It seemed like a great idea…
as I got stronger and stronger under the tutelage of my Dad, it was decided that we needed a power rack in order to have more variety in training. There are many types of power racks, the one we opted for looked something like this:
They are used to do squats, push jerks, heavy pulls and a bunch of other muscle busting exercises to improve your Olympic lifts. Personally I think they are remnants of medieval times where people were tortured, thus the name ‘rack’….
The one we bought did not have the upper cross bar support, they were two separate free standing frames.
Since I worked out in my backyard patio, we had to figure out how to properly secure it to the floor and the overhead ceiling which was made out of a weak aluminum.
My Dad was a Civil Engineer and had his P.E. He was meticulous to detail. He came up with a design where we drilled holes into the concrete floor in order to place rebars, then we would build a wooden frame around it where concrete would be poured, 300 pounds worth for each block.
Then the frames would be bolted into the concrete blocks then secured overhead to the patio I beams. This was genius! The monstrous, pyramid like cement blocks would take all the weight and pounding that the power rack would endure and the overhead patio roof would just serve the purpose of keeping them upright.
How hard can this really be?
The drilling begins…
Men love power tools especially BIG power tools. This was going to be a bonding experience between Dad and I. We had to drill big holes, I mean BIG holes into four inches of concrete. So we rented a power drill that weighed as much as I did. I was 14 and weighed about 130 pounds soaking wet (yes, I was the weakling you always read about in school). With the bit inserted, that thing had to be almost three feet long.
My Dad marked the floor where the holes had to be drilled. He was going to do the drilling, since according to him, I was too small to handle such a drill. You guessed it, those were fighting words and somehow I was going to prove him wrong!
After about an hour of drilling, Dad had finished four holes. We were half way done but he was going to take a break and get something to eat. His parting words were ‘Do not touch that drill’ which translated into teenage logic meant ‘as long as I don’t see you, do what you want’!
I could barely hold the drill upright.
Thank God I was able to stick the drill bit into the next hole he had already started. Imitating my Dad, I held on to each handle of the drill and wedged the motor against my stomach. The only difference is that there is not much to wedge when you weigh 130 pounds compared to my Dad’s 200 pound frame and a nicely developed beer belly which took years to evolve!
Initially all was going well. The bit was spinning although no noticeable progress could be seen,
then it happened…
I inadvertently tilted the drill too much to one side and the drill bit ‘caught’ the hole and froze. Like a cowboy riding a bull, the drill itself continued spinning, picking me up and twirling me like a baton. It kept spinning until the electrical cord wrapped itself around the drill to the point that the plug came out of the wall. This was immediately preceded by throwing me a good three feet into the cement floor. At that moment I knew that Rodeo Bull Rider was not going to be a good career choice!
When my Dad came back, needless to say, he was not impressed but my black and blue marks was enough punishment…..for the time being!
How hard can building blocks be?
With the holes now drilled it was time to build the frames that would hold the concrete we would pour to create the blocks. There were two frames to be built, one for each block so my Dad showed me how to build them. He emphasized to pre-drill the holes before using wood screws to hold the frame together. So he built the first one and left me to do the second one.
Who needs to pre-drill anyways?
Teenage logic, still in full gear, takes over and looks for short cuts. Why in the world would you want to pre-drill holes for the wood screws when screwing them in right from the get go works just fine? So on I went making the second frame breaking carpentry speed records if they ever measure such a thing. I could hear the wood cracking as I drilled but heck that’s normal right?
The pouring begins…
With both frames complete, and rebars inserted in the holes, it was time to mix the concrete and start pouring. First was my Dad’s frame. As we poured I could hear the pressure of the weight that the concrete was exerting on the frame, but it was holding. Once done we stepped back and it looked marvelous. I knew at that point that my Dad in a previous life had obviously been involved in the building of the pyramids in Egypt. It was majestic!
Now it was time to pour the concrete into my frame, you know, the one I took some liberties on in building. As the pouring began, I could hear the wood frame strain under the weight and pressure of the concrete. A quarter of the way done, all is good…half way done, still good to go….three quarters of the way THEN IT HAPPENED!
WTF did you do???
With the pouring almost complete, the frame could no longer take the pressure….the wooden frame broke open as the screws I had used without the pre-drilling had created cracks in the wood and it could no longer hold. One side had breached and the concrete slowly started slumping out from that side.
The first words out of my Dad was ‘you didn’t pre-drill did you?’. Actually the language he used was a bit more colorful than that but this is a PG rated blog….
Quickly we got some rope to wrap around the frame to salvage the block. There we were, my Dad and I laying on the ground pulling on the rope as hard as we could to stop the frame from busting wide open and letting the rest of the concrete pour out….somehow, miraculously, we salvaged the frame but not without some consequences…
There stood the two blocks. My Dad’s, a symbol of a Civil Engineering degree and PE license. Perfection, rectangular, without one noticeable defect. Then there was mine, lopsided, deformed, also a symbol, but of how a teenager could be smarter than Dad.
I think this was one of the few moments I had seen my Dad lose his temper…he was fit to be tied. After salvaging the frame, he held a large steel rod used in the power rack in his hand. I still remember him holding that rod tightly in one hand and slamming it into the palm of his other hand repeating ‘I can’t believe you didn’t pre-drill after I told you…’.
Later on in years, we always had a good laugh about this. When friends and relatives would come over he would always take them into the patio to show off the power rack.
The show and tell always started with the same question, ‘Can you tell which block was built by me and which one was built by my son?’…..the differences were so noticeable that everyone would just start laughing uncontrollably!
Although at the time this was something that I wanted to forget immediately, it is now one of those cherished moments between father and son that will stay with me forever.
I miss my Dad tremendously but those memories keeps him alive in my heart forever…