Think back to your childhood. There was a time in your life when you dreamed big, bold dreams. Maybe you wanted to be a firefighter or a space explorer. Or maybe you dreamt of becoming a famous athlete.
I got into the field of strength and conditioning to help young athletes strive to reach their dreams.
Dreaming is easy; taking the first step toward your dream is hard. Putting everything you've got into actualization of your dream—well, that is darn near unheard of.
I have had the pleasure of working with many athletes, from pee-wee to college; and out of all them, the youth athlete who really stands out is Brandon Hall. He won't blow you away with speed or with the physique of a Greek god, but he will show up day in and day out and out-work you with dedication and consistency.
Like many other young athletes, Brandon dreams of playing Major League baseball, and he is doing everything he can to make that happen. From his workout routine to his diet and skill position practice, he is dedicated to his goals, both long- and short-term.
"My goal for this season, specifically, is to bat .600 and hit at least five home runs," Brandon says. "My goal while catching is to have a POP time at or below 1.9 seconds on every throw. My goal for my team is to win a state championship."
Brandon is a 205-pound junior from Thornton Academy in Saco, Maine, who can Trap Bar Deadlift 3x415, Squat 2x290, and Clean 225. He also has a 27-inch Vertical Jump and a 9-foot-7-inch Broad Jump.
Where He Started
When Brandon started training with me at Spurling Training Systems back in January 2012, he had average speed and power.
"Before going to STS I had never hit a home run," he says.
But after four years of training, he has seen huge improvements on the field. "I have gone from barely hitting balls out of the infield to hitting loads of balls deep into the gaps of the outfield, and to hitting balls out of the park."
Brandon was willing to put the time into training that many his age would not. He did Planks each night for 5 to 10 minutes and Push-Ups before going to bed, just because his coach told him to.
Brandon shows up ready to work every day. He said he is never satisfied and is always looking to improve.
"By working hard in the weight room, I give myself the best opportunity for success," he says. "I always want to lift more weight, to hit a ball harder, and to throw a ball harder."
How We Got Him There
When working with young athletes, it is important to start with the basics: solid movement patterns and building an overall base of strength. Brandon was no exception. We spent time developing his Squat, Deadlift, and Push/Pull patterns, as well as proper jumping and running mechanics.
Our overall goal with Brandon was to get him strong enough to be able to produce rotational power. This included a healthy dose of Medicine Ball work to develop explosive hip and shoulder rotation.
I think Brandon would agree his most miserable—and beneficial—times were fall 2014 and 2015, when we did bulking exercises to help him put on more muscle and weight and increase his overall strength and power.
We used Dan John's Mass Made Simple for the first bulk in 2014. For the second, I took the things I liked from the first round and modified it a little. If you have never done a true bulking exercise program and feel you need to put on mass, I highly recommend this book. Let me be honest, though, it is not a program for the faint of heart; there is a reason it is only six weeks long.
The mental stress of having to do 205-pound Squats for up to 50 reps really challenged Brandon. Add to that the mental and physical stress of increasing the amount of food he was consuming to put on weight, and you've got a pretty tough six weeks. If you have never tried to put on weight, let me tell you, it is equally as uncomfortable as trying to lose weight. You feel sick to your stomach as you try to cram a PB&J into your mouth at 9 o'clock at night before going to bed, but you do it because you want to reach your goals.
Once we got Brandon to a weight we liked, the fun really began. From there, it was hitting the strength goals we had set and focusing on increasing his bat speed and pop times. We did this by dividing his weeks into strength on Mondays and Tuesdays, power on Thursdays and Fridays. As we got six weeks out from a season, we used Mondays and Tuesdays for power and Thursdays and Fridays for strength. At two weeks out, we focused on speed development on Mondays and Tuesdays, while Thursdays and Fridays were more power-focused.
"I've noticed big improvement in my speed and strength," Brandon says. "My swing has become much faster in both bat speed and hand speed. Also, my footwork on throws to second base has become faster." Brandon said his biggest improvement has been the strength and power at which he hits baseballs, which has led to multiple home runs.
The program we designed for Brandon helped him peak for his season and allowed us to spend a good two months focusing on his weaknesses, which in Brandon's case were power and speed. Check out the video player above to see a few examples of Brandon's training.
Where He Is Now
"My best accomplishment from last year was that I hit .417, hit my first home run, and threw out over 45 percent of runners that stole on me," Brandon says. "Plus, I was named the First-Team All-Conference catcher and invited to the Underclassmen All-Star game."
Brandon's parents were important to his success. If it were not for the support of his family driving him to the gym four to five days a week, buying the food for him to put on size, and supporting him (and his coaches at STS) 100 percent, I believe none of this would have happened.
Brandon has come a long way from the boy who walked through our doors four years ago, thanks to his dedication and support system. He has become a silent leader in our gym, inspiring youth athletes and adults alike with his dedication and consistency. I look forward to seeing where his hard work takes him.
The "So What"
This is a classic story of hard work paying off. But it is also the story of someone working toward a dream—putting in long hours and making sacrifices to make it happen. This work ethic will carry over into success at school, work and life.
Brandon knows that when it comes to achieving his goals, nothing will be handed to him. He doesn't expect it to be easy, because it's not.
Enjoy the grind, enjoy the ups and learn from the downs.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock