DO IT: Talk to someone bigger than you.

This week, I have a challenge for you: I want you to talk to someone bigger and stronger than you, and I want you to try and learn something from them about training, recovery, or even just being a badass. I expect a full report as part of your PR Friday post.

Yes, that's a huge bicep sticking out of the front of the gym.

Yes, that’s a huge bicep sticking out of the front of the gym.

I’m lucky enough to train at a gym full of very strong guys and gals. It’s the type of place where you’re more likely to get frustrated because all the squat racks are full (of people actually squatting, deeply) than you are going to get annoyed by typical gym douchery. It’s the type of place where people rack their weights and know each other’s PRs almost as well as they know their own. We have gym record boards and we push each other to improve on a constant basis. We also make it a point to openly discuss our training and we generally accept criticisms, and become stronger for it.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I know many of you aren’t so lucky. Lots of folks hate their globo-gym environment, and some guys decide to just build a home gym, which is fine. But if you aren’t learning and being pushed by people who are stronger and more experienced than you, you’re leaving something on the table. Every week, I see something pretty amazing at Hyde Park,¬†whether¬†it’s an Olympic lifter hitting a huge snatch (heh), or a powerlifter destroying a triple body weight deadlift, or even a figure model or bodybuilder grinding through an intense (and heavy) rest-pause set. And more often than not, I watch these folks, I try to see what I can learn from them, and I ask them questions so I can better understand what they’re doing.

DaveExample: Previous gym owner Dave Goodin is a world-famous natural bodybuilder, and I see him every day at the gym training his clients (and/or himself). You bet your ass I pay attention when a 50+ year old dude is jacked beyond belief, especially when he spent the better part of his career powerlifting AND bodybuilding. I’ve heard him tell a client “You want bigger traps? Deadlift more!” After watching him use the ancient Nautilus Pullover machine, I gave it a whirl, and fell in lofe with it, to the delight of my tricep size. Just because his main sport is bodybuilding doesn’t mean I can’t learn an absolute shitload from the man.

Now, I don’t just follow the legends around like a puppy dog (I’m a naturally shy person – it took me well over a year to even strike up a conversation with Dave). I’ve also asked big benchers about their programs and favorite accessory work, and I often ask for an extra set of eyes on my own form, or my lifters’. I pay special attention to how other coaches cue their lifters, and I talk to trainers about everything from lifting to pizza and football. On the flip side, I’m also lucky enough to have established myself as a source of info and help, so I field my share of questions, spots, and form-checks as well. Brook, the gym owner, always introduces new members who might be a good fit for our powerlifting team, and every once in awhile, a new member comes in and says “Wait, are you the chili guy?” But as much as I make myself available and answer questions every day, I am still always seeking out more information, especially from those that have learned lessons the hard way.

My point is, you can always learn more. Find someone with a huge back, and ask them how they earned it (how do you think Glenn’s version of the bent-row got so popular?). Find a bodybuilder with massive triceps and watch what movements they’re performing, and understand their intensity levels. If you’re at a CrossFit box, ask one of the firebreathers about their approach to attacking their weaknesses. If there’s nobody stronger than you at your gym, well, you need to find a better gym. If you’re exclusively training at home, maybe you should consider getting a punchcard to a local black-iron place and socializing a few times a month.

It doesn’t matter if you’re already thick, solid, and tight, or if you just got Starting Strength – get out there and learn, and respect that others have paved the way to what we’re doing. Back in the days of Doug Young, before Al Gore pulled the internet out of a rainbow-colored unicorn’s ass, how do you think guys learned how to get swoll? They politely introduced themselves to behemoths, and they damn well listened to what those guys had to say. They didn’t spend 12 hours building a spreadsheet and perfecting every percentage of every lift they were going to do the next 17.3 weeks – they spent countless hours sweating their asses off to try and get to the point where they could do anything anyone else in the gym could do.

So get your ass out there and talk to someone bigger and stronger than you. You’ll be a better person because of it.