I remember when I started lifting weights. I was in such a hurry to be strong I never focused on the process it took to really gain the type of strength that sets you apart from the rest of the human race. I never took time to enjoy or fall in love with the process. If knee wraps allowed me to squat heavier, throw them on anything north of 225 pounds. If a heavy deadlift required my back going from flat to round, pull that shit. If I needed to power clean 250 pounds, stand up real fast and reverse curl almost blowing out an elbow. I had to get the weight.
My older brothers were all big, strong football players and I wanted to be big and strong so I could not only be good at football but also look like my brothers. Never realizing everything takes time and there is no way to “hack” the process.
As strong as I wanted to be, there is no shortcut. People always talk about taking drugs to shorten the process but the work still has to be done. Nobody ever gobbled a bunch of stuff out of a pharmacy in Mexico and was instantly strong. The only place this has ever happened is in the Vita-Ray chamber during Project Rebirth where Dr. Abraham Erskine administers the Vita Radiation to Steve Rogers to make him Captain America. Sadly, this was only in comics and Marvel Universe.
It took a decent amount of injuries and bumping my head to finally understand the path to strength and ability takes time and a very deliberate process.
The process involves understanding how to move under load, more specifically, how to move under a barbell to maximize adaptation with each rep, each set and each training.
This requires using the right movements, the correct loading and the right game plan at each point in your training exposure.
If a 14 year old novice decides the road to a thick physique comes by following an advanced routine (true story) for a professional bodybuilder with 20+ years of training exposure while heavy on drugs, the results are less than stellar.
What I have found over the last decade working with people of all ages with different levels of exposure, is the right program at the right time with the right movements and the correct amount of volume and intensity will pay great dividends. And as that trainee continues on their strength path, they will arrive at a crossroads where what they did before will not work to continue to drive adaptation. They will have to follow a new path. And when that path starts to slow, they will have to pivot again to keep making the difficult climb to the level of strength that is considered rare.
There is no way to circumvent the process, shorten the time or have someone carry you. That is why true strength is admired by the masses. If you don’t believe me, just click on Instagram and social media.
The problem and the reason I believe so many people fail to reach their goals is they are not OK with being a beginner and sucking at lifting weights. They are afraid to walk into the gym and be the “weak guy”. They are afraid they will be judged against the people that have not missed a gym session in 20 years and focused their lives around the constant pursuit of strength and building a temple to house it.
I know I was.
The first day I lifted weights at 14 years old was in the PVHS football weight room. They asked to max out on our bench so we had a starting point for our percentage based program (I could write a dozen articles about how wrong this is but I will not belabor the point on this article). All my friends hit at least 165 pounds and one guy hit 200 pounds which put them at a working weight of 135 pounds for 80%. I hit 120 pounds and a working weight of 95 pounds. My friends and teammates said they didn’t want to take off the 45s for my sets, so I was going to have to train by myself.
As I saw my friends lifting together yelling and hollering, I was on another bench quietly trying not to die with 95 pounds for sets of 6. It was one of the first times I felt shame and humiliation for not being strong. At that moment, I made myself a deal, this day would be the only one. Going forward I would never be weak.
My brothers were at college, and we had no cell phones, texts, DMs, email or Internet. I did not have someone to reach out to for advice and help me understand this is the process; everyone that has ever stepped foot into a gym or tried to lift weights has encountered this day. But I was a bit different as I had genetics, geography and opportunity on my side. I just had to find the path and start walking. Almost everyone starts out weak but through the process of consistently training they grow to be strong.
As a kid in the 80s we did what families in the 80s did, we took road trips. One of our favorite places to visit was the Giant Redwoods in the Sequoia National Parks in Northern California. They are the tallest trees on the planet with diameters of 30’ and standing in excess of 250’. Every one of these trees started as seeds, grew into saplings then into the monsters we see today. But it took time – 3500 years to be exact.
By the time I met George Zangas at 15 years old and was invited to train in his garage, I was decently strong for a kid my age. That year of training had been mildly beneficial but not like it should have been if the people scribbling up the program on the chalkboard each day understood the nuances of training novice athletes and actually coached us on how to move under a barbell with weight. I received zero coaching – just 100 kids in a large weight room with one coach sitting in his office reading Sports Illustrated. He would occasionally come out when the seniors were hitting some big lifts but other than that we were expected to watch the older kids and follow the same program.
I can’t say I floundered too much in those early days as I squatted 610 pounds at 19 years old and benched 500 pounds at 22 years old.
But that process was more accidental and a function of talent, grit and consistency then following a well laid out plan of attack.
My goal when I started Power Athlete was to guide participants on a journey of strength and performance with the information I had gleaned over 30 years of training. To guide others to not make the same mistakes I did and how to maximize the effect and limit injuries along the way.
Around the Power Athlete office, we refer to it as the “Dave Grohl Effect”.
“When I think about kids watching a TV show like American Idol or The Voice, then they think, ‘Oh, OK, that’s how you become a musician, you stand in line for eight hours with 800 people at a convention center and then you sing your heart out for someone and they tell you it’s not fuckin’ good enough. Can you imagine? It’s destroying the next generation of musicians! Musicians should go to a yard sale and buy an old fucking drum set and get in their garage and just suck. And get their friends to come in and they’ll suck too. And then they’ll fucking start playing and they will have the best times they’ve ever had in their lives and then all of sudden they’ll become Nirvana. Because that’s exactly what happened with Nirvana. Just a bunch of guys that had some shitty old instruments and they got together and started playing some noisy-ass shit, and they became the biggest band in the world. That can happen again! You don’t need a fucking computer or the Internet or The Voice or American Idol.”
Just need to start whether it is with some rusty old equipment you find on Craigslist or in some friend’s garage. Find a program like Power Athlete’s Bedrock, be consistent, fight each rep to move well under the weight, fall in love with the process and you too can attain the strength legends are made of.
More About Bedrock
Bedrock is Power Athlete’s foundational program used to introduce athletes to strength, speed and power training. Many athletes jump onto strength programs that are too advanced and leave huge gains on the table. The strength and sprint progressions used in Bedrock are designed so athletes will get the maximum out of their time spent training.
Bedrock is perfect for high school sports athletes, young adults new to barbell strength training, and seasoned lifters coming off time away from training due to the demands of life or from injury.
When athletes mentioned above are introduced to Bedrock the gains in strength and speed are unparalleled to any other Power Athlete program. This is where those athlete’s should start.
Do you like what you’re reading here? Thinking you want to take a run at Bedrock?
Click here to start your 14 day risk free trial.
Are you a Bedrock Athlete or Coach? How are you enjoying the program so far?
EDU: Power Athlete Methodology - Level One
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BLOG: Gyms Are Open - How to Select A Training Program by Tex McQuilkin
BLOG: Getting Started with Bedrock by Carl Case
John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.
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