Category Archives: Success

Success stories

Finding Value in a Gym and a Coach

By far, my least favorite thing about being a gym owner and a coach is “selling myself”.

The truth is, I’m about as straight a shooter as you’re going to get. I don’t sugarcoat things nor am I a “salesman”.

Perhaps that is one of my vulnerabilities. Like I said, I don’t “sell”, but across the fitness industry as a whole, there are tons of salesmen, fakers, and frauds. Hell, I would venture to guess that there are more pretenders than their are legit experts, which is disheartening to say the least.

But the longer I’m in this business, the more I realize that it’s not my fault that lifters fall for the gimmicks and the snake oil salesmen. It’s not my job to “sell you”.

It’s YOUR fault for not recognizing value when you see it.

I get “tire kickers” all of the time at Primal Strength Gym. They will come in, take a look around, ask the usual questions about price, and be on their way.

When I follow up, I’ll hear the typical excuses if they don’t want to join.

“Globo Gym down the street is $20 cheaper.”

“I want to go to a gym that offers more classes.”

“I don’t know how often I’ll actually use the gym to make it worth it.”

“Wish you had a stair stepper.”

I could go on.

My initial reaction is to want to shake them and wake them up.

How can you not see the VALUE in a place like Primal?

  • Primal is home to multiple nationally qualified athletes, which means they continually compete against some of the strongest people in the nation.
  • Primal continually wins competitions. In fact, I can’t name one competition we attended that we didn’t place in the top 3.
  • Primal athletes have set national records.
  • The training environment Primal offers is unrivaled in the area.
  • The diversity and quality of equipment in the gym is second to none.
  • Primal coaching is first class.

I have people that commute in from hours a way, sometimes multiple times a week, just to train at Primal Strength Gym. Now those are the people that see value, far beyond the perspective of monthly membership dues.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a rant. Maybe this whole post rings with a little bit of irony as I tout Primal’s accolades after I open the post saying I’m not a salesman. Perhaps I’m selling you a bit, but more than 90% of my readership reaches far beyond my local market area.

So my main intention is to really just change your perspective and to implore you to examine the hidden value of opportunities in your training future.

Ditch the globo gym and towel service, and pay a bit more for a quality environment and lifting culture.

Train at the places with the most USEFUL equipment, not the shiniest.

Drive the extra 20 minutes to get quality coaching.

Recognize the quality of other lifters in more hardcore gyms, even if it makes you feel weaker initially. And soak up every ounce of knowledge they have.

Train at the place that scares you a little bit. Don’t be the strongest guy in the gym because that is a sure fire way to make you stagnant.

Stop getting hung up on price comparisons and adjust your perception of true value!

Lift on my friends,

— Tank

Lifting Motivation — Loving What You Do Versus Doing What You Love

I started thinking about this concept on my way home from the gym last night. While loving what you do and doing what you love seems like two different ways of saying the same thing, it’s not. I’ll explain later…

Anyhow, it was the first good training session I’ve had in weeks and I was trying to figure out why.

Over the past month, I’ve been run-down, and for about a week I was sick, had no appetite, and thus no energy or focus. Under those circumstances, that was the logical reason why my training had been suffering.

Continue reading Lifting Motivation — Loving What You Do Versus Doing What You Love

Should You Train to Failure?

If you’ve been with me for a while, you know I preach not training to failure. However, there are a lot of training to failure proponents out there.

So who is right and who is wrong?

Of course I’m not going to throw myself under the bus, so let me elaborate on why I’m an opponent to training to failure, and what you should be doing instead.

Continue reading Should You Train to Failure?

What I Learned From Winning Strongman

This past weekend I took home first place in my weight class (lightweights under 200) at the River City Strongman in Richmond, Virginia.

It was a great but grueling day of lifting and competing. I met some awesome people, had overwhelming support from friends and family, made a few mistakes, but most importantly, overcame and battled throughout the day to bring home the win for Primal Strength Gym. I was also honored to compete with another Primal member who took home third in the heavyweight class.

Continue reading What I Learned From Winning Strongman

Who is Your Competition? Part Deux

A few months back, I wrote a post on competition. If you missed it, check it out here: Who is Your Competition?

Evidently it ruffled a few feathers around town. Heard people calling me (behind my back) everything from a cocksucker to an asshole. All of a sudden I was the renegade gym owner.

Continue reading Who is Your Competition? Part Deux

8 Things I Do Every Day — The Importance of Daily Rituals

By normal standards, a lot of people would say I’m a very busy guy.

In addition to running Primal Strength Camp and the Primal Strength Gym, I still work a full-time job for the US Department of Defense. I am also a family man with a 100 pound bruiser of a dog, a wife, and a 2 year old daughter.

There are times when I do feel stretched thin and my obligations can seem overwhelming, but at the same time, nothing in life comes easy. If you want to achieve great things, you have to put in the work and make the sacrifices necessary to do the extraordinary.

Contrary to what you hear from success gurus, I don’t believe in “work-life” balance. The cold hard truth is that if you want to excel in something, that success will come at the expense of other things in your life. That means that sometimes family life may take a backseat to your career for example. Other times your family may be the priority, and other times your health and training may trump everything.

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Priorities are cyclical so don’t stress yourself out by trying to achieve a balancing act. Instead, develop some daily rituals that allow you to progress (even if just a little) and maximize your productivity.

There are certain things I do everyday to ensure I maximize my time and align with my priorities. The time I devote to some of these things shifts depending on what needs to be done on that given day, but that’s the beauty of not getting fooled into an unsustainable balancing act.

The following list is not meant to account for mundane activities, like checking email or posting in social media for example. These are meant to be more broad, thought driven activities that advance my growth as a person, family man, or coach.

Maybe some of these don’t work for you, maybe some of them will. The important part is to take what you can use and make them part of your lifestyle.

#1: Brainstorm

Some people meditate, but when I sit and think in silence I think of it more as brainstorming. This time is crucial to think about what blog posts to write, ways to advance my business, training ideas I can use with clients, and things I can do to be a better family man.

It doesn’t necessarily matter what you think about, but it does need to be productive and conducive to the advancement of your life goals. Take at least 5 minutes a day where you can be alone and visualize a success plan for yourself.

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#2: Make a To-Do List

Every day I have a meaningful list of tasks to accomplish. Typically this list gets made at night before I go to sleep, so I have a clear and precise attack plan for the following day. Having a contract with yourself that you can accomplish every day is vital to productivity and is critical to eliminate time mismanagement.

#3: Learn Something New

This comes across as very cliche but how often do we really do it? A lot of people may say they just don’t have time to read/study/learn between their day jobs and family lives. My counter to that is they are just making excuses and aren’t maximizing their time.

I drive 30 minutes each way to work. I don’t listen to music. Instead I listen to podcasts from people I admire in the strength and business industry and soak up all the knowledge I can from my hour in the car each day. This is in addition to the time I make to read books, learn from others in the gym, and what I do for my day job with the government.

To clarify, learning something new needs to be something that you can take and apply to your life/career in a meaningful way. I’m not talking meaningless trivia here, but rather things that will advance your life in a positive way. It doesn’t have to be profound, but it has to be useful.

#4: Train

I’m not the same man without crushing my training. Being a gym owner, when I’m in the environment every day, it’s hard for me to take a step back and take days off. So even if I’m not training myself, I’m in the gym soaking up the intensity and hard work that my clients and members are exuding. Just being in the gym and observing is an awesome opportunity to accomplish #3 on this list. Always remember, strong body leads to strong mind, and vice versa.

Keg Spotter

#5: Write

Keeping up this blog is no small task, but I enjoy writing and it’s therapeutic in a sense. It’s a great opportunity to share knowledge, clear my head, and reach the masses. Even if nobody else reads it, writing is a great opportunity to make sense of your thoughts and get them processed in an organized way. It doesn’t have to be a work of literature; maybe it’s just a journal of your thoughts and experiences. The important part is that you have a creative outlet.

#6: Spend Time With Family/Friends

After being gone all day, I look forward to going home and seeing my wife and kid. My daughter is two now and has me wrapped around her little finger. I can’t imagine not laying on the floor with her and reading books, giving her hugs, tending to her “boo-boos”, and chasing her around the house listening to her laugh.

Friends and family are important. Make time for them. At the end of the day, your health and family/friends are all you’ve got. Material possessions aren’t real…

 #7: Zone-Out

Zoning out to me is to totally let go of all of your thoughts and turn your mind off to the outside world. This is not a time to brainstorm or to think about all of your problems or your to-do list.

Turn off the switch in your head and just decompress. For you, maybe this is your time to meditate (not brainstorm).

For me, this means watching something on TV (even though success gurus would rip me on this) that can make me laugh and unwind.

Zoning out (especially if it involves TV as alluded to above) can become a bad habit too, so don’t let your apathy take away from all of the other important things you should be doing.

#8: Be Present

This one is a hard one for a lot of people to do, especially people with busy schedules. Do not confuse this with #7; it’s the complete opposite in fact.

It means to be totally immersed in your present environment. Not distracted by email, or texting, or TV. To be present means to be truly living in the moment. For me, a prime example is my time with my daughter. There are times where I want to be zoning out, or times where I’m trying to respond to an email or write a Facebook post, and my daughter will be competing for my attention.

Those are the times I need to drop everything and be there, focused on her. Those are the times I remember, relishing in the cute things she does, not some random post I make on social media.

Be present for the important things…it’s always worth it.

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— Tank

Who is Your Competition?

Ever since I founded Primal Strength Camp, and even more so since I opened the Primal Strength Gym, I get asked “Who is your competition?”

My answer probably isn’t what you expect from a typical businessman, but my honest and genuine feeling is that I have no outside competition.

That is not me being naive. The biggest gym in my town is a mile away from me. There is a Gold’s Gym less than 5 miles away. There are other gyms scattered around the town, all within a few miles of my location.

I could easily win a pissing contest about how I’m the gym in Charlottesville (and the region) with the biggest social media following; how I’m the only one with a kick ass blog that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors; how my training knowledge is light years above other trainers; how my gym is exclusive with some of the strongest lifters in the area, and actually institutes a waiting list; and how my gym has the best and most unique equipment.

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If you ask me or any of my clients and gym members, they will tell you hands down, I have the best gym in Charlottesville.

That all sounds great on the surface and sure, it’s awesome for marketing and potential sales purposes, but it does nothing for my personal growth as a business man, a coach, an athlete, or a human being.

All of the above accolades and praise, in a way, are meaningless.

Let me clarify that thought with three examples:

#1: Most Competition is Subjective

Aside from head to head competition in sport (who can lift the most weight under identical conditions, for example), most competitions are really just subjective comparisons.

Take my gym example. How would you rate the best gym in Charlottesville? The serious lifter and person wanting to sling some serious poundage would take my gym all day, but the typical housewife would much rather take group ex over at Gold’s.

What about the Monday morning office debates about who the best NFL quarterback is? We’ve all heard it and everyone has a different answer. (The classic debate about comparing quarterbacks based on Superbowl wins versus position statistics comes to mind.)

The point is, it’s all a matter of opinion.

Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one and everyone thinks everyone else’s stinks.

#2: Competition is Unrealistic

Competition is simply not realistic in most cases.

Say you wanted to be as strong as “The Mountain” Hafthor Bjornsson. Hate to burst your bubble, but you don’t have the genetics…

Just like I think it would be pretty cool to be a bassist in a rock band, I’m not going to surpass Flea from the Chili Peppers any time soon…

You need to compare apples to apples and 90% of the time, we are really just comparing apples to oranges…

#3: Competition Can Make You Drift From Your Identity

This is probably the most important reason of the three and something you must understand to achieve long-term growth as an individual.

You see, my outlook on the strength and coaching business is different than the norm.

If you ask me, I’m not in the business of making money. I’m in the business of making bad ass motherfuckers. That means I don’t take every person that walks through the door as a client or member, and I’m really focused on working with the right kind of people.

If I bring the wrong people in just to make some more cash like most gyms do, I’m letting competition pull me away from my identity and brand.

Don’t get distracted by what other people are doing. Nobody else should ever drive your progress and vision. Always stick to your values and know who you are as a person/coach/entrepreneur.

Everything else going on around you (“competition” included) is just noise…

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So Who Is Your Competition?

The above thoughts are not meant to portray competition as bad. We compete in the weight room everyday and it’s damn healthy for your mental and physical drive. You should attack the weight room (and life) with a take no prisoners attitude. If I’m training with a partner, I am out to crush him on every lift, even if he outweighs me by 50 pounds.

But competition is a slippery slope…

At the end of the day, the only competition you have is with yourself.

The minute you learn to stop comparing yourself to others (on a deeper level), and instead focus that energy to making yourself better each and every day, the more freedom and clarity you will have in your life.

Better than I was yesterday.

That should be your mantra.

Nothing else matters because at the end of the day, your personal growth is your only measuring stick.

If you plan on kicking everyone else’s ass in the gym and in life (as you should be), the path is always through self-improvement. Are you smarter than you were yesterday? Did you lift more weight than you did last week? Did you train more frequently than you did last year?

Those are equatable and measurable things.

Worrying about outside noise and comparing yourself to others is a waste of time and energy, that of which is far better spent investing in a stronger version of yourself.

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Forget about the competition. Just worry about what you see in the mirror…

— Tank

Is There Such Thing as a Perfect Training Program? Applying the 25% Rule

In my previous post, I talked about the four most important components to building a training program.

To recap, those components are:

  1. Your Goals
  2. Volume-Intensity Relationship
  3. Training Frequency
  4. Exercise Selection

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I finished that post remarking that there is no such thing as a perfect program and that all training programs are flawed to a certain degree. While a program might yield results for a period of time, inherently our bodies adapt and our progress stalls. This is where the 25% rule comes into play.

Athletes and lifters have a tendency to entirely scrap a program when their progress stalls, rather than taking a sensible step back to examine the current state of their training and identifying what to manipulate. In other words, 75% of what you’re doing may be adequate, but you need to tweak 25% of it to induce gains.

The key as a lifter is to identify that 25%, make an adjustment, and keep everything else the same. This will keep you from program hopping, which is one of the worst mistakes you can make in your training.

Your Goals

If your goals are the thing you decide to tweak, it is important to know you don’t need to change your overall goals.

Maybe your goal is to add 50 pounds to your squat and you’ve been unsuccessful. You don’t need to change that goal, but you should add in some mini-goals that will help you achieve the big one. Maybe you have weak hamstrings and glutes that are hindering your squat, so your immediate goals should be to strengthen those while keeping your overall squat goal the same.

Volume-Intensity Relationship

This is fairly straightforward to manipulate. Maybe you need more or less volume, more or less intensity, or more or less of both. This variable is also very goal dependent.

Training Frequency

Again, easy to manipulate. You either train more or your train less. If you need to train more, maybe you consider multiple small workouts a day instead of one marathon session. There are lots of options to tweak this variable.

Exercise Selection

This can take some specialization and a good diagnosis of your lack of progress. This will also be largely goal dependent variable.

If you are trying to gain mass in certain parts of your body, or strengthen certain parts of your body to improve some of your big compound lifts, you may need to perform more isolation movements. On the other end of the spectrum, if you are trying to become more explosive, you may need to do more compound lifts and plyometrics.

Closing Thoughts…

Most of the time, sweeping changes to your training program are not necessary to make the gains you are seeking.

Keep the adjustments subtle and apply the 25% rule. Manipulate one of the four critical training components at a time and continually monitor your progress. You will make far more progress using this approach than making major changes each training cycle.

Keep on keepin’ on…

— Tank