Danny Aguirre Overcomes Cancer & Continues To Powerlift Interviewed By Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com - September 2008
Critical Bench: We're here with Danny Aguirre of Fort Myers, FL. Danny tell our readers about yourself.
My name is Danny Aguirre, I'm 40 years old and live in Fort Myers, Fl. I'm married to a wonderful woman named Carmen and I knew she was a keeper when she planned our honeymoon around a powerlifting meet! LOL. Although I've only been competing in powerlifting for about 5 years, I picked up my first weight set at age 10, so I've been lifting now for nearly 30 years.
Critical Bench: That is classic, she planned your honeymoon around a powerlifting meet! Glad you are happy. Danny, what is your height/weight/ and best lifts? What fed do you compete in and why?
I'm 5'8" and about 178 lbs. My best meet lifts to date are a 550 squat, 330 bench and 560 deadlift. I've competed in APA and most recently in Raw United. I love lifting and competing but I just can't spend hundreds of dollars to travel out of state to compete. And also because, I just prefer lifting raw. It's not that I'm a gear hater, I have many very good friends that lift in gear, but I tried it for a while and it just wasn't for me.
Critical Bench: Danny, what are your powerlifting goals for this year and what are your long term goals?
I'm rehabbing a torn adductor I suffered almost a year ago, so my goal for this year is to get my squat back over 500 and finally break a 600 deadlift in a meet. As far as long term goals, one is to stay healthy and injury free! The last couple of years have been a little rough. 2nd now that I'm healing up to get back into the raw top 10 ten list at Powerlifting Watch, I have to give a big thanks to Jon for taking the time and effort inputting that list together!
Critical Bench: So far in your powerlifting journey what has been your favorite, craziest, funniest moment and moment that has changed you the most?
There are too many favorite moments. I've made a lot of great friends in this sport. I've been lucky enough to share the platform and get my butt kicked by some of the greats like Tony Conyers and Brian Schwab. I've lifted off warm up attempts for Ryan Kennelly. I was able to train and get a 17 year old lifter named Rob Fay qualified for the first Raw Unity Meet, he just pulled a raw 530 @ 159 a few weeks ago!
Craziest moment, seeing Tony Conyers with single ply @ 165 get the biggest squat of the day at a meet with several 275's and a couple of SHW in multiply!!
Funniest moment would have to go to my friend Jose "chicken man " Solis, this sissy guy who is most definitely NOT built to deadlift, he was trying for his first 500 deadlift and came up and yelled at the weight. After a good lift he started dancing on the platform, the people in the audience just about fell out of their seats laughing!
Moment that changed me the most, my very first meet! I had only trained for about 6 weeks for this meet after being in a car accident that totaled my car. I weighed in at 162 and pulled only 500 that day in only a belt. I didn't think it was that big a deal but everyone kept telling me that a 3 times body weight pull was great.
Critical Bench: All very precious and entertainment moments you just listed! Thanks for taking us into your journey! Danny, tell us about your SUPER POWER DANNY AGUIRRE TRAINING SYSTEM!
Over the last few years I have tried many different routines, some were good while others brought my lifts down below where they were before I began. Like the no deadlifting to improve your deadlift approach! What I've found works best for me is a 4 day a week program.
Monday- is squat (don't want to compete with all the wanna be bodybuilders for the benches ) we, alternate between box squats, reverse band and free squats. For assistance work we'll do hack squats, walking lunges or single leg press. Followed by RDL's or GM's and then heavy abs.
Tuesday- is bench, we start of with flat bench working our way to a heavy triple or double. We'll the either hit boards , reverse band or weighted dips, then rotator work.
Thursday- we start with front squats to a double, then we got to SLDL, or regular pulls once we get closer to a meet. I've gotten better results doing stiff legs the majority of the time. ( thanks SGT ROCK ) We follow that up with glute-ham raise and kneeling single leg leg curl, then abs.
Friday- we'll start with incline press to a heavy triple then overhead press. I've found that overhead presses have made a significant difference in my bench, we then go to a triceps lift. We change these around between close grip bench, tate presses, or JM's. Once in a while we'll through in some biceps curls.
Critical Bench: Very interesting routine! What are your top 10 tips for a RAW bigger bench?
Well then bench has never been my strongest point but, I would go with
1, Practice the bench LOL. While boards, bands chains and floor press are all great assistance work, their just that "assistance work" the lift has to feel like a natural move. You may not be built to bench but that does not mean you can't get a bigger bench with practice.
2, Train your weak point, find the weak link in your press and use the assistance lifts to overcome your weakness.
3, Train your lats!! The lats are essential in helping blast the weight off your chest.
4, Train your shoulders!! If you look at all the great current and past benchers they all had great shoulders!
5, Do rotator work. Your only as strong as your weakest link. A weak or injured rotator will bring down the biggest bencher.
6, Learn to use leg drive. Forcing the legs to push into the floor without lifting your butt of the bench can add pounds to your bench!
7, Squeeze the bar with everything you got, the harder you can grip the bar the stronger all the muscles in the kinetic chain will contract.
8, Have a plan! Decide on a specific training program and stick to it, don't just go in and try to PR on every training day.
9, Know when to back off if something is hurting! Pushing through the pain may lead to an injury that could take you out for weeks or months!
10, Have fun!! Training should be something you enjoy and look forward to.
Critical Bench: Tip 1 is interesting because it is too easy to fall in love with assistance movements! What supplements do you use?
Critical Bench: What adversities have you had to overcome?
Well, this is a tough one. How about the last for years LOL. It started around late July of 2004. I found myself losing weight and strength no matter how much I was eating! I was down to about 160 and could barely get a 500 deadlift off the floor. My friend Mike Witmer kept asking me if I was eating enough?
On August 4th I went to the ER with some sever chest pain and shortness of breath. I thought I might have contracted phenomena or some upper respiratory infection. Well I was right about the phenomena, but what I did not expect to see in the X-rays were too large masses in my left lung. I was diagnosed with advanced stage III large B cell lymphoma.
I had lung surgery but instead of any removal of the masses all the could end up doing was biopsies. A couple of weeks later I told I would be admitted to Hope Hospice and that I should make some final preparations,
They said I would most likely not make through the Christmas. Because I was still physically able to care for myself I was admitted to home hospice. The first few days at home were the hardest of my life, I was not bale to work, my car had been damaged by a hurricane we had while I was in the hospital and consequently I had no power at home the first couple of days!
A little over two-weeks after my lung surgery I was back in the gym training. With the help of my friends Mike Witmer and Rob Smith I got rides to the gym, and in December of 2004 I did a deadlift meet and pulled 520 raw while on chemo. My weight was at about 182 because I was so bloated from the chemo and prednisone, I guess I wasn't ready to die just yet LOL!
A couple of months later I tore a biceps tendon while deadlifting, the doc forgot to tell me that chemo weakens the tendons. I guess he didn't really expect someone with lymphoma and on chemo to be powerlifting. LOL Although I lived through the cancer just fine I've had a few other injuries since then that have kept me from lifting at my best. Most recently I partially detached my adductor magnus on my left leg. This injury has taken me longer to come back from than even the cancer did.
Aguirre Featured In The News
Critical Bench: What an inspirational story. If you can overcome something like that it makes some of life's other struggles seem less hard. We're glad you recovered and fought your way back to the gym. What gym do you train at and with who? What is it like training there?
I'm currently training at Anytime Fitness of Fort Myers. The new owner has been great. Powerlifting doesn't really mix in at that type of gym and there are signs on the wall that say absolutely no chalk, but he lets us use chalk and we make sure everything 's clean after we're done. He even got us three new Texas Power bars. I train with a couple of really good guys, Steve Rawl and Rob Fay, Rob's just 18 and has pulled 510 @ 150 and just recently pulled 530 raw!
Critical Bench: What is your advice for the frustrated lifter who has hit a plateau at the same weight for a long time or who even got weaker?
Best thing I could tell them is to back off for a little while and change things up. If you've kept a log book go back and see what worked for you in the past. If not, just go in a different direction, maybe try some hypertrophy work for a while and put a few pounds.
Critical Bench: What are the 5 biggest mistakes you see other benchers, squatters and deadlifters make?
Personally I think the biggest mistakes are.
1, Not training in the same way you will be competing. You need to know what to expect when you get to a meet, including the commands.
2, For squatting, not actually hitting depth on training days just so you can stroke you ego with heavier weight. Same goes for benching, have a idea what you can actually get off your chest with a pause. And in the deadlift, have an experienced lift gage whether you actually lock it out and without a hitch.
3, Not planning your training! You should know what you will be doing before you get to the gym! But at the same time know when to alter your plan if something doesn't feel right.
4, Not putting the effort you should be into your weakest lift.
5, Blindly following a routine someone else is doing just because it worked great for them. Keep track of your results and know when something doesn't work for you. I love using box squats, boards, chains and bands but you have to try the real lift to see if you're actually getting stronger.
Critical Bench: Out of the squat, bench, and deadlift what lift is your favorite in order and why?
Well first I'd have to go with the deadlift! It is the truest test of strength! My second favorite is the squat, I love having that weight on my back and it's also a fun thing that the big guys in the gym ( I train in a commercial gym ) are only half squatting half the weight we can full squat! And last would be the bench, I guess because it's what every kid goes to the gym for because it is what he wants to do first.
Critical Bench: On competition day, what goes through your mind?
I'm pretty laid back when I get to a meet, I'm not the type to yell at the weight or bang my head against the bar LOL. I just stay focused on what I planned to lift before I got there and enjoy it!
Critical Bench: What is it about competing that you love?
It's the sense of accomplishment! And although one would never believe it by reading the powerlfting forums, the camaraderie between all the lifters!
Critical Bench: This is true! The haters on the forums who start everything are usually not even the powerlifters! Are there any creeds you live by?
Yes, never doubt yourself! While you may now that you won't be the best lifter in history, set a goal for yourself and be the best lifter you can be!
Critical Bench: What drives you to be the best you can be?
Competition! I got into powerlifting to compete against others and try to beat them. I think one of the lamest things I constantly read on the internet are the people that say the only things that matters is getting a PR. To me that just says you're scared to face a better lifter.
Critical Bench: Any message you would like to leave other lifters with?
Yes, four years ago I was told to go home make my final preparations and wait to die, I refused to except that and instead carried on and busted my ass in the gym hoping to someday come back to the platform. Don't just give up because someone told you that something is out of reach for you. If you want it bad enough keep working for it!
Critical Bench: Danny it has been awesome! In closing is there anyone who you would like to thank?
There's a few on this list! Mike and Christi Witmer, they've been with me since the beginning, my good friend Tony Conyers he always has words of encouragement and good advice, thanks for the prayers during my chemo treatment. SGT ROCK, he's always made time to answer my emails! Rob Smith, Steve Rawl and Rob Fay, it's great to have training partners you can depend on! And of course Shawn "Bud" Lyte of BMF Sports. He took me one as a sponsored athlete even though I was no where near my best at the time and in fact still coming back from in injury! And to everyone that has giving me some encouraging words at the meets we've been to, thank you.