“Current research indicates that resistance training can be a safe, effective and worthwhile activity for children and adolescents provided that qualified professionals supervise all training sessions and provide age-appropriate instruction on proper lifting procedures and safe training guidelines.
“Regular participation in a multifaceted resistance training program that begins during the preseason and includes instruction on movement biomechanics, may reduce the risk of sports-related injuries in young athletes.
“We have all heard the old misconceptions that kids shouldn’t lift weights at a young age because it would stunt their growth. In reality, appropriate resistance training is not only safe for kids, but it’s also tremendously beneficial.” — Dr. Avery Faigenbaum
Aaron Brooks of Hagerstown, Maryland, is a seven-time national champion wrestler who has more than 345 amateur wins to his name (and counting) and will compete to break the world record in the bench press for his age and weight on June 12, 2010 in New Jersey.
Oh wait . . . did I happen to mention that this young, athletic phenom is only nine-years old?
That’s right, nine!
The current bench press record for eight and nine-year olds in the 88 pound weight class is 77 pounds.
Considering that Aaron could already do multiple reps at that weight thanks in part to doing vast amounts of push-ups combined with his strong wrestling prowess, Aaron’s goal is to do one repetition at between 90 and 100 pounds and set a new world record.
Aaron’s dream of a world record lift may draw concerns about safety, especially for a developing nine-year old, but lifting weights has never been Aaron’s main focus.
Just ask his dad, John Brooks.
John Brooks is a hard working father of two young boys; Isaiah (age 12) and Aaron (age nine). He works as a paraprofessional at South Hagerstown High School and assists specifically with alternative learning opportunities.
When it comes to raising his children, John (a self-described former “army brat”) believes very strongly in the importance of discipline, responsible behavior, education, religious faith, and keeping up on chores around the house.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with John and in my opinion, you will not find a more devoted and loving father. Everything that John does, he does for the benefit of his two children.
This is my interview. Enjoy.
James Ryan: Hello John.
John Brooks: Hello James.
James Ryan: Thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me. You must be one proud papa.
John Brooks: Thank you, I am.
James Ryan: How did this whole business of setting a world bench press record come about?
John Brooks: It’s kind of funny actually. Chad Walker, a senior at the school where I work at, told me about some kid breaking the record on a YouTube video, so my fiancée Googled it and emailed Raw Power-lifting Federation for clarification.
I then spoke with my friend who owns the Gold’s Gym in Hagerstown to see if he would be interested in sponsoring Aaron. It seemed like a great way to promote the gym but also, to help out Aaron.
James Ryan: Why would a nine-year-old need sponsorship? Help with what exactly?
John Brooks: The hardest part for me is getting Aaron around for training and competitions. The biggest challenge is raising funds. I really believe that if the right company were to step in, it could be a win-win situation for sure.
James Ryan: Sounds like a great idea.
Your son has been getting a lot of attention this week from various sporting websites and networks—ESPN for example. Any concerns about how all of this publicity may affect Aaron or his perception of himself?
John Brooks: No, not really. He’s a very down-to-earth kid. We all attend church every Sunday and Aaron and his older brother even do bible studies during the week.
I don’t worry about Aaron as far as him being famous. My responsibility as his father is to worry about that.
Ever since my kids were young, I knew that they were very special kids with very special talents. I have tried to instill in them the importance of being good leaders.
Aaron has been blessed with a gift and if people want to be entertained by that gift, then that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with sharing his talent with others.
Aaron will also do a lot to help other kids as well. We could be at a competition and he’ll be working with some of the other boys and he’ll be showing them and teaching them new things—even the kids that he’ll be going up against.
It’s never been about the wins but rather, how he is affecting the world around him.
James Ryan: Wow, Aaron sounds like a very special boy and it sounds like he has a great support system which is also very important.
How is your other son, Isaiah, handling the attention that Aaron seems to be receiving right now?
John Brooks: My boys support each other. Part of the reason why Aaron is so competitive is because of how good his older brother is at wrestling. Having another State Champion in the house has encouraged Aaron to be just like Isaiah in that sense.
James Ryan: And speaking of competitiveness—how much of Aaron’s accomplishments are as a result of his own motivation to succeed? Given his young age, it would be easy to see why some people might think that you are one of “those” parents who pushes his kid too hard.
John Brooks: I really don’t push my kids. When Aaron was five years old, he immediately became very focused on the wrestling mat. It’s just his nature.
Unlike a lot of other kids his age, he didn’t really find wrestling to be cute or funny. He took it seriously right away and when I asked him about whether or not he wanted to try competitions, he replied by stating “I’d like to be the best.”
So I showed him what the best looked like; I showed him footage of great athletes like Walter Payton and Jerry Rice. Saying it is one thing and it’s a nice dream but I just wanted to make sure that he was aware that it would take a great deal of commitment in order to make it happen.
Like I said, I really don’t make him work that hard. He is a naturally driven and motivated kid.
James Ryan: Very rare in this day and age, good for him! What does his current training schedule look like?
John Brooks: Training is pretty relaxed until crunch time, usually when we are preparing for the Nationals, we will increase his training schedule a bit, but I feel that it’s important not to treat every match like it’s a world championship.
During the season, Aaron will always take Mondays and Fridays off.
On Tuesdays, he will practice for two hours of wrestling, which includes conditioning and technique.
On Wednesdays, Aaron will train with dumbbells and cardio for one hour, plus some drilling at home for a combined two hours in total.
On Thursdays, Aaron will practice wrestling for two hours and then on Saturdays, he has matches and Sundays are off unless he has a tournament.
In the off-season, Aaron will only practice on Thursday for two hours and then he’ll fit another two workouts in for strength training whenever we can.
Aaron realizes that he’s not going to win every match and we place a high emphasis on sportsmanship in our training. Aaron respects when another boy wins; it just means that it was his turn and Aaron is genuinely happy for him and congratulates him.
James Ryan: How important is education in your house? Are your boys good students or are they too focused on sports?
John Brooks: Aaron is a about a B-average student and Isaiah usually gets all A’s and B’s. Isaiah just made the honor role this year, but both could probably do a bit better in their reading.
More than anything, at their age, I’m less concerned about them getting all A’s, as opposed to just making sure that they don’t have any negative comments about their behavior.
Both of my boys are required to read no less than one hour per day all summer long.
James Ryan: What about video games? Most kids are glued to them. I even lost one of my football players this summer because he decided that he would sooner stay at home and play video games than play football. The worst part, in my opinion, was that his parents accepted it.
John Brooks: Wow. My sons play video games a bit but mostly they play outside. They play a lot of tag and I feel strongly that there must be a trade-off between physical activity and video games. At least one hour of exercise, three times a week.
Aaron’s favorite video game is Call of Duty. Isaiah’s is Madden Football.
James Ryan: So many parents are afraid to let their kids play outside which is part of the problem with today’s inactive youth. How do you ensure that your boys are safe?
John Brooks: We live in a cul-de-sac and they always stay within eye range or closer. We also have great neighbors and we all watch each other’s kids and communicate regularly with each other.
James Ryan: Do you think that your son will ever have any interest in Mixed Martial Arts?
John Brooks: Recently Aaron started studying jiu-jitsu with a friend of his at a local martial arts club. He loves MMA.
James Ryan: Who are his favorite fighters?
John Brooks: He really likes Josh Koscheck, Brock Lesnar, Anderson “Spider” Silva, and “Rampage” Jackson. His favorite fighter however is definitely Georges St-Pierre. He really admires his meticulous work ethic and style. Plus he’s just a really great person.
James Ryan: Cool choices. What would you want the skeptics to know about your son?
John Brooks: Aaron is doing exactly what he wants to do. He’s just an unusual and exceptional kid in that sense. He wants to be great, so as his father, I am committed to helping him anyway that I can.
James Ryan: I have always said that I am my son’s biggest fan. Do you feel the same way about your boys?
John Brooks: Yes, absolutely, without a doubt. Everything that I do, I do to help them to achieve their dreams.
James Ryan: Dreams are very important for children.
Anyone that you would like to thank?
John Brooks: Definitely. My boys have really great coaches and practice partners. We are very fortunate to have such good people around us.
Also, I think that “family” is very underrated in the personal success of children. The family unit is very important and a good home makes a huge difference.
Having my fiancée and a step-mom around now has certainly helped my boys. Adrienne has definitely brought balance to our house.
I would also like to thank Kevin Cabezas from Carried Out Fight Gear for helping me out. His son Matthew is also a very good wrestler and is also a nine-time National Champion. Recently, he and Aaron competed against each other at the ‘Tournament of Champions’ in Ohio, which is like the Super Bowl of wrestling. It was a close match but luckily Aaron came out on top.
James Ryan: Well, this has been a great interview John. I always enjoy meeting parents who are so committed to the success of their children. The world needs more guys like you.
And let’s hope that those sponsors step forward soon so that Aaron can continue to compete at the highest possible level and train with the best coaches that this country has to offer.
John Brooks: Thank you so much James, and keep up the great work.
Also, be sure to follow Aaron on Twitter to see what he is thinking as he prepares for his interview and lift! He should have fun with it!
Follow-up Interview: World Record Countdown: Nine-Year-Old Aaron Brooks Ready to Make History
Aaron Brooks – First Place, Matthew Cabezas – Second Place
NHSCA dual break! Isaiah and Dylan are both one-time MD Champions, Tyler is a two-time MI State Champion and five-time National Champion, and Aaron is two-time MD Champion and seven-time National Champion.