Fight Strong

January 2017   Attend “Fight Strong” class at Tactical Response, Camden Tennessee, Met Matt Reynolds for the first time. Learn proper form for barbell lifts and exercises.

July 2017   Sit down and evaluate results of the Starting Strength program as taught by Matt Reynolds during the previous January.


Left to Right
Paul, Matt Reynolds & Jarrad at the Fight Strong Class


Author’s Note: I have coached and taught a number of subjects, most all of them on physical or practical matters. For years I have taught the fighting arts, but I do not consider myself a strength coach or trainer. What will follow is not a coach’s advice. It is really a product review from a customer. The product is the Starting Strength program as it was taught to me and I am the customer.

Like many men out there, I had some strength training and conditioning in high school. I played football and did the two-a-day conditioning practices. Later, I joined the United States Marine Corps and got serious about conditioning strength. By the end of basic training I was doing more push-ups, pull-ups, etc. than ever before in my life, even football.

I went on to Infantry School and then Sea School (Marine Detachment pre-req.) and I was in the best shape of my life. But, I really did not learn about genuine strength training, that is, building real muscle; not core strength, functional strength or ego strength (curls and bench) but measurable complete body strength.

I followed what I thought was the “right way.” Lots of isolated weight training; bench, curls, upward row, etc. I only did squats occasionally and I never deadlifted. No one had ever taught me how to properly deadlift. When I squatted I thought I should do low weight, high reps and, now I realize, my form was severely wanting. I experienced acute soreness in my legs and thought that meant I was progressing, but my squats never seemed to improve much. And so, I just put them further down on the priority list.


Jarrad Executes the Deadlift at the Fight Strong class

Since I took the Fight Strong class in Camden, TN at Tactical Response, my progress has not only been measurable, it has been the most progress I have ever made in strength training. I was hard when I was in the Corps, but that was conditioning strength. We were never taught the proper use of the barbell. That’s not a knock on the Corps, it is just how it was.

Today, as this is written, I am 6 months plus into the Starting Strength program. I have been tracking my progress in a notebook that I keep in my gym bag. My squat weight has doubled. My deadlift has not doubled by any stretch, but I am picking up more than I ever have in my life, and I am 50 years old now. Matt taught me to do a standing press the correct way and I have nearly doubled that weight. I am now benching 3 sets of 5 repetitions with the weight that I used to do only be able to do five or six times total.  

Like many men in their forties and beyond, I started getting chronic lower back pain ten years ago. The pain would come and go. I told Matt about the back pain when I met him in Camden and he looked at me and said succinctly, “You need to deadlift.” Well, I am deadlifting and I have not had the lower back pain I was experiencing for several months now. Also, I do not feel the severe soreness that I used to think equated to muscle building. I am less sore and measurably stronger, go figure.

Initial Conclusion:

My only wish is that I would have had access to the information and education that Starting Strength offers in my youth. Regardless, everyone has to start somewhere and I am glad that I finally did.  

As Matt, Rip, and all the other SS coaches say, “It is simple, not easy.”  Starting Strength’s motto is “Simple, Hard, Effective” and it is all that. Having decades of experience with various exercise and strength programs, I can say with all candor that I fully endorse the Starting Strength program and Matt Reynolds as a coach.

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Paul G. Markel has worn many hats during his lifetime. He has been a U.S. Marine, Police Officer, Professional Bodyguard, and Small Arms and Tactics Instructor. Mr. Markel has been writing professionally for law enforcement and firearms periodicals for nearly twenty years with hundreds and hundreds of articles in print. Paul is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio talk shows and subject matter expert in firearms training and use of force. Mr. Markel has been teaching safe and effective firearms handling to students young and old for decades and has worked actively with the 4-H Shooting Sports program. Paul holds numerous instructor certifications in multiple disciplines and a Bachelor’s degree in conflict resolution; nonetheless, he is and will remain a dedicated Student of the Gun.

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