Gym Heroes #1 – "Ox"

This is my first of a series about the strongest gym guys I have known.  None of these guys are competitive lifters and most have serious mental issues.  But they are all interesting characters.

“Ox” was a mainstay at the Gold’s Gym I trained at in 1998.  He stood about 6’1″ and weighed 290 lbs.  I remember that he did multiple sets of 4-10 rep squats with roughly 500 lbs, though not quite to parallel (except maybe in the SPF).  He did these with a belt and with knee wraps over his sweatpants, and with a close high-bar type stance.  He also would do flies with 100+ lb dumbbells.  I wish I could remember his other feats of strength.  I know he never deadlifted.  I seem to recall him benching 300-400 lbs for multiple reps but I don’t think he was that great at it.

Where Ox really “shone” was on the machines.  He would do leg presses with practically every plate in the gym.  He would use not only the entire weight stack for every other machine, but, using a dip belt, he would manage to add 2 or 3 more 45 lb plates.  Then he would do numerous sets and reps.

Most people steered well clear of Ox, because he had a bad temper.  Ox is actually the nickname my buddies gave him when they were making fun of him behind his back.  However, no one ever mentioned this nickname within 5 miles of the gym.  Just not a good idea.  Also, he hilariously drove a tiny Honda Civic.  It was funny to watch him wedge himself into that car.  But not something you wanted to get caught watching.

I sort of became “pals” with him, just by asking him polite questions (everyone likes to talk about themselves) and by saying hello, etc.  My reward was that occasionally he would have me “watch his depth” on squats.  I had the nerve to tell him that his squats were high, but this seemed only to upset him, so after that first time, I just told him that they were perfect, and everyone was happier.

Ox worked in a lumber yard, and lived with his parents.  He was in his early 20s but looked at least 10 years older.  He also was a bouncer on weekend nights and was always full of stories of people he had smashed.  This shows how powerful alcohol is.  No sober person in their right mind would ever do anything to offend this guy.  However, after a few beers, some 160 pound twit would push him or mouth off.  And then we’d hear about the aftermath, which once, I recall, involved him slamming a steel door on a guy’s head, and another time, shoving someone through a wall.  (various people, including a cop, corroborated these tales)

However, Ox’s true love was professional wrestling.  Every chance he got, he would “wrestle” in low-budget, dinky productions in places like high-school gyms and American Legion posts.  I have no doubt that, given his dedication, strength, pain tolerance, athleticism and knowledge of the “sport”, he was pretty good at it.

So here was his plan:

  1. Bulk up to over 300 lbs.
  2. Cut down so that he was “ripped and 300 lbs”
  3. Sign a multi-million dollar contract with the WWF, WCW or ECW.

There were several problems with his plan.  First of all, despite taking 3 grams of test a week – every week (cycling causes weight-loss) – plus various other drugs (i remember Winstrol, Deca, and Dianabol, but there were others) he had plateaued at about 290-295 lbs.  The reason he wore sweatpants every day was because he had needle marks all over his upper legs.  (listen, I’m no steroid expert, and I thought you shot them into your butt, but he did roll up his pant leg one day and showed me nasty bruisy track marks galore).

Secondly, the weight that he wanted to achieve just kept increasing.  When he was 220, he wanted to be 250.  When he was 250, he wanted to be 280.  The truth is that he just didn’t like cutting.  So he was on a perpetual bulk and had about 25% bodyfat.  Last time I checked, there was no weight requirement for professional wrestling.  They just want guys who are big and ripped.  Not 300 lbs and pudgy. (maybe 7’4 and 500 lbs and pudgy, but I digress)

Third, he was really ugly.  What follows may be an offensive statement, but it is certainly not an untrue one: He had a face like a retarded piglet.  Ox probably had an IQ of 70 but he looked like he had an IQ of 30.  Little dull beady offcenter eyes, mouth always hanging open, snout-like nose, frighteningly tiny little ears, already balding.  He would have had to wear a mask at all times.

Fourth, and most importantly, the plan itself was stupid.  I’ll be honest, I don’t really know how one makes it to the big time in pro wrestling.  And for all I know, he has succeeded at his quest.  I just can’t imagine that, after years of wrestling in smelly auditoriums, some scout from the WWE would discover him and say “Yes, that is exactly the stupid-looking, pale, water-retaining, stretch-marked, 300 lb flabby strong bastard that will excite our TV audience”  (For those skeptics out there, Mick Foley is 100 x better-looking, more charismatic – and nicer – than Ox was.  Comparing the two is like saying that your fat cousin could be a movie star because John Goodman is)

Two quick anecdotes about Ox:  One is that he would always come to the gym at about 8 PM.  It closed at 10 PM.  Every single night he would grumble and growl at the desk personnel when they started to close up.  He’d slam weights and mutter threats under his breath and make comments about the injustice they were doing to the gym’s “best” member.  Then he would quietly leave at exactly 9:59 every night.

Another is that he carried a big bag full of gear with him during his workout.  Now, an unnecessary disclaimer: I carry a pretty big bag of stuff with me when I go to the gym.  Some differences:

  • My bag is an Army assault pack.  Ox used a hockey bag, which is 3x the size.  It was bigger than a duffel bag.  It is literally the largest thing that you could call a bag and not furniture.
  • My bag has things that I need in it, like my belt, and my chalk.  It was unknown what Ox had in his bag because he never opened it.
  • I take things out of my bag that I don’t need during my workout – like my shaker bottle and change of clothes – and put them in my locker.  Ox told me that he was worried about people stealing, so he didn’t like using a locker.

Most importantly, I keep my bag out of the way of other people. Ox purposefully left his bag in the middle of busy aisles between equipment.  I know he did this on purpose, because he was always telling me:

  1. how he was hoping that “some assh*le” would step on his bag so he could “f*cking kill them”
  2. how right before I got there, “this dipsh*t” looked at the bag funny like he wanted Ox to move it and Ox “almost had to kill him.”

This was something that Ox talked about incessantly, at least five or six times a workout.  Next to professional wrestling glory, it was Ox’s biggest dream that someday, someone would disrespect that bag, so he could inflict justified (in his mind) violence upon them.  Of course, this was unlikely, because every sane person gave Ox and his bag a wide berth.

Except me.  That’s right.  One day I was walking along, and I tripped over that stupid bag.  It was no glancing blow, either.  I got my feet tangled up in the strap, stepped on the side of the bag (leaving a dirty footprint), then fell sprawled out on top of it.  When I got up, I glanced over at Ox.

“Sorry, man,” I said.

“You’re lucky I like you,” he said. “If it was anyone else who had done that, I would have totally f*cking killed him.”

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One thought on “Gym Heroes #1 – "Ox"

  1. Pingback: Gym Hero #3 – "Z" | Coach's Blog

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