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.
Want to share your story? Comment below.
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Well, we have similar backgrounds.As a kid I was small and weak.
At 5,I always wanted superpowers.So I done some boxing,martial arts,
basketball,football ect…At 14,I took up fitness.I was into bodybuilding at the beginning.But I always want to be strong.
So, my journey begin with the iron as time went by I got
into bodyweight training.My goals is get into grip contest,
perform feats of strengths,self-defense,and break a few world records.
I have some training video’s on youtube.You can search IronWolverine1973.
I got some interesting training methods and some exercises
@Derrick Clark: Thanks for stopping by. It seems all the strongest people either grew up weak or had natural strength. There’s fewer people in between. I guess it works out either way.
You got some cool videos too.
A WILD MAN, that has achieved something amazing…
SUPER STRONG, and at the same time…
Hard to obtain.
thanks for sharing, strongman ;]
the famous Russian Lion pointed out that the most vital part of becoming truly strong is the desire to become more than what you were. its still difficult for me to fathom that you had a hard start!!
considering how far you’ve come..
@Sol: Thanks. It’s not about how far I’ve come but how far I have yet to go that will be the real amazing part.
My story really started when I was barely a year old and had spinal menengitis and was hospitalized for quite a while. At that same time I also got the chicken pox which couldn’t come at a worse time. While all this is happening its safe to say that if I wasn’t getting any better I would’ve died right then and there but yet I lived with a very large price. For one I had some nerve damage in my right arm and cannot move most of my fingers individually. Also had some brain damage as well and had to learn everything all over again (walking, talking, hand coordination ect.).
During the first few years I couldn’t even pick up a pin needle and had to take speech therapy for the longest time. As I got older I got better in some stuff and developed what some people say an exceptional memory for the smallest details (which really helped in some of my schooling) but wasn’t great at being tested for some of the easiest things. In my mid-late teens I became a fan of weightlifting and bodybuilding and decided to try it out. I found out I was really good at progressing in weights and within a few years went went from 180 pound fat kid to a 255 pound powerlifter hocked up on metrix.
Within 6 months of being the biggest I have ever been I started getting better at the three lifts (more the 300 in the bench press, over 360 in the deadlift and over 450 in the squat) all natural. In May of 2005 I broke both my legs in a cliff jumping accident at a beach near my hometown. I couldn’t walk for three months nearly and had three surgeries all together (no pun intended) for both legs and had to learn how to rehab my own body. I didn’t want my family to keep paying to get me walking again so I decided to give bodyweight exercises. Within months of rehab I went from barely walking again to hitting over 1000 hindu squats in one workout plus hitting more then 300 push-ups at a time and bridging over 3 min. with no arms.
Physical Culture opened a new door for me and started learning from the very best in the field starting with Matt Furey then John Peterson and so on so forth and began learning conditioning from all forms of BW training and recently started getting into studying the old school style of Catch As Catch Can Wrestling. I also lift heavy weights every few months or so to test myself out and as very recently broke my old deadlift by 15 pounds without ever really training for it. Lets just say I was blessed with thick legs, tough back and good old strong arms. I also practice feats of strength such as ripping phonebooks, bending steel small and long, levering heavy sledgehammers, pressing heavy kettlebells and Scrolling flat steel and rebar. I’m very blessed I can do all these things despite being a small weak, skinny and not very coordinated kid all those years ago.
@Ben Bergman: Thanks for stopping by Ben. It’s fun to look at how we got from where we started to here isn’t it?
You bet it is bro. Also thanks for helping me get on the track to strength when I began walking again. You can always count on me for training.
Nice history, very cool. I started out at 14 with concrete weights because I was thin and weak also. I worked out hard through my teens and took up martial arts at 16, which I continued for about 3 years. Most of my lifting and diet was geared toward bodybuilding.
In my 20’s I got married and got my degrees and partied and dropped working out entirely. My former physical discipline became a joke and I know I really lost nearly all of the good that I had done for my body. I was fat and soft at 30.
In my mid-30’s I got a Smith Machine and took lifting back up. Did okay, but not ‘full-fledged’ until I got the ‘Naked Warrior’ bodyweight book from Pavel, then got my first kettlebell. From there I got back into freeweight lifting with Jim Smith’s AMD program, and I’m enjoying the variety and the intensity of that. I’ve got a nailbending book and my bag of nails, and I’m going to try to get into strongman training as well as the weights…I’m 41 but want to train for years to come.
@Todd Hudson: Seems many of use here have a similar history. Good luck with the bending.