This week I wanted to speak to my good buddy Alex Leboeuf, better known simply as "Beef". Over the course of a year I've watched him create Hybrid Strength & Conditioning from nothing but a vision with the help of HSC coaches Tony Sicard and Brad Buzzee. Through old school personable marketing, putting out consistent, honest, and accurate information on strength training, and running strength camps that will have you discovering strength you never thought you had, his brand now has a vibrant following. On top of actualizing his dreams, Beef and HSC coaches recently began their journey in strongman competition and train at the world renown strongman gym Lightning Fitness in CT
Enjoy as we delve into how Beef got his start in strength training, why he decided to create Hybrid Strength & Conditioning, share stories of success from HSC camps, and explore Beef's personal goals and training philosophies
Coach Ben - I remember when I first met you. Tony and Brad were setting up a strongman type strength camp years ago at the local middle school back home in MA and you were a new face to me. You had this fiery attitude about strength training, it was refreshing to see. I knew you were a man of business and all about getting stronger. What turned you on to this type of training? Take us back a little to your early days
Beef - So to take you back to the earlier days, I've always played team sports. I played soccer and basketball for Smith Vocational High School where I actually met Tony and Brad. Tony was a forward for the team and Brad and I were in the same shop, carpentry. I've always loved the family feel of team sports and the discipline that is developed when you're dedicated to improving yourself and accomplishing goals as a group.
I also played soccer for Holyoke Community College. I was elected Captian my second year and asked to return to coach my third year. Yes, I was a three year community college student HA! I remember my first day of college soccer, we were all running around the field for time and I was just shouting "keep working boys" "stay focused" "it's almost over, keep grinding!" And I didn't even know any of these people. It didn't matter, they were instantly my teammates. Instantly my brothers. My family. That was the spark to my leadership. The small ember which began the fire for coaching and mentoring others to grow stronger. My days of being a student athlete lead me here. My parents were also a really big motivation for me. They kept me driving forward and spent hours outside of practice, practicing.
Coach Ben - It has been awesome that we've been able to watch each other get stronger over the years from those early strength camp days. It seems you really took to the strongman type training while I went the powerlifting route. Tell us what it is about strongman training that appeals so much to you?
Beef - To tie into the previous question nick, I've always been an athlete. The athletic ability to move quickly, change direction, explode and sprint has always been a foundation of my movements. However, I love to lift really heavy weird looking things. Nothing better then looking at a huge heavy stone and then lifting it up in the air!
Strongman offers me both of those aspects. I consider myself developing into a Strength Athlete. Some events are max weight lifts, which falls under the strength aspect. Where other events, like a sandbag medley, requires a level of athletic ability to move quickly while also lifting heavy things. The level of athleticism required to perform well in the sport of Strongman amazes me. When I see athletes, novice or professional, the ability to do what they do always impresses me. From being able to deadlift for reps and then lift atlas stones for time is incredible to me.
Coach Ben - That aspect of strongman is appealing. In powerlifting you are constantly training for the 3 same movements but in strongman you don't always know what to expect. Do you have a favorite event?
Beef - My favorite event in strongman would be the load event. This is when the athlete lifts an object onto a platform or over a bar. It can range from stone, keg, sandbag, anchor, fire hydrant or rock. I like lifting odd things and putting them back down. When I'm looking into competitions to sign up for or train, ones with loading events get me extra excited. The New York comp has a keg and sandbag medley where you run a certain distance and load them. This will require both the loading strength and athletic ability to run and move fast. Again, Hybrid Athletic Ability.
Coach Ben - With strongman being such a versatile sport where you are asked to display strength in so many ways, how do you go about structuring your training to prepare for such unpredictability?
Beef - My basic foundation of training for strongman is barbell training in my primary gym. I have a pull day. Deadlifts, rack pulls, bent over rows. I have a leg day. Squats. Front squats, barbell lunges, leg press. Over head day. Barbell OHP, cleans, clean and jerk, lots of shoulder work. In my opinion, strong back, shoulders and legs are the keys to successful strongman training. I spend most of my training simply looking to increase my overall physical strength. I never go over a rep range of 6. I keep things in an 80-95% range of a previous 1 Rep Max, every 3 months I'll find a new 1RM and readjust my numbers. Most of my training is 4-5 movements. Some days heavy triples, doubles or singles, it depends on the day. When a competition is found, and I believe I have a certain level of experience or I am very interested in trying the event, I will then transition my training to focus primarily on those events.
A traditional gym doesn't have strongman implements. I need to train with axle bars, logs, yokes, atlas stones and circus dumbbells. For this, I train at Lightning Fitness in CT. That gym offers me everything I could ever imagine in terms of strongman preparation. For the two events I am doing in April, when I travel to CT I will train 3 events that are specific to the competition event. So I will train with the implements there with a very intense focus. I can deadlift and squat in any gym, I can't yoke or lift stones anywhere but Lightning. So when it's competition training time, like now, lightning is my go to and specific event training is created. I am training the events specific to the competition, where year round training is barbell movements focused on increasing my physical strength
Coach Ben - Obviously your love of training and coaching is strong because you decided to go out and create the HSC brand, Hybrid Strength & Conditioning. What inspired you to created your own brand of coaching?
Beef - To take it a step back, what really got me inspired to start training again, which lead me into developing Hybrid Strength & Conditioning was a conversation I had with a fellow co-worker, Bob Normand. He happened to bring up this old book he had, The Bodybuilding Encyclopedia by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The book had these incredible photos, workout tips and routines. I was hooked! My inspiration came flooding back!! At that time in my life I was working full time and playing a lot of Call of Duty. That conversation I had with Bob and reading that book really opened the door for me to walk through in order to discover the possibility of weight training.
Over time as I trained I just fell in love. I loved lifting heavy, I loved seeing my body and mind change in positive ways. I wanted to educate and coach others that it was possible for them to feel the same way. I decided that was what I would do. I would go back to school. I would become a certified personal trainer. I would motivate, educate and empower others to become stronger athletes and stronger human beings. When I brought this idea up to Tony and Brad on our way to train MMA in Amherst, Tony's response has been branded into my mind since. "I don't know of another person who would do a better job at that than you beef." So, I went with it.
Hybrid Strength & Conditioning was developed over a long time of trial and error. I had so many names and ideas that just didn't click. I didn't want to be "just personal training" or "just another fitness guy". I am all about strength AND conditioning. Lift heavy, move fast. An athlete like that, I consider to be a Hybrid Athlete and that's what HSC develops. Thus, Hybrid Strength & Conditioning was born.
Coach Ben - What is your relationship like with your HSC coaches Tony Sicard and Brad Buzzee? You seem to be a very tight knit group in the gym and out
Beef - To be honest man, without Tony and Brad, this past year would not have been as successful as it was. They push me, inspire me and scream in my face (literally) to grow stronger. They are two of my closest friends and I honestly trust them with my life. I knew Tony from high school basketball and Brad from shop class in school but we weren't as close as we are today. Its funny how some people will be in your life at certain times, yet the true relationship doesn't grow or take form until time in the future. In the gym the three of us are savages. Brad and I compete in the same weight class, depending on then event it could be anything from under 175 to under 205. The two of us go at each other like sub-zero and scorpion from Mortal Kombat. Where Tony is in a heavier weight class because he is such a mountain of muscle, it motivates and challenges me to train harder. My thought process is that, if Tony can lift that 300 lb atlas stone, well I guess I have to as well.
We all have a foundation of strength knowledge, so its really helpful to have two people watch me do a lift and offer two different perspecetives on what needs improvements. We are constantly checking in on macros, offering motivation and sending funny weightlifting memes to each other. I see the two of them as brothers. They are my family. This past August we went on a "Gaincation" a mini vacation where we toured different strongman gyms in CT and eastern mass and it was a week full of laughing, jokes and of course PRs. In the gym and out of it, those two men have my back for whatever may come my way. I am honored to have such great friends.
Coach Ben - Sounds like you guys are true brothers. What you just described is a special friendship to have. You three have been doing some really cool things with HSC, including hosting strength camps in the summer months. I've seen your brand grow exponentially over the past year and you are now well over 400 likes on facebook. Tell us why you decided to start these strength camps, how they run, and about the growth of the camps
Beef - The outdoor training sessions are a continuation of the camps we trained at when you and I first met. That year, it was just a small group of 5-6 people who liked to workout and did that. Over the year I decided I would take them over, lead them and open it up to the public. I would be certified and have insurance to train group fitness and I called them Athletic Camps for that reason. It's similar to group exercise at a gym, but it's outside. The idea was to invite people to come train, grow stronger and introduce them to strongman. I wanted to develop Hybrid Athletes. The idea was that the money given from the athletes would be used to pay for the storage unit I had, pay for updating equipment and give away prizes. It did exactly that. I was expecting a turn out of 5-10 people. We had camps of over 15 at certain times. The summer time drew larger crowds of 15-20 athletes ranging in all age and athletic ability.
As time went on, it developed into a core group of athletes. A group of people you looked forward to seeing every Sunday morning. A group of people who were passionate about growing stronger and wanted to train hard. We had a community. HSC has a following. I never expected people to want to train more than once a week. I never expected anyone to ask me "when are you getting your own place so we train together in the winter" The plan was to train in the summer months, end it, train by myself and start up again. I never thought that the following that HSC has was going to happen this quickly. The strongman training and athletic development that HSC offers is in high demand and this year in 2016, Hybrid Strength & Conditioning is going to meet and exceed those demands!
Any typical training is usually Sunday mornings. We start in spring at 9 am because it gets hot quick. Some days are just strength days. Some days are just conditioning. Some days are tactical training with small obstacles, like climbing over tires or crawling on the ground. Other days we have strongman Sunday where we just focus on two or three strongman lifts specifically. The real inspiration behind the camps, besides the love I had from training the year before, came from Elliot Hulse. Elliot Hulse is a professional strongman who lives in Florida and owns Strength Camp. He started his training success by doing camps in parks out of his van. That is literally what I am doing. His success story gave me the drive and passion to grow stronger myself and do something I never thought possible. I thought, if he can do it, so can I. And his YouTube channel has fueled a lot of my philosophies and passions not only as a strength coach or athlete but as a human being.
Coach Ben - Are there any success stories that stand out to you regarding people who have been through your camps?
Beef - One success story from the camps that stands out the most would have to be Micah Hinkley. This is another co-worker of mine that I've know for a few years now. He is a dad of some very beautiful young daughters and is an extremely hard working man. He came to the camp for the first time because he was so fascinated by the tire flips. He came here and gave it a shot and his daughter Aubrey cheered him on the whole time. This caused the whole camp to cheer him on. He had a fire and burning passion to grow stronger and he FIGHTS during every training session to grow more successful. He competed in our Mock Strongman Event we hosted this past August and came in second in the Heavy Weight division by a close loss in the tie-breaker event! He spends all his time researching at-home workouts, reading men's fitness magazines and eating salad and grilled chicken.
He used to be a huge "weight on the scale is the only thing that matters" guy. He recently told me that HSC taught him that the scale is just one tool. That the fact now is that the scale isn't the only thing that matters. He has more confidence now. He sleeps better. He feels stronger. He wears better fitted clothes. He speaks and reads better. He takes on the day with a positive attitude and motivates others. He has told me that HSC changed the way he thinks and relates to fitness so much that it has literally changed his entire life. He is an incredible father and human being. HSC is honored to have a Hybrid Athlete like him to train alongside with.
Coach Ben - What are your hopes for the Hybrid Strength & Conditioning brand in the next few years?
Beef - Over the next few years My hopes for Hybrid Strength & Conditioning would be that we have a permanent base location. The goal is to set up shop and host Athletic Camps daily. Every day of the week is a different style of training. Members join the gym and come to classes they want. Sunday will remain Strongman Sunday. In addition to the camps, personal sessions would be offered to both individuals and small groups of athletes. For instance if a couple wanted to be trained together instead of separately or a group of athletes from a high school wrestling team wanted a team rate, HSC would offer that. I want to host another Mock Strongman event. We had 10 athletes compete this previous year, I'm hoping for 15 this year. Offering competitions and organized events is extremely rewarding as a coach.
I hope to offer discounts to local police, firefighters, EMT and medics staff as well as active and retired military officers as well. I want to host camps specially designed for their line of work to continue to help them grow stronger to perform better in their lives and develop a community for them to let off steam and bond. I want to give back to the people who put their lives on the line for the community. I hope to reach out to the local athletic directors of high school and colleges. Offering a place for student athletes a chance to sharpen their skills and become Better in the sports that they love and have passion for. I hope that HSC is a brand that not only encourages people to come to the gym and slam heavy kegs and flip heavy tires but to develop a foundation of strength that will aid in their overall well-being.
Coach Ben - Are there any projects you are currently working on to further develop HSC and further improve and grow the strength camps? I'm interested in hearing about any new info coming up, I know you recently had a give-away promotion for a free month specialty program
Beef - The development of projects for HSC is an on going process. The design of a website is happening. The lockdown and development of a YouTube channel is happening. The final touches of the staple strength routine that will be offered to anyone interested at no cost, which is titled, Foundations of Strength, is about to be released in the next month. New gear and equipment has been paid for and bought for camps this year. Tours of mill factories and commercial lots begin next week. You can say, there is a lot happening behind closed doors in the HSC world!
Coach Ben - That's awesome, I'm happy to see you guys constantly improving. I definitely have to make the trip back up to MA this summer to check out a new and improved HSC strength camp! What are some of your personal goals going forward regarding strongman and your training?
Beef - My personal goals moving forward is to grow stronger overall. I want to be physicaly stronger and mental stronger. I want to be emotionally stronger and spiritually stronger. I want to be more humble. I want to be more patient. I want to deadlift 500lbs and squat 450. I want to win the upcoming strongman competitions I'll be competing in this April and bring home trophies. I will be competing in New York at the beginning of April and competing in Masschusetts Strongest Man at the end of April.
I've gone back to my roots of simple, basic, big, strong movements and I'm in love all over again. I'll most likely be training for strength the rest of my life. I'm currently training for the April competitions. Training the events that are required. I'm competing in the open 175 class. I currently weigh 182. When I signed up I weighed 196. I have worked so hard to lose this weight while also growing physically stronger and I've never been more focused or driven in my life. When it's time to lift for the first event in NY, everyone there, will know who HSC is.
Coach Ben - Good luck my friend and thank you for taking the time for this interview. Where can people reach you and learn more about Hybrid Strength & Conditioning?
Beef - For anyone interested in learning more about Hybrid Strength & Conditioning the best option is through Facebook.
I do my best to post every day or every two days. I only post things I find to be interesting and worthy of posting. I hate channels that flood my news feed with fake links and BS ads. I want to offer quality material and things I find to be of use. We have an Instagram account as well. Website and YouTube channel will be fully loaded and released this spring.
For any further info, email is firstname.lastname@example.org
I love answering questions on macros and lifting heavy HAHA