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.


41 thoughts on “DO IT: Talk to someone bigger than you.

  1. Moving to Austin in june. I’m looking at either Hyde Park or Big Tex– super pumped at the availability of good gyms in this town.

    • The worst thing about Austin is the traffic, so consider that. Personally, I moved into a tiny, old, overpriced apartment so I can be within walking distance of HPG, if that tells you anything.

        • Then I suppose you should try out both gyms and see what you prefer, as well as take a good look at what you like in a neighborhood. I prefer walkability over living square footage. I can walk to 2 grocery stores, several gyms, and my favorite biergarten (Draught House), but my ‘hood is expensive as balls and I can only afford the smallest apartment around. I used to live in the burbs in a huge house and hated it. Austin is pretty flexible. Let me know when you’re in town!

  2. New reader here, reading 70s big has actually put 40lbs on my squat in the last 2 months. Now im also the strongest guy at my local 24. anybody else train in portland oregon area?

    • Glad to have you! I’ve only visited Portland a couple times, but love it. Would live there if I could.
      I lifted years ago at a meet in WA with a guy, Steve, who is now a trainer at “24 Hour Fitness – The Pearl” in Portland (1210 NW Johnson St). He squats and pulls well over 6, and was a nice guy the one time I met him, so maybe look him up. I had to do a bit of creepy FB stalking to figure that out, so don’t let me down.

      • Well now I really have no excuse. Thanks so much! Thats actually my gym, ive just never seen the guy lift though I recognize him after doing my own creepy internet stalking.

    • Look up Chris Duffin. He’s in Portland, and he’s definitely stronger than you. (YouTube shows him pulling 900 and 660×12, and squatting over 800×2).

  3. gospel.

    great post – this is the biggest thing that has helped me get stronger. when you see what the human body is capable of you set your standards a hell of a lot higher. When i started training with a group of dudes once a week who were way stronger than me – a 500lb squat/dead became the minimum acceptable level of strength and i did whatever i had to do to meet that minimum and push beyond. Surround yourself with people who are doing what you want to do and create a success habit.

  4. I’m lucky enough to have Celli’s Fitness Center ( , ) a five minute bike ride/twenty minute bus from my current apartment (being 250+ # and living in a city riddled with potholes, my bike is frequently totally messed up). In case you don’t know, it’s operated by Ryan Celli, former all-time world record holder at 198# with a raw total of 1840, a general bad ass as well as a down to earth and extremely approachable guy. I’m surrounded by people much stronger than myself, and it’s great. What have I learned from them and Ryan? True intensity isn’t demonstrated by yelling and frothing at the mouth. Save your heavy psyching for meets and don’t start halfway across the room as you’ll get over-aroused and miss the lift. Don’t be scared of doing lots of good isolation movements and assistance work, as long as you’re getting quality work in with the main three movements first. When you come in and you’re feeling really, inexplicably good and strong, go for a PR and get that confidence. Listen to your body because it’s going to work differently from everyone else’s and at the upper echelons of strength the programming that works for different people and at different times of their lives is totally different. And most of all just get under the fucking bar.

  5. This is a good post. I personally am a pretty introverted person, so I find it hard to speak to people. But, it’s a good idea to talk to people who know more than you (obviously).

    The only thing I wonder about it is what to make of advice from bigger/stronger dudes who lift with gear when you are a raw lifter. I feel like there is a difference between what is good for a raw lifter, so if a geared lifter were to give advice I’d be wondering how to take it.

    • Here here. The interaction I’ve had with some geared, “geared” powerlifters involved “Why don’t you do it our way?”, which effectively ended the conversation. It seemed as though they couldn’t realize anything other than using gear to put as many pounds on the bar as possible.

    • From what I have seen most really good geared powerlifters are strong as fuck raw. I think the trick is to be able to tell the difference between the guy that benches 500+ with a bulletproof bench shirt but can’t hit 300 raw and the guy that hits 600-700 in a shirt and makes 400-500 raw look like cake and ask that guy for advice. Personally I’m not impressed by a 500+ shirted bencher who can’t hit 3hundo raw, sue me. The second guy is strong as hell and knows how to use the equipment and the first guy just buys a better bench shirt when he wants to increase his bench. The point is that a good lifter is good whether he uses gear or not and should be a good source of info for those of us looking to reach their level.

      • I agree with everything you said. For me, I like to ask first rather than get unsolicited advice (as I’m sure many of us here do, having dealt with gym bros who make uninformed suggestions). I’d like to hang around with strong raw lifters, but haven’t made time to do so, which may become more difficult with my work travel schedule.

        That said, I’ll look into Quest Gym in the near future once I get settled into my new apartment.

    • I purposefully left this out, but you will always get some RIDICULOUS advice, that’s the nature of being at the gym. The onus is on you to keep an open mind, but to filter out the bad, and keep the good. Everyone out there has an opinion. At some point, yours will be changed based on experience, so don’t automatically throw out what someone is saying. Think about it, give it a shot, and then make your decision.

      • You are very right about opinions changing over time. I have not used a belt since high school and swore up and down that I didn’t need one. Well I just ordered one after some of the things I have read on this site and other good sources of info about how it can actually help your gains if you use it correctly. Like you said its all about filtering the bs and putting real thought into your decisions

  6. Home gym right now, as it works bet for my schedule, and the small Louisiana town that I live in doesn’t have a gym with bumpers. I spent years training with olympic-level hammer throwers and I learned to train simply with laser focus on proper technique every time. The strength or distance will come if you stay at it and do it right.

  7. I’m lucky enough to have regular access to Mark Bell and his amazing team on a regular basis, since we lift in the same building. Even though I’m an Olympic lifter, and they are power lifters, I looooove talking to people who are stronger than me and absorb everything they say like a sponge! Keep up the good work, man!

  8. I have some good folks I lift with at an LA Fitless. I reached the point about 6 months ago where I needed to find someone stronger than me at another gym but I took a newbie under my wing about 3 months ago and have been teaching him to squat. I’ve been bogged down at right around 500lbs on a back squat for those same six months. I think its time.

    Since Brent the Moper won’t meet me for some training in the Dallas area is there anyone else with a place or a desire to get some training time in around Dallas/Lewisville/Irving area?

    I work out at the LA Fitless in Highland Village, but I am mobile and have a couple of gym options if anyone with a 500+ Back Squat and Deadlift, a 250+ Press, 350+ Bench Press would be willing to further edumacate me. I also do a pretty impressive 700 pound bridge. It scares all the girls away and leaves me to train alone alot. It does not translate to anything else but it makes for good jokes. I also own the shortest shorts made for men which make for great jokes too. Let me know.

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