Mentorship: Who Would You Want as a Personal Trainer – the Biggest Guy in the Gym or a Supplement Salesman?

Who would you rather get weight lifting advice from?

I’ve been out of the gym for over a year. Last night I finally got back into it. And it feels good, man. It’s amazing, but even after being out for over a year I’ve retained a lot of my strength. I can still put up 60lb dumbbells without a problem, which isn’t close to where I used to be, but it’s not bad for someone whose physical activity has been pretty limited for a year.

The experience takes me back to when I first got started lifting. The year was 2003 or 2004. I was in college at Villanova. Unfortunately, I wasn’t exactly born physically gifted. When I first got into lifting I could barely put up 30lb dumbbells. I also had no idea what I was doing. So what did I do? I bought a bunch of muscle magazines. The magazines were full of advertisements for supplements. Clearly, I thought, the answer to becoming good at weight lifting was more supplements. I started buying all kinds of crap – protein shakes, vitamins, creatine, you name it, I was buying it. I also became friends with a guy, a small guy, who sold supplements. Naturally he loved me because I was always in the market for, well, more supplements, more vitamins, and “better” creatine. I don’t know why I ever went to this guy for weightlifting advice except that he talked a big game and seemed to know what he was talking about. (“Yo, brah, this new super creatine, it’ll get you so big, so fast…”)

Unfortunately, I wasn’t making any progress. Sure, my wallet was smaller, but despite my efforts, I still kept my pear-like physique.

One day a college buddy pulled me aside in the gym. A big buddy, Quinn – a backup tight end on Villanova’s football team. Quinn was built like a brick. He could tell that I had no idea what I was doing in the gym. Quinn used to be a skinny guy but had spent the summer at Valley Forge Military Academy bulking up to play football at the NCAA level. Now he was about 230lbs of rock solid muscle with very little body fat.

One day I was lifting in the campus gym when I ran into Quinn. Though Quinn was a close friend of mine, he sort of looked at me with disdain.

“Jordan, I see you in the gym from time to time and you’re always so full of fail. It’s like you’re just walking around and randomly choosing exercises without any real goal on mind. What the hell are you doing?”

“Uh… Quinn, I’m on my third cycle of creatine, and then I’m gonna add some L-Glutamine.  Hold on, I gotta chug some of this protein shake…”

“Dude… you’re doing it wrong. You look like a chump with your brand new headphones, Nike shirt, and silly athletic gloves. All that stuff, it’s crap. Look, I’m going to tell you everything you know about weight lifting. Right here, right now. First off, you don’t need supplements.  They’re a waste of your money. Maybe if you hit a plateau or something, but right now, you don’t even have a baseline physique. I mean, you don’t know how to lift weights and you’re buying supplements? Really? And bro, you don’t need lifting gloves when you’re working with 25lb weights. It makes you look like a loser.

Instead of focusing on your supplements and your cool gear, why don’t you focus on learning how to lift properly?

See, what you need to do is build a base physique. You do that by focusing on what I call ‘the bread and butter’ – bench press, squats, military press, and deadlifts. The basics. Everything else is gravy. All that “isolating small muscles” and “toning” stuff is crap. You want to work as many muscles as possible to build up a strong base. Just break it down into chest, legs, shoulders, and back. Make sure you do the big exercises that works those muscles. And make sure you lift heavy, between 4 to 6 reps. None of this 50 reps type stuff to tone. That’s a waste of time.

Also, you pudgy sack of crap, you gotta eat better. I see what you eat in the cafeteria, and it ain’t good. If the food wasn’t around like, 10,000 years ago, it’s no good for you. Eat lean protein, veggies and potatoes. Stop eating so much pizza and drinking so much beer. Finally, and most importantly, you’ve gotta be in the gym consistently. You can’t just take supplements, hit the gym twice a week, and expect to get anywhere. It takes discipline and hard work. It won’t come over night. You’ve gotta learn how to do it right. And when you train, you’ve gotta train with intensity – none of this stuff where you show up, do an exercise, and go home.”

From there, Quinn taught me how to do the “bread and butter” exercises with proper form. We went around the gym and he showed me how to bench press properly, how to squat, how to do a military press, etc. I kept in touch with him when I had questions, but most of what he had to say from there was simple. Focus on important exercises, workout with intensity, hit the gym regularly, and don’t eat crap. He told me to buy Arnold Schwarzenegger’s book, The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, but to stay focused on building the core muscles.

Discipline, intensity, and patience. Imagine that.

I stopped taking supplements and I learned how to do basic exercises with proper form. Within about six months, I made a lot of progress by doing what he told me. Soon I was putting up respectable numbers. Granted, I’m limited to the confines of my genetics, but I was slowly becoming one of the “bigger guys” in the gym. And since then, even when I get out of shape, I still maintain at least a baseline level of fitness because I focused a lot on developing core muscles.

More importantly, I learned a valuable lesson: if you want advice on weightlifting, ask the big guys in the gym – the guys who know what they’re talking about. The worst people you can ask for weightlifting advice are the supplement salesmen. Why? The response from a supplement salesman is always “buy more supplements.” But the supplement salesman isn’t usually the guy who is benching 300lbs or in the gym everyday. Chances are, the supplement salesman only knows about one thing – selling supplements.

You’re probably saying “Cool story, bro, but what does this have to do with law?”

Ask yourself this: if you’re looking for a mentor in law, shouldn’t you find an experienced lawyer with a record of success? At the very least, someone with a few grey hairs on their head and a real office? Instead of someone just trying to sell websites?

2 Responses to Mentorship: Who Would You Want as a Personal Trainer – the Biggest Guy in the Gym or a Supplement Salesman?

  1. Matt Brown says:

    But what if the little supplement guy promises me I won’t have to work very hard? I sure like hearing that.

    • John Work says:

      Following up on Mr. Brown’s response, young attorneys–like clients–tend to lean towards the path of least resistance.

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