I got this idea from Josh Hanagarne. To write a history of my strength training and lifting. Beware this is a longer story than I normally write but I think you’ll find it entertaining.
I was a weak kid growing up. Very scrawny. More interested in computers and games than being strong or athletic.
In eighth grade I went out for the basketball team. We had ‘Camp Rambo’ which was to get us in conditioning and build skills before try-outs ever took place. The beginning of each practice was a mile and a half run. It took me about 13 or 14 minutes to run it. Then I got a pair of running shoes which magically cut minutes off my time. Despite this I didn’t make the team. That was a shot to my fragile ego.
Later that year we had the Presidential Fitness Test. I remember hanging on a pullup bar not being able to move an inch, wondering how it was possible to do so.
School finished. My brother was ‘making’ me go out for football in high school. He put me on a basic lifting program which I did in my backyard. I don’t remember the full details. I do remember the first time I deadlift over a hundred pounds and how happy I was about that. I also remember hitting myself in the chin cleaning a barbell one time.
I joined the football team at under 100 lbs. We lift heavy. We ran a lot. I make some progress but really not much. I was still weak and scrawny. We focused on the power lifts plus power cleans and snatches mostly. I’m sure there were curls involved.
In the off season I bodybuild getting routines out of the muscle mags. Typical routines involve four sets of squats, four sets of leg presses, three sets of hamstring curls, three sets of leg extensions. Part of me enjoys it. Part of me doesn’t. I make progress on the squats, until I realize each time I add weight my range of motion decreases and I have to start over. (That’s not the proper way to do partials.)
I do it for awhile then stop, only to return later on. I play football for all four years and this cycle continues. I would say in that time I became marginally stronger, but was still scrawny weighing in at about 140 at 6 foot.
In my senior year I become friends with another guy who likes to bodybuild. We become training partners. We did some crazy routines, like working out for an hour, going out to the parking lot and drinking a protein shake, then going back into the gym for another hour and a half. We take a lot of supplements and get marginally stronger.
Somehow my friend stumbles across an Ironmind magazine and orders some grip stuff. We mess around with it a little infrequently. I couldn’t even close the Trainer the first time I tried.
My brother, who got me into football and bodybuilding, tells me about this guy Matt Furey who has some crazy bodyweight exercises. I read about them online and give them a shot. They whoop my butt. I start doing them regularly between gym workouts. After a period of time I stop going to the gym and focus on the bodyweight exercises exclusively.
I’m getting results. I’m progressing quicker than before. One of my first goals was to do a handstand pushup. After several weeks (months?) of training I hit that goal. I continue onwards and upwards until I can hit the lofty goals of a 3 minute wrestlers bridge, 500 Hindu squats and 100 Hindu pushups. I keep going. At this point I believe weights are for people who don’t know that there‘s a better option of just using your own bodyweight. I can start doing things others can’t. One arm pushups, handstand pushups, bridge kickovers, one leg squats and more.
My friend buys kettlebells. I scoff at the idea of using weights but put that idea aside and give it a try. Its fun and it kicks my butt. I start training with the kettlebells too. About a year later in 2005 we head off to the RKC. I remember training hard to hit my thirty snatches with each hand to pass the test.
At this point I’m doing lots of bodyweight stuff and lots of kettlebells. At this point I’m really into training. Buying all kinds of courses, studying all different systems and trying to do it all. One guy in particular, Bud Jeffries, is the first person that I see that talks about combining it all in an intelligent way. I follow his advice for a time.
I assist several times at the RKC studying more from Pavel and all the other top kettlebell trainers. I learn about competitive kettlebell lifting and get certified at the AKC. I continue to study Matt Furey and even go on to win his Combat Conditioning Athlete of the Year.
Strongman and Everything Else
Depending on the latest thing I read, and to a smaller degree my goals, I’m doing different things all the time. The world of physical culture is quite wide.
I start hand balancing. A little later attending a gymnastics class.
I read a biography of the Mighty Atom. I get inspired and want to become a strongman. So I start to get heavily in grip strength, especially bending steel. I remember the first time I bent that Yellow Nail bracing it against my leg and taking 10 minutes to complete the bend. I learn more feats, primarily from Dennis Rogers, who I later get to study with down in Texas. I begin perform small shows demonstrating my strength.
I’ve done it all. Dinosaur Training, Combat Conditioning, Twisted Conditioning, Kettlebells, Clubbells, Strongman, Powerlifting, Crossfit, Partials, HIT, GTG, EDT and things that don‘t have a necessarily a name or acronym to them. There was training to failure, training beyond failure, not training to failure, and not training to effort. There’s club swinging, joint mobility, gymnastics, slow movements, fast movements, isometrics and more.
In ‘07 I also start my own personal training business which later evolves into the online entity it is today, all starting with a book on hand balancing.
In certain things I make progress, even good progress overtime. Other things I let backslide and get nowhere over the course of a year. This continues for years. The overall trend is upwards though never as quick as I would have liked.
I start to finally get it. I can come up with a good training plan that moves me towards my training goals. I can stick to this plan and get results from doing so. I make progress in just about every workout with occasional plateaus.
Biofeedback and Now
Then this weird concept called Biofeedback training comes along. It makes sense to me. And why would I stop trying everything that comes out? I put it to the test and after an initial breaking in period I go to learn from Frankie Faires and Adam Glass to learn more about it. My progress starts to accelerate.
This was my evolution. This led me to where I am now. Where I am now will continue to evolve. This is by no means complete and I‘ve got much further to go. More experiments to run. More training to do. More people to learn from. Much more progress to make.
Every system, every tool has its advantages and disadvantages. Some are better than others depending on your goals. Some are better than others period. Of course, I wish I would have had all this knowledge back when I started but what fun would that have been? In this case, the journey was worth it, and the truth is, it wouldn’t be the same if I hadn’t taken the journey.
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