Over the years I have always had my fair share of athletes as clients, but lately because of some of the success of my after school barbell program I have been getting more and more of them. I am happy about this. It is a lot of fun to help those who are motivated to work hard and succeed, and luckily most of the kids that walk in my door fit this description.
This past year I have had one athlete who has really taught me a lot about being committed to training. Alex Bres came in as a referral last spring from Lansing Catholic after basketball season. He was quiet. His mother told me right away that I probably wouldn't get much out of him in the way of conversation, but that he would be willing to work. So that is what we did.
Like all young athletes that come into my gym he started by learning to squat, press, and deadlift. Once he had that down we taught him how to bench press and power clean. Eventually we added in chin ups and snatches. That is all we did for about 6 months. He ran the Starting Strength novice linear progression longer than most kids his age can last. Everybody starts the program and makes serious gains in the first few months, but the average person will usually start making excuses once the bar starts to get a little heavy. Not Alex though. Whatever we put on the bar he lifted.
You learn a lot about training when you watch people grind through sets. You start to realize that it becomes much more mental than anything else. Some people have the ability to endure grind a lot more than others. Many people talk a big game while very few actually put up a big game. And coincidentally the ones that do rarely talk much about it.
Alex was like this. He just came in and did the workouts we asked him to do. Nothing fancy. Just the basic barbell program program. We added weight to the bar every time and made sure we fixed any mechanical problems he was having with his lifts. We also taught him about the importance of recovery and eating sufficiently to stimulate muscular growth. Most importantly, we taught him about not doing foolish things in the weight room and wasting a bunch of time and energy on things that do not lead to an increase in performance.
And he listened. I watched Alex come in everyday and put in work. I watched him gut out his first 300 pound set of five on the squat and really wasn't sure he was going to get the first rep, but he slowly grinded his way through all five reps. I am pretty sure it took every ounce of effort he could muster. He grew a lot from that experience.
Alex took the strength that he built from our program along with the same discipline he brought in everyday to the football field this fall. It became clear early on to everyone in training camp that he was much stronger and much more determined than most of the other players on the team. His work ethic and attitude quickly led to him becoming a leader on and off the field. Never one for many words, Alex just worked hard day in and day out during practice and let his performance do the talking.
As is par for the course, Lansing Catholic had another strong football season. They went on to a 9-1 record in the regular season with their only loss coming to the arch rival Portland. They lost a very close game by 2 points to the eventual league champion. In the playoffs they got a very tough opening round draw and lost to eventual Division 5 state champions, Grand Rapids West Catholic. Alex enjoyed a stand out junior year and helped contribute greatly to team's success. He was voted the Defensive Player of the Year by his peers and he was named All-League at Safety in the CAAC. Not bad for a kid who could barely squat 135 pounds when he started.
One of our interns at the gym, Adam Zarotney, also happens to be one of his football coaches. Adam had this to say about Alex's performance this past season...
'Alex Bres grew leaps and bounds, surpassing his coaches expectations and developed into the top Safety in the CAAC White.'
He also went on to say...
'He is a baller.'
I am very proud of Alex and am happy to have had the good fortune of working with him. He contacted me as soon as the football season started for guidance on how to resume his training while in-season because he didn't want to lose all of the progress we made during the summer. Many athletes talk about training during the season, but Alex actually went into the gym every Sunday (his only off-day) and squatted, pressed, and pulled 85-90% of his PR sets of five. And the day after his team lost in the playoffs he was back in the gym with me ready to start driving up his numbers again.
I am very excited to see what we can do this coming off-season. It will be interesting to see how his senior year will unfold. I know one thing for sure, he will be a lot stronger and that won't be good for the kids that he plays against.
Below is a picture I took a few weeks ago of Alex doing chin-ups. We are always busy with the after school barbell club these days. There are always a lot of kids in squatting, pressing, and pulling. All of them work hard and want to succeed, but I noticed that Alex was the last one left that night. All of his buddies had taken off and he was quietly finishing up his training session.