Brute Strength

This article at Slate caught my eye today:
One Giant Lift for Mankind: The race for the 1,000-pound bench press.
When I trained for football and wrestling in high school, I was happy to be able to bench 200. But ten times that? Half a ton? Even with the super redneck denim shirts or whatever, I fear these guys will only learn their limits when something gives out with a sickening snap. I know what too much weight on the bar feels like. It feels like your elbows might pop out. If you’re positioned poorly on the bench, you know it right away. Sometimes, the veins stand out on your forehead as you turn beet red and wish you hadn’t been stupid enough to try it without a spotter (or anyone within grunting or panicked yelping distance; how I survived my own stupidity all these years is a mystery). Steroid accusations and neck-deficiency issues aside, 1000 pounds is an amazing figure.
Anyway. You know how everyone at the gym jokes about the real muscleheads being able to lift cars that get in their way, etc., right? Standard jibes that denounce the practicality of being so big and so strong? I stopped making those jokes after a powerlifting guy that I knew got in a horrible car accident my junior year. What happened, in brief, was a frontal collision into the side of a (thankfully empty) school bus. Said person was driving with his seatbelt on, the car was a Honda Accord (no airbag), and there were no other passengers. Speed at time of collision was estimated between 35-45mph and according to witnesses, there was no time for him to brake.
Typically, this is a fatal scenario, with the steering column crushing the driver’s chest or perhaps the windshield exploding outward with the impact of the driver’s head. However, this guy survived against all odds. He was badly injured and hospitalized for months, but had survived an accident that should have been fatal. How did he do it?
According to his doctor, who conferred with the EMTs that worked the scene, the driver had avoided fatal injury because he had apparently bench pressed the steering wheel at time of impact. They had found him slumped over with his hands still gripping the wheel.
Sometimes I go to the hardware store and think about this when I look at the hammers. Never know when you’ll need a bigger hammer.

2 thoughts on “Brute Strength

  1. I saw him around a lot… He suffered minor permanent back injury, the details of which I never heard, but it caused him to walk kind of stiffly from time to time. He recovered from the multiple broken bones and a concussion among other things.

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