Last month, I talked about Aryan and some lessons that we can learn from him. This month, let’s talk about his twin, Karran.
When facing siblings, especially twins, there will be one or two things that will happen, often unconsciously.
A – we will start to compare.
“Oh, sibling A is more diligent, but sibling B is more talented.”
“Sibling A is nicer than sibling B.”
Or B – we will start to group them as one.
“Both of the twins likes this or dislike that.”
“Your brother is smart. I am sure you are also a good student.”
The twins’ mom told me when they started schooling, the school made a deliberate effort to separate them into different classes with different teachers without any overlap. This was to ensure that each twin could grow as an individual and to protect them from being compared by teachers in school.
Sure enough, Aryan and Karran have their own personalities and likings, their own strength and weaknesses, but now in the gym, they are doing the same sets of exercises and coached by the same coaches. Without any doubt, they started to compare how much they could lift, who was stronger, and who was better. I think the rivalry pushed both to be better lifters more than they will admit.
However, if I can contrast one thing if Aryan’s article is about the lessons I learned to be a better lifter, Karran’s article is about lessons I learned to be a better coach.
A lesson I learned from Karran about letting the lifters find their love in sports
Kids in Singapore are very busy. First, they need to juggle their school work, and extra-curricular activities, and then they might have additional private tuition, sports activities, music lessons, and probably more.
When Karran started coming to the gym, he was already committed to football as his primary sport and to some other activities and private tuitions. At one point, he also started boxing. He joined the gym after the other family members have already started training much earlier. He initially doesn’t show much excitement, except when he teases his twin brother, Aryan, that his numbers are higher.
While I am sure that Karran was not dragged out of his will to the gym, I have seen many young adults dragged to the gym by their parents. Unfortunately, the parents are the one who thinks that it’s good for them, which is true, but it is probably worth checking with the kids – “Do you want to be here?”
What’s admirable about Karran is, despite his, at best, neutral feeling towards strength training, that he doesn’t ever complain. He never tells us it’s too hard, heavy, or too much. Instead, he did the program as written, although it drained him so much that he would sit on the floor for 15 minutes afterwards.
Things started to change early this year when his school opened a newly fitted gym facility with barbells and racks. He requested an extra day program for strength training. Pleasantly surprised, I agreed, and he began training thrice weekly. Sure enough, his extra work in the gym suddenly made him stronger and look much bigger in a very short time.
From then, I also know from his mom that Karran has been enjoying training more, and even during the exam period, he would spend a little time going to the gym after school or at home.
We can’t quit every single time we face hardships. Sometimes this also includes voluntary hardships, where we understand the benefit, but the process doesn’t give any immediate pleasure.
Remember those novels that were slow on the first 100 pages and ended up amazing? Unfortunately, sometimes we must let it cook a little longer before enjoying it.
As a coach, how to make sure that the lifter doesn’t stop before “page 100”?
The secret to this is to let the lifters experience meaningful progress for the individual. It might be increased bone density for older female lifters, but it could also be aesthetic for young adults. Luckily getting stronger brings us closer to this goal. So the primary job of the coach is to make the lifter stronger.
A lesson I learned from Karran about being more empathetic as a coach
In 2021, he started taking boxing and immediately loved it. We all know how guys like to watch the sports that they play. And there’s this occasion where there’s a big match, and he decides not to come to the gym so that he can watch the match live on TV.
Considering that he has over a year of experience training and knowing the importance of consistency, I was agitated by Karran’s decision. I thought I could be more understanding of more important activities, such as school activities or exams, and maybe even tuition. However, watching a boxing match on TV? I told him that I was very disappointed with his choice.
After it was all done, I reflected on this experience and that I was being childish about it. Training is crucial for me, and Karran believes it as well. However, this match was a big event that he had been looking forward to it a few months in advance, and he could not miss it.
Karran was almost an adult, but he was also a teenager. So it’s his time to try many different things and develop his interests. And with that, sometimes priority shifts.
In my current circumstance, his boxing match is probably equivalent to my daughter’s concert, which is unimportant to almost anyone but my wife and me. Therefore, I am willing to miss or reschedule my strength training to watch her perform.
So, Karran, I am sorry for being pushy at that moment. And thank you for this lesson! I learned from this experience with you that as a coach, I need to be more empathetic about my lifters life events and circumstances. Training consistency is still essential, but sometimes there are times when we need to be flexible and adapt to the circumstances.
A lesson I learned from Karran about programming for young adults
Karran is an excellent athlete. He’s medium built, sturdy, and generally explosive (I believe he can jump and touch the basketball rim). However, another crucial factor that he has, that all teenagers have is that he’s growing.
How do you get a young, healthy teenager to get stronger? First, of course, feed them and let them grow. But how does strength training benefit them more than that? And how should they train?
While we usually teach strength training to kids after starting puberty, the essential service to these young padawans is to teach them to lift with proper form. Younger teenagers will find it harder to get into certain positions, especially with lower back extension, and to control the speed of the eccentric part of the lift. During this period, the focus is on the technique and getting them to enjoy the training activity.
Weight increase will be very conservative or even kept the same, depending on how well the kids maintain their form.
There will come a time when their movements become more organized and coordinated, their back extension can be held consistently, and movement speed seems to be in their control. These are the signs that they are ready to train “more” like an adult while growing.
Karran started training at 16 years old, and he’s at that stage where physically, he’s almost like an adult. So he started training using the Starting Strength Novice Linear Progression (SS-NLP) at a frequency of two to three times per week and continued doing that for a while.
Record of Karran’s program around three months into training
Every few months, Karran would stop training for a few weeks for his school exam and sometimes a few extra weeks of holidays. As he came back to training, with absolute certainty, we could see that he had grown bigger and taller. So within that few months, he’s like a brand-new athlete capable of doing more.
For this growing teenager, we thought the best thing to do was to put him back into the SS-NLP after their holidays. Once that stops working, Karran would do a simple intermediate-level training program with one heavy day and one light day for every lift. If he can do one extra workout independently, we will add an upper body day.
During football season, he could train once a week, and it’s enough to slowly drive his strength level up while he could focus more on his performance on the field.
Karran spent 1.5 hours to 4 hours per week training for the past three years. He is now 18 at 178 cm, 80kg, and able to squat 160kgs and deadlift 200kg. This is an astounding number for a young man spending a very reasonable amount of time in the gym without much complication in his training program.
I highly recommend that all male and female young adults pick up strength training while youth is still in your favor. You might be busy with many activities, but 4 hours a week makes a difference. Too many clients say they wish they had started this when they were younger.
And when you start, don’t be lured into complicated stuff. You learned differential equations in high school, not primary school. Build the basics first! And the basics are always simple yet fundamental.
These are some things that I learned while I coached Karran and also Aryan.
As the boys are becoming men and soon having their turn to serve the nation, I wish them all the best for the national service, their studies, and everything they do in the future.
It’s been fun coaching you both!