Lessons Born of Metal and Iron Part 1

Let me preface this with a deep thanks to all of you at State of Fitness, and to Justin, for giving me a chance to have moments like these. I have now reached a point as a person and a trainer where I am comfortable offering a more intimate portrait of my thoughts and musings regarding strength, training, and life in general.  I want to provide more insight into my background and what makes me who I am today. As you will come to see and as many who know me can attest, training and life are one and the same.  The intertwining tendrils of experience born from the weight of a barbell and the knowledge accrued via life’s teachings have led me to where I am now.  I hope my lessons of metal and iron are help to others.

instagram brandonI had been training on my own for about a year and a half when I came back to see my mentor and the man who had provided my initial introduction to powerlifting. He was the first man I had ever seen put 4 plates on the bar for a bench press.  I was awestruck and devoured everything he would share with me from then on. “Do you remember how you left here, every single day, there was no doubt who had worked the hardest?  Your shirt would be dripping and you looked terrible.  That’s what you need to keep in touch with and I can look at your traps and tell you are not anywhere near where you need to be in order to bench that weight yet.”  I was crushed. No way around the truth, I’d come back for a pat on the butt and got a gut check instead.  My mentor was right, there’s a certain level of performance necessary to elicit change, and especially once the feel good times are over. Our second day in class he told me I needed to be able to do 100 dips with my feet elevated.  I finished them that day, 1 and 2 at a time.  When I came up at the end of the class and said I’d finished them he laughed and said, “Today you did them?”  My answer was yes and from there the door was open. I proved I was willing to run myself through the gauntlet at the drop of a hat.  I didn’t just want to improve; I needed to improve.  I was on fire and for the first time I had somebody believe in me without some sort of negative consequence.

I did not start strong. I did not start gifted. I did not start fearless.  I have always been scared, afraid, unconfident, beaten down and convinced I was worthless.  Attention came to me as a child in ways I did not want, and other than that I usually felt alone.  But for some reason it was never too much.  In a lot of ways that is where the second part of my lessons born from metal comes into play.  I grew strong through the iron but I survived through the music, namely the metal.  I do not even pretend that it is a genre for everybody. It’s loud and abrasive, seeming undertones of negativity, which mimicked my personality but I knew I was better.  Once you crack that initial surface born out of inexperience and unfamiliarity you can see what has been present all along; art and complex expressions of an emotional multitude.  In a sea of emotions as a young adolescent I craved something to bring me hope and strength.  I did not crave a disconnect, I sought a connection.  As cliché as it may sound, music was my lifeline and it brought me peace when I was scared, alone, and hesitant about who or what I was.

It goes without saying that this is a brief introduction to a broader concept for me, so as I expound on each topic in future blogs I would like to provide you an artist or song that deeply impacted me in my progression in strength and life.  Chances are it will be something that I have featured in a lifting video previously or will include with these posts.  It truly is a chance for me to able to provide some deeper context to who I am, what I do and its correlation to my life as a trainer and athlete.  In bringing about the story of coming back to face shortcomings or lessons learned I really hope to provide you with a specific snap shot of the whole experience.

The story I just shared came at a time when lifting was no longer easy.  I was reaching a point where I was running out of ideas and to be frank, I had just gotten my butt handed to me at a recent meet.  I had walked back into my mentor’s class expecting to be welcomed with open arms and I was immediately deflated and put in my place. That’s the beauty of experience under the bar, you cannot fake it.  Just like when you look in the mirror you know the truth.  Have you really been pushing it as hard as you portray or is there more to give?  I came in looking for a helping hand and I left knowing I needed to get a handle on my own whining and self-righteousness.  There is truly only one song that hits the nail on the head for me here and the timing was perfect for it then.B. crabill


Lamb of God – Broken Hands

Well there’s those that do

And those that just do talking,

We’re all going through hell

It’s burn or keep on walking,

The blackguards sing their shanty

Pure death riding the wind,

Right now it’s do or die

Now will you choose to live?


The memories that ruin you

You’re torn apart your doubt must die

It only fell apart ’cause you let it,

Bled of all you had to lose

Pick up the pieces with your broken hands

It only fell apart ’cause you let it,

Bled of all you had to lose

Pick up the pieces with your broken hands


I believe the lyrics speak for themselves but again the idea is simple.  We all have trying and laborious moments that push us deep into self-doubt.  But inevitably you have to push things back into the realm of positive, even if it hurts, even if you fumble with seemingly weak or broken hands.  In the next installment I will finish the story and expound on corrective work I had to do, reorganization and prioritization of goals and swallowing my pride.  I was about to learn from the very person who had just beaten me so badly in competition.  I’ve included a recent training video that includes the song from above.  I hope you enjoy it and grasp the deeper message provided within its lyrics.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSIHCoc1aHY]

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