On the first day of Football practice when I was entering the 10th grade, the coaches took our height and weight, and told us to bench press our bodyweight as many times as we could.
I was fifteen years old, 6 feet tall and 160 pounds. I played Center and Defensive End. The only bench pressing I had done was lying on the floor pressing the 100 pound plastic-coated cement weights my parents bought at the department store. The guys I was lifting with on my first day of practice were a little smaller than me, and had to press 135 pounds, but they only did it for a few reps. Before adding anymore weight, I wanted to try the 135. It was a good thing that we didn’t add any weight, because I couldn’t even press the 135 once! I was embarrassed that I was so weak, and I knew I had to get stronger.
The next blow came a couple of weeks later when I found out that my Mom had gone to the coaches to express her concern. She told the coach, “Aaron is so small and skinny that I am afraid he will be crushed by those older boys.” That did it. Now I was mad! There was no way that I was going to be crushed by anybody, and there was no way I was going to be small and skinny for that matter!
The funny thing about it was that even though I was small, skinny and weak, I was actually pretty good for a guy who had only played organized football for one season. We had enough guys that we were split into three teams. The Varsity was for the best of the best no matter what grade they were in. The JV was for those who weren’t quite good enough for the Varsity, and was mostly Juniors, with some Seniors and Sophomores. The Sophomore team was for all of the 10th grade players who were not good enough for the Varsity. Most of them played only on the Sophomore team, but I was different. I played for the Sophomore team each week, and that was just fun. I mean the competition was weak, and I was hitting the Quarterback on almost every play. Some of the 10th graders were good enough to play on the JV team each week also, and I was one of them. Now three 10th grade players were allowed to dress for the Home Varsity games, and I was one of them. The other two guys were!
wide receivers and they actually played, whereas I was a lineman and I never got in a Varsity game that year.
My 10th grade year was the first year I could take weight training class at school, and I took full advantage of it. I wanted to be the biggest, strongest guy on the Football team, but that was a long way off. The weight training program that the coach put us on was very simple and basic. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays we benched. If we had time after the bench press, we could choose between Military presses for our shoulders, French presses for our triceps, or Barbell curls for our biceps. Sometimes we got to those exercises, but with 4 guys in our group, it didn’t happen often. The workout was 5 sets of 5 reps. Usually, we warmed up with a light weight, like 95 pounds for me in the beginning, for our first set of 5. Each set we added a little more weight, so that only our final set of 5 was all out. Every couple of months the coach had us test our maximum for 1 repetition, even though I couldn’t even do 135 pounds at the beginning of the year, I was quickly b!
ecoming one of the stronger guys.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays our workout consisted of the Squat for 5 sets of 5 reps. If we finished our Squats early, we could do stiff-legged deadlifts or donkey calf raises with our partners sitting on our backs. For the Squats, we used the same protocol as we did with the Bench presses. Starting with a light weight, we added a little bit each set so that our 5th set of 5 was an all out effort. We did not test our maximum on the Squat though.
I put everything I had into my workouts, trying to lift more weight every workout, and trying to beat everyone else. That was important, but it was only half of my plan. Now, I don’t know how I figured it out, and I guess I never really thought about what possible ways there were to get big. It just seemed natural to me that getting big and strong required only three things. First, train as hard and heavy as you can. Second, Eat as much food as you can. Third, have enough desire to make sure that you do the first two things, no matter what. It seems simple, and to tell you the truth, it is. But, most people who want size and strength don’t get it. They think that expensive supplements or fancy exercise equipment will get them where they want to go, but unless they follow the Three Principles for Bulking up, they won’t make it.
When I say eat as much as you can, not everybody understands that I am not talking about gorging yourself once in a while. I am talking about constantly eating and staying full day in and day out. I didn’t know about protein shakes [http://www.nlpbodybuilding.com/protein-powder.html], and nobody had heard of creatine [http://www.nlpbodybuilding.com/creatine.html], but there was food, and I ate as much as I could. I don’t want you to think this is for everybody, but for a teenager or young adult who wants to put on as much muscle and gain as much strength as they can, this way works.
I actually had a girlfriend during this time period, who was very helpful. While there were limits on how much I could eat at my house, she and her parents were more than happy to provide me with as much food as I wanted, whenever I wanted. They cooked me steaks, bought pizza and anything else I wanted. I don’t know if that was part of their plan to keep me around, but it worked, at least for awhile. I remember being at Burger King one night. I was eating 3 Whoppers, some fries, a shake and I don’t remember what else. Two policemen were sitting at a nearby table, and one of them asked my why I was eating so much. My reply to them was the same as it was to everyone of the many people who asked me the same question, “I gotta get big for Football.” That single-minded focus on my goal is why I reached it so quickly.
When I started the 10th grade I could not Bench press 135 pounds. At the end of the school year, I benched 235. When Football started for the next year, I benched 250 and my bodyweight was up from 160 to 190 pounds. I was also 2 inches taller at 6 feet 2. By the end of Football season, I benched 285, and I weighed 200 pounds. I was the best pass rusher on the Varsity team, I had two defensive touchdowns that season, and I was given the nickname of Drago, from Rocky 4. 15 months, more than 150 pounds added to my Bench press, and 40 pounds of muscular bodyweight. Now that is what I call Bulking up!
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