Steve Adams Sr. and his son, Steve Adams Jr., have little room for error as they begin adding 45-pound plates to barbells.
Concentration becomes paramount for these Medford powerlifters when they squat, deadlift and bench objects comparable in weight to grand pianos and fully stocked vending machines.
“We look at each other in the gym sometimes like, ‘Dude, I wanna quit,’” Adams Jr. says. “It’s so challenging that it can break you mentally. This is weight that can crush you. Think of it this way: Even on a light day, we might have to do a 415-pound squat.”
The 56-year-old Adams Sr. and 27-year-old Junior both already own state or national records as they gear up for upcoming meets. The bearded behemoths (they weight almost 600 pounds combined) take training to another level in the spirit of competition.
One of their goals, they say, is to achieve documented world records.
To get there, they push each other to the brink on a regular basis.
For his age and weight, the the 6-foot-2, 283-pound Adams Sr. holds two national RAW records. Lifting “RAW” generally means lifting without a squat suit or bench shirt, wraps or belt. He squatted 622.80 pounds at the United States Powerlifting Association Southern Oregon Iron Classic in Grants Pass in March and recorded a total weight (meaning squat, deadlift and bench combined) of 1,581.80 pounds that same day. Adams Sr. also hit a state-best of 573.20 pounds in the deadlift at that meeting, where he placed first in his division.
His American records are in world-record territory, but aren’t recognized as such because International Powerlifting League judges weren’t in attendance to witness the feats, Adams Jr. says.
Up next for Adams Sr. is the IPL Old Dogs World Cup, set for Nov. 17 in Irvine, California. It’s an event where some of the top master powerlifters in the world can show what they’ve got.
The meet will have IPL judges on hand, and Junior suspects Senior will do very well.
“He’s going to break world records,” Junior says.
Adds Senior: “My goal is (the) best lifter (award) and four world records.”
The 6-foot-4, 308-pound Adams Jr. was honored with best lifter honors as a super heavyweight at the USPA Northwest World Record Breakers in Portland in August. There he set state records in the squat (705.50 pounds), deadlift (711 pounds) and total (1840.90). He says his all-time PRs are a 790-pound deadlift, 510-pound bench and 825-pound squat.
Adams Jr. has a regional meet approaching in December and The Kern US Open next year.
Meets take 16 to 21 weeks to prepare for, Adams Jr. says. The idea is to train in a way that sets up the competitor to peak the day of the event.
“If you come in that kicker day tired, you’re gonna be in trouble,” Adams Sr. adds. “Sometimes you peak a weak earlier, sometimes a week later. Hopefully you peak the day of.”
Adams Jr. is currently in the middle of a unique training program at Village Fitness (formerly International Fitness), where he is the general manager.
“I’m in the gym every day,” he says. “I’m starting to move to heavier weights, with ranges more like five sets of four.”
The father-son duo has been doing a little of everything to get stronger: stuff like competitive stance squats, pause squats, deficit straight leg dead lifts, heavy walkout holds, low bar squats, squats with bands, standing overhead press, incline barbell press, upright rows and much more.
The sessions can be absolute torture, but they’ve got each other.
“I’ve trained for years, and the one consistent lifting partner has been my dad,” says Adams Jr., a former football standout at South Medford High who walked on at the University of Oregon during the Chip Kelly era.
Robb “Buddha” Philippus, a world-record holder in the squat who is known for the hashtag #quadslikerobb, wrote the Adams’ plan after he and Adams Jr. connected earlier this year. The Illinois resident says he’s been impressed with what he’s seen as the men’s working set volume has increased.
Adams Jr. abides by the vertical diet, made by Stan “Rhino” Efferding. It is made up largely of highly bioavailable micronutrients that support a structure of easily digestible macronutrients. It was designed for high-performance athletes looking to get bigger, stronger and faster. Junior’s staples include egg whites, oats, bananas, orange juice, rice, steak, chicken, turkey, whey protein and salad.
“It revolves around what I’m deficient in vitamin wise,” Junior says. “It’s six meals a day.”
As for Senior?
“I don’t have a diet,” he says. “My wife (Terral) is a great gourmet cook.”
Adams Sr. has trained for 42 years, and started powerlifting around 1995. He competed for awhile before leaving the sport, only to come back after encouragement from his son.
“He’s unstoppable,” Adams Sr. says of his son. “It’s fun to watch. It’s very motivating, but it’s almost irritating how far ahead he got. I’m really proud.”
Doing all this lifting is truly a balancing act, he says.
“It’s not the end of the world if I miss a workout,” he says. “I try to regulate these things a little bit.”
The gym unites the Adams family. Adams Jr.’s 6-year-old and 4-year-old sons are already little monsters, he says.
“They are crawling around the gym floor and pulling on bars,” Adams Jr. says. “They are drawn to it.”
Aimee Adams, Junior’s 132-pound wife, owns a 285-pound squat, 300-plus deadlift and 167-pound bench. She competes, too.
And then there’s the man with the white beard, Senior, who everyone at the gym calls pops.
“He’s a great grandfather,” Adams Jr. says.
Adams Sr. says those who want to enter powerlifting at his age should focus on compound lifts using proper form.
“You should have great concentration,” he says. “Always be in the game. Full reps. Listen to your body. If you experience pain, quit. Take it up later. If it’s basic pain that you can push through, get it done. ... I’ve always pushed hard, in business or training at the gym. Maybe I haven’t figured out how old I am. I still have high expectations for myself. People should expect a lot out of themselves. Why not take care of yourself?”
Philippus calls Adams Sr. an inspiration.
“Hopefully I’ll make it to that age and still be doing what he’s doing,” Philippus says.
Reach freelance writer Dan Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org