Training – The JUCO Years
by Jim Steel
The follwing is an excerpt from Steel’s excellent upcoming book which will be available on StrengthVillain.com within the next 6 weeks. I’m really looking forward to this one, and you should be too. Enjoy, JP.
In 1985 and 1986, I was in school at Montgomery Community College in Rockville, Maryland. I played football there and had a great time. We were very good on the field and had an outstanding coaching staff and team. The football was great. I believe we only lost 3 games in two years. At Montgomery, the team was, in essence, a band of misfits. Maybe some of us were a little short, or had to mature physically, or got into some trouble in high school, etcetera, but my football experiences at Montgomery are another story altogether. What I really want to focus on is the training that I did during those years. As far as training as a team, we weren’t allowed to use the school’s weight room. It didn’t matter; we were going to train anyway.
My buddy Big Chris and I became fast friends at Montgomery. We had a love for training and bonded immediately. The craziest thing about those days was that we both realized just how badass it was to be together training, hanging out eating pizza and raw eggs. We were at the age where we were feeling invincible and loving life. We were always saying how great it was to be doing what we loved. Hell yeah.
The summers were the time for training.
A typical summer day would begin with Big Chris and I going to our respective jobs. I worked at University of Maryland folding towels in the equipment room of the Kinesiology building. Chris worked at Adelphi Mobil pumping gas. We both worked a few days a week and were usually done by 1 o’clock or so on the weekdays. After work, we’d meet at my girlfriend Beth’s basement and start training. Some of the greatest workouts that I ever had were in that basement in Calverton, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC. We had everything we needed in her basement: a power rack, a lat machine, a behind the neck press/seated press, some dumbbells with collars, dip bars, and plenty of weights. We had18, 45s I believe. We “acquired” most of the stuff by…well, we’ll just say we got most of it for a good price.
Beth’s basement was the first place that I squatted 500×3, which was always a goal of mine. Chris was way ahead of me strength wise. He did some sick stuff—225 lb. curls, 315 behind the neck presses, 485 lb. bench press, 610×3 squat. Crazy stuff. I benched 365 and behind the neck pressed 275. We loved bent over rows because the Barbarian Brothers did them. We were pulling 225 to 315, heaving the crap out of them. We usually worked up to 1 all out set on the squat, and we did multiple sets on the bench and other assistance work. All of these lifts were legit also. What do I mean by legit? Below parallel, squats, touch and go benches. We didn’t do cleans, or even deadlift at the time. We did squats, benches, behind the neck presses, curls, bent over rows and pushdowns.
After our workouts in the basement we would go to a few places to get our running workouts in. We tried to time it so it was at the hottest part of the day. Summertime in Prince Georges County, Maryland is hot as Hades. Around two o’clock, the humidity and sun were usually at their peak. Some days we went to Sellman Recreation Center and ran the cement trail that weaved its way through the woods next to little Paint Branch Creek. It’s about a mile course one way and we would just run it as hard as we could. No science there, no parachutes, no bands or sleds. We just ran as hard as we could. The best part about the course was that it ended with a hill that steadily rose and was about a quarter-mile long. Chris usually weighted around 275 at the time and I was around 250 so that hill kicked our asses pretty well. Sometimes we’d go to Powder-Mill Recreation Center and run sprints on the high grass football field. We would always do 20, 40-yard sprints.
One memory that I laugh about when I look back on it was the time that Chris and I went for a dip in the creek down the hill from the Rec Center. One has to understand that in that area at the time, the Redskins ruled. I was always a Cowboy fan because of Randy White, but I did look up to some of the redskins, particularly John Riggins and Russ Grim. One day we read in Sports Illustrated that Riggins, after practice during training camp, took a swim while talking to a reporter. That’s all we needed to hear. We couldn’t wait to get done with the run so we could be like John Riggins. We figured that the creek was clean enough because we occasionally went trout and blue gill fishing in it with dough balls on some evenings. After our runs, 3-4 days a week, Chris and I met for one on one pass rush drills. Sometimes we would recruit our offensive and defensive line coach at Montgomery, Mike Dailey to get him to play quarterback. Coach Dailey had, and still has, a bullet in his spine from a robbery gone bad so he wasn’t moving too fast, but we needed him there for his coaching expertise.
Dailey lived in Beltsville, around a five minute drive from me. Looking back, people these days would have thought that we were crazy for doing those drills. We did them full speed without equipment. I played nose guard and Chris was a center and guard. We’d often end up bloodied and bruised. Coach Dailey would give us his blunt critique after every rep. Chris was a hell of a player and with us going against each other so frequently we both knew each other’s moves and techniques very well. Damn that was fun. I’d rip one way, Chris would move stop it. I’d spin the other way and he’d catch it, then I’d do an arm over to hopefully reach Coach Dailey. Epic battles every time.
After that type of training day, Chris and I would both go to 7-11 and pound some Slurpees or we’d go to Powder-Mill Liquors and buy a 40oz. Miller and sit outside somewhere. We’d talk about training and football. We were really consumed by it. It was all we ever talked about, thought about, or cared about. I mean think about it—what did we have to worry about? We were 18 and in college. We had easy jobs; we could’ve cared less about girls and the drama that came along with them. No mortgage or kids, just training. We had clearly defined objectives and we worked everyday to reach them. It was a special time.
Jim Steel is the head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the University of Penn. He is an accomplished Powerlifter, and has amassed a tremendous wealth of knowledge over a long career in the world of iron. He is a regular contributor to StrengthVillain.com, an author, a connoisseur of good music, food, and booze, and a devoted husband and father of two strapping young boys. He also donates his time in the form of an open Q and A forum on the StrengthVillain.com forum. Check him out and say hi.