A few weeks before the expo, I asked my friend Steve Slater to make me a stone. He is a local from Ohio who makes the famous "Slater Stones" that are used for the Arnold Pro Strongman contests. Steve made me a 170 lb stone and delivered it for me right to The Cage.
I joked with Eric "naturalguy" Schwartz that we should call the day "Senior Sunday" because Beau Moore (51) and I (46) were lifting. Beau always brings the house down when he plays "Rock Me Like a Hurricane" set on repeat. Sure enough, while the music was jamming, he totaled 2000 lb in less than 30 minutes. Yes, that half and hour included his warm-ups.
Brandon Franklin was a last minute addition to lift in The Cage (replacing a regularly scheduled lifter who couldn’t make it out to Columbus). Brandon, an up and coming powerlifter from West Virginia, came in last minute and squatted 800 lb for 3 reps. The crazy thing was, to prepare for this impromptu lift on Sunday, Brandon came in the day before, Saturday morning, to practice. In that practice, he hit 800 for 2-3 reps. Unreal.
Next, it was my turn to lift the Atlas Stone. I had gotten 12 reps in training, so my goal was to hit at least 15 reps in The Cage. I chalked my hands and forearms and stood over the stone. Many thoughts went through my head. I looked up at the Animal banners and asked myself, "What limits are you going to push yourself to today?" There were bright lights, loud music, tons of fans standing around, and cameras rolling, but it all came down to me versus the Stone.
It may seem small, but the round, smooth stone is difficult to press overhead, especially when you have to clean it from the ground every time. The sweat off my face and head began to drip onto the surface of the stone. It was so slick that I even dropped it on one rep. But I still had to keep going. On the 10th rep, I could feel my quads start to fatigue a bit.
People don't realize how much of a load it is on your quads when you're pressing odd shapes. The weight is so far forward that it taxes your legs real quick. At about 12 reps in, I knew I had to push myself and dig deep. BOSS helped me out by finding a towel to wipe my face off a bit and I heard my friend from Hawaii cheering me on.
When I pressed the 17th rep, I knew that I could get to 20, so I yelled to the crowd "3 more." The end was near. After I locked out and held that 20th rep, I stormed up the dumbbell rack and rattled The Cage. At that moment I knew I had once again overcome a major obstacle in my life - being successful in my event Animal's The Cage.
It was then Zack "Pitbull" Ruhl's turn to do his lift. I had never met him before, but I was fully aware that he was in the building. This beast is truly an inspiration – he has no legs from the knees down. He hopped off his wheelchair and warmed up on the bench press in record setting time. Zack banged out a 455 lb bench so easily. This guy was benching more than me and I can use leg drive. Two minutes later, he asked the team for 500 lb on the bar. Then, when he locked that bar out, everyone in the audience just went NUTS.
Anthony Hobaica, representing the East Coast, closed out The Cage events for the day. I first met Anthony at the "Boss of Bosses" powerlifting meet two years ago, and I was honored when he came up to me before his exhibition and said, "Higa, you're a fucking legend in The Cage." What do you say to that? I hugged him, shook his hand, and told him to bring the house down. Anthony warmed up with his friends and training crew from Hercules Gym in Syracuse, New York. Yeah, Anthony killed it. Despite a bloody nose from doing his huge squat, Anthony made short work of his goal of totaling 10 times his body weight. What a way to close out The Cage.
In conclusion, I'd like to give a huge thank you to Animal for putting on the biggest and baddest lifting exhibition every year at the Arnold Expo. It is truly an honor for me to step into The Cage with these talented athletes and represent the best supplement. No, make that the best lifting and strength company in the world. I don't lift for the "likes" on social media. I don't lift to gain more "followers." I lift because I want to inspire others. I also lift because I fucking love it.