I remember it as if it was yesterday. I was a 15-year old fatty who wanted a girlfriend. So what did I do? I sent a message to one of the best-looking chicks in high school.
Her answer was shocking. She told me that I’m fat and ugly as hell. The next day, I told my parents I need to go to the gym. Soon after, they paid me a membership.
Fast-forward one week later. I enter the gym, and I start looking at the TV right at the entrance. There was Kai Greene eating chicken and rice out of a tupperware. Right after, he went on and deadlifted 500 pounds raw.
The TV couldn’t capture the size on the guy. I wanted to tell the owner he needs to get another TV so that he fits in, but let’s cut the bullshit now. I was absolutely terrified. And it was only the start of it.
As I put foot in the gym, I started seeing tens of things I had never seen before. There were weights, barbells, machines, and people using them. There were guys grunting with effort as the veins on their biceps were on the point to rip and sploosh – or so it seemed.
That first day, I did the only thing I knew how to do: I ran on the treadmill and used the elliptical. And it was like that for my first months in the gym. I would go on to be a cardio bunny.
Fast-forward 1 year later, I was using machines more, and I was still stuck doing a lot of cardio. That’s what I thought I had to do. I lost a lot of weight, and also started to look and feel much better than before. It was the start of the journey.
Right after I lost the weight I wanted to lose, I started training with one of my friends much more. And we were both doing what bros do best: bro-splits.
We both wanted to become huge, and for the next years, I became very passionate about bodybuilding. I was working harder and harder in the gym, but I had no real knowledge of the science behind what I was doing.
I was a hard worker, but never a smart worker. I was working by instinct, like a bodybuilder on anabolics. I was chasing the pump and wanted to look like Arnold in his prime because my genetics resemble his very much and he was my idol. I was eating a pound of chicken most days. In winter, I was digging the snow to make a road to the barbecue in my backyard every single day. I was posting gym memes on my Instagram regularly. And I was wearing t-shirts that were one size too small for me. I was the complete package.
I remember at one point, I was bulking and would be in the gym 3 hours a day, 4 days a week. I was doing (and I’m not kidding) 50 sets for my lats, 50 sets for my chest, and I remember once doing 36 sets for my biceps. 36 sets! I couldn’t lift my arms for the next two days. And the worst part is I wasn’t on anabolics. I just had the good genetics for it – I could recover fast, and train even harder every single day.
My mentality was that I had to completely destroy my muscles. I had to get the biggest pumps possible. I had to be the biggest possible. No pain, no gain, as they say.
When I was 19, I became a personal trainer to help expand my passion and help others train as well as me. And I gave my clients bro-splits. I wanted to push them hard, as hard as I was pushing myself.
I brought the same mentality as I had in my own workouts to my clients, and altough I never injured any of them, it wasn’t efficient at all.
But in December 2015, the inevitable happened. I got injured pretty bad, as I dislocated my shoulder while doing dumbbell overhead presses. I remember the cracking sound, and the thought “I’m fucked” fleeting in my head.
After that, nothing was ever the same.
I stopped training for six months. Then, I started reading the science behind training, and reading the work of guys like Brad Schoenfeld, Eric Helms, and others. And what happened? I lost my purpose. I didn’t want to be a bodybuilder anymore.
I figured my training was shit, and even though I did get massive results, I was never very effective with it. I got completely discouraged. I got sidetracked and stopped training.
This brings me back to the last three years of my training journey. I’ve been on and off, on and off, on and off. I haven’t been training consistently for three years now.
Every year, I would go for 3-4 months, one year six, then I’d stop again. And now, I figured out why.
I lost my hunger. I even stopped training people, and am not a personal trainer anymore. I haven’t been for the past two years. But even though I haven’t trained seriously for a while anymore, I haven’t lost the knowledge.
I don’t want to be big anymore, as I find it useless. But if I’m writing this, it’s because I want to reignite the flame, and in quite a different way. And I want to teach you the basics behind being successful with your training objectives. If the first part of this article was about my progress, here’s the second part: my learning.
Here’s the main understanding: you need to find your purpose and your objective.
And if you want to make it really last, it has to be something vital to you. Go in-depth emotionally about it.
When I started out, I wanted to look great to be more attractive to women. After that, I wanted to be a bodybuilder and attain an old-school look just like Arnold Schwarzenegger. I actually wanted to compete. After that, nada. I didn’t have any goal anymore. I actually was quite disgusted at fitness and its obsession on having a body that looks Photoshopped.
That’s the main reason I stopped training, because I lost my objective and inner fire.
So if you are to be successful, find your aim. If you want to be more attractive, visualize how you’ll look. Make it as vivid as possible, just like you were already there. Visualize yourself on the beach with your dream body. Visualize yourself with your dream partner, or partners (don’t cheat though, make it poly if you need to :P).
If you want to be healthier, visualize it. Visualize yourself mounting the stairs in your apartment without breaking a sweat. Visualize yourself feeling great inside your body. Visualize yourself bringing all the grocery bags at once in your house. What a boss!
The main thing is to make that image truly vivid. Make it so real inside your head that it seems you’re already there – that it’s just a question of time. Make it so that not getting there isn’t even a possibility.
But visualizing isn’t enough. And here’s the part that’s hard to swallow (and no, this isn’t what she said – altough that would be fun).
You need to put in the work
There are no two ways to go about this. You need to work your butt off. The Slimwaver doesn’t work. Diet pills don’t work. Drinking apple cider vinegar every day doesn’t work. Staring at the booty of fitness models on Instagram doesn’t work. The next diet fad doesn’t work.
What works is when you get up, pack a bag, get into the gym, and break a sweat. Then you come home and have a good meal. And you repeat that over a long period of time. That does work.
There is no substitute for hard work, and in a world of instant gratification, you have to take the stairs, not the elevator.
As I’ve learned some three years ago, working hard without working smart can become discouraging and damaging.
Work smart, not hard
This is a harder one, as it’s counterintuitive, and it’s harder to understand. But as my mentality changed from pump-chasing and bro-splits to science and mathematics, this became vital.
You shouldn’t only train very hard, but train very smart. The way I see it, training hard is half the equation and can bring you very far. But when you train smart AND hard, that’s a nuclear combination that will make you have results faster, but especially – sustainable. You don’t want to dislocate your shoulder, or not be able to raise your arms all the time from doing 36 sets of biceps.
If you want great results you can sustain, go for smart and hard. And the best counsel I can give you is to get a personal trainer who knows his shit – and preferably who accomplished what you want to accomplish.
Just think about it. That’s someone who went through the journey you want to go through. Instead of making the errors that took that person years to learn, you can skip ahead. That’s years (YEARS!) saved. That’s the power of condensed knowledge, and why getting a trainer is so vital.
But the most important thing – by far – is to make sure your personal trainer isn’t a dumbass. You need to ask him/her why you’re doing what you’re doing. If (s)he tells you to eat rice and chicken 5 times a day, next. If (s)he is always trying to kill you with the workouts you have, and you have to crawl from your car to your home every workout, next. There are many tell-tale signs of a shitty personal trainer, but you have to use your own judgement. And don’t be too harsh on them, we’re all human and sometimes don’t know what’s best. But professionals should know their shit.
Finally, make it fun
The most important thing is that you’re consistent in what you’re doing. So if you’re only starting out, my counsel is a bit different. Forget working smart and hard. Do fun stuff in the gym for a while. Do workouts you like at first, and make it a habit to be in the gym and have fun. Go with a friend you like and who has similar objectives to you.
The gym can be such an intimidating place for many people, so you need to make it fun first if you’re going to keep it up on the long term. I know that seeing five-dimensional booty (for guys) and seeing half-inch veiny biceps (for girls) is motivation enough, but get some fun grooves in it first.
After you’ve created the habit, then get a personal trainer to help you create a smart, structured plan that will get you all kinds of gainz.
And for God’s sake, don’t ego-lift. Learn the movement before adding weight to the bar. Hell, learn the movement before ever getting under the bar in the first place. Don’t break your back trying to look stronger than you really are. A great place to start is to look online at explanations of every exercise you want to attempt. Learn the basics before going to the more advanced stuff, and make sure you have the ability to perform a movement before actually doing it.
As for myself, since my mom told me I’m fat, I have to start training again. I mean, your mom’s supposed to tell you you look great no matter what, right? Also, I’ve found my objective and purpose with training again, but I’m not divulging it yet.