A Transformation Story

This story is dedicated to every high school student who thinks that he is so good, that it is a waste of his time to train in an elite environment.......

"I wish I would have understood a long time ago how important it was to train THIS hard."

These are the words that Mike Murphy spoke to me after he finished dominating his testing session a week ago.

Mike made the wise decision to train with us this winter before going into his final football season at Columbia University (which is also my alma mater).

His gains in a 4 month period speak for themselves.

  • Deadlift Increased by 80lbs (345 to 425)
  • Broad Jump increased by 10.5" (124" to 134.5")
  • Pull-Ups increased by 10 (19 to 29)
  • Bench Press increased 35lbs (220 to 255)

The Background:

As can be guessed from the quote above, Mike was not always the man he is today.

He elected not to train with us before he went to college.

He was much faster than everyone he competed against in high school, so I assume he felt our program was not going to do him any good.

He was also a very cerebral kid, so I am pretty sure he did not like the idea of training with a bunch of animals.

After a series of injuries, Mike decided to spend some time with us in the Summer of 2009.

During that time, I could tell that he really wasn't buying into what we were doing.

He questioned a great deal of what we did, and he would randomly miss sessions without much of a reason.

The Transformation:

I am not really sure what happened, but Mike completely changed in the summer of 2010.

I think it was a combination of him becoming tired of getting injured (he got hurt again in the Fall of 2009) and the 5AM group he was training with.

Instead of being a timid kid, who would shy away from competition in the gym, he became as insane as the guys he was training with. (Dom Martelle, Chris Perry, Steve Armato,)

The locals in our gym actually thought he had something wrong with him.

That thought of him being insane carried over into the winter of 2011, as he would walk into the gym everyday with a sleeveless shirt, despite the fact that it was -10 degrees outside.

Of course Mike was not really insane.

He just approached his training sessions as if every training session was his last.

I guess he got older, he started to realize that this was the only way to train.

The Video:

Below is an actual video of Mike during one of his testing sessions.

In the video, he is deadlifting 425lbs.... Raw

Keep in mind he was only able to move 345lbs four months earlier.

Also keep him in mind that he did this about 1 minute after I hit my personal goal of 405.
(I will never forgive him for that).

A Personal Goal

In the winter of 2008, I read an article by Eric Cressey that stated every man under the age of 50 should be able to deadlift at least 400lbs after two years of proper training.

As I read those words, I felt like the biggest embarrassment ever involved with strength and conditioning.

Not more than a week before, I had hit a personal record of 325 on the deadlift.
I remember adding the third plate to the barbell and thinking that I had finally made it to the next level.

To go back even further, 325 did not come easy.

First off, I never performed a single deadlift from the floor until  I was 27 years old in 2006.

I started off with 135lbs, but I couldn't get to the barbell without rounding my back because my ankles and hips were so tight.

My solution was to lay 45 plates on the floor and rest the weights on my barbell on top of those weights on the floor.

This "solution" would bring the barbell off the floor just high enough that I could get to it without tearing my back apart.

It took about two years worth of corrective exercises and transitional movements for me to finally be able to get to 325.

That is why I was so crushed when I read Cressey's article.

Just when I thought I "Made It", I realized I wasn't even close.

I know some of you are saying, "Who is Eric Cressey? Why would you care what he thinks?"


If you ever looked to the right side of this blog, you will see a link to his website.
I didn't attach it there because I thought he had no idea what he was talking about.

I decided then that I HAD to get to 400lbs.

I did not want to get to 400lbs, I HAD to.

Without making this article any longer than it has to be, here is a video of me hitting my personal goal of 405lbs.

I know its not elite status, but for me, its a pretty big deal.

Hopefully its not too long before I can show another video of me pulling with a fifth plate on each side.
(For the 95% of the guys in our crew that can't add, thats 495lbs.)

Big Bench Press Video

Enclosed is video of Joe Igneri bench pressing 295lbs x 10.

After watching the video, read the 5 things that I like about it below.

5 Things I Like About the Video:
  1. He is bench pressing 295lbs x 10. If you are not impressed by this, you are either way too strong or way too weak to be reading this website.
  2. He gets a great spot from Eric Heedles. If you notice, Joe does not have to round his shoulders in order to un-rack the weight from the bar.
  3. Lyle McCombs stops watching in the middle of the set. The reason for this wasn't that Lyle fits into point #1. The reason is that Joe made the set look so easy that Lyle thought it was a warm-up set.
  4. He doesn't fail. 99% of the guys in the world would try to get that extra rep. 99% of the guys in the world would probably fail on that extra rep. Failing on a rep is not the last thing you want your brain to remember when you leave the gym.
  5. He does a good job racking the weight. If you look closely, Joe does not round his shoulders in order to put the weight back on the rack. He simply moves the barbell back laterally so it sits in the supports.

If you have any hopes of matching Joe's bench press, I highly advise that you read How Much Ya Bench? (Part II).

If you think you already have it all figured it out, I am sure there are plenty of shoulder surgeons out there who would love to have you as their next customer.

Test Week at Advanced Training: Part II

Test Week is over at Advanced Training

All of the self doubt I had is now gone.

  • I watched Joe Igneri bench 295lbs 10x. (His previous max was 235 x 12)
  • I watched Mike Murphy deadlift 425lbs. (His previous max was 345)
  • I watched Darren Reyes perform 32 pull-ups. (His previous max was 14)

These are Giant Gains made within 4 months of training.

Most guys can't make that much progress in 4 Years.

My work is done.

No more sleepless nights.

At least not until August, when we test again.

The college guys are coming back to test next week.

Most of them are animals, with a competitive streak that is borderline unhealthy.

I love every second of it.

For those of you who still doubt the program, I have provided some more details of our success.

I can't imagine anyone getting these same results training on their own.

Average 4 month gain each Advanced Training Member:

  • Bench - increase of 45lbs
  • Broad Jump - increase of 9"
  • Deadlift - increase of 40lbs
  • Pull-Ups - increase of 10 reps
Examples of Individual Gains

Joe Igneri
  • Bench increased from 325 to 390 (which is a new record for AT)
  • Pull-ups increased from "0" (yes that is zero) to 9
Darren Reyes
  • Bench increased from 190 to 255 (65lb gain)
  • Pull-ups increased from 14 to 32
  • Gained 11 pounds and lost 2% body fat
Mike Murphy
  • Bench increased from 220 to 255 (35lb gain)
  • Broad Jump Increased from 124" to 134.5"
  • Deadlift Increased from 345 to 425 (80lb gain) (ties AT record)


    New Logo for Advanced Training

    I am proud to announce that Advanced Training has a new logo.

    The logo was created as part of a contest I held to develop a new image that we could use on t-shirts, hats, this blog, and someday in the near future, a website.

    The best part of the contest was that it allowed the members of Advanced Training to vote on which design they thought was the best.

    Below is the image that over 90% of the voters gave a rating of 5 stars (out of 5).

    If you have ever trained with Advanced Training, you know that a great deal of our lifts involve an overhead position.

    I think using that position to make the "T" of the "AT" was brilliant. It didn't hurt that a jacked up guy was holding a barbell that was bending due to excessive weight.

    As a side note, I still have a deep attachment to the original logo of the guy holding the Giant A. It was something my uncle created and I felt it captured the true grit of our program.

    Unfortunately, the image was created in pencil and the feeling it created could not easily be transferred into a graphical design.

    Either way, anyone who can rip a Giant A made of  steel out of the ground and hold it over their head would be a welcome member to Advanced Training.

    I still think this guy looks sick.