By: Ryan O'Connell-Peller SSC
There once was a time, long, long ago, in city far, far away where I didn’t know how to train. I know… I can’t believe it either, but it’s true. In the year 3 BSS (before Starting Strength) I followed a series of ridiculous programs I found on the internet. Programs that instructed me to do reverse crunches using a smith machine on my feet as a point of external loading. Don’t worry, I never went through with using the smith machine. I put cables on my feet instead so that I wouldn’t look ridiculous. I didn’t know what I was doing, I was just working out to lose weight. I was also incredibly weak and most likely moving horribly, like an inflatable tube man trying to do a deadlift. I wanted to learn more about what I was doing, and why I was doing it, and I was spending so much time in the gym, I figured why not learn to become a well informed trainer. That way, I can help others and myself figure out what the hell is going on in these places. In my research I had found the Focus Personal Training Institute. A vocational school that trains trainers. Here is the place that unknowingly at the time, would change my life drastically.
One day, one of the teachers at the time, (The Brent Carter SSC) came out to the gym floor on their lunch break and dropped a weightlifting belt, some strange looking shoes, and a marble notebook on a bench near one of the squat racks. I though nothing of it and went about my business. Minutes later I turn around to see him squatting 3+ plates with clean form. I though to myself, I kind of want to be able to do that. I asked Brent what program he was following and he told me to buy Starting Strength 3rd edition. At this point I was about halfway through the FPTI course, so it was easy for me to understand the dense textbook. FPTI was also responsible for my understanding of anatomy, biology, kinesiology, and more.
Brent was getting ready to attempt to get his SSC credential so he took myself and another student under his wing and coached us through the Starting Strength novice LP. He then decided to form a barbell club open to all students so that he could rehearse the teaching methods of each of the movements and train his coaches eye on a regular basis in preparation for his coaches platform test which he received not too long after. As the barbell club grew larger and larger he had me assist in coaching the newer students. At this point I had just finished the schooling at FPTI and had been hired there because they knew that I was amazing, and awesome, and smart, and so very good looking. Brent then began pressuring me to go for my cert and at this point I had been through the Starting Strength 3rd edition, Practical Programming, and Mean ol’ Mr. gravity texts several times and consistently coaching both barbell club and private clients and being coached all in less than a 1 year spans time. In addition to prep for my test Brent shadowed my coaching sessions and worked with me one on one in reversing the teaching methods of the movements. I would also use the Starting Strength form check forum to watch different people with different anthropometrics lift and see if my notes would align with SSC responses on the forum.
I obtained my FPTI Certificate, NSCA-CPT, Medical Exercise Certification (also a huge pain in the ass BTW), and most importantly my SSC credential within a year. Brent Carter mentored me through my entire process and made me the coach I am today. I even have a little bit of his Texas accent when I coach. Probably the combination of Brent and hours of Rippetoe videos I've watched. Since I've left FPTI, I've been working with “The Jordan Stanton”. It’s been a pleasure working with him and I honestly do consider him to be my new ( and much better, so much better than Brent) mentor as I have learned a lot and probably will learn more years to come (raise please).