My buddy Sean lived up the street from me and we were friends since 3rd grade when his elementary school closed down and joined my elementary school.
Back then, the town we lived in wasn't so populated so our school district sold 2 elementary schools and consolidated their costs.
Sean was a multi sport athlete; Football, Wrestling, Basketball and Baseball. His Dad had him in every sport as a kid. We would get to school 20 minutes early to play Football and Basketball. Sean was the first kid who threw me the ball and I'll never forget that.
The other kids threw to their best friends even if I was wide open. Sean was new to our school but he earned respect right away because he was great at every sport. Sean and I hung out almost every day after school and every weekend.
We'd ride our bikes everywhere. We'd go to the park and play Basketball. Ride bikes to the local pond and go fishing or catch crayfish. We'd ride bikes to the mall and go to the comic book store.
Sean and I were close friends up until the end of our last Summer together, right before he moved to another town for high school. His Dad wanted to get out of our town and move to a more rural area about 90 minutes south of us.
Lucky for us, Sean's Dad had a friend who would teach us how to lift weights before we got to high school. Sean's new high school was a national powerhouse in wrestling. The way Sean's Dad explained to us, "Sports are God in this town."
I had never wrestled before and Sean convinced me to join the high school wrestling team. He told me it was The Greatest Sport on Earth.
Sean's Dad drove us maybe 8 minutes from our house to his friend Tommy's house. "Tommy's gonna teach you boys how to train for sports. None of that pretty boy bodybuilding sh-t you boys see in the magazines."
Sean and I looked at one another and smiled. Honestly, I was nervous as heck. We pulled up to Tommy's house and this was something we had never seen. The driveway had squat racks, barbells and other contraptions we had never seen before.
We saw 2 guys sprinting on the street with a rope attached to a car tire clipped to their weight belt. These guys looked like they were going to run through a brick wall. On the driveway we saw 2 other guys squatting and someone kept saying, "Get down there. Get low. Now blast!" That was Tommy. He had long blonde hair in a pony tail. He was wearing shorts, a York Barbell t shirt and sun glasses.
You could tell Tommy was strong. His physique did all the talking. I had never seen a guy built like this. I'd seen bodybuilders before, but Tommy looked differently.
Tommy and Sean's Dad served in the military together. We got out of the car and they greeted each other with a firm hand shake and a hug. Tommy greeted Sean and I with a crushing hand shake and said, "Looks like you boys are ready to start training, huh!?"
Sean replied, "Yes, Sir" and I copied. Tommy told us to go wait in the garage while the others finished their training. We sat down on the bench in the garage and I gotta admit, I was nervous. There was a radio playing AC/DC and next to our bench was a pile of magazines. Sean and I both picked one up and looked through them.
Sean's magazine was called Strength & Health. My magazine was Muscular Development.
I had never seen these magazines before. I'd been to the book store and local convenience store and had never seen these magazines. These guys looked different. They looked like brick sh-t houses. They had a look of power that inspired me.
I was a pretty weak kid, unlike Sean. I would watch Sean win every Presidential Fitness Challenge during phys ed class. Pull ups, sit ups, 1 mile run, you name it, he destroyed every challenge. A few weeks prior, I had begun doing push ups every day along with following the workouts from Arnold's Encyclopedia.
I looked up to see the garage and see what was going on outside. I watched the 4 athletes pulling a bar off the ground and going straight overhead. Each guy did 2 reps and then went to the end of the line. Tommy shouted at the athletes, "Let's go! Rip it up and punch it overhead. Faster. Faster!"
After every set, they didn't just walk to the end of the line. Tommy had pipes set up that he draped across chairs. The guys would jump over them like hurdles to get to the end of their line.
The garage had pictures pinned and taped to the walls. There were t shirts from various colleges like Penn State, Pitt, Auburn, Florida State and Va. Tech. One t shirt really caught my eye. It said The Strongest Shall Survive.
As my eyes scanned the garage, I heard Tommy say, "Billy, get that grill going for the boys, would ya!? I've got burgers and hot dogs for them." Tommy's Dad fired up a grill on the side lawn and then Tommy said to Sean and I, "If you boys put in the work today we'll get you some good grub afterwards as well."
I saw Sean's Dad come out with a plate of burgers, hot dogs and corn. Tommy then shouted to us, "Alright boys, let's go! We've got 45 minutes to get this done."
Sean and I went out and Tommy said, "Zach, just try to keep up with Sean and watch what he does for technique." Tommy gave us a jump rope and had us start jumping. "Two minutes. I'll tell you when we're done." We jumped rope on the sidewalk and then Tommy shouted, "Time!"
Then Tommy threw us a basketball and said, "Ten lay ups and rebounds each. Don't stop moving. bring the ball back to the other side of the street every time."
At that time, I had no clue what this had with training for sports but looking back I know what Tommy was doing. He wanted us to be athletic. After the lay ups, Tommy threw Sean a beat up medicine ball. It was 5 lbs. Tommy said, go to the backyard and do 10 reps of overhead throws, chest pass throws and reverse scoop tosses. Throw every rep as hard as possible. Sean's Dad winked at us as we walked into the backyard.
The other athletes were finishing up with curls. Instead of free weights, they had a towel wrapped around a piece of steel which looked like it came from a car 's engine. Each guy did 10 curls followed by 5 clapping push ups on the grass.
Tommy peaked his head over the fence when we were mid way through the med ball throws and shouted to me, "Zach, throw harder! Pretend you want the ball to reach the clouds."
We finished all the med ball throws and came back sweating. The smell of the BBQ was strong with a mix of burgers, hot dogs and corn. I was only 13 though and had yet to develop an appetite that would support this style of training.
Tommy had the pipes set up across a few chairs and told Sean and I to jump all three pipes and then perform 3 clapping push ups on the grass. My clapping push ups looked like crap so Tommy said, "Zach, just do regular push ups for now."
After 5 rounds of jumps and push ups, Tommy let us take a water break. Sean and I sat down and looked at each other with big grins. We were psyched to be doing this. We saw what we could become by looking at the older athletes Tommy just finished training.
Tommy hollered to us to come out to the drive way. He demonstrated a few bodyweight squats and told us to do 10. We did 10 and then Tommy said, "Good, now, pause in the very bottom for 5 seconds. Don't round your back and don't lose position. Do 5 reps with a 5 count hold in the bottom." We did that and then Tommy brought us to the squat rack. The bar was empty and he demonstrated a few reps of the front squat.
I remember the rack had a sticker on it that said SORINEX. The squat rack looked like it was built from Tank parts. It was different than the squat racks I had seen at the YMCA. This squat rack looked like it could hold up the house.
I had done back squats before but had never seen this style of front squats. Tommy kept it simple when he coached us. He said what needed to be said and no more. For front squats he said, "Elbows up, chest up, butt low."
Sean went first and crushed it. He did 6 reps. I was up and struggled with my elbows up so Tommy told me, "As you squat down, keep lifting your elbows. Your elbows should point to the house the entire time." "Good job, boys. Sean, add a dime to each side, Zach, stay with the bar for one more set."
We added weight to the bar for Sean and Tommy said, "Now clamp em' up." There was a heavy pair of collars called IVANKO. Tommy said these collars weigh 5 lbs each. "Do six reps again, Sean. Same thing as before. Elbows up, chest up, squat to the basement." Sean did 6 reps and then it was my turn. Tommy said, "You guys are gonna move fast here. Change the weights and go. Zach, take off the 10s but put the clamps on. Get six."
I did my reps and the technique felt better already, especially on my wrists. We looked like we were doing the stuff I saw hanging up on Tommy's garage wall. As I did my front squats, the big athletes were eating and talking with Sean's Dad.
Sean went 20 lbs heavier. He added a dime on each side. My next set, Tommy had me add a 10 to each side. After we each did our set Tommy said, "OK, stay at this weight for the next 3 sets and do 5 reps. Change the weight and go."
Tommy walked away and let Sean and I finish the next 3 sets on our own. He didn't hover over us and I wasn't sure if he was coming back. He was chatting with Sean's Dad and the 4 athletes. Sean and I began coaching each other. "Alright, let's go! Elbows up, butt low!" I was standing behind Sean spotting him and I saw Tommy and his dad look over at us training. They nodded their heads at one another and we felt their approval from afar.
Tommy walked past us and went in his house. He came outside with milk, chocolate syrup and cups. When Sean and I finished our 3 sets of 5 Tommy shouted over to us, "Alright boys, put those weights in the garage and stack em' up NEAT!"
Tommy came in and pointed to the pull up bar and the gymnastic rings he had hanging from the ceiling. "Do 4 sets of pull ups. Two sets on the bar, two sets on the rings. Stretch your arms all the way down. Do NOT swing your legs. On your last rep stretch your arms all the way down, do NOT jump off from the top."
Sean did 14 reps of pull ups on his first set. I did 4. It was embarrassing. I did 4 reps, then 3 and 3 on my last set. Sean did more than 10 pull ups every set. Tommy didn't hover over us. He told us what to do and left. Sean and I were excited to train. We didn't need anyone pushing us. We were pushing each other.
When we finished, Tommy pointed at some bowling balls on his side lawn. Well, I thought they were bowling balls. Tommy told us they were old cannon balls. Pick them up with a flat back and carry them to the corner of the block and back. Each of you can do 4 sets. It didn't look like much, but man carrying these cannon balls were brutal. My biceps were burning like crazy. Tommy told us not to carry them with sh-tty posture. "Chest tall, arms at a 90 degree angle."
"OK, boys, you're almost done. Pull those tires to the street and step through the weight belt. Sprint with them to the end of the block, then turn around and power walk backwards with the tire sled. Do 3 sets."
We finished in exactly 45 minutes from start to finish. We pulled the tires on to Tommy's side lawn area and stood there dripping sweat from our faces, waiting for Tommy to give us the next thing to do. Tommy said, "Go back inside, fellas. Hang from the rings or pull up bars for as long as you can then come out here and we'll get you boys some food."
We stretched from the pull up bar and rings and it felt great. We walked over to Sean's Dad and Tommy and they already had a plate fixed for both of us with a large glass of chocolate milk mixed in a mason jar. Sean's Dad told us to go sit in the garage and eat on the bench. Sean and I had a plate with a burger, hot dog and piece of corn.
I was a bit light headed and never felt that way before. Sean felt the same so we slowed down, leaned our backs against the wall and relaxed. We drank our chocolate milk first and stared at the photos on the wall, all of which looked to be monsters.
I thought to myself, this is gonna be one heck of a Summer!
Until the next time......