Wounded Recon Marine: Thanks for 531 & Progress – 531 Has Changed My Life
June 6, 2006 I was lying on a dirt road blown up by a Pressure Plate IED. Yeah I know, this is heavy shit man. WTF? 6/6/06. Ironic doesn’t begin to describe this situation. I was driving our HMMV (High Mobility Military Vehicle) when we were hit from underneath. I sustained multiple fractures, soft tissue injuries, joint deformity of my elbow, minimal shrapnel all on my right side, and a mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I don’t remember much for the next day or two until I was out of the ICU at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.
I had been with my Marine Recon Unit for 2 years when this happened. A very physical job that required high mileage running and rucking, lots of PT type Calisthenics, and more swimming than I had ever hoped for. I was 20 years old.
Facing a long road to recovery I was discharged from “Physical Therapy” November 2006. “Alright Cpl. Freeman we got you walking, now the rest is up to you.” Good enough for government work I guess. I wasn’t satisfied with being an average stiff walking around in mediocrity. I desired more for my life, so I began seeking out what I hoped would get me to where I wanted to be: Strong, mobile, conditioned, and athletic.
I wish I could say this was when I discovered smart/effective training, but then I wouldn’t have learned nearly as much. I started with Kettlbells and body weight work in late 2006, which was a smart place to start in hindsight. Where I got into trouble was when I started to push the intensity. At that time I was ignorant to my mobility restrictions and how much they would influence my training & recovery. This was when I hit a very dark period where I was thrashing my body 5-6 days week doing things my body was not ready to do. X-Fit.
It only took me a couple of years of thrashing my body to figure out I was hurting myself and I needed to seek alternative methods of training. I’m a stubborn and persistent bastard (my wife would agree). Enter Mark Rippetoe’s starting strength. Simple program, book was phenomenal and to this day I still re-read that book every 6 months and continue to learn more from it. My problem was I still hadn’t corrected a lot of my weakness/mobility issues and loading up my squat in a linear progression was a freakin’ disaster! Again no hit on Rippetoe or the SS Program, I just wasn’t doing the program without the proper technique. That’s when my friends Jim Laird & Joey Waters talked with me about the 531 Program and how it was more gradual than a linear program. It also left a lot of room for assistance work, which was great for me because my main lifts had to be fairly light while I “un-fucked” my poor technique in the lifts. I found 531 an excellent fit.
I have taken the following points to heart regarding my training, and my clients training now that I am a strength coach.
1. Use Big Compound Movements: Squat, Hinge, Pull, Push, Carry. If you aren’t squatting (with something) you aren’t training.
2. Use a progression that sets you up for success long term, but still forces an adaptation. Don’t freak out when you don’t increase your bench press by 20 lbs the first month. Look what you will accomplish in a year!
3. Keep your assistance work simple and to the point, but always focus on your weaknesses. I’m always surprised about how most people have the same weaknesses.
4. Don’t neglect your conditioning. If you can’t run no problem. Push the prowler, drag the sled, walk up hills, or at least walk. I can no longer run long distances without suffering the consequences, but the prowler gives me no issues.
5. Train hard…sometimes. Sometimes you have to know when to back the hell off. BUT, always train smart.
6. Focus on training and strength as a life long pursuit. It’s easy to get impatient and jump from program to program, but slow and steady is how smart training gets done.
7. Be patient. You have know idea how many times I have had to take 2 steps back, in order to take 3 steps forward. I have had to change the technique I use to squat gradually over the last several years. Each time I am better for it, but it required patience and perseverance.
My strength numbers now are nowhere near impressive compared to even an entry-level powerlifter. But, compared to where I was 2 years ago before I began using your program I have grown leaps and bounds. I have grown as a lifter, a coach, and a man. My technique is far better, I’m much stronger now than I was before I got blown up, my training has balance and a fucking plan! To me strength has become less about how much you can bench and more about good technique, looking like a mother fucker (no 6 pack required), becoming stronger, staying healthy, improving my life NOT taking away from it.
As Rip says, “Stronger people are harder to kill.”
I have included a copy of the “Recon Creed” which I still have memorized from my time served as a Recon Marine. Thinking back to the oath that I took, this got me through a lot of tough times.
Realizing it is my choice and my choice alone to be a Reconnaissance Marine, I accept all challenges involved with this profession. Forever shall I strive to maintain the tremendous reputation of those who went before me.
Exceeding beyond the limitations set down by others shall be my goal. Sacrificing personal comforts and dedicating myself to the completion of the reconnaissance mission shall be my life. Physical fitness, mental attitude, and high ethics—The title of Recon Marine is my honor.
Conquering all obstacles, both large and small, I shall never quit. To quit, to surrender, to give up is to fail. To be a Recon Marine is to surpass failure; To overcome, to adapt and to do whatever it takes to complete the mission.
On the battlefield, as in all areas of life, I shall stand tall above the competition. Through professional pride, integrity, and teamwork, I shall be the example for all Marines to emulate.
Never shall I forget the principles I accepted to become a Recon Marine. Honor, Perseverance, Spirit and Heart.
A Recon Marine can speak without saying a word and achieve what others can only imagine.