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How Powerlifting Saved my Life
By Scott Pribyl
I was a Competitive Power Lifter for 30 years, ages 23-53. In January, 2008, my Ascending Aorta Dissected, late at night, very suddenly, and with no prior symptoms. As it was about 10:30 p.m., and I was not having typical heart attack symptoms, I waited far too long to go to a Hospital, losing a lot of blood in the process (unknowingly), and came within 4 minutes of losing my life. Obviously, I survived. I credit Powerlifting for that, and this is my story (All chronicled in my book, "Miracle Man: Beating the Odds: Cheating Death", released December, 2015; it has since gone "viral", as it is a True Story, Authenticated with Surgical/Hospital Records, and photos 7 years later (2015, age 60).
I began lifting weights at age 18, in 1973, when Body Builders like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu, were becoming well known. I started lifting at the local YMCA in Green Bay, WI, using a universal machine and whatever old, worn out free weights they had in a room that was about 8' x 10'. To describe the equipment and facility as mediocre is an extreme compliment, yet that's exactly what it was. A bench, a straight bar, odd, and old, weight plates, from various companies, and the universal machine. That was all the YMCA had. However, it was enough to develop a decent workout, and cultivate my desire to get stronger, and bigger.
I subscribed to a Powerlifting newsletter (photocopied on plain white paper), around 1975, after reading about it in a muscle magazine. I was shocked to read the results of various competitions; the amounts of weight being used for bench press, squat and deadlifting, as well as the training regimens the powerlifters of that era used. As my own lifting was very meager, compared to the guys in this newsletter, I was both in awe, and wonder, trying to determine how they could all lift so much more than I could (1978). A commercial weightlifting gym had opened the year before (1977), which I quickly joined, and thus began my "Power Lifting Pursuit".
I voraciously read every article I could about the great lifters of that time: Larry Pacifico, Bill Kazmaier, Don Reinhoudt, Rickey Crain, Lamar Gant, Roger Estep, etc. - just to name a few. Like everyone I knew, at that time, in weightlifting "circles", we all wanted the 400# bench! I increased my body weight to 195# during the YMCA years, which was my ideal weight. Like most newbies, I trained 4-5 times a week, and did Cardio exercise on the "off" days. Heart Health was becoming increasingly known throughout the USA as a critical part of anyone's health, so I added a fair dose of aerobic exercise for my heart.
After a year of hard training, and 5-6 "workouts" of various sorts every week, I gained strength, muscular size, and was in great overall health. In the 1980's, I thought I'd gain weight to increase the amount I could lift - to get in the "Big Boys League". So, I ate as much protein as I could and entered the 220#, then the 242# divisions. Unfortunately, my best lifts were not keeping up with the increased body weight I gained. While I finally got a personal best of 410# in the bench press, I was in my mid twenties and my career as a Corporate Executive was beginning- which meant less time in the gym (which I wasn't happy about). Plus, starting a family in 1981, and building my first house just added to "work" outside the gym.
I realized, in the mid 1980's, my increased weight - to as much as 246#- was not bringing commensurate increases to my lifts (steroids, or peds were not available then; except to a few who could afford them), and I quickly realized I had to drop down to the 198# class- which, again, is my Natural Weight. I was getting a bit "fat", as a result of the increased body weight, so I really had to get rid of 50#. For nine long years, I tried many diet plans to do that, and returned to training 5 days a week. However, as most people know, it is much easier to put body weight on than to take it off.
In 1990 I synthesized many weight loss methods into one that worked for me, and I dropped 50# in 2 months - and have kept the weight off for 25+ years. I outline how I did that in my book, and it is actually very easy - once I learned what my body's natural composition is. And that composition is basically the same for every man (women as well, with slight differences). So if weight loss is important for your lifting and health, long term, my method is very easy - natural, great tasting food and drinks and NO GIMMICKS! That program is included in my book (about $10 wherever it is purchased).
By the late 1990's my "Heart Health" was becoming more of a focus (as I aged), but I still continued to lift as heavy as I could. I entered 5 events in the Midwest during 2005 (age 50), and won all 5, setting two Wisconsin records in the process- in the 198# class. In the process I was lucky to qualify for an International meet which was being held in Las Vegas in November, 2008, and I would still be in the 47-53 age class. But, that immediately changed when my Ascending Aorta Dissected January 28, 2008 - age 53. The odds of Surviving Emergency Aortic dissection Surgery - at 2-3 a.m., are less than 5%. My Cardiothoracic surgeon told me my body fat percentage was low, and there was very little fat around my heart, so he could do the Emergency repair - with 4 minutes to spare - and save my life. Most people who have this internal injury die in 1-3 hours due to massive internal blood loss; John Ritter, Albert Einstein and John Lennon are a few people who have succumbed to the identical injury.
By continuing to lift as heavy as I could, from age 23-53, and still add some cardio exercise, my body's strength and overall fitness level, was able to survive this horrific internal injury. The discipline Power Lifting taught me - rigorous, frequent training, using varying exercises and weight amounts, and utilizing various muscles with them, kept my body strong enough to withstand the damage the Aortic Dissection caused, and allowed me to Survive the ordeal. The documented odds of me surviving were 3 in 1 million, under those circumstances; the odds of making the comeback I was fortunate to realize are perhaps 1 in 10-50 million. As there are no records of anyone ever "coming back" as I was lucky enough to, there is no statistical data to compare.
After Hospital release, and recovery time, I was informed I could lift again - but never more than 50#. Devastating, to say the least. But my two training partners, David Anderson and Dave Felton (2 incredible power lifters), convinced me I could still develop a Body Builder's physique with 50#, so I tried it and after 7 long years I developed definition I never had; which was predicated on the size and strength I gained from powerlifting. I owe my life to power lifting, literally, and the hard training necessary to lift amounts I could only imagine as a teenager (and I was not a World Class lifter); I just did the best I was capable of, won my share of trophies, and kept my body strong and lean most of the time.
My body's strength allowed me to survive, and comeback from, an almost certain death, and I still Body Build today, at age 61. The powerlifting rudiments learned at age 20, have stayed with me more than 40 years, and I encourage all PowerLifters to continue the discipline required, and challenge one's self, throughout your life. While I am not as strong as I was 10, 20, 30 years ago, the consistent power/strength lifting- albeit different as we age- combined with the mental benefits we gain in the process, will serve any lifter well throughout their entire lives- and perhaps save it in the process. Power Lifting, I am convinced, saved my life.
For a Signed copy of my book, in the USA, visit www.MiracleManScott.com (outside the USA the book is available at any book/online seller, world wide). Thank you! Scott Pribyl, Author, "Miracle Man: Beating the Odds; Cheating Death"”. Thank you, Scott Pribyl, Author, and ...still lifting today!
DISCLAIMER: This information is not presented by a medical practitioner and is for educational and
informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read.