Weight Lifting, Weight Training, Bench Press & Bodybuilding
June 8, 2023

How I Passed Basic Training At 235lbs
By Donnie Kiernan

How I Passed Basic Training At 235lbs

Before I get started here, I want to say that I am in no way, shape or form a badass. I'm simply an average guy with a little better than average genetics and good work ethic. I know 100 guys that are tougher and more hardcore than I am, they just haven't written their story down on paper yet.

Now that we have that out of the way, ill give you a little back story on myself. I was always pudgy little fat kid. Actually, I'm lying, it hasn't been always. From birth, I was a relatively tall, skinny kid. Then, a little after my 4th birthday, I was stricken with chicken pox. From then on, it was pretty much down hill. Sure, I played sports in middle and high school, which kept me decently healthy, but I was never, and still am not, the model of perfect health and fitness. When the September 11th, 2001 attacks occurred, I was a 19 year old sophomore in college. Like most true blooded Americans, I felt the need to serve my country. Problem was, I was well over 250 lbs of mostly fat and Had a medical history as long as Peter North's "member". Even the Coast Guard took one look at me and wrote me off.

Four years later, I had turned my physical fitness life around and was in the best shape of my life. While weighing in at a semi hefty 235 pounds, I was raw bench pressing 405 pounds, dead lifting 405lbs and squatting 435lbs. Not too bad for a meathead who had never even heard of Westside, Supertraining or any other REAL training routines. My interest in the military was reignited by a old friend who was a sergeant up in Maryland. Seeing our country was 3 years into a war that had no end in sight, the military was happy to give me my medical waivers, and off I went.

How I Passed Basic Training At 235lbs

I shipped off to basic training relatively prepared for what was coming. My family had several prior service members and I had a recruiter who actually gave a shit about her recruits. The first week of training was the worst week of my life! The reason, we did absolutely nothing. No running, no "getting smoked", no training, no NOTHING! The only thing worse than training on minimal sleep is NOT training on minimal sleep. They call this the "in processing" phase and Its enough to drive a sane man mad. The first real week of training was brutal, I wont lie. it's a time when they separate the men from the boys. One of my drill sergeants made a list on the first day of training with 3 people who he knew would make it and 3 who he knew wouldn't. I'm proud to say that out of 62 soldiers in my platoon, I was one of the 3 on the "make it" list. When I asked him why I made the list after graduation, He just pointed at my chest, which could mean one of two things. Either he knew I was a bench pressing beast, or more likely, he knew I had HEART!

From then on, training gradually got easier as I became more accustom to the regiment. Still, some people just could not adapt. You had the people who wanted out and did everything humanly possible to get out. Last I heard, those people had to stick around Fort Jackson for about 2 or 3 months after I left to "out process." Irony, I suppose. Most of the troops quickly realized that the fastest way out of basic training was to complete it.

I was one of two big guys in my platoon, The other was a college guy who spent most of the time in his dorm in the years prior. The two of us watched our bodies transform over the next few months. Mine from huge to skinny and defined, him from fat to skinny. In our free time, I would take old jugs of floor cleaner and fill them with water to do exercises with. I did everything from curls to shoulder presses to overhead triceps extensions, just trying to maintain some of my muscle mass. We'd also push our bunks close to each other and do dips between the beds. Later in the training cycle, we had spare time to do "PT on our own" in the courtyard. I would run an extra mile or so, then head over to the pull up and dip bars to burn myself out. Unfortunately, as the weeks progressed I saw that my extra training was futile compared to all of the cardiovascular training that was robbing me of my muscle mass.

How I Passed Basic Training At 235lbs Food was of no shortage, but time was! We had 3 meals a day and we weren't limited to a certain portions. I would load my tray full of meat, potatoes, salad, yogurt, bread and anything else I could find. Most of the time, I had about 4-5 minutes to eat my entire meal, which meant that nothing was separated and it didn't matter how it tasted. The problem with this was, usually someone pissed off the drill sergeants before the meal was over, so we would get our asses stomped with a full belly of food sloshing around.

After all was said and done, I ended up losing 33 pounds in less than 10 weeks. My strength levels were down tremendously from not touching a bar in 3 months. The upside, I could run 4-5 miles without stopping, which was a decent trade off, I guess. Four years later, I don't run 5 miles anymore, but I have regained my strength levels, and some. Thanks to websites like www.CriticalBench.com, I've surpassed any strength expectations that I ever had for myself. My time in basic training taught me the true meaning of camaraderie, integrity and most important, Honor! Some of the greatest men and women I've had the pleasure to have known have served next to me in the United States Army. These days, I take my experience in the military and the education I've received from my mentors and help others with their training. My passion is training people who share the same values and vision as I do. Through my website, products and training camps, I strive to infect my passion into as many people as humanly possible.

About The Author

Donnie Kiernan is an amateur strongman competitor and a member of the United States Army Reserves. His training methods, interviews of strength athletes and articles can be viewed at Train to Standard. His website caters to military and civil service members, as well as everyday people, who want to incorporate strength training with cardiovascular and plyometric exercises.

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