For two years I worked for the Australian Institute of Fitness, the largest and most influential personal training academy in the country. I was the payments officer for the Perth campus… I was the best payments officer they’d ever had, by the grudging admissions of management. I didn’t like it there, at all, and for a variety of reasons I was very glad to leave and return to a similar (though much more ethical and better paid) position in the broader health industry.
The first and only time I used the campus gym, I was on my lunch break, deadlifting, when the head coach came in and told me to stop as they didn’t have a lifting platform. Not long after this incident I had a platform custom-made, expressly for the Institute, but was informed that their new OHS policy meant I could not use it, as virtually all forms of heavy, free-weight exercise were now prohibited… the tip of a very disheartening ice berg.
I remember this day, not just because of the head coach’s reaction to me pulling a measly 170 kilos, but because, immediately following this, a student asked me a question about training… the first of many. His question went something like this:
“Hey bro, I can do that but my grip strength isn’t so good. What do you do to improve grip?”
The answer I gave was courteous and not at all what I should have said, which was simply:
Since that day, I’ve been asked lots of questions that deserve that same answer. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but it’s the truth. It is symptomatic of the human condition, as is the reason why we in the free Western world are the way we are now. Technological innovation has taken all the physical exertion out of our daily lives. Ergo, it’s common for newb lifters (and brah trainers) to approach a challenge from the perspective of ‘how can I do this the easy way?’ when the single most unchanging aspect of lifting is the principle of ‘No Pain, No Gain.’ You must bust your ass to build that mass… what you do with it afterwards is up to you. First you must hurt.
My experiences at the Institute have forever tainted my perspective on the ‘health and fitness’ industry… sometimes this rancour manifests in a heated exchange between myself and a PT I witness doing or saying something questionable. Most of the time it’s because the person I’m scrutinising is one or other form of charlatan… but on at least one occasion now I’ve gotten it wrong.
I mention all this because in recent weeks there has been a very welcome shift in the calibre of questions I am asked; people now come to me for advice on Strongman training techniques, programming, diet tips, et cetera. It makes me feel good to know that, amidst all the bullshit that’s circulating out there, some people are still holding to the tenets of strength training… and a few are looking to me for help when their Google search doesn’t deliver.
That’s right. Google sometimes doesn’t have the answers – especially when it comes to such a highly specialised and largely obscure sport, like Strongman. Anyone can view Strongmen being strong on Youtube, but how they developed their strength is often a mystery, a closely guarded secret. Now I’m not saying that I am even close to the strength levels of the best in the world (and I’m still an Atlas stone’s throw from the best in the country). But four years ago I was a fat couch potato, and now I’m deadlifting 300 kilos, and yoke walking 400+. I assume I must be doing something right. I’ve experienced enough to be able to assist others who are just starting out in the sport, and so wherever I possibly can, I do.
For instance, a fellow Weightlifting Academy blogger, Steve Trotter, is entering his first Strongman competition in Carolina early next year, and he approached me for advice on how to program for it. A young and exuberant PT in South Australia, Jake ‘Trainer’ Watson, has a real passion for Strongman. In spite of having very limited resources (and virtually no SM-friendly gyms in his area), he’s nonetheless carved his own beastly path. He approaches me for advice from time to time, and his clients are reaping the
benefits of his passion and commitment. And an increasing number of people are asking me what I eat, how much and when, as a reaction to my altered physique. That, at least, is another easy question to answer (FREAKING EVERYTHING); the rest are specialised, and require more than cookie-cutter responses. And that’s just fine – I’m always keen to help.
The point is this: I’m a passionate person, and sometimes I lose it. But I make every effort to find the positive in things, and if you come to me with a legit question, I will do my best to answer it for you. Just remember that there are no quick fixes in the strength game. Only pain, and satisfaction if you persist… followed by more pain.