Alvin Roy was born April 24, 1920 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and graduated from
Istrouma High School in 1938. As a high school athlete, he played football and
basketball and was a pole vaulter on the school's track team. From there he went on to
Louisiana State University where he played basketball as a walk-on.
In 1941 he joined the US Army, serving in Europe during WWII in the 94th Infantry
Division. After the invasion of France on June 6, 1944, Roy served under George S.
Patton, winning four battle stars, as well as a bronze star. In 1946, among his other
duties, many of which involved organizing athletic events and competitions for the
troops, he was assigned to be the aide de camp for the US Weightlifting Team in Paris for
the first post-war world championships. The now legendary Bob Hoffman was the coach
of the US team. This was an extremely important experience for Roy. He saw first hand
that contrary to popular belief, lifting heavy weights did not cause a person to become
slow and "musclebound." On the contrary, he learned that weight training actually
helped the individual to become faster and more flexible. He had always been taught
that an athlete could do nothing worse than lift weights!
Upon returning to the US the following year, Roy visited his weightlifting friends,
including Bob Hoffman, who owned the York Barbell Company and was the publisher of
Strength & Health magazine, wanting to learn more! He opened a health club in Baton
Rouge and filled it with equipment from the York Barbell Company. He began
promoting weight training not only as the key to good health, but also to success on the
athletic playing field. He continued to be involved in national and international
weightlifting competitions, including the 15th Olympiad in Helsinki, Finland in1952, for
which he was the US Olympic Weightlifting Team Trainer. The USA placed first. His
fame and credentials in the field of weightlifting continued to grow and were becoming
Eager to share his newfound knowledge locally, Roy approached his old high school
coach and high school principal, Coach James Brown and Principal Ellis Brown, in 1951.
The two were twins, known as "Big Fuzzy" and "Little Fuzzy," respectively. Roy
offered to help the football team with weight training, but his offer was rejected because
the Brown brothers subscribed to the belief that Roy himself had once held that weight
training was detrimental to athletic performance!
Three years later in 1954, the Istrouma High School football team suffered a crushing
defeat by cross-town archrival, Baton Rouge High. Roy again offered his assistance,
supporting his case with stories of a growing number of top athletes who were lifting
weights. He even offered to set up and supervise the weight training program at no cost
to the school. Roy's persistence and his firm belief in the value of weight training finally
persuaded the Brown twins to give him a try. They both knew that they were quite
possibly putting their jobs on the line if the weight training program did not pay off as
The school bought the necessary weights, and the program was centered around barbells,
using power cleans, bench presses, rowing motions, deadlifts, dumbbell presses, and
squats with low repetitions and many sets the way competitive weight lifters trained.
As a result of Roy's training program, the athletes made great gains in both strength and
lean body weight. Along with these gains in power and size came increased confidence.
Billy Cannon, a member of the football team who also played basketball and ran track,
was exempt from lifting during the spring because he had always been taught to believe
that weight training would slow his speed. He also knew that his best chance of receiving
a major college scholarship would be dependent upon his speed. But as time went on, he
was intrigued by the changes he witnessed in his teammates and decided to join in during
the summer training that Roy offered to the players at his gym. This added further
pressure on Roy because the weightlifting program would be finished if Cannon's speed
decreased in the least over the summer months.
By fall, only one of the 40 boys who had trained during spring and/or summer had not
gained at least nine pounds of lean body weight, and some gained as much as 30. But
most importantly, the Istrouma football team won all 13 games of the season. Four
players made All-State, and Cannon achieved a state record of 229 points and averaged
10 yards per carry. In addition, he was the most highly rated high school back in the
United States. That spring he ran a 9.7 100-yard dash, winning the state meet in the 100,
220, and the shot put. In addition to beating handily every team they played that season,
the team had fewer injuries than in any of the previous 20 seasons. Needless to say, the
Brown twins were ecstatic! They had taken a chance on Roy and his weight training
program, and their gamble had definitely paid big dividends! They were now believers!
Over the summer Billy Cannon continued to train under Roy because there was no
organized strength training program at LSU where he would be playing football under
Coach Paul Dietzel. Cannon had a great freshman year, but the team had a disappointing
five and five record when he was a sophomore. So once again Roy paid a visit to a
coach in this case Coach Dietzel--who held the same negative view of weight training
that the Browns had held. As he had done before, Roy was able to convince Dietzel to
give him and his weightlifting program a chance, and despite predictions that LSU would
finish ninth in the SEC, LSU went undefeated the 1958 season, winning LSU its first
national championship and making Paul Dietzel the Coach of the Year. Cannon went on
to win the Heisman Trophy, as well as the 100, 200, and shot put in Track competitions
Coach Dietzel had many opportunities to speak after this unbelievable season, and he was
always quick to give credit to Alvin Roy and his weightlifting program! Almost
overnight, football coaches around the country began to question the notion that
weightlifting led to "muscle bound" athletes, and over the next decade the myth of
musclebinding was on the way out. Later, Roy lectured and conducted clinics on strength
and conditioning free of charge, for the University of Alabama, Georgia Tech, the
University of Florida, Ole Miss, West Point Military Academy, the University of
Tennessee, and the University of Kentucky just to name a few. He also lectured and
demonstrated to numerous high school coaches and other groups regarding the
importance of strength and conditioning for athletes.
In 1963 he was hired to be the NFL's first strength coach--for the San Diego Chargers,
where he coached for five years. This was followed by stints with the Kansas City
Chiefs, who won the 1970 Super Bowl; the Dallas Cowboys, who played in the 1976
Super Bowl; as well as with the New Orleans Saints and the Oakland Raiders. The idea
that weightlifting was detrimental to athletic performance was further eroded and finally
destroyed by the many other strength training pioneers who followed Legend in the Field,
Alvin Roy--considered be "the first modern strength coach!"