Gym Heroes #2 – White Lightning

This guy is by far the smallest, lightest, and weakest (by conventional standards) of anyone who will appear in the Gym Heroes Hall of Fame.  He was also the strangest and the most frightening (impressive because the two basic prerequisites for this list are oddness and physical power).   And he is the only entrant that i have videos of!

First, here’s an introduction by some youtube commenters (my comments in italics):

HueyLewisFan22 for those who were not unh students, this guy had mythical status on campus. no one knows his name, where he’s from or how old he is. he disappears for weeks, sometimes months at a time and when he reappears it’s only at the gym where he busts out THE most insane workouts that borderline break all of the equipment…one bad ass dude.

This was one of the most mysterious facets of White Lightning (i’ll speak of him in the past tense as I don’t work out in that gym anymore – though I’m sure he still does).  The college gym was free to full-time students and professors.  Part-time students, employees, and alumni had to pay an exorbitant fee, either something like $15 a day, or $300 a semester, making it a very expensive proposition.  The general public could not go at all. There have been sightings of this guy dating as early as 2004, so how can he have been going to school full time for that long?  I saw him there at least 50 times in 2011, meaning a day pass also would have been ridiculous.  Why would he pay so much money to use this gym when there was a cheaper option only a mile away? And there is NO WAY this guy was a professor.  The access system was pretty tight, i.e. you couldn’t just slip in undetected through the front door.  I guess it is possible that he knew a window or something to wriggle through.  I’ve been pondering this for years.

wgordo17 – I used to play Raquetball with this dude through my [2006-2009]  years. …. Good to see him still going strong with the weightlifting gloves and the 1992 Dave Grohl haircut.

I doubt the veracity of this, as White Lightning never spoke, except when directly questioned, and then as little as possible.  I think one time I asked him if he was using a bench, and he said “No”, then turned away. Because he was always doing some sort of weird karate move and/or staring into space, it was hard to even get his attention.

viliyargI used to enjoy this guys company, very entertaining. However, the last time I saw him he smelled so bad that I could wiff him in like the back where the squat racks are.. holy shit, hit tha showers!

Again, I am skeptical, unless by “company”  the commenter just means that he liked lifting weights at the same time.  But he did smell awful.  Worse than B.O, or even the ammonia reek of sweaty clothes worn a second time.  If I had to describe his odor, the closest thing I could compare it to would be rotting flesh.

White Lightning was about 5’4 and 125 lbs.  I think he might have been 1/4 Asian but it was hard to tell. He always wore jeans, workboots, baggy blue t-shirt and weightlifting gloves.  His attire and the time that he typically appeared (3-5 PM) gave me the impression that he worked some sort of menial job and then came directly to the gym in his work clothes  In the videos, it appears that he is wearing a beanie cap – but that is his hair.

He did his workout almost solely on the Smith Machine.  I remember him doing two exercises on that apparatus – Incline Bench and Shrugs – with 400-600 pounds.  His form was worse than bad; his exercise performance seemed to consist simply of him unracking and reracking the weight. I tended to watch him closely at first, just because I could not see how someone so small could even hope to imagine to move such weights, even on the Smith machine.

Without further ado, here are the videos.  I applaud the cameramen.  While their efforts were certainly an invasion of privacy, the risks they took are inspiring (as I will explain later).

White Lightning Grip Rips 450lbs at UNH – Hilariously set to music, in this video he does two varieties of his bizarre gyrating warmup, then “shrugs” 405+ on the Smith machine.  There are at least four plates, and there may have been a 25 (too dark to tell), making it 455.  Not that it matters.

A rare shot of White Lightning on the cable crossover machine. I never saw him do this exercise while I was there.

Just a psyche-up by the Smith machine  i.e. more arm gyrations.  It was always hard to tell whether his flailing was a warmup, martial-arts-inspired, or whether he was air-drumming to a song that only he could hear.  Perhaps all three

Incline Smith Machine Press??? –   Here it is hard to tell if he is actually doing the exercise or just getting set up – which was not unusual.  Note the look he gives the camera at the end.

Two final comments about White Lightning:

  1. He scared the hell out of me.  I’m not scared of many people.  There was just a certain ineffable menace about him.  It’s not something you can really understand from the videos, except possibly from that glare in the last one.   You just got the feeling that if you said one wrong thing to him, he would think nothing of bashing in your skull with 20 lb dumbbell.  Focus is one thing.  Most people are not nearly focused enough in the gym.  But ninety minutes of pure unbroken intensity, muttering under his breath, and not noticing a single person besides himself is frightening.  Literally, a girl could have taken off her clothes, or a guy could have tipped over an entire rack of dumbbells and he wouldn’t have blinked (trust me, at this gym, events very similar to both of those happened fairly often).  Also, if you think about it, his attitude had to be that – despite all evidence to the contrary – he was the only one in the world who was working out correctly.  And he did not care one iota that he stank like a corpse.
  2. He was tougher than almost everyone in that gym, and possibly you too.  This one may be hard to believe, given his size, and his laughable exercise technique.  And true, on gym-based measures of strength like bench press or squat, I’m sure he would fall short. I don’t know if it was his isometric tugging on 400 lbs , or his weird martial arts, or if at his job he had to do a lot of physical labor; but in person, you could tell that he was ripped – and also quite strong. What if the contest was moving all the dumbbells and weight plates in the gym up two flights of stairs to the indoor track?  Who would you bet on, White Lightning, or those soft college kids in the background?  What about a no-holds-barred cage-match?  You think anyone in that gym could have submitted him? Or does a more likely outcome involve White Lightning tearing out someone’s jugular with his teeth?

Of course it is important to use correct form on your exercises so you don’t make an internet spectacle of yourself.  But it is also important to attack your workouts with a certain “White-Lightning”-esque animal ferocity.  Because if you don’t, you’ll end up like those other goofballs in the videos.  Mere Background.


3 thoughts on “Gym Heroes #2 – White Lightning

  1. these character portraits make for good reading. given enough time, I will probably steal your idea and write something about The Others in my gym as well. please, keep these posts coming. 🙂

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

  3. These profiles are pretty cool. In my lifting years I have met many an Ox, but never a White Lightnings.

    Although filming a guy making a spectacle of himself in the gym is arguably 387.6% more retarded than making a spectacle of oneself in the gym. FWIW.

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