Last month we were honored to host a workout with local US Marine and strength athlete Michael Wilfong.
As a strength athlete Michael Wilfong is the current Washington State record holder on the squat lift in the USPA Men’s Master’s division. He has closed the mighty Captain’s of Crush #3 gripper from a parallel set. He has a competition deadlift and squat of over 600lbs, bench presses over 400lbs, and, he is working towards bending the massive Ironmind Red Nail. Michael also helped establish and lifted the official Timberline Stone of Strength.
At Couch Potato Strong we strive to provide applicable health advice directly from people living the healthy lifestyle. During our workout and interview we discussed training philosophy including the role of ego, competition preparation, mental attitude, and practical fitness advice for the average person. Instead of transcribing the entire interview, the following is a summary of the best advice from the segment. The entire interview is available for viewing at (Click Here).
It’s in the Proof
When asked what motivates him to compete, Michael stated that he has always been involved in sports, dating back to high-school. However, Michael’s competitive nature did not fully express itself until his duty as a US Marine. In the Marine Corps Michael was in an environment where he was required to enter direct competition with many testosterone fueled young men who all had their sights set on the same target. When a group of people work closely together with the same goal in mind, competition is inevitable.
“I like to push myself. Try to accomplish things I don’t think I can, or, others don’t think I can”
The Marine Corps tested Michael. It pushed him beyond his limits and forced him to rediscover, of what he is truly capable. When a person accomplishes a task they did not think they could, that person is redefining their own perception of their capacity. The undeniable result of this is increased self-confidence. Consistency in fitness combined with goal setting is one of the best ways to instill confidence in youth and young adults.
Consistency is not only key to gaining confidence, it is also critical to maintaining a strong and healthy body. When asked what his greatest athletic achievement was, Michael stated that he was most proud of his ability to remain competitive in his 40’s. Again, it’s consistency that helps him continue to compete at his age. Shortly after high-school sports and the Marine Corps, Michael began training and competing in strength sports, and, continues to do so today. Having an active lifestyle since high-school has not only helped Michael stay competitive, it has also aided in his overall health.
During his career in strength sports Michael has remained relatively injury free. There is no question that consistent activity helps reduce injury by keeping the body loose, muscles conditioned, and reactions on point. Nonetheless, consistency alone will not help you become the WA State Squat Record Holder. It takes the right mental attitude, and, a great deal of planning.
Prior to his career in strength sports, Michael had a pretty rough injury during his duty in the Marine Corps. The injury taught him quite a bit about humility, and, reminds him to this day that ego is a huge contributor to injury.
He was towards the end of his career in the Marines, and, one of the older Soldiers in the troop. During an obstacle course, one of the younger Soldiers reached down to help Michael over an obstacle. Out of pride, he knocked the young man’s had away, reached up, grabbed the obstacle and launched himself over.
Again out of pride, Michel launched himself way too far over the obstacle (trying to prove he could clear it no problem), and, landed directly on his head. This resulted in 14 staples and a sound life lesson.
“It took me out of commission for a while” but, “I learned a lot from it.”
“I will take that hand next time”
It is very easy to let pride take over in athletics and fitness. We are innately competitive creatures, it is very natural to want to know if you can lift more than your training partner, friends, or big guy/gal at the gym. However, entering into random competitions is a good way to fall off your training program and get injured.
“Almost all injury in sport, and, a lot in life comes down to just too much pride”.
“You thought you could do something you couldn’t”
Or, maybe you approached it too early”
Perhaps we all need to remind ourselves to take the help of others when offered. We all have limitations; but, together we can make each other’s adversities just a little smaller. Furthermore, there is nothing that says we cannot exceed our own limitations, and, stretch our capacity to do more. To do so simply takes hard work, determination, and a strong mental attitude.
The biggest lesson Michael has taken away from over 20-years of competition is, the person with the plan is the one who typically wins.
“The athlete with the plan is more efficient, better warmed up, their nutrition is on point, because they have thought through all of those things prior to even approaching their endeavor”
One of the unique benefits of the quarantine and pandemic is the opportunity to focus on personal records and increase one’s physical attributes. Michael has set goals he is working towards accomplish during 2021. Specifically, he intends to become certified on the Ironmind Captain’s of Crush #3 Gripper and the Ironmind Red Nail. Additionally, Michael hopes to enter an Oregon USPA competition and claim the Oregon State squat record in the Master’s division (in addition to his already owned WA state record). However, accomplishing these goals will take more than hard work, planning, dedication, and, ego avoidance; it’s going to take perseverance.
“Make sure that little mistakes you make along the way don’t derail you”
We all have off days in the gym, or in life. Mistakes happen, it is important to acknowledge mistakes without letting those mistakes control your actions or decisions. It can be easy to fall into a negative mindset. Once we are off it is easy to think we will keep being off. When this happens it is key to get back to basics, focus on technique, and, remember where you started and how far you have come. Everybody has a bad day, champions learn from them.
The primary focus of our workout with Michael was grip education. Michael informed us that he recently began competing in grip sport, and, as grip is a focus at the Couch Potato Garage, we discussed some obscure and often overlooked areas of grip training. Specifically, we discussed use of the ancient Chinese gripping bang, and the western extrapolation of the bang (the flex bar), extensioner training, wrist stretches, and a few other odd implements beneficial to grip.
After discussing grip training we decided to test our grip on the natural stones. At the time we began our workout, the largest grip stone at the Couch Potato Garage remained unclaimed. The rule for this stone was to claim it in your name, you must lift the stone with one hand. Michael was able to not only lift the stone one handed used a horn style grip (Video) he also managed to get the stone off the ground using a one-hand pinch (Video) By accomplishing these feats, Michael claimed the stone forever in his name!
After messing around with the grip stones we offered Michael the chance to test out our Golden Potato grip implement. To no surprise, Michael was able to break both the Golden Potato lift (Video) , and, Golden Potato pinch lift records (Video). Michael commented that he liked the function of the Golden Potato, as he is a grip sport athlete, we took this as a huge compliment.
Last on the agenda was an attempt at lifting our largest natural stone. This particular stone weighs 322lb, and has an immense girth. Michael was able to lap the stone and stand up with it. He is the first person at the garage to do so. However, he was just shy of lifting it to chest. We have a feeling this won’t be the last attempt Michael takes at this stone lift (Video).
Stones are strength (aka manhood stones, or lifting stones) are natural stones tied to a story about a legendary man of strength (Click Here). Typically the story involves the man lifting or carrying the stone in some manner. Many of these stones are located in Scotland and Iceland, however, there are stones throughout Europe. There are some in Asia, and, there are many in island and tribe cultures. More recently, stones have become established in several States in the US. Presently there are official stones in California, Hawaii, Indiana, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Utah.
The sole official stone of strength in the Northwest is the Timberline Stone. This stone was found by Michael and his son. To have the stone added to the map of stones, Michael collected the GPS coordinates, weighed the stone, and, lifted the stone to chest. Michael intends to one day take a trip to Scotland and tour the ancient lifting stones. Additionally, Michael hopes to add more stones in the Northwest to the map. With more stones being added to the map regularly, soon strongman here in the United States will be able to tour our home country on a stone lifting adventure.
The original Spuds of the Couch Potato Garage intend to take a trip to the Timberline Stone. There are a couple of guest athletes who have managed some impressive stone lifts and carries at the garage (Taylor carrying a 218lb stone 181ft in the rain, and Ryan carrying the 241lb stone 75ft). We are putting a group together and preparing. Soon we will have several men that have lifted the Timberline Stone. Furthermore, Michael invited us to journey with him in search of establishing additional stones of strength in the Northwest. We fully intend to take him up on that offer.
Two days before Michaels visit, we posted some content celebrating Evan’s 17th birthday. When Michael arrived at the Couch Potato Garage he gifted Evan a Captain’s of Crush #2 Gripper. That’s just the kind of guy Michael Wilfong is. He brought some awesome grip implements for us to try out, and, showed us some of his own DIY grip creations; one of which we built for our own gym the day after his visit. Everyone at the workout learned quite a bit, and, had a lot of fun.
In the few weeks following Michaels visit, he shared with us tips for building a strength training program to focus on power during the raining season (as it’s hard to do strongman events in poor weather). Michael was also kind enough to bring his official pinch device (Barrel Strength Systems Flask), and, postage scale to our season ending open workout. As a result of this, one of our close friends, Chrish Newell was able to set a world record during the open workout (Video).
Furthermore, Michael inspired several athletes at the open workout to check out the world of grip sport. In fact, this weekend one of our good friends and guest athlete, Jeremy Kaufmann will be competing in his first grip contest (The 2020 International King Kong Grip Challenge) alongside Michael. Unfortunately due to the pandemic, no spectators are allowed, thus, we will be cheering them on virtually.
At Couch Potato Strong we believe in teamwork and motivating one another to become strong in a good way. Our interactions with Michael have helped not only the original Spuds, but several guest athletes find fun new training methods and competitions. Ultimately, this is the exact purpose of Couch Potato Strong. So, thank you Mr. Wilfong for protecting our country, and, sharing your knowledge.
Take care all, and, keep moving.
Couch Potato Strong.
Wilfong, M. (2020). Among the stones. Couch Potato Strong. https://youtu.be/S0KAhVb9BhM