For the longest time, I was hellbent on achieving the perfect body when I first decided to get into the fitness industry. I thought to myself, “there’s no chance in hell I’ll ever get clients if I don’t look like I’m chiseled out of marble.” In fact, I remember sitting around with a few friends talking about body composition one day. It was right after I went through an intensive cutting phase where I dropped a little over 30 pounds. Strength training was merely an afterthought.
“I mean, I’m not looking to get super ripped. I don’t need to look like Chris Hemsworth as Thor. That’s a bit too much. Give me Chris Pratt as Star Lord,” I remarked.
My girlfriend, Katie, and friend, Geoff, both scoffed and told me he was still really ripped. To be fair he did have visibly ripped abs for the role. Ironically, this conversation happened over a couple of beers, but that’s besides the point.
Even after that conversation, I still had it in my head that I’d need to get lean enough to have visible abs to be taken seriously. Couple that with the thought of doing a fitness photoshoot for my own website and I was still convinced I had to become superhero shredded.
Honestly, much of that thought process stemmed from the insecurities I gained when I became overweight during my days as a beer salesman. Even though my whole body jiggled like jello, nothing bothered me more than my love handles. Those love handles were my mortal enemies. They taunted me. I heard them laugh in my face once. Damn fools knew they were so big and flabby that I would never be able to fit my jeans over them. The only solace I had was wearing extra baggy shirts to hide them.
During my transformation process, I ended up losing quite a bit of weight. I went from being around 205lbs to as low as 147lbs. Despite the almost 60lbs loss, guess who still stuck around? Those god damn love handles. The only difference was they were smaller. It annoyed the hell out of me. For as happy as I was with the weight loss, the only thing I could focus on was those dumb love handles. Oh, and I should mention that I still didn’t have abs I was looking for.
I had two choices at this point. I could either continue with my weight loss journey until I got lean enough that the love handles disappeared and the abs showed up or I could accept my body for what it was. It was obvious that if I wanted them off forever it would mean taking extreme measures. It likely meant getting to, and then maintaining, a sub 10% body fat. At my leanest I was probably around 12-13%. Don’t forget – I still didn’t have abs and still had mini love handles at that point. It would mean sticking to a strict diet with little to no deviation. I’d have to give up my beloved craft beer, or any alcohol for that matter. There would be a lot of explaining to people why I avoid social events. Going out to eat would go out the window. This meant sacrificing a lot of the fun, fulfilling things in this life.
Getting lean enough to look the part of the Instagram-era personal trainer with the body of a Greek Spartan would mean a lot of unhappiness.
I wasn’t willing to do that. Instead I decided to face the cold, hard truth. I wasn’t ever going to get rid of those stupid love handles. It was a hard truth to accept. I still get insecure about my lack of a super lean body to this day, but in lieu of the perfect body I started chasing something different. Something better. I started chasing strength.
The decision to shift gears meant learning a whole new way of working out. I was used to lifting lighter weights for higher reps. High Intensity Interval Training was my go-to in hopes of turning my body into a human incinerator to burn every last ounce of fat. Jump squats turned into barbell squats and light weights turned into heavy weights. I had done some weightlifting before, but it was mostly amateur hour. There was no rhyme, reason, or true intent to what I was doing. My routine was going to the gym day in and day out, doing the same exercises, and lifting the same exact amount of weight each time.
If I was going to start chasing strength over vanity I knew I had to find experts in the field. I probably could have hired a personal trainer for a few hundred dollars a month, but I didn’t have a few hundred dollars a month to spare. Still don’t if I’m being honest. However, I knew there was another option. In May 2018, a brand new strength-focused gym was set to open in the Crossroads area of Kansas City aptly named Kansas City Barbell.
I developed a relationship with one of the owners, Jay, through a fitness Facebook group we were both in. Over the course of a few months we kept in touch, meeting for coffee every now and then. When it came time for the gym to open, I was one the first five people to sign on.
Soon after I met their other owner Sean and started easing myself into their programs. I took their Barbells for Beginners class a few times to learn proper form. I jumped into their five day a week Strong and Fit program to see what that was like. Hell, I even experimented by doing an Olympic Weightlifting class. Eventually I stuck with the Strong and Fit program as I felt it best suited my goals.
How did it go when I switched gears and started focusing on strength? I’m glad you asked!
I celebrated my one year anniversary with the gym back in late April and my progress has been nothing but astounding. For the most part it’s been gain city. I remember when I could only bench 135 pounds for 2-3 reps. Now I use that weight as my warm up. My deadlift might be my most improved area going from a max of around 250 up to 350. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of every lift or exercise I’ve seen strength gains in, but it’s pretty much every one.
Of course it’s not all gains and happiness. I’d be lying if I made it seem like everything was perfect for a year straight. There were plenty of frustrating moments along the way. Moments of failed reps, failed max out attempts, soreness and aches that made me question why I was doing what I was doing, and days where I’d wonder if I was ever going to improve. Progress in anything is never linear and building strength is no different. Stay the course, remain consistent and patient, and over time you’ll see the results you want to see.
First and foremost, I became aware of the fact that a shredded body doesn’t equate to being a good coach. In fact, those people are typically the worst coaches with the most bullshit cookie cutter plans just trying to make a quick buck off the way their body looks. They rarely take your goals into consideration. Should you practice what you preach? Yes. For me, that means strength training. Do you have to do it while looking like the latest Calvin Klein underwear model? No.
Second, strength training and building muscle is pivotal if you actually do decide you want to get superhero shredded and look like an uglier version of Chris Evans (sorry, you’ll never be as pretty as Captain America…just sayin’). Fat covers our muscle. Know what happens when you lose the fat, but don’t have much muscle mass? You become what’s known as “skinny fat.” Someone who’s lean but has no muscle. That’s not what you want. What you need is to focus on building muscle to look like a sex idol.
Third, more muscle means better daily life functions. Developing your quads and hamstrings makes every day tasks like getting up from the floor or a chair easier. Stronger arms and shoulders allows you to carry more grocery bags from your car to the house with less overall trips. Need to push something heavy like furniture? Having a strong chest and legs can help with that. There are a lot of daily functions out there that you probably don’t think about that can be improved with strength training.
Fourth is that everyone starts their strength training journey somewhere. They have to. No one walks into the gym and starts squatting 305. It’s impossible. You may be intimated around those lifting a lot of weight, especially if you can’t. I’m here to tell you there’s no reason to be. At one point they were exactly where you are now. Your journey is your journey. Do not let anyone get in the way of that and that includes yourself. Don’t overthink it. Get in to the gym, start building muscle, and screw what anyone else thinks of you.
Fifth and maybe most important, strength training and lifting heavy develops much more than muscle. It develops many intangibles that relate to life. Building strength helps you develop patience, dedication, consistency, mental fortitude, how to deal with failure, and shows you how to be humble. Building strength takes time. You don’t throw a couple of 45 pound plates on a barbell and think you can start benching with proper form. You have to build up to it.
Now that you’ve read this, you have two choices in your newfound strength training journey. Both are fantastic options so you can’t go wrong.
Option 1: Hire me as your coach. We’ll work out of Kansas City Barbell’s facility, crush some iron, and get you strong and confident all while having fun doing so. Your strength training program will be designed specifically for your goals. You’ll also receive the added benefit of accountability and nutrition coaching along the way.
Option 2: Join Kansas City Barbell as a member. While you won’t get the personal programming and nutrition coaching you would if you hired me as a coach, you’ll still get top-notch strength training workouts that guarantees results.