I overheard some young guys — around 20 to 23 years old — talking about training. They were very enthusiastic and were seemingly sharing “insider knowledge”. One of them talked about a specific type of protein he bought from GNC, how it was good for “building”, and how he would transition into another kind in order to “maintain”. The other referenced his “older brother” and how “he said” that another product was very good, and that he only uses that brand. Then he talked about his older brother went and talked with people at GNC and Gold’s Gym for, “like, half an hour” to learn about working out and stuff. “He’s insane,” he said.
Most of you saw the words “GNC”, guffawed, and knew where this was going. The truth is, we were all there at one point. I remember carrying around a couple issues of Muscle and Fitness for reference (I was 17). One in particular was an barbell-only program. It was actually pretty useful at the time, because it was a poor, haggard man’s strength program that used barbells. Weird, huh?
There are thousands, possibly millions of guys like this. They are young, alarmingly skinny or small, yet enthusiastic. Those “conventional fitness” resources that they read may help them get a bit more muscular, but they’ll be horribly inefficient. A strength program with compound, systemically stressful movements with appropriate rest and caloric intake will work much faster. If they wanted to squat, bench, press, and row for sets of 8 to 12 reps, they will be able to use more weight if they were stronger. Getting stronger will result in bigger muscles. It’s a pretty simple formula that isn’t really preached by the alleged “experts”.
I wanted to intervene in the conversation. I wanted to say, “Look, do three sessions a week of a squat, a press, and a pull, eat over a pound of meat a day, and get a good night’s rest. That’ll be exponentially more beneficial than buying shitty protein powders and talking to weirdos with sea shell necklaces and shaved chests.”
But I didn’t. They never listen to a stranger. Before I started 70’s Big, I remember telling some high school football players in a Gold’s Gym, “Stop playing with these dumbbells and go over there and squat every time you come in here.” They didn’t squat that day. Fuck me, right?
I hate when people write critiques of training programs, methodologies, or how stupid people are without some sort of solution to the problem. For example, I talk about how much I hate hipsters, or vegetarians, or society’s notion that females should be starving and men should be shorn waifs, so my Revolution articles end with proposed action.
In this case, young and dumb kids may not listen to what you have to say, but maybe we should try? Maybe you can help them in one small way by suggesting they squat more often, eat meat instead of powders, or stop worrying about “body parts” and get stronger. But, your words will mean much more if you are a big, jacked, strong guy instead of merely being decently strong and kind of fat.
Eat clean food, jack fucking steel around, and don’t be as douchey as the roiding tanned weirdo who smashes sets of incline bench to pre-exaust his pecs and you might have a chance at reaching these kids. But it starts with you and your success.
a younger dude at work asked me one time on what he should do to get stronger (which is weird because I’m not that strong big and I don’t brag about how my gym sessions, like most bros) and I said, “squat all the time and eat a lot of meat.” He replied saying he doesn’t like squats and doesn’t like to eat a lot. I didn’t know what to say. I ate three pounds of hamburger today. I don’t know, I don’t offer advice or talk about training, even when I overhear other bros talking about maximizing TuT. I just keep my head down and train.
I think about this a lot as I watch the other guys at the gym. Sadly, there’s the same problem with the older, bigger and stronger guys too.
We certainly will be examples to those guys we are training and eating right and it will lend credibility to our methods, but the reality is that changing someone’s mind is tough business and has almost everything to do with them and very little to do with us.
Training, as opposed to chasing fatigue or a pump or whatever, requires a certain mentality that most people simply do not have. Most people won’t last on a real training program even if you can convince them intellectually that you can make there efforts pay off better.
This sort of training requires a teachable attitude and maybe even a bit of desperation. You won’t find much of either among the bros at the gym.
You can expose people to information, but you cannot make them smarter. Your responsibility stops there.
I tried to convince a 21 year old kid who has some decent potential to be skrong. He was complaining that he couldn’t squat 3 plates for as many reps as he wanted to. I went through it all, linear progression, all that. But he was unwilling to do it. Poor kid is stuck on the whole “pre-workout,” “body beautiful,” “chase a pump” crowd at the gym. I’ve tried. Some people just don’t want to hear it.
I think it comes down to this: squatting and dead lifting is fucking hard, it sucks, and everybody knows it. You have to have a particular “thing” to be able to do what we do all the time. Now, I don’t move huge weight like some, but I try and hurt myself on the reg. I think there hAs to be a certain self loathing involved to squat max weight fir 5×5. It’s a different level of “working out”, and people know it. They’re scared.
Plus, there is a big component of “outsider nerd” to it, being the only guy with chalk in his bag, sweating all over the floor in the squat rack seeing stars.
There’s also the fact that most of us are taking 5 minutes between sets, which to the kid doing 5 kinds of supersetted curls, looks lazy.
There is so much truth to this. I lift at the gym at my college and see guys doing the same dumb stuff over and over again, and they’re still skinny. They talk about abz but when I see them in the hallway they don’t even look like they lift. I want to help all of them but I know I can’t. Luckily I’m helping a local football team out with S&C and can spread the gospel of squats and meat there. I guess the only other thing I can do is keep squatting and eating.
I started speaking up about it, but like you said, I’m just decently strong and kinda fat, so I don’t think it sets in and makes a real impression. Time to lose 30-40 lb and rock those short shorts like I should..
People will listen. If someone asks you for advice, at some level they are listening. We should never just put our head down and lift. We should always help when asked. That’s the key; they should request help. I’ve talked with guys at the gym and they have commented months later that they started the 5/3/1 program like I suggested and it worked very well for them. I was shocked that someone actually listened to me. So don’t give up hope. People ask, you answer.
I got a quick question. If I’m sitting around 17% body fat. Is it possible to get down to around 10% just through barbell strength training and a good diet, or would you add in some conditioning? I’m just asking because I’ve been eating clean and strength training for some time, but that last 6-7% of bodyfat isn’t coming off or at least as easy.
Would topics like this be included in the book ‘Paleo for Lifters?’
Any help is much appreciated!
Alec I recently had a similar goal, to get back down to about 10% from 15% after a mass gain.
I got down to 9% by watching total calories (about 14 per lb b/w) and adding in four short high intensity intervals a week and a longish run on Saturdays. Food quality is important obviously.
To get below that you’ve really gotta work and your performance and energy levels MAY start to suffer, depends on how quick you do it. The food has to be real strict for getting down much below 10%. For me it’s not worth it. Good luck with it.
Wait, so no more pre-exhausting?
I tend to remain quiet and keep my head down at the gym. I have approached only a handful of young guys at the gym. All seem a bit awkward, are on the heavier side and seem like they’ve had their share of being bullied. I just ask them how their lifting is going and tell them to keep squatting and dead lifting .
I think the best way to go about this is to first take a step backward. I’d be willing to bet that the large majority of people that go to gyms are not there with the same big picture goal as the readers of 70s Big. I seem to remember reading somewhere on here that the point was just to be incredibly strong and capable of expressing that strength in many different ways. The aesthetic side of things was a function of attaining that goal.
I think that the largest group of gym goers make aesthetics the goal and any strength gained is a side benefit. The next largest group is populated by people who think fitness means something different than it really does (i.e. running really far, swimming really far, bikecycling really far, maybe some combination of those things).
In any case, these people suffer first and foremost from setting the wrong goals. Add to that some mainstream misinformation, a general lack of work ethic and its easy to see where we run into problems. We need to be able to redefine the objective for people. Once that is accomplished, lighting the path to get there is easy.
I have a garage gym now but I trained at LA Fitness for years prior. I’m a fat guy and they will ask when they see how much you can lift and how deep you can squat. If I was ripped, I might be able to approach them, but I just let my work speak for itself. After a bit even the trainers will talk to you. Most won’t, but some will. I gave everyone that asked the same advice. Squat more. Eat real food. Supplements are just that, supplements. They aren’t the main way you need to get your macros. Stop lifting in running shoes. Increase your mobility. Then I give them this site, and MobilityWod as resources. That usually eats up my 5 minutes between a set. :)
I agree that there is no point in approaching people to tell them what they’re doing wrong. I never approach anyone doing silly bullshit in the gym, but from time to time someone will approach me after watching me lift a heavy weight with pretty good form. These are the people that can be reached–with the others there will always be a failure to communicate. “There are some men you just can’t reach…”
It’s rare, but it does happen, and when it does I give them the basics (write down your workouts, squat 3x/week, deadlift once a week, alternate bench and overhead press, do barbell rows and chin ups, eat a lot of whole foods and meat, do mobility work and get good rest). If the guy is skinny, I tell him to stop bullshitting me about how he is eating a lot. I tell him I don’t give a shit what he thinks he’s eating; it’s not my body, and that he needs to write down all of his food intake for a week, see what it is, and then add accordingly. The beauty of smart barbell training is that it becomes its own advocate in short order. People make visible progress within a couple weeks. So I tell them they shouldn’t take my word for it. I show them my training log so they can see what I did to be able to lift what I’m lifting. Then I write out a little program on a page in my notebook, along with my phone number and email, and tear it out for them. I tell them to try it for six weeks and let me know. I’ve probably done this ten times over the past three years and I can think of four guys who actually did it and went on to stick with smart barbell training. I’m pleased to report that one of these guys is now stronger than me.
As far as literature goes, I tell them to get a copy of Starting Strength and read 70sbig.com for inspiration.
Wow great topic. I’ve been noticing this a lot lately. The skinniest lifters do the most isolated movements. I chalk it up to the fact that there is a big industry for fitness magazines, websites, etc. and perhaps 9 ways to exercise each individual muscle separately gives them more to write about?
I originally used bodybuilding style programming (before I found 70’s big) because that’s what I saw other guys doing. I think that the best way to propagate good information is to lift massive weight and be friendly.
Yeah I work out at a globo gym and don’t waste my time with unfortunate situations like that. It’s sad but I know I was a sucker for a long time too doing garbage that didn’t help me accomplish my goals and shakes and powders and what not. Even worse or better I used a free personal training session and the guy is now doing strength training after seeing my amazing performance (don’t laugh too hard), however, he is still doing body building routines.
Further though, I need a new gym. I was squatting 285 and benching 200 this morning (wrapping up starting strength soon) and someone who works on the same floor as me told me he saw me lifting big weights…..ugghhh
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