Jordan Wong has become a household name in the world of power lifting, this 25 year old from North Port, Florida, made a name for himself when he broke the 220 lb raw squat record in May of 2015 with a monstrous 785lb. Shortly after, things went south…
Jordan suffered a severe injury in the summer of 2015. Diagnosed with multi level disc herniation’s in his lumbar spine, surgeons were pushing to operate, a surgery that would spell the end of the young lifters career. Left with a major decision, Jordan consulted with a fellow elite lifter Brian Carroll, who had overcome serious back issues in the past without surgery. Brian introduced Jordan to Dr. Stuart McGill, the world’s foremost expert on spinal rehabilitation. This started Jordan down the long road of non-surgical rehabilitation…Well, I’ll let him take it from here…
JS: For those reading who don’t know Jordan Wong, Could you give us a brief history of your Power Lifting Career, When did you start, best totals, records etc?
JW: My first competition was in February, 2009. I was 17 years old at the time and I went 455/290/445 for an 1190 lb total. To date, my best total is 1951 lbs at 242 lbs. I also used to hold the all-time world record squat of 785 lbs at 220 lbs.
JS: As a Power lifter you must have had minor injuries, or nagging problems in the past, when did you know your back injury was something that couldn’t be ignored?
JW: Before I realized it was a very serious injury, I just thought it was the typical back injury I have had in the past where a few weeks of rest would do me good. At the time of believing this, I actually withdrew from Boss of Bosses 2 and rested.
Around the 3rd week of August, I was at work and my back started to act up again. It was frustrating, but I didn’t know what was coming. A couple days later, I woke up and couldn’t walk. My left leg was in so much pain that the back pain was an afterthought. It took everything I had to get out of bed and get to the bathroom to take a piss. Somehow, I got myself downstairs and to my car and drove ~45 minutes to the chiropractor to see what was going on. I’ve been working with him long enough to realize it was pretty serious when his facial expression changed and when he said he wanted to order me a MRI. After the MRI, he called me and told me I should go speak to a surgeon and see what they had to say. He was upfront and told me they would more than likely push for surgery and it was my choice, but highly recommended avoiding it if possible. I actually went in to the surgeon’s office a few days later HOPING I would get surgery- that is how excruciating the pain was. The leg pain only got worse and I had already developed drop foot.
I wanted them to cut the pain out and thought I’d just heal up and get back to lifting. The surgeon told me it was my best option to get surgery within the week. As soon as he told me this, I asked about powerlifting and he flat out told me that it wasn’t an option as I’d re-injured my back worse than it already was no matter what road I took. After he said this, my outlook changed in an instant. I remember exactly what I was thinking: “Fuck this guy. I’m not going to get surgery now.” I left his office and got on the phone with Brian Carroll who had experienced a major back injury as well and had overcame it without surgery and with Dr. Stuart McGill’s help. I will elaborate on that part of the story a little later.
JS: Prior to your injury how much time would you allocate to injury prevention, and how has that changed since?
JW: None. I had never been seriously injured before and I really wasn’t sure how I’d prevent an injury. I was always under the mindset that I would go through a typical warm up and just get to training. I wasn’t oblivious as I knew injury was always a risk, but what type of warm up was going to prevent me from tearing a muscle under ~700 lbs? As for how I approach injury prevention now? Funny enough, I sort of have the same mindset. I warm up normally, but the major change I have made is it something is feeling “off”, I will shut the training session down and rest. I believe this is a very intelligent way to approach things. If you speak to any previously injured lifter (such as myself), a lot of us will tell you that “things weren’t feeling good/or hurting but I decided to push through anyways”.
JS: Was there ever a point where you didn’t think you would not be able to lift again?
JW: Oh yeah. Lifting again was always the goal but I believe I was being realistic during the injury regarding a few things. To begin, even if I got back to training, I knew I was at a much higher risk for re-injury based on what I had going on. Also, at the time, the pain was so bad and non-stop I did not want to risk going through that again. Call me a wuss, but that shit hurt!
JS: How has this injury changed your outlook on training?
JW: As mentioned above, I am a bit more careful when something feels “off” or at risk for injury. If this is the case, I shut the workout down, address the issue, and try again next week. Since the injury I decided to start working with a coach for the first time (Chad Wesley Smith) and he has done a great job at making adjustments as needed in situations like this.
JS: You’ve mentioned that a part of your rehabilitation was correcting movement patterns, could you elaborate on some of the corrections you had to make?
JW: It’s really simple stuff. Some examples: instead of bending at the waist and causing any forward spinal flexion to pick something up off the ground I do a lunge or a single leg deadlift. I changed the way I sat down and got up out of chairs. In a nutshell: avoid spinal flexion and use your hips. I would recommend picking up Stuart McGill’s book “Back Mechanic”. There is a whole section regarding this subject that would explain it MUCH better than I could. It’s pretty cheap and it is full of useful information for preventing AND rehabbing the back.
JS: Where you at all skeptical when you were told to not go through with spine surgery? Did you have apprehensions about Dr. McGill’s recommendations?
JW: Not at all. If one of the, if not, best spine specialists in the world told you not to get surgery and to rest/take a break from lifting instead, you’d be an idiot not to listen.
JS: If you were to give injured lifters one piece of advice what would it be?
JW: Take time off from lifting. No lifters want to hear this, but sometimes it is necessary. My goal is to heal my injuries, not work around them temporarily so I can “get some work in”. I’d rather rest for 33.3% of a year than be injured for 100% of a year.
JS: Can you contrast your warm-up before your injury with your warm-up routine post injury?
JW: My only change is if my back is feeling tight from lots of sitting or a long night at work, I take a ~15 minute walk before I train. Walking is a great asset for spine health.
JS: What was your mindset stepping into the gym for your first rehab workouts? Was it hard going from a world record squat, to kettle bell swings and core work?
JW: Honestly, I was just happy to be in there. I knew my strength would come back if I stayed in one piece, so I didn’t care what I was doing. The only time I remember feeling bummed was when I was in the gym just hanging out and watching my training partners lift because I still wasn’t ready to do anything. I was on Facebook and Amit Sapir just broke the record I had at 220 and I knew it’d be awhile before I could even attempt to start training to get that back.
JS: You’ve done two meets since your return to the platform, what was going through your mind before your first squat attempt at the Eastern Tennessee Classic?
JW: “It’s too damn quiet in here”. It didn’t even hit me that this was my “comeback” meet until I was hurt after my 3rd attempt and I’d have to potentially pull out of the meet. Once I realized that was a possibility, I was like “I waited a year for this?”
JW: “I didn’t get the squat command, I can take that again if I want”. I decided not to.
JS: If you could turn back the clock to the beginning of your Power Lifting career and teach your former self one thing, what would it be?
JW: As cliché as this is going to sound, I would remind myself “It’s a marathon and not a sprint”. Every single time I experience a setback, it’s during a time period where I am trying to sprint to the top rather than taking the necessary steps to get up there.
JS: With two meets in, and Boss of Bosses 3 on the horizon, is it safe to say that 2016 has exceeded your expectations? What do you attribute most to your continued success in 2016?
JW: When it comes to powerlifting, 2016 has been awesome. I started squatting again in January with 95 lbs for sets of 5. In March, I squatted 750 lbs in the Animal Cage at the Arnold. After this I began training for competition and hit two all-time PRs in the squat within 7 days (793 and 804). Also, I hit a ~35 lb deadlift PR (first one since November 2013) at my first meet back as well as a 51 lb total PR which was my first total PR since May 2014. While doing all of this, I haven’t suffered any major physical setbacks and am stronger than ever. Boss of Bosses 3 is going to be great. The meet date is exactly one year from the date I went into that surgeon’s office.
Be sure to keep an eye on Jordan as he continues his preparation for BOSS OF BOSSES 3, and chases down a 2000lb total at 242lb.