weight, dumbbells, barbell

Rehabilitated by Iron – Jim Steel

Thanks to Jim Steel for his generous words.


One of the best things about being a strength coach is that every once in a while, you come across some people who overcome seemingly impossible odds, who are almost on death’s doorstep, but by sheer force of will, decide that this current state of themselves will not stand. They find solace in the weight room and take to the iron and each day get stronger and stronger. They remake themselves; they obliterate their demons to become better than ever.

In October of 2012, I received an email from Brian Jones telling me that he had read my articles on my website and that he felt a kinship with me, through our love of our kids, our dogs and our philosophy on life.

And then he got to the crux of the whole thing. He wrote:

“I essentially stepped off a two-story roof and landed feet first in the driveway.  I SHATTERED both legs. . messed them up. Pilon fractures in both, my ankle joints were powdered, spiral fractures in the tibia’s. . the whole shebang.  I ultimately needed 7 surgeries.  Hardware in both legs to hold them together.  I caught a staph infection along the way and nearly had to have the left leg amputated.  I was immobile, in a hospital bed in our family room, for six months.”

Pretty crazy, right?

And he lay there, eating and trying to decide what his life was going to be like. The doctor told him that he would never walk unassisted again. Then one day he overheard his daughter talking about him to one of her friends. She said, "That's my Daddy...he lives in his bed and chair."

Now, that wouldn't matter to some folks, they would feel sorry for themselves and some would just give up and give in. Not Brian. He started crawling everywhere which eventually led to standing, which led to body weight squats while holding himself up between two chairs, which led to joining the local YMCA where he began lifting weights. He perused training websites and stumbled upon Starting Strength and our mutual friend, Mark Rippetoe. Rip encouraged him, called him, sent him books and DVD’s and with arduous hours spent in the weight room, made miraculous gains.

“I went from being unable to do 4 consecutive body weight squats and unable to lift my 52 lb daughter to my current PR's of 315x5 on my squat, 425 x 5 on my deadlift, 245x5 on my bench.  I have dropped 55lbs in weight.  I can walk, Jim.  I can do toe raises, I have begun to jog again.  I can jump and am teaching myself Power Cleans.”

Now that right there speaks of a few things. First , it shows that there are still people in this world that want to help when someone is down and out like Rip did for Brian, it shows that the weight room is a magic place where you can transform oneself with grit and hard work, and it shows the indomitable power of the human spirit.

I am frustrated constantly by folks who seem to have every advantage in life but tell me that they want to get strong but just don't have the time to train with weights. Most of the time, they are just plain lazy. In Brian's case, he didn't have a choice. The only way that he would walk again, to function as the man that he was before his accident was to lift weights and get stronger. No excuses were acceptable. The weight room can change you if you just give it a chance. In Brian's case, he HAD to give it a chance.

I sent Brian my books and I have done some online training with him. He’s always thanking me and telling me how much I have done for him. I like that he tells me that stuff, it makes me feel good. But, and I am sure that Rip feels the same way, I just pointed the way. There would be no success if he didn't toil everyday no matter how bad the pain was coursing through his body.  And yes, there are family members that support you and forum members that motivate you, but it's really you, alone with the Iron, that has to do it. And it's a never-ending process. Just the fear of going back to that bed and wheelchair is enough to keep Brian going.

I am thrilled and honored to write this article for Brian’s website. You are in good hands with him. He has been through it, he has persevered and fought and reinvented himself. If you want to get stronger, both mentally and physically, you have come to the right place.

Jim can be found at BasBarbell.com