“The Machine nickname was given to me in 2007 by my two mentors Bud Jeffries and Grandmaster Strongman Dennis Rogers. They came up with the name due to my physical strength and my overall conditioning. At that time in 2006/2007 there were not many gents my weight of 202lbs regularly working out with the poundages I was using while also having the cardio/conditioning that I maintained throughout my training. They said I was like a ‘Machine’ and thus the nickname was born”. (Mike ‘The Machine’ Bruce)
WHO ARE YOU?
On April 28th of 2015 I suffered a life changing back injury.
I literally broke myself and sustained a 1.1 centimeter tear, disc extrusion where the nucleus of the disc leaked out onto my sciatic nerve causing radiculopathy of my left leg and damage at L4/L5.
This injury didn’t just happen but was brought on via many years of training with a little help from a previous injury I attained in the USMC.
I was unable to walk for roughly 3 weeks, I could not dress myself, put on my shoes, stand up to brush my teeth, go to the bathroom or shower without assistance from my wife.
I felt the most agonizing physical pain I’ve ever experienced in my life.
But…….little did I know I was about to face an even harder battle…..mentally I was a shell of myself and I had to find ‘me’ again.
What I’m about to share with you is the inner turmoil I faced and how I rediscovered who I am.
It was difficult for me to walk high with my shoulders back and my chin up with swagger and pride when I didn’t feel that way anymore. During my injury I felt like a shell of myself. And acting any other way would be smoke and mirrors, I’d be masking my true feelings. 27 years ago I was on medication for my feelings (due to a horrible childhood), now I had to face reality as a man and not medicate. I don’t believe in medication or drinking to hide from the reality. I was struggling more mentally and emotionally than I was physically.
I looked at myself and despised the person looking back at me!
It reminds me of so many memories of torment, beatings, ridicule, physical and mental abuse that I went through. I felt I couldn’t battle my demons because I wasn’t able to train!
I had to lay there on the floor, motionless with no feeling in my left leg and take it.
I know this is a different time and age. But, when you are tormented as a kid and told how ugly you are and then beaten for the way you look, well you start to believe it. Then I found the iron and started building myself up to the point that physically I had the ability to not let anyone hurt me anymore…..then all of a sudden that is stripped away and I looked at myself as I did so many years ago.
During my injury I felt like I can get hurt all over again just like when I was young.
When I looked at myself I saw that same 13 year old, big eared, big headed, pencil necked kid, looking back at me. My stomach was sunk in, my deltoids were narrow, I had hang gliders for ears and a deflated chest.
I basically looked like a good advertisement for Chicken wings.
All the armor I built up to protect myself was being stripped away and there was nothing I could do about it.
I’m scared now! I can’t be who I was, I can’t fight, I can’t run.
I felt like, unless I have a gun I’m a dead man.
I tried to tell myself that through crisis we can either be the victim or learn from the crisis and become the victor. I tried to remember that this is a chance to grow, to learn, to overcome and become stronger.
A mind of a Champion…
The heart of a lion..
It had been such a challenge to try and remember those three things.
Through training I was able to handle the everyday torment of my childhood and dealing with the crappy, entitled attitude of many that plague our society.
The me that steps foot in the gym is a man on a mission. In the gym I went through trials of success and constant failure. But I never quit.
Without the gym I felt isolated, abandoned and left behind.
I believe that my trials and tribulations faced in the gym were comparable to everyday life struggles. If I could train my tail off then I would be better suited to deal with all of life’s little roadblocks.
Now due to the severity of my life changing injury all of that was taken away from me.
The feeling of despondency was brought on more by depression without the endorphins of the blood flow and the high I get from training. I could not self-medicate to combat my feelings, I had to face them head on.
Scars from 27 years ago resurfaced.
I had no choice but to withdraw from the gym.
Finally, I was able to start using a walker and return to training my clients.
It was pure torture.
I felt isolated and abandoned as my clients were killing it, and getting results, and here I am broken and can’t do what I love.
I felt I lost my place.
I was angry and depressed.
I would resent all the people on the street who were out of shape but that are walking better than me with very capable bodies yet choose to skate through life and go to waste.
Meanwhile I wanted to use mine so badly but it wouldn’t function properly.
Then I started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I was healing and feeling better.
I accepted my limitations, I knew what I could and couldn’t do.
I rediscovered my body and built it back up again.
I will be the best at whatever type of workout I can do because that’s who I am, that will never change.
I am not done, there is still more to do!
That first morning in the gym was a euphoric moment for me. I sat on the bench and looked at my Strongman wall and cried relentlessly for what seemed like an hour.
I was able to face the wall of pictures displaying various feats of strength I had accomplished over the years, and I could hold my head high knowing I was at peace to start my new strength journey.
How I rebuilt ‘The Machine’.
My workout consisted of:
- Barbell Neck bench press with feet on the bench for 5 x 25 reps.
- Vince Gironda cross legged Crunch on the bench 5 x 8 reps.
- Pull-ups max reps and sets until I reached 50 reps.
- Lying single side lateral raise on a bench 6 x 12 reps.
- Lying on my back dumbbell curls 6 x 6 and dumbbell skull crusher 6 x 10.
- Neck Flex Neck Harness Front, Back and Side extensions for 1-3 rounds at 3:00 each.
Due to my injury I was not able to train my neck in the same fashion as I used to. Thanks to Zach Elam and Thomas Hunt I was able to use the Neck Flex and felt no pain in my back. My neck was able to gain size and mobility back in a very short time.
I did this three days per week for the first month, then I did the same workout five days per week for two more months.
During this time, I started taking Size On Creatine by Gaspari and increased my calories (when I was hurt I had no appetite). My starting bodyweight on August 1st 2015 was 181.00 pounds.
My current bodyweight is 216.00 pounds
Goes to show that even at close to 42 years of age and with a limited training routine one can still make gains with a good work ethic and desire to succeed.
Who would have thought that while twisting a Horseshoe open during a charity event that I would physically and mentally lose who I was. But through this crisis I was able to rise above, and rebuild, standing tall, knowing very well WHO I AM.
To some I am ‘The Machine’, Professional Performing Strongman & motivational speaker.
But to me…….I am Mike Bruce, I never quit even when all seemed dark. I saw the flickering of light at the end of the tunnel and the more I kept trying the brighter that light shone.
I didn’t fail.
If you never quit you will never be a failure.
To learn more about The Neck Flex Head Harness please go here: