The past few years I’ve come full circle.

When I was a kid through my 20’s, I wanted to be a card-carrying musclehead. I was never too concerned with the competitive side of the sport. What happened on contest day didn’t do much for me. Instead I was far more interested in all the variables that had to be considered leading up to show day, and beyond:

  • Diet
  • Training history
  • Lifestyle
  • Genetics (and figuring out how to individualize to different body types)
  • Age and training age
  • Gender
  • Mindset
  • Priorities (skewed as they often were)
  • Goal setting

But that’s not it. 

The power of structure, hard work, delaying gratification, consistency, patience, and not getting fucking hurt.

The need for acceptance of one’s reality. Everyone can be above average at something. A few can be exceptional at something. But what your “something” is may not be your current passion.

And of course, the other stuff involved (drugs) that most non-meatheads think is The Most Important Thing (Forbidden Fruit Syndrome), but real meatheads know is just another variable (as evidenced by Commercial Gym Guy Who Takes as Much Gear as Jay Cutler But is Built Like Jay Leno Syndrome).

So I sought out the guidance from a lot of “experienced meatheads,” even booking consults with them.

It led to me asking a LOT of tough questions of these poor guys, as I brought a reasonable level of intelligence and university-honed critical thinking to balance all the curiosity and passion.

Sometimes their answers made no sense. Other times they seemed lifted from a textbook (never buy into the myth that all bodybuilders are stupid).

And very often the answers were simply, “I’m not sure why it works, my experience shows it just does.” Those answers frustrated me. Now I find them the most valuable (or at least interesting) of all.

Eventually, I thought I had to “expand my toolbox.” Study functional training and Crossfit and “sport specific training.” Get more certifications. Learn “hands on therapy tricks for trainers” and other nonsense so beyond the scope of a trainer it’s borderline criminal. Read book after book by dubious doctors and Ph.D.’s that in hindsight should be in the Children’s Fiction section. And of course, spending a small fortune attending seminars (some good, some bad, many just irrelevant or a mighty meh).

And after so many years, having traveled down all the rabbit holes, I can tell you if your goal is largely to “look good naked,” the experienced meatheads are still the best mentors.

Not the ones that think they know everything, or even the ones that can give you “evidenced-based reasons” for their decisions. (As Greg Nuckols pointed out recently, the “why” something works is often where coaches and trainers get ahead of their skis).

But the ones who combine real results with both career and personal longevity?

Those are the guys (and girls) I’d hitch my wagon to.

And after 20 years, I still pay for consults with them and I’m still asking questions.