Bob Peoples the Hometown Hero: Part 6
Published 8:59 am Wednesday, August 17, 2022
By Alex Campbell
There is an old soldier’s maxim that says, “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” Peoples was doing everything in his power to push his body to limits unknown. Yes, there was sweat, pain, blood, and sorrow experienced in his basement dungeon, the barn, the banks of the creek, and anywhere else he could find to punish himself. But he realized that the more torture he put his body through now, the less likely he would experience disappointment at the competition.
For good reason, Peoples is remembered as not only one of the strongest men to ever live, but also one of the strength games greatest thinkers and innovators. But if he were to rely completely on these novel exercises, he would never achieve greatness. Lifters must find ways to train their weaknesses, however, the basis of all good strength training regimen is the primary lifts. These are the big lifts that involve many muscle groups and joints and allow massive weights to be lifted. For Peoples these were the deadlift, overhead press, and squat. And if he had become cruel in finding new and ingenious ways to torture himself with the auxiliary lifts, just wait to see what he had in mind for the rest of his training.
Bob Peoples was too innovative to only do one style of deadlift which is simply bending over and picking up a bar from the floor and standing erect with it. He trained several versions to attack from every angle. He did a lift called the dead hang. He would make the bar out of a rack at the top of the lift and then lower it down to the floor and lift it to the top. This allows the body to store some energy in the muscles and connective tissues on the way down, which some feel make the lift easier. Peoples wasn’t into finding things that were easier so he did them for as many reps as he could. We find in his training logs that he could lift 350 pounds for 36 reps, 400 for 28, 450 for 22, 500 for 18, 600 for 8, and 650 for 4 repetitions. Those wights and reps are just unimaginable. Each set would take minutes to complete making the hands bleed, throat burn, and lungs feel like exploding.
He also did stiff leg deadlifts where he left his butt high in the air to put off the strain on his low back. Even without his leg drive, he could use all low back power to lift 540 pounds. He did deadlifts with various grips: both hands over in a hook grip, alternating, both hands under, and even a grip where he tucked his thumb between his first and second finger. When his grip tired out, he would use lifting straps to help or even some metal hooks he designed.
Peoples would also work a small portion of the lift by doing partials. Sometimes it was the bottom of his lift he worked by pausing at the bottom or using his ring bar. Other times he would work on the top half of the lift by setting up a bar at mid shin and only lifting from there to standing fully erect. Records show he did a half dead hang deadlift with hooks of 850 pounds. He did a lift that was the top side of his deadlift with 900!
To keep his legs strong, he pushed his squats and homemade leg press hard as well. He could full squat 400 for 15, 450 pounds for 8 reps and do a single with 530 pounds. He loaded up the leg press he made where he made to balance the weight on the soles of his feet and pushed it to 750 pounds. Peoples was pushing his lift in all three areas: the start of the lift with his legs, the middle where the transition occurs, and the finish with his back. Those high repetitions forced his body into levels of pain and exhaustion he had never encountered, but they also prepared his body to do something it had never done before.
Peoples was building incredible leg and back strength through his use of various styles of deadlifts and shrugs as well as putting his newly invented equipment to use. He was hitting records for both the amount of weight he could use and the number of reps he could do. He was feeling very strong heading into the Red Shield Boys Club Variety Show in March. And it was not just his training that had Peoples feeling so prepared.
The timing of the event was possibly just as important as the training. Remember that Peoples worked at the Rayon mill, farmed on the side, and helped his father with his farm as well. With the meeting coming in early March, Peoples would have a 6-month training season after his final harvests and before the planting season. This would be the time when he would be doing very little with his farming allowing him to train and rest more.
The location of the event was also helpful. When a lifter has to travel long distances, it is hard to reach optimal results. The lifter can’t eat or drink like they want. They may be stiff from traveling many houses in cramped spaces. Sometimes they do not sleep well in unfamiliar confines. None of these things listed individually seem that important of a factor, however, if all of them individually account for even a small 1% decline in performance, that could easily add up to 35 pounds off his best lift.
So, Peoples had the perfect timing of the event which allowed for uninterrupted training, the benefit of a home field advantage, and new training techniques, and equipment. All he had to do was put it all together in front of his eager hometown crowd in one monumental lift for the ages.
To be continued…