From The Desk Of Clarence Bass
Editor's Comment: Professor Kevin Fontaine introduced his son Joshua on our Success Stories page in 2007; he was 13. What has happened since then is an example of intelligent training combined with unrelenting determination. Joshua went from an average kid with high aspirations to a miniature Hulk in the first two years. Amazingly, his upward trajectory has continued apace. It's a story that warrants a move from Success Story to Fitness Personality--from an individual achievement category to a grouping where the sky's the limit.
It started when young Joshua asked his father to train him to look like Bruce Lee. For the average dad that would be pie in the sky, but Kevin Fontaine is no average dad. He and Clarence have been email friends for decades. Kevin is now an endowed professor of energetics and healthy lifestyles at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Simply put, he studies the effects of diet and physical activity, investigating these areas from multiple perspectives (genetic, assessment technologies, cell biology, psychological factors, and so on). If anyone could put his son on the path to achieving his lofty goals, it's Dr. Fontaine. You can read about the inspired and informed manner in which he went about it on our SS page 10 and page 11.
Weight training has strengthened the bond between Professor Fontaine and his precocious son.
Joshua picks up the story where our Success Stories pages leave off. His confidence and strong-willed determination come through in the first paragraph.
Joshua Fontaine: From Fatherís Experiment to National Record
I have grown exponentially in the 7 years since my father wrote the last update of my progress. My knowledge of exercise has vastly increased and I have made enormous progress in my training. After spending about a year training at another gym I made my home Exile Fitness. Iíve been a member at Exile since it opened in 2010 and, unlike the other gym, Exile will not judge you or throw you out for ďgrunting,Ē for your appearance, or, heaven forbid, working hard. Exile has no equal. It is my home away from home. Unlike the other gym, Exile exudes a hardcore atmosphere of grit and power. There are a variety of athletes that train there including fighters, bodybuilders, football players, power lifters, Olympic weightlifters, and athletes from a plethora of other sports. It is not a gym for the faint of heart or for those who are easily intimidated. I have learned so much from just observing and speaking to those far more experienced than me. No matter what walk of life you happen to come from, you will be treated with respect; once you step into the gym everyone is treated equally.
Much of what Iíve learned has not only come from personal experience but from reading about those I look up to. My father introduced me to Clarence Bass and his Ripped Series when I was just starting off my training career. I read Ripped and Ripped 2 in the span of just a few days. I enjoyed that Clarence recalled his own career in strength training and bodybuilding. He recollected his ups and downs and showed his readers what worked for him and how each method affected him. His knowledge of exercise and nutrition is virtually endless. Much of what Iíve learned and still incorporate into my training and my life were ďrippedĒ from those books. In 2009 my father and I actually had the opportunity to go to New Mexico and spend a few days with Mr. Ripped himself. We spend a weekend in his beautiful house taking frequent hikes in the mountains that abut his neighborhood. After eating just about all of Clarenceís peanut butter sandwiches and Tiger's Milk Protein Bars we moved on to train in his private facility that included some of the greatest old time equipment, including one of the first Nautilus pullover machines. We even had an excellent braised chicken and vegetables dinner prepared by his wife Carol. I learned more about effective training and diet from that brief weekend than I could have ever imagined.
Joshua has taken on more than the barbell, developing his skills in the martial arts.
Not long after joining Exile I began taking a full contact Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) class that was actually in the same building. We studied an array of different disciplines including Ju-Jitsu and kickboxing. I stood out like a sore thumb in the class not only because I was the shortest but I was also one of the strongest. I was a quick study. I soaked up the various movements and techniques like a sponge. I loved to fight. All my doubts, stresses and fears accumulated through my life would be washed away as soon as I put on my gloves. I continued fighting 2-3 times a week until I went off to college. I still thoroughly enjoy it now and again but I want to focus more on the principles of self-defense rather than fighting as a sport. Once Iím finished with college I hope to start training in Krav Maga and Ju-Jitsu again.
As a college freshman I had no comprehension of time management and immediately became swamped with school work. Despite being inept when it came to school I always made time to go to the gym. I trained at the schoolís gym which wasnít far off from the totalitarian rule I got accustomed to at my first fitness center. Filled with cardio bunnies bouncing up and down on a treadmill and men super-setting dumbbell curls with barbell curls in the power rack. I got over my fear of seeing swathes of men suffering from invisible lat syndrome and managed to follow a decent 3 times a week training cycle. People werenít accustomed to seeing someone who trained using a High Intensity Training (HIT) protocol or people who actually trained with any degree of intensity for that matter. The most frequently used piece of equipment at the college gym was the mirror.
It wasnít until about my sophomore and junior years of college that I really began to study and focus on the scientific and physiological aspects of strength training. During this time I directed my focus to strength movements, mostly the bench press, squat and deadlift. I competed in Powerlifting meets a few times after realizing that I was rather gifted. When I competed in my first deadlift meet I managed to break the U.S. Powerlifting Association (USPA) national record with a 463lb deadlift at a bodyweight of 140lbs. Not long after, I competed again benching 250, curling 130, and deadlifting 500 at a body weight of 142lb. The deadlift was an unofficial world record in the 148lb class (unofficial because the meet did not use kilogram plates. So the record is only recognized in the U.S.) The record hadnít been broken since 1993 and would have ranked me as #1 in the deadlift for the under 20, 148lb class and would have also ranked me #7 in the overall deadlift at 148lb.
Here Joshua is deadlifting using the standard foot position. He is now experimenting with the wide stance Sumo style shown below.
I never followed a specific program or method and instead had created a concoction of all different ideas and protocols I had learned over time. I implemented different methods that I had learned about and a few I came up with on my own to create a decently well-rounded system of training. Although I love training for strength, I never devoted myself exclusively to the Big Three (bench, squat & DL) and variations of the same exercises, which many believe would be the most efficient method when power lifting is the primary goal. I believe that one of the main reasons I did so well was because I allowed myself to think unconventionally and incorporate all different styles of training. Although my training may have been different, there was always a method to the madness. Each workout would begin with the bench press, squat, or deadlift. I would then do accessory work somehow related to the lifts. For example, if I was benching that day I would do different chest and triceps exercises. My main goal from the accessory work was to build muscle mass (hypertrophy). I would do a variety of things such as drop sets, super sets, pyramid sets, burnout sets, and especially slow cadence sets. No two workouts were ever really the same. I enjoyed variety, not just in the exercises but in how they are performed. I would typically only do one set per exercise and sometimes two. I would always focus on reaching muscular failure while having a keen eye on keeping good form. My father first taught me the principles of HIT and I havenít stopped since. Itís tough and I believe thatís why so many people shy away from it but there is no doubting its efficiency and results.
Joshua's varied training has produced a physique which would do well in physique competition.
I have suffered from a number of injuries, but never directly from strength training. The last couple years have been particularly tough for me because of an injured tail bone. When I was younger I used to skateboard constantly and would cause significant trauma to my tailbone but I usually just forgot about the pain and kept skating. It wasnít until later in my training career that I realized it would have a significant impact. I canít remember the exact point at which it started to bother me but I remember getting some extreme amount of stiffness and pretty intense pain in my coccyx area after some training sessions. I believe since the injury was so old my body adapted and healed to the contours of the injury. That may be the cause of the pain occurring after workouts where I would need to contract my glutes and low back. After being treated at Adolph and Kalkstein Chiropractic in Towson, Maryland my pain has significantly decreased and my mobility has significantly increased. Not only did I stop getting the pain but I was able to move in ways I hadnít for some time. I am actually quite grateful that this injury occurred because it has given me much more insight to the functioning of my body and allowed me to better judge my training habits and form issues. I am more alert to how my body is feeling and also more studious with my training.
Despite my tail bone injury, I have managed to make massive strength gains in the past 18 months. I switched from deadlifting using the conventional stance to the sumo stance, which takes much of the pressure off my low back. The sumo style deadlift allows you to stay more upright and involves more legs than back. The sumo stance suits my stature and allows me to lift with less chance of injury. With this change, I have managed to deadlift 585 for three with reverse bands http://www.8weeksout.com/2013/11/06/reverse-band-deadlift/ , deadlift 405x18, rack pull 700 for a double, bench 305, pin press 265, safety bar squat 500x2, and do 52 reps on the glute-ham raise.
A 600 pound deadlift using the Sumo stance is well within Joshua's capabilities; more if he sets his mind to it.
I am proud that I have made great strides in my strength training career and have overcome great adversities. Despite being injured several times from things out of my control and dealing with responsibilities that may have prevented or deterred me from training, I have managed to progress and to not allow these obstacles to stop me. Clarence has been one of my biggest inspirations. I hope that one day I can inspire and inform others about exercise like he did for me. I also hope that, like Clarence, I can live a long and prosperous life and still be ripped at the age of 75!
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