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Henry Rollins on the Iron


RON, from Details Magazine
By Henry Rollins

I believe that the definition of definition is reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself.


When I was young I had no sense of myself. All I was, was a product of all the fear and humiliation I suffered. Fear of my parents. The humiliation of teachers calling me "garbage can" and telling me I'd be mowing lawns for a living. And the very real terror of my fellow students. I was threatened and beaten up for the color of my skin and my size. I was skinny and clumsy, and when others would tease me I didn't run home crying, wondering why. I knew all too well. I was there to be antagonized. In sports I was laughed at. A spaz. I was pretty good at boxing but only because the rage that filled my every waking moment made me wild and unpredictable. I fought with some strange fury. The other boys thought I was crazy.

I hated myself all the time. As stupid at it seems now, I wanted to talk like them, dress like them, carry myself with the ease of knowing that I wasn't going to get pounded in the hallway between classes. Years passed and I learned to keep it all inside. I only talked to a few boys in my grade. Other losers. Some of them are to this day the greatest people I have ever known. Hang out with a guy who has had his head flushed down a toilet a few times, treat him with respect, and you'll find a faithful friend forever. But even with friends, school sucked. Teachers gave me hard time. I didn't think much of them either.

Then came Mr. Pepperman, my advisor. He was a powerfully built Vietnam veteran, and he was scary. No one ever talked out of turn in his class.Once one kid did and Mr. P. lifted him off the ground and pinned him to the blackboard. Mr. P. could see that I was in bad shape, and one Friday in October he asked me if I had ever worked out with weights. I told him no. He told me that I was going to take some of the money that I had saved and buy a hundred-pound set of weights at Sears. As I left his office, I started to think of things I would say to him on Monday when he asked about the weights that I was not going to buy. Still, it made me feel special. My father never really got that close to caring. On Saturday I bought the weights, but I couldn't even drag them to my mom's car. An attendant laughed at me as he put them on a dolly.

Monday came and I was called into Mr. P.'s office after school. He said that he was going to show me how to work out. He was going to put me on a program and start hitting me in the solar plexus in the hallway when I wasn't looking. When I could take the punch we would know that we were getting somewhere. At no time was I to look at myself in the mirror or tell anyone at school what I was doing. In the gym he showed me ten basic exercises. I paid more attention than I ever did in any of my classes. I didn't want to blow it. I went home that night and started right in.

Weeks passed, and every once in a while Mr. P. would give me a shot and drop me in the hallway, sending my books flying. The other students didn't know what to think. More weeks passed, and I was steadily adding new weights to the bar. I could sense the power inside my body growing. I could feel it.

Right before Christmas break I was walking to class, and from out of nowhere Mr. Pepperman appeared and gave me a shot in the chest. I laughed and kept going. He said I could look at myself now. I got home and ran to the bathroom and pulled off my shirt. I saw a body, not just the shell that housed my stomach and my heart. My biceps bulged. My chest had definition. I felt strong. It was the first time I can remember having a sense of myself. I had done something and no one could ever take it away. You couldn't say shit to me.

It took me years to fully appreciate the value of the lessons I have learned from the Iron. I used to think that it was my adversary, that I was trying to lift that which does not want to be lifted. I was wrong. When the Iron doesn't want to come off the mat, it's the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn't teach you anything. That's the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble. That which you work against will always work against you.

It wasn't until my late twenties that I learned that by working out I had given myself a great gift. I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain. When I finish a set that leaves me shaking, I know more about myself. When something gets bad, I know it can't be as bad as that workout.

I used to fight the pain, but recently this became clear to me: pain is not my enemy; it is my call to greatness. But when dealing with the Iron, one must be careful to interpret the pain correctly. Most injuries involving the Iron come from ego. I once spent a few weeks lifting weight that my body wasn't ready for and spent a few months not picking up anything heavier than a fork. Try to lift what you're not prepared to and the Iron will teach you a little lesson in restraint and self-control.

I have never met a truly strong person who didn't have self-respect. I think a lot of inwardly and outwardly directed contempt passes itself off as self-respect: the idea of raising yourself by stepping on someone's shoulders instead of doing it yourself. When I see guys working out for cosmetic reasons, I see vanity exposing them in the worst way, as cartoon characters, billboards for imbalance and insecurity. Strength reveals itself through character. It is the difference between bouncers who get off strong-arming people and Mr.Pepperman.

Muscle mass does not always equal strength. Strength is kindness and sensitivity. Strength is understanding that your power is both physical and emotional. That it comes from the body and the mind. And the heart.

Yukio Mishima said that he could not entertain the idea of romance if he was not strong. Romance is such a strong and overwhelming passion, a weakened body cannot sustain it for long. I have some of my most romantic thoughts when I am with the Iron. Once I was in love with a woman. I thought about her the most when the pain from a workout was racing through my body.

Everything in me wanted her. So much so that sex was only a fraction of my total desire. It was the single most intense love I have ever felt, but she lived far away and I didn't see her very often. Working out was a healthy way of dealing with the loneliness. To this day, when I work out I usually listen to ballads.

I prefer to work out alone. It enables me to concentrate on the lessons that the Iron has for me. Learning about what you're made of is always time well spent, and I have found no better teacher. The Iron had taught me how to live. Life is capable of driving you out of your mind. The way it all comes down these days, it's some kind of miracle if you're not insane. People have become separated from their bodies. They are no longer whole.

I see them move from their offices to their cars and on to their suburban homes. They stress out constantly, they lose sleep, they eat badly. And they behave badly. Their egos run wild; they become motivated by that which will eventually give them a massive stroke. They need the Iron Mind.

Through the years, I have combined meditation, action, and the Iron into a single strength. I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts. Time spent away from the Iron makes my mind degenerate. I wallow in a thick depression. My body shuts down my mind.

The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it's impossible to turn back.

The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you're a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred is always two hundred pounds.


No offense, but this has been posted two to three times already. So post a picture of something cool to save your thread.


Never knew this guy felt that way. It is the same way I feel. What a great piece of literature. Awesome truly a work of art in words.




[quote]WolBarret wrote:
No offense, but this has been posted two to three times already. So post a picture of something cool to save your thread.[/quote]

Its a great motivator no matter when it was posted.

Here is a pic to ease your suffering!


[quote]WolBarret wrote:
No offense, but this has been posted two to three times already. So post a picture of something cool to save your thread.[/quote]

And your point is?

Some things need to be reposted, reread, multiple times.


I really identify a lot with Henrys Writing, I think when your coming from a difficult place in life its always valuable to have inspiration like ive gotten from Henry Rollins writing.

I like his book Solipsist.


Does he still lift? He’s gotten a lot smaller over the years.

He still seems to be very angry though. Mostly with republicans.


“The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found”



Early '80s.


Mid to late '90s (most likely).

Kids, do your cleans and deadlifts.


Didn’t he tatoo one of the jackass crew while in a 4x4 going over bumps and shit. If that was him he is still in good shape


[quote]WolBarret wrote:
No offense, but this has been posted two to three times already. So post a picture of something cool to save your thread.[/quote]

No shit. How about a thread about something new. Like penis size or pants that don’t fit maybe even about that supplement creatine that is supposed to be good.

That Rollins piece is always a good read.


[quote]analog_kid wrote:
Does he still lift? He’s gotten a lot smaller over the years.

He still seems to be very angry though. Mostly with republicans. [/quote]

Heard him on the radio several months ago saying that he still lifts but he no longer trains like a powerlifter. He watched a friend blow out a knee squatting heavy and decided that he was getting too old to run that kind of risk.


Henry was one of my main motivators to start lifting in high school. I trained my neck like a mad man, before i discovered that trainineg legs was important, my neck was as big if not bigger than my legs… opps! (not any more by the by).

But bull shit to complaining aobut his getting re-posted. Some people may have missed it and i think this piece is a great inspiration to a lot of epople out there, I know it was and is to me.

As for what Hank looks like now, I saw him almost year ago when he was in Buffalo, NY and he had lost a lot of size from the last time i saw him ~4-5 years previouse (granted my idea of what is ‘big’ has changed to), but i was shocked by how much size he in fact did lose.

He still looked fit and healthy for sure; but hell, he’s almost as old as my parents so more power to him!

I’ll post a pic of what he looks like now as opposed to the one in this post which i think was from the mid to late 90’s


The file name is “2007-11-2-henry-rollins” so this picture is apparently almost exaclty when I saw him last and pretty much exactly what he looked like (a year ago), still fit and healthy, but not as big as he once was.


This is my desktop, when people ask about it I say - this is how you make me feel.


[quote]SamuraiWannaBe wrote:

He still looked fit and healthy for sure; but hell, he’s almost as old as my parents so more power to him!


Yeah. Old people have no business lifting. Or playing rock and roll.
Just ain’t right.


does anyone know if Henry Rollins has writers or does he actually write his own stuff? thats pretty good & really has me interested in reading more, if hes the actual writer.


There are some great ideas in this story that should be a part of everyone’s lifting philosophy. His ability to combine the mental aspects of lifting along with the obvious physical aspects make him more aware and give him a presence more so than your average trainee.

His statement, “They need the Iron Mind,” could easily be the title of his story.

This should be posted, read, reposted, and reread. If this doesn’t reach you somehow after reading it, you are nearly dead inside. Sorry, but he is some kind of bad ass to understand how lifting is more than just lifting. It is a part of the foundation for excellence of one’s self. Mad respect for his accomplishments.