I never get tired of the response I get in the gym. Time after time, I’ve trained with friends who outweigh me, more importantly outmuscle me, by 30 or more lbs.
They’ll walk in the room with the confidence of a well-plumed peacock, use a machine or barbell with a significant amount of weight, and then implore me to try the exercise, waiting for the satisfaction that comes with seeing someone else take plates off your warm-up weight.
The look turns to confusion, then incredulity when I add a plate or two; I’ll get some unwarranted advice about the danger of the exercise and the importance of form as I prepare to do as many if not more reps than they did, doing my best to emulate the mechanics of a textbook.
And then comes the inevitable response:
“How did you get that strong? You’re a lot stronger than you look.”
When it comes to modern fitness, image is everything. You don’t need to have dominating strength as long as you look like you do. In fact, people would prefer to lack the overall strength as long as their appearance can discourage any dick-measuring contests.
I’ve often posted videos of myself bending steel or rolling pan with my hands, and sometimes the response is curiosity or amazement, but there’s always the “What muscles does that work?” and “How will that help my bench?” crew. In fact, one person flat out said, “I ain’t tryna bend pans if I hit the beach looking like a bitch.”
I guess Bruce Lee and Joseph “The Mighty Atom” Greenstein were too busy pursuing strength to pay any attention to their macros.
I have no need for illusions. I’m a strongman, not a magician. As far as magic tricks go, appearing to be strong with the sudden reveal that I can’t open a pickle jar isn’t the kind of trick I want fame for. One of my favorite books is one that Logan Christopher wrote called “Deceptive Strength”, which is all about developing the kind of strength that you can’t judge from being shirtless in the locker room. Deceptive strength is building up your strength from the inside out, so that your nerves, tendons, ligaments, and fascia reach their peak functionality long before your muscles prepare you for an IFBB competition.
Wrestlers, martial artists, rock climbers, gymnasts, oldtime strongmen, mobility trainers, etc. develop different looks for their respective arts, but the strength, when applied, is undeniable, and sometimes downright remarkable. I implore you, train for strength and function. Train so that you can apply the strength that you appear to have.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to look strong. I train and teach people a style of isometrics that develops muscle mass rather quickly, giving you the beefy look that you desire. It utilizes compound muscle groups and intense stimulation to your central nervous system so that your body releases the HGH, testosterone, and other recovery compounds needed to develop massive, gym quality muscles.
Yet, it also will increase the level of overall strength that you have so that your size allows warrants you the confidence of a tiger rather than the facade of the world’s biggest balloon.
Strength is more than muscle. It is a lifestyle choice, and a matter of life or death for some. If your aesthetics can’t protect the people you love in critical times, or prevent you from suffering through months of rehabilitation, then they are as misplaced as your priorities.
Take the time to understand your body, and learn true strength. Perhaps take the time to study Deceptive Strength, because the beefy gym bro can be deceptive if he develops his internal strength to match his muscle mass. In fact, the results themselves can make you quite legendary.
Then maybe, next time a small or medium sized guy enters your gym “looking like a bitch”, you’ll understand the true nature of his strength, and be prepared to display some of your own. You’ve got to be a student before you can be a teacher.
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