Tag Archives: motivation

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

5 Habits For A Stronger You

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. — Aristotle

True story, Aristotle must’ve been a smart guy. He was also a big believer in physical fitness and getting stronger, both in mind and in body.

The quote above speaks volumes and encompasses a huge aspect of success and excellence. The problem is, we as humans aren’t the best at maintaining positive habits. The most successful people are not necessarily the ones with the most talent, but the ones with the most consistency. The act of getting stronger is no different.

So what do the strongest people on the planet do on a consistent basis that separates them from the weak?

Continue reading 5 Habits For A Stronger You

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

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

Perception is Not Reality: Lifting Fact Versus Fiction

As a strength coach, I do a lot of reading, not only in published articles and blog posts, but especially the comments sections.

I do this for a number of reasons, the most important being education. Part of that education is being in tune with the fitness market and where people are going wrong, which helps me better educate you and shield you from all of the bullshit.

If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that bro scientists, self-anointed “experts”, and gimmick pushers have completely polluted a lot of people’s perceptions and cemented their minds with false realities. Once this happens, it’s really difficult to change someone’s mind because a perception from a “trusted source” quickly becomes unwavering “truth”.

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Let me be the first to tell you, perception is not reality.

Don’t believe everything you hear. Challenge perception and seek truth through personal experience.

With that being said, let me give you some truths I’ve learned through blood, sweat, and tears in the iron game. Time to play a little game of perception versus reality.

(There are a lot of embedded links in this post that explain some concepts in detail; be sure to check them out if you need more explanation.)

Perception: Do not train muscle groups more than once a week.
Reality: Of all the training parameters (rest times, intensity, exercise selection, volume, etc.)  I’ve played with over the years, training frequency has BY FAR been the most important to making gains. A recent personal example: Over the past 6 weeks, I’ve squatted, deadlifted, benched, and overhead pressed twice a week. Results? I’ve gained 20 pounds and added upwards of 20 pounds to some of my maxes.

Perception: Training for over an hour will wreck your hormones and make you catabolic.
Reality: If you want to get good at something, do you just practice for an hour? Didn’t think so. If you peruse my website, you will see me perpetuate this perception, but mostly that was a way of me trying to get people to eliminate too much time between sets and get people to focus. The reality is that you can train for several hours at a time (and will have to if you are making a lot of strength lifts that require more recovery time between sets) and be just fine.

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Perception: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Reality: Depends on your goals. If you are trying to maximize fat loss, it’s not. Our hormonal cycles actually promote fat burning in the morning, so eating breakfast completely halts that. (If you’re trying to gain weight, just eat more later in the day.)

Perception: Eating carbs at night will make you fat.
Reality: Eating carbs all day and eclipsing your daily totals will make you fat. I eat the majority of my carbs at night (but stay within my daily allotment) and maintain 10%-12% bodyfat without a lot of high-intensity cardio.

Perception: Steady state cardio (jogging for example) is the best way to burn fat.
Reality: While your body does burn a higher percentage of fat at lower intensities (50% of calories from fat) versus higher intensities (35% of calories from fat), at higher intensities you burn far more calories overall, ultimately leading to more fat calories (in a much shorter amount of time).

For example, if I walk on the treadmill for an hour and burn 250 calories, I may have burned about 125 calories from fat.  But let’s say I train Primal style and run several sets of hill sprints, followed by a high intensity finisher.  In about 20 minutes, I could burn 500-600 calories, with 210 calories from fat.  One-third of the time and far more fat burn…

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Perception
: You need to do a ton of cardio and ab work to get a six-pack.
Reality: Abs are made in the kitchen. Want to drop a few pounds? Eat below your maintenance levels. You can sit on your ass all day and lose weight by just cutting a few hundred calories off your daily intake. Use a few high-intensity cardio sessions a week to augment weight lifting and a muscle building diet.

Perception: After 4 weeks of intense training, you need a de-load week.
Reality: Your body will tell you when you need a de-load week, and that could not be for a couple of months. I’ve personally had hardcore training cycles last more than 2 months, making gains the whole time, before my performance dipped and I had to de-load.

Perception: You can’t train for hypertrophy and strength at the same time.
Reality: Yes you can. Training Primal style, we do it all the time. Supplement strength lifts with higher rep accessory work and you will make gains in both.

Perception: Body part splits are the most effective for building muscle.
Reality: Body part splits are great for making newbie gains, but are not as effective as full body or upper-lower split training. Remember what I said about frequency above? Training with a body part split completely eliminates that advantage. Don’t do it…train with an upper-lower split instead.

Perception: Females who lift weights will get huge.
Reality: Women lack the testosterone production to get big naturally. Want to get “toned”? What you are really saying is you want to lose body fat and gain muscle mass. How do you do that? Lift heavy weights.

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Per
ception: Bodyweight training is not effective at building muscle and strength.
Reality: Bodyweight training is very effective if you know how to program it. This means learning the progressions and not sticking with standard variations. Check this out: Top 10 Bodyweight Exercises.

Perception: Muscle isolation is key to hypertrophy.
Reality: If your training volume for each muscle group is on point, isolation is not all that important. My arms are one of the most developed muscles on my body, and I don’t do any direct bicep work, but I work them indirectly all the time through row variations, pull-ups, and pressing. Remember what I said about frequency?

Perception: You need a ton of volume to gain muscle.
Reality: I’ve put on plenty of muscle doing sets of 6. The key is to lift heavy enough weights with an appropriate portion of volume. This means lifting heavy weights (70-85% of your one rep max) for sets of 6-8 for muscle gain.  Lifting weights less than 70% of your 1-rep max (1RM) will not produce a significant training effect.

(There is a lot more to this and I’m admittedly oversimplifying the issue. Check out my “How To Series” for me details about which body parts respond well to higher volumes, etc.)

Perception:  Circuits/intervals are great for building muscle.
Reality: Depends on a number of factors, but the key here is lifting heavy enough weights for those circuits, which means keeping your volume on the lower side. Sets of more than 12 (per exercise), because they have to be done with relatively low weight (less than 70% of your 1RM), really only train endurance.

Several recent studies have exposed this perception recently.  A university study on the popular “Bodypump” class showed participants made no changes to their body composition (no fat loss and no muscle gain) over a 12-week period. Another American Council on Exercise (ACE) study showed P90X participants burned a lot of calories (similar to joggers actually) but had no muscle gain.

The old adage here is to train to your goals. If your main goal is to burn calories, increase endurance, and increase metabolic function/fat loss, circuits are certainly a good option. But if your main goal is to gain muscle, circuits should only be supplemental (short duration/high-intensity finishers) to traditional strength training. If you want to gain muscle, you have to get under the (heavy) bar. Period.

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— Tank

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.

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#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

You Are Where You Train

Over my 16 years or so of lifting, I’ve trained in every sort of environment you can imagine.

No frills high-school weight rooms, flashy expensive health clubs, corporate commercial gyms like Golds, a rock-climbing gym, and even a makeshift gym built out of one of Saddam Hussein’s old palaces when I was deployed to Iraq.

Each of these places held their own merits, and all of them had their fair share of problems as well. A lot of what you find attractive in a gym may come down to personal taste, but one thing nobody can deny is that your gym environment has a direct impact on how much you increase your performance.

I put a lot of thought into this topic recently as I opened the Primal Strength Gym. Thinking back to where I have trained in the past and what is important to develop a results-oriented training center, I’ve been able to key in on three vital issues that you should look for when seeking out a place to train.

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#1: Culture

This is by far the primary problem I see with a vast majority of the gyms I’ve come across. Most gyms, like any other business, are so focused on their bottom line (profit) that they bring in whoever is willing to pay their price, despite what baggage the prospective client brings to the gym environment.

Commercial gyms, like Golds, make a fortune off people that pay for a membership but don’t ever show up. But, on the flip side, what happens when people with poor attitudes show up and kill the gym energy with their negativity? It contaminates the environment and it will have an effect on you whether or not you even realize it.

In the gym, and your personal life, you are a product of who you surround yourself with. Surround yourself with slackers, whiners, complainers, and fearful people and you start to become one of those people. Surround yourself with hard-chargers, ass kickers, and strong, bad ass mother f’ers and you become a bad ass mother f’er. That’s just the way it goes.

At the Primal Strength Gym, I only maintain 50 membership slots, most of whom are referrals. I make sure I bring the right people in because maintaining the right kind of people and preserving the culture of the gym is paramount.

#2: Equipment

I’m going to take the opposite approach you may think on this one. Bottom line, most gyms these days have too much shit in them. Typically, when I walk into a gym, the more equipment I see, the worse the gym is.

You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to get big and strong, and too much equipment just turns into a distraction and throws people off from the basics of hardcore fundamental lifting.

The Primal Strength Gym has 3 power racks, a number of specialty bars, bands, sleds, multiple pull-up stations, heavy dumbbells, and some strongman implements like a yoke, log press, kegs, and ropes. My training revolves around the basics. Most people, with the right programming, can make tons of gains without specialized equipment and training protocols. The basics work…

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#3: Environment

In large part, culture and environment are interchangeable. The environment you create will dictate the culture you bring in and you need the right culture to maximize your gains.

Swanky health clubs and corporate box gyms simply don’t breed the intensity and grittiness that you need to train like an animal. So when you’re looking for a place to train, you need to pick a place that breeds aggressiveness and intensity, not complacency and restraint.

Primal Strength Gym has no heat or air conditioning. The radio blares death metal and gangster rap. A normal person might be intimidated walking through the door for the first time, but a little bit of fear can take you a long way. In order to be at your best you need to rise to the occasion, not shrink to normalcy.

So think about where you’ve been training. Does it fit my 3 vital characteristics? Does it fit the mold of a place that will bring out the best in you? Or are you coasting and wasting your potential?

— Tank