balance and nothing was really that hard.  It just happened.  I looked up and everyone bummed rushed me.  “The Breeze” was the first to come up and grab me to tell me it was good and no one can argue with that squat.  When I looked up to the ceiling, I expected the sky to open up and angels sing!  Haha !  That did not happen, so I guess God was not impressed.

There is really no way to explain the silence of a goal that is met.  It is a feeling of “what now?!”  So I told Adam to tell them to skip my second attempt and put 1300lbs on the third attempt.  Everything went as planned.  It actually flet easier to handle than the 1260lbs.  The bar started to roll at the bottom so I had to cut it high.  It is a shame.  That would have been the icing on the cake.

But for now, for a moment, I am the squat KING!  There are a few others out there that will break this record.  I will be their biggest fan when they do.  However, for this moment, Donnie Thompson did the impossible.  It is what life has to offer and what dreams are made of.  I may not be the first, I may not be the last, but I have definitely arrived!!

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