Finding My Way

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About three years ago, my fascination with serious weight training began. For a long time, I thought the lifting I had done all through my high school and collegiate career was the be all and end all of the weightlifting world. A ton of cleans and some snatches sprinkled with ugly squats and some leg presses were all I thought I needed to take me to the top ranks of the throwing world. Little did I know…

Three years ago, I met Tom Myslinski. He introduced me to EliteFTS, Westside Barbell, bands, chains, and what it meant to be strong. So I read and I read and then I read a little bit more. I began to question the work that I had done in the past and what I was going to do in the future. I learned about repetition effort work as well as max effort and dynamic effort movements. I started to understand how accommodating resistance, the contrast method, and box squatting could add pounds to my clean. I learned about periodization, how to apply it to properly peak, and how to taper my lifting for my throwing season. A short time after that Milo (as Myslinski had come to be known) left my school for greener pastures, and I was left to my own devices for about five months.

Within that timespan, I tried everything that I could think of—Strongman training, isometrics, and sprint and speed work. Looking back on that training period, the one thing I learned was to give things time to work. One way was no better than any other and there wasn’t one right way to train. Having patience with a program is one thing that is lost on many athletes my age. Any program will work. That’s why there are guys in any Gold’s Gym in America benching 365 lbs.

Later that spring, my school hired Milo’s replacement—Todd Hamer. It took a few weeks before we made each other’s introduction. Coach Hamer was busy with the football team and spring ball training. The other throwers and I didn’t lift until 5:30 pm or 6:00 pm at night. We were usually coming in with our interim throwing coach as Coach Hamer was on his way out. Eventually, he and I talked training a bit, and I quickly realized that he was a coach and resource I wanted on my side.

Even with all the different types of training that I was experimenting with, I had only one goal—to throw farther. So I tapered my lifting down as my throwing season came to an end and the championship season closed in. I finished fifteenth in the NCAA East Regional meet, and I improved my hammer PR by over 20 feet from the year before. Clearly, the new style of training that Milo had introduced was working.

That summer I trained weekdays with about a dozen football guys, Coach Hamer, and the summer interns, Ryan Horn (who is now at VCU) and Canadian Dave. Using a basic Westside template with a few extra running days, I put 50 lbs on my squat, 60 lbs on my deadlift, and about 30 lbs on my pathetic bench. Oh, and my clean went up nearly 50 lbs without performing one single clean in May, June, or July. I had become faster, quicker, and stronger while maintaining my body weight. Clearly, something that we had done had worked and it worked well.

I was getting stronger and leaner, and most importantly, my throws were going further! The coming fall semester was a treat for me. I convinced my new throwing coach to let me work directly with Coach Hamer (which for some reason the rest of our team wasn’t doing). We did a basic nine-week dynamic wave with bands: three weeks of purples, three weeks of greens, and three weeks of blues. We increased the weight every week (275, 295, and 305) and then recycled to the first weight for the fourth and seventh weeks. We mixed up max effort days between rack pulls, squats, and deadlifts. That fall, my clean went from 300 to 330 with only having done cleans once every two weeks or so. My bench work was still very basic—one max effort day and one repetition day.

One of the greatest parts about my fall semester was getting hired as a student assistant in the weight room. I was given the chance to get paid to learn things that were going to make me a better athlete (how good does that sound?!). I learned and am still learning invaluable lessons about how to manage a weight room schedule and how to handle different coaches and different athletes. I learned by doing. I helped design programs for our men’s and women’s soccer teams as well as for men’s hockey and men’s basketball.

Developing programs for these teams and others taught me lessons that helped me with my next challenge—developing a program for myself. I elected to redshirt my senior year with the hopes of adapting to our new throwing coach and adding distance to my throws. Without the pressure of a championship season looming over my head, I was free to train as I pleased. So I thought I’d try my hand at powerlifting. I crafted out a 14-week program for myself that lead me up to my first meet—an unsanctioned push-pull that had been known to be very lifter-friendly and attract some big benchers (there were a few benchers over 700 lbs).

I took all that I had learned and turned the focus toward myself. I set my goals, planned everything, and tried my best to stick to what I had laid out. There were a few bumps in the road, but that was to be expected. I reviewed my program midway through, made a few minor changes according to what I had seen, and when the dust settled, I had set two PRs and had an amazing time competing in my first meet. I had so much of a good time that I caught the bug. I will be doing my next meet late this summer. After that, it will be all eyes on my throwing.

I have a lot to sift through when planning my program for next year. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what works for me. I’m going to stick to the basics that work best—hard work, dedication, and consistency mixed with a little insanity. I’m looking forward to the challenge of pushing myself day in and day out. I also can’t wait to see the places that my next year of training will take me as well as who I will meet and what I will learn.

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