17-Year Old Tactical Athlete

by Joel Powell, February 1, 2006

I’m Joel Powell, a 17-year-old home schooled high school senior. At 5’10” and 153 lbs. I have no real athletic background, but enjoy fitness in general. My personal quest for fitness started when I was 15, when I realized there had to be a better way to get strong, be strong and stay strong than what I saw of the guys on the front of Muscle magazine. I have never wanted the “bodybuilder” look and I told myself that machines and related gimmicks were not for me.

On my 14th birthday I received a door frame pull-up bar and messed around with it, getting my max up to 20 reps or so by the time I was 16. I never had a plan to my training; I would just go by the bar and knock out a few reps. Little did I know I was “Greasing the Groove”, as Pavel Tsatsouline says. In the Fall of 2004, I was exposed to DragonDoor.com and kettlebells. During the following months, I got completely Pavelized and, started using KBs in the spring of ’05. It was not until the October edition of Hardstyle magazine came out and I saw Shaun Cairns on the cover doing a“Beast” pull-up that I got it together and began really training with a plan. I used a modified 3 -5 Method program, as detailed in Beyond Bodybuilding, with weighted pull-ups, military press, weighted ‘pistols’, and heavy duty hand grippers. I had tried some weighted pull-ups in the past, maxing at 70lbs., but never continued on with it.


A typical training day would look like this:

  • Military Press 5X5
  • Weighted Pistol 3X5
  • Weighted Pull-ups 3-5X5
  • HD Hand Grippers 5X5

I had a five day a week schedule based on the 3-5 Method. I added five pounds a week for three weeks, then in week four I cut back the reps by 50%. Week five was max week. I would perform a 90% max on Monday then go for a blood and guts max on Tuesday, take the rest of the week off, and start the cycle all over with a new weight in week six. After ten weeks I would switch to another program with different drills.

I think the biggest thing, outside reading Pavel’s books, that enabled me to accomplish a 100lb. pull-up is the three years of prep work I had done on the bar. Greasing the groove and just learning and performing the basics is what did it. One training tip I would give to anyone is about the amount of rest I gave myself between sets of pull-ups. I never do two sets of weighted pull-ups (or any of the other drills) with less than thirty minutes rest between them.

Sometimes there were up to five hours between sets! It all goes back to the key for getting strong: Train as heavy as possible, as often as possible, while staying as fresh as possible! That’s it! The bodybuilders cringe!

Goals for this year are to do a 200% bodyweight pull-up 1 rep and to close the IronMind #3 Hand Gripper before I turn 18 (late March). In the fall I hope to get RKC certified and go to college majoring in Exercise Science. Long term goal is to join the US Army and enter some sort of Spec. Ops unit.

Psalm 68:35 says, “The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people.”  I praise Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior for any strength I may have! Proverbs 24:5 says, “A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength.”

Train Hard – Fight Easy

Joel Powell