When you think of Ray Lewis, you don’t think of bodyguards. After all, what protection could anyone possibly offer the 12-time Pro Bowl-er that he couldn’t provide himself? But if you were pressed to choose someone to fill the role of protector of the most feared man in football, he would have to be the absolute best. I’m talking about a real warrior. An American hero. I’m talking about Larry Armwood.
If you’ve never heard the name before, it’s okay. Until late 2003, neither had most people. That is, until the staff sergeant and three-war veteran returned to American soil from Iraq, ending a military career marked by headline-defining missions that we can’t even repeat here. Upon his return to the United States, Armwood, who spent his time in between military tours working as a detective for the Baltimore Police Department, received a hero’s welcome – a fitting end to a military career including terms in the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq. When he arrived, there was a big press conference in Baltimore with all the major TV networks, and the world was watching. Among those glued to their TV screens was Ray Lewis.
“I heard that Ray had been watching me on TV and wanted to know my story,” Armwood recalls. “I gave my number to one of the personnel who was working with him and we sat down and talked. And that’s how it all started.”
Today, with three wars and fifteen years as a Baltimore police officer behind him, Armwood is Lewis’ right-hand man.
“We get along like brothers,” Armwood says. “We found a connection once we got to know each other and we have a lot in common as far as how we were raised and some of the difficult things that we’ve been through.”
But if you’re going to be spending that much time with Ray Lewis, you’d better to be ready to work. The two work out together every day, along with Lewis’ trainer Monte Sanders, and the ever-changing workouts are basic but grueling. On some days they’ll break it down into three phases. Phase one could be a dumbbell workout starting with the incline bench press. Grabbing a dumbbell in each hand – Lewis takes the 80s while Armwood goes for 50s – they take turns doing sets, increasing the weight in each hand after every set as the reps decrease. From there, it’s on to the flat bench, followed by shrugs and eventually squats, all without rest, following the same pattern.
Phase two is a core workout and involves a sort of card game that Lewis has apparently been playing since he was a boy. “[Ray] will scramble the cards out on the floor and when you pick a card you flip it over,” Armwood explains. “Jokers are 25, the big joker is 50 and the face cards are 20. Everything else is whatever the card value is.” The numbers refer to reps, and after a core exercise has been chosen for that day, three decks of cards are scattered on the floor and the games begin.
“The workouts are not designed for you to complete 100%,” Armwood says. “Ray designs these workouts to muscle failure. And to him, pain is just pain. It’s something you can get through.”
The final phase, usually a timed exercise, depends on the muscle groups worked in the previous two phases, but typically centers on either speed or endurance. One option is a drill Armwood calls “online/offline,” where the idea is to quickly step both feet, one and then the other, onto a thin line on the floor, and then off again, over and over for three minutes. Another option is jumping jacks – usually reserved for days geared towards legs – which serve as a sort of cool-down.
Muscle confusion is the name of the game, and it’s workouts like these that prepare Armwood – still an active police officer – for the toughest days on the job.
“I recently got in a foot pursuit after a guy that assaulted a young girl and then took off running,” he recalls. “I took off after him not realizing he was armed. When I grabbed him, I tackled him to the ground and then flipped him over and put handcuffs on him. When I patted him down, I realized that he had a .45 automatic loaded in his pocket, but he simply couldn’t get it out fast enough because I was just too quick for him. When you’re apprehending someone and there’s a struggle it’s like muscle memory. You automatically go back to your muscles. It’s no more than a hand grip when you grab someone but you’re used to having those dumbbells in your hands and squeezing them tight. So when you go to grab someone by the wrist, and you’ve done that kind of training, it’s real simple.”
And that’s not the only benefit of training with Ray Lewis. Earlier this year, Armwood, who started playing semi-pro football in his free time, decided to crank his workout schedule up to par with that of Lewis.
“We started out before Power Fuel® was launched and then began using it after the first week,” he explains. “Ray works out about four to five times a day with a two-hour break in between. In the beginning I started with about two workouts a day until I got up to five, all over the course of a month. I believe it was because of the edge that Power Fuel® gave me.”
Armwood, now technically Lewis’ head of staff, continues to serve as the football star’s primary security, attending games, signings and, of course, daily workouts. You may have even met him if you’ve attended any of a number of Twinlab events where Lewis was present. But first and foremost, he’s an officer of the law. And as for his “retired” military career? Well…
“If you asked me whether I would do it again, the answer would be I would do it again, over and over,” he says. “I would be happy to return and do what I do, just so another son or daughter wouldn’t have to do it.”
This story originally appeared on TwinlabFuel.com
Graphic by Dean Stattmann