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Coaching a Young Man on Strength: Portland, 11/6/2022
© 2023 James LaFond
Felix has had to fight the boys of color in school and after school, for the sins of his supposed royal ancestors. He is 13 and will be 14 before I leave for the east in the spring. He knocks on the garage door, where I live between the engine hoist, the drum kit, the punching bag and the wall of guitars and amplifiers—a room equipped with a cot, a weight bench and a fine set of paired dumbbells from 3 to 40 pounds.
“James, you used to be strong...know about weights and stuff...not just boxing...I need to get in shape—what should I do with this stuff, ah, you know, rules, ah, form…howto do it without being a dum-bass?”
This kid is 5’ 9” and 185 pounds and should be my main boxing sparring partner in Portland. His feet are big and thick. This is going to be a big man.
I told him, “When I was your age, I got really strong using weights, could lift more than my own weight over my head and curl 120 pounds. But I over did it and trashed my shoulders by age 16. So I’ll have you do the most basic, push and pull routine. Basically, you work arms, back and legs twice a week and chest, triceps and abs twice a week. You could do it in two sessions, four or three, combined or separate. Both lists involve the shoulders so there are few dedicated shoulder exercises. Boxing is really going to stress the shoulders.”
The day before he had seen me using dumbbells in the garage when he came to get me for a game of cards and just began imitating my form, picking up weights and doing monkey see, monkey do training.
I said, “This is mostly for you to train form so you don’t get hurt and to develop tendon strength. You will use the weights to get to know how your body works, mechanically. Never lock your elbows. Keep a slight bend in your knees. Use the weights slowly, never bouncing or jerking. Avoid resting positions and keep constant tension on the muscle. The bench press is dangerous and you can crush your throat or tear a shoulder, so don’t get aggressive with it. For heavy weights you need a strong spotter.”
What follows is a copy of the hand printed ruled paper masking taped to the wall next to the dumbbell station. Felix organized the dumbbells which had been in a heap, lining them up neatly. I think he will be a good, dedicated gym rat.
D = dumbbell
B = barbell
N = no weight, a floor exercise, as many reps as possible with good form
L = light, can do more than 20 reps with that weight, raise the weight when you can do 40 reps
M = medium, 10-19 reps
H = heavy, 5-9 reps
Each exercise is just 1 set, but you may do as many sets as you wish, may cycle down through the entire list 2, 3 or 4 times. The 16 exercises could take from 20 minutes to 2 hours, depending on your time and intensity. Do not rest between exercises. This will benefit you in fighting and taking beatings.
This training is specific to fighting with fists and sticks, stressing tendon strength and endurance in the arms and a durable core.
Chest, triceps & abdominals
-1. Pull overs, D L
-2. Pull overs, D M
-3. Pull overs, D H
-4. Flys, D L
-5. Flys, D M
-6. Flys, D H
-7. Bench press, D M
-8. Bench press, B M
-9. Tricep press, D M
-10. Crab, N
-11. Crunches, N
-12. Side bends, D M
-13. Plank, N
-14. Side planks, N one arm
-15. Push ups, N
-16. Waist rolls, N
Back, Biceps & Legs
-1. Bent rows, D L, alternating motion
-2. Bent rows, D M
-3. Bent rows, D H
-4. Bent flys, D L
-5. Side laterals, D L
-6. Curls, D L, palm up
-7. Curls, D M, palm up
-8. Curls, D L, thumb up
-9. Curls, D L, knuckles up
-10. Curls, B M
-11. Shoulder shrugs, B M
-12. Dead lift, B M
-13. Dead lift, D H
-14. Shoulder shrugs, D H
-15. Squats, N
-16. Heel-toe raises, N
Felix said, “What about running so I don’t get out of breath fighting?”
“Do not jog on hard surfaces. It beats up your knees and ankles and by the time you are my age you’ll need a cane. Walk to a grassy park. Jog a course, then do a sprint. Mark off a distance and I’ll time you. Sprinting for 30 seconds is ideal for fighting. Sprinting for 40 yards is ideal for emergencies and attacks.
‘When the Wheels Come Off’
modern combat
Boxing Headgear
on the overton railroad
fiction anthology one
within leviathan’s craw
broken dance
the greatest boxer
winter of a fighting life
song of the secret gardener
the combat space
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