As you know, last Saturday was 9-11. I drove up to Ct to meet with John Welbourn, former NFL athlete and creator of CrossFit Football. I remember 9-11-01 as if it were this morning. I was a 4th year Phys. Ed. teacher and the librarian was listening to the morning news, as she always did. They were unsure of what happened (the news that is) and thought perhaps two planes collided.
Parents were picking up kids early from school and the panic was felt everywhere. I spent my afternoon at the park and watched the cloud of smoke grow larger and larger after the twin towers were struck. That day left a strange feeling inside of me that is tough to describe.
Driving through NY into Ct the traffic was heavier than usual with extra security around the bridges and tunnels. I was fired up and disappointed to see more than half the drivers did NOT have their lights on.
Some forgot or perhaps didn't realize they were supposed to remember. Not good.
I had a killer gift for John which was gifted to me by my homeboy, Jim Wendler, I made an extra copy of this rare gem.
It was a collection of the ORIGINAL Westside Barbell articles featuring Bill "Peanuts" West and other greats such as Bill Starr. The articles dated back as far as the late 1960's I believe, covering topics such as box squats, board pressing, "rack pulls" which were performed as partial deads off of boxes of various heights.
There were articles on training partners, the bench press, olympic lifting and it's the stuff strength addicts live for.
We began talking training, naturally, and how his CrossFit Football program evolved. Back when he was playing for The Philadelphia Eagles, he spent some off season time training down in Tampa, with Raphael Ruiz, who John said, kicked his ass by training him with methods he had never experienced before.
John was already strong, or so he thought. When Raphael began training John, he began implementing training protocols that carry over from the gym to the Gridiron. Have you ever met guys who are gym strong but can't run or perform in their sport?
John and I spoke of a "famous" Strength Coach who took a kick ass NFL athlete from 210 to approximately 260, the player became what I call "ALL Show and NO Go." Remember: training like a bodybuilder might help you LOOK strong, but performing like an Animal in any playing arena requires a totally different blend of training.
We've all seen these guys with big chests, big arms and quads, heck some of you may have even beaten their ass on the playing field. I've seen this in wrestling as well, NOT just Football. Raphael trained John with all types of sprints, jumps, stretches with bands and HEAVY Met Con Circuits.
The training was not just for making physical improvements, but, for John to go through hellish workouts so that when he played Football, the practices were tougher than the game. Kinda reminds me of Coach Ethan Reeve, training his Football players with workouts that blend performance and mental toughness together, forcing the players to bond together as a team in order to finish the workouts. Sounds like Navy SEALs.
The workouts kicked his ass in more ways than one. The conditioning work he performed was with HEAVY weight, sprints, bodyweight training and odd objects. John and I connected even more so when spoke of HEAVY lifting, especially the circuits. This is how I trained, and still do train, my wrestlers.
I didn't want my wrestlers being trained with light weights as it didn't make sense if they had to beat someone their same weight. I wanted them able to battle through heavy circuits mixed in with sprints, odd objects and the necessity to remain strong & explosive through the entire circuit. No different than a wrestling match.
It reminded John of playing Football against the players who grew up working on farms AND never lifted weights. He said these guys had "Farm Boy Strength", something I spoke about back when I wrote my first e book, 'The Gladiator Training Manual'.
These were Football players emerging from states such as Iowa, Ohio, Pa., Minnesota, Idaho. I said the same of the wrestlers from those states.
Coach Reeve spoke the same of when he spent his summers at The Granby School of Wrestling, he would help on the farm with manual labor and mixed in simple yet highly effective workouts with rope climbing, truck pushing, swinging sledge hammers and more.
I told John how back in the day, when NJ would wrestle Pa in their annual battle, the Pa wrestlers would emerge victorious more often than not, and I KNEW it was BIG thanks to their farm boy strength: throwing hay, carrying feed for the farm animals, pushing and pulling trucks and weighted wheelbarrows, climbing rope that was hung in their barn....
Of course, our conversation went to chatting about training teenagers, something that is even tougher where John lives, right near the beach on The California coast. I told him of a story of one of my former athletes, who had great potential but he simply did not have the eye of the tiger.
This athlete got scared of heavy weights, got scared when he felt nauseous and spoke of being too busy to train more than twice a week. His Mom said he was busy on the computer. I then saw him on FaceBook, joining strange groups such as "I love it when you text me first because that means you were thinking of me first."
That made ME nauseous.
John grew up the youngest of three brothers, they didn't have time or the desire to play video games, instead, they played street Football and "Kill the Man with the Ball" until 10 at night, not coming home during the day unless it was dinner time.
Sounds like my story, growing up with my older brother addicted to working out, my younger brother a wrestler and we all would end up wrestling in the backyard, front yard, living room, over other friends houses.....
If I wasn't wrestling I was lifting at the gym or running with my best friend who ran track year round for his high school team. The dedication was there and I loved the training, I wasn't "too busy." That would have been a lie.
John and I agreed that the basics ruled.
Of course, we spoke of Bill Starr's 5 x 5 and 'Only the Strong Shall Survive", training in an almost circuit fashion, incomplete recoveries along with heavy AND explosive lifting. Bands and chains are awesome, but, what about the guys who never used bands or chains yet moved BIG weights without any complex methodology?
Those were THE REAL days of strength where no excuses were allowed and the squat rack looked no thicker than two broom sticks made of steel and a flat bench that looked like it could barely hold up a 100 lb woman, let alone someone benching 315 or more.
Time to get Under the Bar....
Lead from the FRONT