My STRENGTH Journey
The Ryan J. Mathias Way
How It All Began
My Strength Journey started as a child, when my dad started to have my two older brothers and I do, what he called, PT’s (Physical Training). My dad is a firefighter and he wanted to make sure his sons grew up healthy and strong, so he told us to do 50 Push-Ups, 50 Sit-Ups, and 100 Jumping Jacks everyday. Looking back, this was not very much to do and would only take maybe 20 minutes if we were slow (which we were). However, my dad was almost always at work to support our large family of 4 boys (the older 3 and my little brother) and my mom. We hated doing this easy task of PT’s, so we would really only do them whenever my dad came home for a day or two from work. This made for a very infrequent training regiment, but it planted the seed of the importance of strength and fitness.
“…it planted the seed of the importance of strength and fitness.”
The Next Step
The next step in my strength journey actually came on my own. I had been doing martial arts for a few years and in it we would do different variations of Push-Ups. I was quite good at doing push-ups at this time (likely from my dad’s initial push) and actually started to enjoy them. We would do 8 variations of push-ups in training that included standard, close, on knuckles, on fingertips, and on our wrists facing 4 different directions (this was to build wrist strength for martial arts). These were a fun challenge to me and I had the goal then of becoming STRONGER, so I started to do 70 push-ups (I skipped 1 wrist push-up variation that I didn’t like) everyday when I was about 11. I did this for about 6 months around the same time my dad got a bench press and weight set put in our garage. Again, whenever he was home he would have my older two brothers and I go do some bench press and dumbbell work. Generally it was 4×10 on everything done in a circuit fashion. I had the wrong mindset and thought that weights were too hard and would make me too stiff like bodybuilders. After a while my brothers began weight training at school with their football program, and we stopped training at home.
“I had the goal then of becoming STRONGER, so I started to do 70 push-ups everyday when I was about 11.”
Pushing For More
Even through the little weight training we did I made sure to do my 70 Push-Ups, because I wanted to get STRONGER. I didn’t want to be big, I just wanted more and more strength. So after 70 Push-Ups became too easy for me, I began implementing more push-up techniques until I had a very long and grueling push-up regiment that I would then do only twice a week. I would start with doing 1-15-1 Push-Ups in which I would do 1 Push-Up, rest for maybe 10-20 seconds, then do 2, 3, 4…up to 15 and back down again. That equated to 225 total push-ups in under about 15 minutes. Afterwards I would do my, no longer 7 but, 10 varied sets of push-ups which, over time, went from 10 to 20 to 30 push-ups each round. I would even do 5 standard push-ups as fast as I could immediately after each round of the different variations. THAT WAS 575 PUSH-UPS twice a week (Monday and Saturday)!!! Now, with that amount of volume I would not do complete push-ups for most of them. Too many were only half reps that I would not lockout, but more so try to pump out at the bottom. This was not to focus on the chest, but more just done because I had weak triceps that could not keep up with the volume.
“I didn’t want to be big, I just wanted more and more strength.”
I also added in some leg and ab work which I did even CRAZIER amounts of volume every Wednesday and Friday. For legs I would do some old school martial arts bodyweight techniques in which started with 500-750 knee bends. Knee bends are where you grab your ankles, then bend your knees until your bottom bounces off your ankles and then extend your legs again. It was a simple, but painful exercise that I did to absolute failure of 500-750 reps first thing. Looking back I see how bad that was for me, because my back was completely rounded throughout and my ankles became tight due to the constant bouncing. Next I would crouch down and do little hops in a crouched position for 100-200 reps doing 2 rounds. That would really burn my quads, cause damage to my knees and also make for even tighter ankles. I would finish with some bodyweight squats until I felt like puking. From there I would do different ab exercises for about 20 minutes. I did those 4 workouts per week, not including my 5 mile run every Sunday. Now it is great that I was training hard, but these workouts really just tore my body apart. Oh, did I mention that I would only workout with a full body plastic sweatsuit on that was under my sweatshirt and sweatpants? I also didn’t drink much water and almost never ate any fat! My idea was that if I ate fat, I would get fat. I even cut out the fat I saw on lunch meat!
“I would only workout with a full body plastic sweatsuit on that was under my sweatshirt and sweatpants.”
I Was Doing It All Wrong
Again, my goal was strength yet I had no idea of how to get there. I would do all this training volume, yet I was still not getting stronger or making any gains. In fact I was losing weight though I wanted to gain it! This training lasted from when I was 12 until I was about 16 and a half. I was really great at doing bodyweight exercise, however I was not getting any STRONGER, or bigger. My goal was to weight 202 pounds just like Rocky Balboa (I loved the Rocky movies), though I was stuck at 180-190. I only started doing what I really needed when I was 16…