LISTEN: Table Talk Podcast Clip — The Big Misconception About Chuck Vogelpohl
Why do you think Chuck Vogelpohl would go so insane when lifting?
Dave Tate steps up to bat and to answer this question since he trained with Chuck at Westside Barbell. He also worked closely with him at WPO meets.
He wouldn’t call Chuck insane; instead, he explains that Chuck internalized things when he lifted and was internally motivated, which drove him to a point that’s “out of control.”
If you know the arousal curve, he hits that peak but he goes a couple notches too far. He didn’t understand he would go a couple notches too far. So we had to find ways to keep him away from doing that, and part of it was keeping people like Chicken Hawk and Bob Coen and keeping people the fuck away that would get him more fired up. I would sit there and try to talk to him about things completely not related.
Jim Wendler, the mind behind the 5/3/1 program, shares a point that doesn’t have to do with Chuck but is still related to the question at hand. He contrasts the differences between doing squats on a Friday morning and waking up on the morning of a meet.
In both situations, you have to reach a peak level of performance that requires mental work. The Friday morning squats might take more work to get to that level mentally, whereas you’re probably at that level even when you just woke up on the morning of a meet. Thing is, you might not realize on that meet morning that you’re at that peak, so you take it up and come falling back down.
Bringing it back to Chuck, Jim isn’t sure where this is coming from:
He’s not like that all. I don’t know where that — maybe people talk about a little bit? He’s very intense, but he’s serial killer intense. I’ve seen him miss weights, then add weight, and then do it for three, but he’s not screaming at all — maybe when he’s doing the rep or something — but it’s not like he’s flagellating and stuff and ROOOOAR!
Dave recalls Chuck being the first person in the gym to set equipment up, and the last person to leave, making sure that everything was cared for and put away. He finds it funny that people want to be like Chuck when they approach the bar, yelling and hitting their head against the bar, which wasn’t intentional, and yet people don’t emulate the things Chuck did on purpose.
Chuck did that stuff, I think, out of reverence and respect that he had for that place.
Even though powerlifters might not take care of the weight room to the degree Chuck did, Jim gets his football team to emulate Chuck by teaching them responsibility and to respect the equipment in a similar way.
Not only did Chuck care for the weight room, but he also cared enough about his fellow lifters to call them out on their behavior. Dave remembers Chuck being the first person to speak up if someone needed to get kicked out of Westside.
That, too, is something Jim’s teaching his athletes. He told them that if someone is messing around in the weight room to speak up and confront that person. Not in a threatening way, but more of a “Hey, that’s not cool. If you can’t behave here properly, you should go.”
Chuck was also incredibly humble. Jim tried interviewing him with little success, as that interview ended up with Jim asking Chuck questions, then Chuck not saying much, Jim answering the questions for Chuck, who then would just nod and say, “Yeah, that’s it.”
Sure, if you’re a Chuck Vogelpohl fan, you could copy his style of going wild at meets; but if you’re a true fan, you’ll follow in his footsteps and become a humble leader in the weight room.