At 70, bodybuilder Sam ‘Sonny’ Bryant, Jr. stays young with the right mindset

Sam Sonny Bryant Jr

Sam “Sonny” Bryant Jr. is 70 years old and he looks better than men half his age. That’s because he realizes the importance the mind plays in every aspect of life. Whether you succeed or fail, age gracefully or become “old” at 50, how you think about the things you think about plays a crucial role. It sounds like common sense, but most people never realize the sheer power their thoughts possess. Our thoughts, very much like wind or rain or the natural elements acting on a rock face, can bend reality with applied pressure and time.

Here is what Mr. Bryant Jr. told the Augusta Chronicle:

People ask me when I’m going to retire. I say “never.” I say “most people die retired than they do on the job working.” I love to work. I love to work out. …

I’m 70 years old if that means anything. I’ve been doing this for 27 years. I started out when I was 44. I was in a bad marriage. And so to relieve  stress I went to the gym. …

I didn’t know anything about working out, nothing about lifting weights — nothing. But I went there and stayed and stayed. Eleven months later a guy told me “Sonny, you ought to go to a contest and complete.” I said “you think so?” He said, “Yeah. You look like you’re ready.” So I went to Columbus, Ga. It was my first contest. … I won third in the novice and forth in the masters, and I was just like a crack addict. I was hooked. I had two trophies — never won anything before — and I couldn’t wait to get back to the gym and start body building. I was just working out before. …

People have the misconception that age makes you old, but I realized that it’s a state of mind that makes you old. Age is just a number. In a year most people — the majority of people — give a reason not to do anything, you know? I hear a lot of people telling me to wait until I get their age, and then I tell them how old I am and then it’s kind of embarrassing. I tell them to make a point — that the inactivity and the thought process is what makes them old. … Your subconscious mind reads your conscious mind. If  you start thinking you’re old, subconsciously your conscious mind is going to grab hold of that.  Then you’re body is going feel that it’s old. Then you’re going to start acting old, feeling old — and you’re old. …

Honestly, I never feel like I aged since I started body building at 44. I don’t feel no different. I just want people to recognize me for what I am and what I’m doing and realize that it can be done. They could do it. I just want to be some kind of model for them, for people to see … I’ve seen a lot of young guys “older” than me because their lifestyle — that’s what they chose to do. Go home, sit around watching TV all weekend…sit around doing nothing. I can’t do that. I can not sit in the house that long.

Sam Bryant Jr. demonstrates quite nicely that “a rolling stone gathers no moss,” but it’s his understanding of how our thoughts can directly impact our reality that is truly impressive. The saying goes that whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right. It’s true.

Sonny Bryant weightlifter

Mr. Bryant’s philosophy has implications that extend far beyond the world of weightlifting. He essentially says that we make a conscious decision about how we view age, and then the reality in our mind manifests itself into the physical world. Another wise man touched on this debate, and his name was Ben Franklin. You may have heard of him.

“There are two sorts of people in the world, who with equal degrees of health and wealth and the other comforts of life, become the one happy, the other unhappy. Those who are to be happy fix their attention on the pleasant parts of the conversation, and enjoy all with cheerfulness. Those who are to be unhappy think and speak only of the contraries. Hence they are continually discontented themselves, and by their remarks sour the pleasures of society, offend personally many people, and make themselves disagreeable. If these people will not change this bad habit, and condescend to be pleased with what is pleasing, it is good for others to avoid an acquaintance with them, which is always disagreeable, and sometimes very inconvenient, particularly when one finds one’s self entangled in their quarrels.” — Benjamin Franklin

Every day you can consciously decide to look at the bright side of things, or to focus on faults. Every day gives you the opportunity to choose to be a positive or negative person. Every day you can either be the light or the darkness in the world around you. What do you choose? I choose to cast my lot with Sam “Sonny” Bryant Jr.

Related: Schwarzenegger’s ‘Six Rules for Success’: Sage advice for all Americans

Related: CT Fletcher is correct: Over-training is a myth

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Elliott Hulse’s great advice for older men in the weight room: Stop trying to slay dragons that don’t exist

Smaug copy

I was talking to an old friend the other day and she asked if I was still doing “crazy weightlifting challenges.” The answer: No. Not really. The conversation got me thinking of just how much my mentality has changed over the years in regards to exercise, the goals I set for myself and how I treat my body. As I close in on 35, my approach to the weight room is not what it once was. For older men who plan on staying active I highly suggest checking out Elliott from the YouTube Strength Camp videos. He puts it perfectly: Stop trying to slay dragons that no longer exist.

From Elliott’s “The Truth about Muscle Building for Older Guys”:

When you’re young and you’re in full warrior mode and you’ve got that sword in your hand and you’re slaying dragons — as you should be — look, if you haven’t slayed your dragons at this point, you’re 40 years old and you haven’t slain the right dragons yet, you’re going to live your life in a constant state of sympathetic overload, stressed out trying to slay dragons that don’t exist.

The only dragons left are the dragons inside us at that point. … What are you going to do? What do you have to prove anymore? There comes a point where if you haven’t proved yourself to yourself — because that’s all that really matters — (young guys, write that one down) the only one you have to prove yourself to is yourself. But I get it. You have to prove yourself to daddy and the world. Okay. I did it. I understand. But you need to get to a point where you’re done proving yourself.

You [need to get to a point where you] can just relax and breath. Just take your time. Enjoy life. You’ve got to become a lot more Yin in your behaviors and attitudes. That place of low stress, high integrity about of the choices you make about your nutrition and the rest that you give your body will … preserve the foundation of vitality that was there when you were young … that allows you to do that you to do a select amount of physical activity that you deem important to you and your self development.

Don’t do things you feel you “have to” do. You don’t have to gain 50 pounds of muscle when you’re 40. Again, you have nothing to prove. And if you still have something to prove at that point then you’ve got deeper issues than building muscle. Engage in things that you enjoy that will support your health.

Yo Elliott

Boom. Amazing advice. And it doesn’t just apply to the weight room. Living and working in the nation’s capital, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met over the years who are searching for dragons that no longer exist. They drive themselves crazy trying to prove themselves to their mom, their dad, their brothers and sisters, fellow industry professionals and God knows who else when the only one you ever need to prove yourself to is you.

Elliott continues:

“What kind of story are you telling yourself? [T]he most resourceful stories that I tell myself and that I see in the older men that I train tell themselves is: ‘I’m not necessarily getting older and that means I lack vitality. What’s happening is that I’m becoming more sensitive and my body requires requires that much more attention to detail.’ This is what begins happening: When you’re young you can beat the fuck out of yourself. You can eat whatever you want to eat. You can be nasty. You can stay up all night … [When you’re older] you have to make better choices. You can’t eat double-cheeseburgers dipped in gravy after you’re hungover and play football the next day. …

… Structural integrity means more to me than squatting 1,000 pounds. … Structural integrity should be a word that you brand into your brain. … Consider what that means. Consider what it means when [I say] ‘instantaneous access of rotation of all joints.” That basically means that you’ve got balance throughout all of your joints, namely those around your hips and shoulders. You’ve got to stretch.

Forced to pick between brute strength and flexibility, I’d pick flexibility every time.

Look at your friends and family and loved ones who allow themselves to go into a state of disrepair well before it has to be that way. When you lose the ability to squat down and pick up those keys that fell off the dresser … when your can no longer reach that high shelf to grab a good book … when you can no longer bend and twist with those sheers to trim the bushes on a perfect summer afternoon, you lose independence. As humans, we are addicted to freedom and when we lose it — when we really begin to lose it — our spirit starts to yearn for greener pastures.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Elliott when I first ran across his videos, but over time he’s grown on me. He’s got a wealth of information at his disposal and he dispenses it to anyone who wants to listen — for free. He’s always positive and he gives it to his audience straight. If you want to build a better you, Elliott’s videos are worth your time.

Flip the switch: Tap into ‘fight or flight’ for gains in the weight room

Years ago I worked in a gym, and it was always interesting to see the post-holidays rush slowly whittle away as discouraged individuals decided that the sculpted body they envisioned in early January wasn’t going to happen — “this year.” There are many reasons why fitness goals go unrealized, but the inability to “flip the switch” is one of the more critical failures I’ve observed. When you’re tired and exhausted and you think you can’t do another repetition, are you able to find that “fight or flight” switch in the basement of your being and flip “fight”? If so, it won’t be long before you differentiate yourself from the rest of the crowd.

Try something along these lines the next time you work out. As you begin to feel the burn in your arms, legs, back or whatever other muscle group you’re working, wait until the point when you would normally end the set and then say to yourself: “I’m going to finish this set as if …”

  • “… My life depended it.”
  • “… The life of someone I love depended on it.”

You will be shocked by just how much you could lift when only moments before a little voice inside was saying “No more!” You will be amazed at how many repetitions you could knock out when only moments before a little voice inside said: “You’re done!”

“The weakness of flesh is to settle for less.” — Killswitch Engage

Indeed. As I told a friend of mine who plans on becoming a Navy SEAL within the next couple of years: Even the most prized swords had to become molten metal before they could be crafted into something legendary. While simply getting yourself into motion will often yield results if you haven’t been active in awhile, the biggest gains come when your body tells you there is no gas left in the tank, but your mind tells it to shut up and figure out a way to run on fumes.

“But Doug,” you say, “there are some pretty big guys in the gym, but I don’t really see them knocking out high reps.”

True. There are a lot of big guys who spend most of their time in the gym looking at themselves in the mirror. I’m quite familiar with them. But even in this case, a discerning eye will spot the truth.

I’ll let Ronnie Coleman explain:

“To build more strength, I have to concentrate on using more weight; more weight requires harder work; harder work takes me beyond the level of my previous workout, which pushes the muscle to further growth. In short, an increase in size results only from my commitment to increase my strength.

Hardness, on the other hand, is built by repetitions. Just as steel is hardened by intense heat, so a muscle is hardened by pressurizing it with blood. Higher reps mean a harder muscle. That’s the reason most of my reps are in the 12-15 range. A huge muscle is worthless if it isn’t ripped and steel-hard.” (Ronnie Coleman, Muscle and Fitness, Oct. 2013).

There are always big guys who could “sling s**t” in the gym. I think of them like catapults. They can throw up a lot of weight a couple of times, but their base strength is actually pretty weak. There are “big” guys, and then there are “strong” guys. There are guys who have muscles that look nice, and there are guys who have muscles that work well.

Are you a show horse or a work horse? One is not necessarily better than the other, but my personal opinion is that I’d rather be a work horse than a show horse.

Next time your muscles start to burn, just close your eyes, wander around in your inner darkness, find that switch and flick it to “fight.” You’ll be glad you did.

Related: CT Fletcher is correct: Over-training is a myth

Watch out, fitness buffs: ‘Social Justice’ may mean you pay more for health insurance

The Affordable Care Act (aka: Obamacare) was passed in the U.S. Senate in middle of the night in just before Christmas, December, 2009. It was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. And yet, health care costs continue to rise — despite the best efforts of the masterminds in Washington, D.C.

Given the complexity of the issue, it’s no shocker that different groups are singled out as “bad” guys and “villains” who need to be brought to justice. However, I was a bit surprised when the folks at open-access medical journal PLOS opened the door for the “social justice” crowd to demonize Americans who exercise daily.

Writing for the Bioethics Forum blog, David B. Resnik lays the foundation for rewarding smokers and the obese for their unhealthy behavior with lower health insurance rates.

Charging smokers higher health insurance rates is popular and legal, but is it ethical?  A close examination of the arguments for and against this policy reveals that it is not. …

Mr. Resnike first demonstrates two reasons why one would argue in favor of charging smokers more for health insurance:

  • “According to the utilitarian argument, charging smokers more will encourage them to quit, which will improve public health and reduce society’s smoking-related costs.”
  • “It is actuarially fair [to charge smokers higher rates] because individual insurance rates should be based on expected payouts. Insurance is collective protection against risk. Charging individuals rates based on their risk helps to ensure that money paid out from the pool will not exceed money paid into the pool. Charging people rates based on their personal risks protects insurance companies against ‘moral hazard,’ people taking risks without bearing the consequences. By charging smokers higher health insurance rates, insurance companies can make people pay a price for the risks they take.”

Then, Mr. Resnik links to National Institutes of Health, which uses the PLOS study’s findings: Healthy people actually incur more health care costs because they live longer. In short, the medical needs for a person who lives into his 90’s are generally more expensive than the guy who drops dead of a heart attack at 50.

[E]ven if charging smokers higher insurance rates encourages them to stop smoking, reducing smoking may not save society any money. Van Baal and colleagues compared the lifetime health care costs of three groups: smokers, obese individuals, and healthy individuals.  Until age 56, obese people had the highest health care expenditures, but in older age groups smokers had the highest costs. However, because smokers and obese people die younger than healthy individuals, healthy individuals had the highest lifetime health care expenditures. 

The authors concluded that reducing smoking and obesity will not save society health care costs.

Makes sense, right? We can have a debate about what those findings mean for hours. We can also have a debate about whether or not we should craft public policy that punishes the individual for living a healthy responsible life. However, that task gets tricky when the phrase “social justice” enters the equation. When ‘fairness’ undefined comes into play, you almost always know you’re dealing with someone who believes his ideological allies should be able to use coercive power of government (i.e., force) to achieve their vision of “fairness.”

The arguments against charging smokers higher insurance rates appeal to considerations of social justice and fairness. This practice may lead many people to forego health insurance even though they may have to pay a fine under the ACA. Since smokers tend to have significantly lower incomes than non-smokers, they could be especially vulnerable to increased health insurance costs.

If smokers opt out of health insurance this could have a detrimental impact on their access to health care and negatively impact their health and well-being. Most insurance plans cover smoking-cessation programs. It would be ironic–and tragic–if charging smokers higher health insurance rates prevented them from accessing services that could help them stop smoking. To avoid this unfortunate outcome, rate increases should be kept low enough that they do not lead smokers to forego health insurance. However, if rates are too low they may not provide a sufficient financial incentive to stop smoking.

Cloaked within a seemingly neutral academic paper are the telltale signs of a man who sees more meddling into your life — not less — as the “answer” to any number of problems. These academics are the people our elected representatives turn to for the “solution” to any number of problems the media is demanding they solve.

Take the following passage for a better glimpse into the mind of the author:

[S]ome might argue that incentivizing smokers to quit is unjustified, paternalistic interference in personal autonomy. Smokers should be allowed to make lifestyle choices free from coercion from employers, insurers, or the government.  This objection is not very persuasive, however, because financial penalties do not significantly limit personal freedom.  Charging smokers higher health insurance premiums is no more objectionable than imposing taxes on tobacco products, alcohol, guns, or gasoline. Taxes do not prohibit people from engaging in behavior, but they can help to ensure that individuals bear the costs of their behavior.

Actually, financial penalties are one way in which statists try to attack freedom and liberty. It is objectionable for the federal government to say, “Yes, the Second Amendment exists, but we’re going to tax your right to defend your life, liberty and property into oblivion so as to render the Second Amendment moot.”

It is objectionable for the federal government to say, “You can have your car, but I’m going to tax gasoline so much that you will never think of owning an SUV, let along go on a cross-country road trip, because I find fossil fuels distasteful to my green sensibilities.”

Why is it that over and over again it is the responsible person who seems to get screwed over by those with their hands closest to the levers of power?

Did you take out a mortgage you could barely afford during strong economic times and can’t pay your bills now that things have gone sour? No problem! Did you take out $100,000 in student loans for a degree in underwater basket weaving that isn’t panning out? Let’s see what we can do about that. Do you put s**t into your mouth all day long for years on end and now wonder why you have liver disease at 30? Let’s see if we can lower your health care costs and maybe jack them up on the guy who eats sensibly and exercises.

How is the current system of governance supposed to stand when well-adjusted, law-abiding citizens keep getting the shaft? It can not.

I can run longer, harder and faster than person ‘x’ because I exercise while he stuffs his face with chips and soda in front of a video game console on a daily basis. I have a job because I work my butt off and I try to continuously improve at what I do.

When one studies a specific aspect of life and sees inequality it does not always mean that there is also an absence of “fairness.” In fact, sometimes the existence of inequalities means that equality (of opportunity) is being taken advantage of in spades. That is not a bad thing.

If you are a free-thinking and honest member of society who hasn’t been paying attention to the political landscape, I highly suggest surveying the terrain. With each passing day the dependence peddlers make it less attractive to do what is right. The behavioral dregs of society are elevated to something more, while the man who lives his life in accordance with time-tested recipes for greatness is politically thrown in the stocks and pummeled until he adopts the hunched-back and hobbled posture of his sheepish peers.

I do not smoke. I do not make a habit of decadence. I exercise my mind, body and spirit. Hopefully, that will be enough to be an advocate for freedom and individual liberty for years to come. Since I’ll need a hand, I invite you to join me.

Mike Rashid talks ‘mental jewels’ so you can turn yourself into a diamond

Mike Rashid Mental Jewels
Anyone who reads this blog knows I love motivational men and women. Mike Rashid fits the mold. (Or should I saw breaks the mold, given his physique?) I love the guy’s attitude, his approach to weightlifting and more so his approach to life. His philosophy on how to strengthen the mind, body and spirit is a sure-fire winner.

Here’s an excerpt from his latest YouTube video. The great thing about his message is that he is living proof that it works. His approach may not be for everyone, but it’s a safe bet the the vast majority of people who give it an honest shake will see results.

“You can do amazing things. … Don’t be afraid of that hard work. My workouts are tough. That’s what you want. You don’t want nothing easy. Easy ain’t going to get you nothing. You know, it may get you something. You may maintain and what not. Easy may work for some people, but I don’t want that. You know what I mean?

I feel like the harder it is, the more I’m getting out of it. If I conquer these hard tasks, you just get way more out of it. You know what I mean? If it’s just easy — if you get everything easy — when you’re faced with something difficult, you fold.

When you’re constantly taking down tough obstacle after obstacle after obstacle, nothing can bother you. Nothing can take your shine. Nothing can make you upset. You know what I mean? You will have a high standard for everything you do in life — for your friends, for your peers, for people you work with. You will have a standard of excellence, and who doesn’t want that? You know what I mean? Have high standards for yourself.

What I’m telling y’all is: strive for excellence. Don’t make excuses. When everything is stacked against you, get excited about that. Because when you bust through those obstacles, you grow. Your aptitude as a person enhances. Self esteem is your self estimation of what your are, who you are. No one can define that but you.

When you know you’re handling your business and you’re knocking down these obstacles, your self estimation grows and you carry yourself with more confidence. You’re more capable of handling things and people recognize that. We have ineffable qualities that you can’t see that just radiates from certain people. That’s what that is. You’re growing that. Keep growing that by being completely legit, completely thorough. When no one is around watching you, don’t [cut corners on] your sets. Do extra reps when no one is around. You don’t need credit for that. You’re going to get the credit for it by growing your will, growing your aptitude.”

Check out the whole video if you have a few minutes. It’s worth your time if you’re looking for a blueprint to success.

CT Fletcher is correct: Over-training is a myth

CT Fletcher Overtraining

By now most people who watch exercise videos on YouTube have seen CT Fletcher. His no nonsense, take-no-prisoners, tell-it-as-it-is approach has garnered him a large viewing audience. Now it turns out that he’s a veteran, which I should have seen before because all the signs were there… Regardless, his recent installments have created some controversy as it pertains to “over-training,” so I’d like to add my two cents.

CT Fletcher is correct: Over-training is a myth.

Okay, I’m a throwback. In my era there were gentlemen like Tom Platz — known for having the greatest legs of all time in bodybuilding. Also known for squatting for three or for hours in a session. By many standards, back in the day even, they would say that Tom Platz was over-training. But this results — friends, mother fuckers and mother fuckees — are undeniable. Greatest pair of legs in bodybuilding history doing what many of you refer to as over-training.

Over-training is individualized. What may be over-training for one man is nothing but a regular workout for another. Over-training can not be generalized. Over-training is individualized to you. What you may call over-training might be my warmup. Understand?

I’m a veteran, United States Army. Proud veteran of the United States Army. I go to veterans hospitals on a monthly basis. I talk to many veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and almost down to the last man each one will tell me that the best shape they were in for their entire life was during basic training. In basic training you are forced to push your body past previously expected limitations. What you thought you could not do your drill instructor or drill sergeant made you do. He gave you no choice, and therefore, your body adapted to the regimen — the strenuous regimen dictated to you by that drill instructor — because he gave you no fucking choice.  He dared you, he made you push, and some of you are scared to put that type of dictation upon yourself. You can’t do it. You’ll say that it’s over-training because you are afraid to push yourself that far. You will be amazed — amazed — at what the human body can do. …

I don’t advocate you do what I do. 100, 200, 300 rep sessions. … All I ask is that you give it a try before you say, “CT is full of shit and he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” All I have is six world titles. All I can tell you what I’ve done, what I’ve put into action in real-life situations. Not what I think about. Not what I theorize about. Not what I talk shit about. It’s what I have done.

What have these so-called experts in these fields done? … What have you put into application? In most case, not a God-damn thing. Flapping gums don’t mean shit. What have you done, mother fucker, besides talk shit? …

Flex your biceps. What have you done? … Over-training my ass.

What is over-training? That’s the problem. If you ask 10 different people that question you’re probably going to get ten different answers. That’s because, like Mr. Fletcher said, the vast majority of people will never reach the point where they “over-train.” There are so many different factors that determine how a person’s body will respond to an exercise program that terms like “over-training” become relative.

How much sleep do you get a night? Are you eating enough calories to feed your muscles? Are you psychologically strong or weak? There’s a reason why people turn to personal trainers: each person is unique. To prove it, I’ll use CT’s “basic training” example.

CT says almost all the veterans he spoke to mentioned that Basic Training was the physical fitness pinnacle of their lives. As someone who went through Infantryman Basic Training in Fort Benning, Georgia, I can say that I don’t know if that’s the case for me.

Going into Basic Training, I was a cross country runner. I was running over 50 miles per week before I went into the Army, so my mileage actually dropped significantly when I enlisted. I went from running roughly a 10:05 two-mile to probably a 11:30 two-mile. However, with push-ups and sit-ups and three square meals I day, I put on about 25 lbs. and my upper body strength increased dramatically. Was I in “better” shape or “worse” shape? I don’t know. I was in better “Army” shape, but I was in worse “cross country” shape.

I was 18 years old then and I’m 34 years old now. I might be able to run a 12:00 two-mile before puking all over the place, but I can dead lift much more weight than I could as a kid. My upper body strength puts my younger self to shame. Am I in good shape? Again, it all depends on my individual goals. Right now my only real goal is to be able to max the Army Physical Fitness test if someone told me I had to take it on a moment’s notice. It’s not to look like CT Fletcher. Given that, I’d say I’m where I need to be.

Here’s perhaps the most important lesson from CT’s speech:

What you thought you could not do your drill instructor or drill sergeant made you do. He gave you no choice, and therefore, your body adapted to the regimen — the strenuous regimen dictated to you by that drill instructor — because he gave you no fucking choice.

The mind plays much more of a role in achieving your physical fitness goals than, in many ways, the genetics you were born with. When you can put yourself in the psychological space where failure is not an option, you’re exactly where you need to be. When you’re honest with yourself you can then gauge whether or not the pain you feel is because you’re pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone or you’re pushing yourself in ways that will result in bodily harm. When you listen to your body you’ll know when you’re not getting enough rest and need to ease off, and when you can go full throttle. As CT says: What might be “over-training” to you might be another man’s warm-up.

Embrace pain. Make it your friend. Laugh at it more than you cry at it and it will reward you. In the mean time, take a moment to watch CT’s latest video. There are many words of wisdom in his little clips, even if they’re littered with expletives.

Related: Schwarzenegger’s ‘Six Rules for Success’: Sage advice for all Americans

Related: Flip the switch: Tap into ‘fight or flight’ for gains in the weight room

Related: At 70, bodybuilder Sam ‘Sonny’ Bryant, Jr. stays young with the right mindset

CT Fletcher inspires: Your body can never be stronger than your mind

CT Fletcher Trainer

CT Fletcher is popular on YouTube among people who lift weights, but his motivational videos are sage advice outside the realm of power lifting. He’s amazing, and if I lived in his neck of the woods I’d buy a membership to his gym immediately.

His video ‘Advice for Powerlifters and Heavy Weightlifting’ is an instant classic.

Now, when I would step into the auditorium or venue or wherever the contest would be held, this is what I would be thinking to myself: The bad man is here. The motherfuckin show-stopper is here. All you motherf***ers look like sheep to me and I’m the motherf***ing butcher. And I’m here to chop your motherf***ing ass up. I’m the man! Bow down motherf***er because the king is f***ing here. Only one can stand on the top pedestal and that’s my motherf***ing ass. The other two are available for you because this top motherf***er is mine. I own this s**t. CT is in the building! …

“I’m trying to get you guys to realize that I’m not just this guy who gets on YouTube and rants and cusses all the time (although I do a lot of cussing). I’m trying to get a point across to you. I’ve been doing this shit a long time. The last power lifting contest I went to, I noticed one thing. Guys were power lifters … in my day, the psyche up was such an integral part of the lift, but these days guys are in a power lifting contest but I didn’t know if I was at choir practice or in line at the DMV or what!  Nobody knew how to use the psyche-up. They just strolled up to the bar like they were f***ing in line Denny’s. … Your body can never be stronger — your body can never be stronger than the mind. I want you to learn how to get your mind involved in your lift.

When you saw my bicep video and you saw me telling my bicep ‘I command you to grow’ that’s what I was thinking in my mind. I just said it out loud so you could hear it. That’s my mind telling me ‘I command my biceps to do what I want them to do.’

Now, for you power lifters, every attempt is a one shot deal. There’s no tomorrow. You have to give that motherf***ker everything you got right then and there. You can not count on what’s going to happen tomorrow. The only thing you could actually know and depend on is that you can give it everything you have every time you step to the bar. 100 percent effort. I’m not going to say it’s going to work for you, motherf***ker. It’s what I did. You’re going to have to adapt it to you. So don’t say “he said do this.” I’m telling you what I did. You do you motherf***** and I’ll be me,” (CT Fletcher).

Years ago I had a friend who wanted to break 200 lbs. on his bench press. He could rep 190 lbs. at least five times. Whenever I would put 200 lbs. on the bar, he would fail. Over and over and over again he failed despite all the evidence in the world — on paper — that he should be able to break that barrier.

One day I did an experiment. I told him that I would put 195 lbs. on the bar, but I secretly put on 200 lbs. He lifted it without any problem because the real weakness was in his head.

Just as many weightlifters shackle themselves with mind-forged manacles, so does the average citizen in his everyday life.

We are more often than not the architects of the biggest obstacles in our lives. We are the engineers of our own overall success or failure. While there will always be events that are beyond our control (e.g., sudden sickness, a loss of a job) those things pale in comparison to the poison pills that we elect to take or discard on a daily basis.

When CT Fletcher talks about the psyche-up, he’s right. When there is zero — zero — expectation of failure on a lift, more often than not you will surprise yourself with just how strong your body can be. And, while I would hope most people don’t turn into a young Hulk Hogan in their workplace cubicle, ripping their shirts off with a lion-like roar, there is something to be said about getting psyched up for work, for relationships and for life in general.

Every day you have a choice whether to be pumped for what’s to come or not. Every day you have a choice to say “I’m going to give it everything I have” or not. When CT Fletcher talks about “stepping up to the bar” he is also talking about your day-to-day existence. You do not know what tomorrow will bring. You do not know what will happen on your way home from work. Life is a precious thing and every second of every day counts, so there is no excuse why you shouldn’t live accordingly.

CT Fletcher’s philosophy worked for him. A similar philosophy has worked for me. And if you give it a shot, I believe it will work for you, too. There’s a first place pedestal with your name on. Now go grab it.

Rest in peace, Joe Weider: From a kid who learned 1,000 life lessons from your work

Joe Weider

Joe Weider passed away on Saturday, March 23 at 93. For those who don’t know him, The New York Times provided a good write up:

Joe Weider, a scrawny youngster who sculptured himself with bodybuilding during the Great Depression and created an empire of muscle magazines, fitness equipment, dietary supplements and Olympic-style contests featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, died on Saturday in Los Angeles. …

Mr. Weider may not have been the 97-pound weakling of the comic books who got tired of having sand kicked in his face. But as a teenager in Montreal, he hated being roughed up by neighborhood hooligans, discovered bodybuilding in a magazine and bought into it for life. He developed a V-shaped torso with bulging biceps and abs like Michelangelo’s David, and he was still muscular and jut-jawed in his 70s and 80s.

In the intervening decades, Mr. Weider, […] who moved to the United States as a young man, founded many of the world’s most popular bodybuilding magazines, including Muscle and Fitness, Flex, Men’s Fitness and, for women, Shape. They had 25 million readers and were crammed with photos of greased bodybuilders and Hollywood stars like Sylvester Stallone […] and Mr. Schwarzenegger.

The first weights I ever used were made by Weider, on a bench with his name printed on it. The set included a booklet of exercises, each explained in great detail. My father explained to me who, exactly, Mr. Weider was and what he meant to the fitness world. And if his knowledge on physical fitness was good enough for my father (a former Army Ranger) it was good enough for me.

I first started lifting weights as a skinny high school kid in the early 90’s. I was 5’8, 110 pounds soaking wet. Regardless, looking at the pictures provided by Mr. Weider, I went downstairs into my family’s basement on a regular basis. It was cluttered with junk, and dark and damp with cobwebs in strange places like a lot of basements, but I loved it.

It was on a set of Weider weights that I began to put on muscle. I found out that strength was addictive. It changed the way I thought about myself. With strength comes confidence. Confident young men carry themselves differently, and when you walk and talk tall, those around you in turn treat you differently. There’s a domino effect that happens to the mind, body and spirit when an individual flips physical fitness routines from being a necessary arduous task into being part of who he is.

Last week I was talking with a good friend of mine after a workout, and he promised to give me one in the near future that would make me “see Jesus.” The point is, an individual who knows that hidden reserves of strength are always there, if he is willing to dig deep into the fiber of his being, behaves a lot differently than the average Joe. Such individuals apply lessons taught by the weights to other aspects of their life — and more often than not the results are positive.

My path to a thousand life lessons began with Joe Weider. For that I am forever grateful.

Today is definitely a day to mourn for anyone who loves to hit the weights.

Here an excerpt from Arnold’s Schwarzenegger’s statement on the loss of Joe Weider:

Today, I lost a dear friend and mentor, and the world lost one its strongest advocates of living a healthy lifestyle. Joe Weider was a titan in the fitness industry and one of the kindest men I have ever met.

I knew about Joe Weider long before I met him — he was the godfather of fitness who told all of us to “Be Somebody with a Body.” He taught us that through hard work and training we could all be champions. When I was a young boy in Austria, his muscle magazines provided me with the inspiration and the blueprint to push myself beyond my limits and imagine a much bigger future. I know that countless others around the world found motivation in the pages of his publications just as I did, but as I read his articles in Austria, I felt that he was speaking directly to me and I committed to move to America to make my vision of becoming the best bodybuilder, to live the American dream, and to become an actor a reality. …

Well said, Arnold.

I’ve always found it fascinating how men and women we’ve never met and may never have a chance to say “thank you” to can positively shape our lives or completely change its trajectory. I never properly showed my appreciation for how Joe Weider influenced my life (How hard would it have been to write a simple letter?), but I guess it’s never too late. Wherever you are Joe, thank you and may you rest in peace.

Related: ‘Pumping Iron’ inspires, decades after its release

Related: Schwarzenegger’s ‘Six Rules for Success’: Sage advice for all Americans

Related: Lifting Weights: The Making of a Conservative

CT Fletcher inspires — ‘Let’s get it done’

CT Fletcher

From time to time this blog veers a bit off course from its normal politics and pop culture fare to cover health and fitness. I wrote on Schwarzenegger’s “Six Rules for Success. I discussed running and the importance of being humbled. And now, I get to bring to you a short video on CT Fletcher, who in a sane universe would be approached by Marvel to play an older version of Luke Cage; the guy looks like he could walk through a brick wall. CT’s story provides a humbling tale and a message of hard work that I love. To top it off, he’s over 50 years old — and regular readers know I like writing about older guys who continue to sling the weights around despite all of society’s sick incentives to become soft and weak.

Don’t look for an easy way out. Nobody wants to work hard these days. Everybody wants the easy way — the 20 minute abs, the 10 minute this, the 10 minute that. … F**k that! Come to the gym. Work your ass off. Earn it. …

They said: “You can’t do it. You’re going to die.” I said: “Well, I’d rather die doing what I love to do than sitting at home looking at TV.”

I’m CT Fletcher: Six-time world champion, three-time world champion (drug free) bench presser, three-time world strict curl champion. …

What happened (and it took until 2005 for my attitude to change and be humbled) was the fact that I had to have emergency open-heart surgery. I was rushed to the emergency room more times than I care remember. … I was 260 before the operation, so I lost 45-50 pounds just to try and not have the operation, but it didn’t work. I came out of that surgery weighing 190 pounds,  looking like I never lifted weights in my life. I was a human skeleton. … It took me almost 2 years to recover. …

I still want to go back and defend the unbroken 225 strict curl record. I’d like to do it at the age of 54 —be able to do what I did at the age of 30. I think that would be pretty cool to come back 24 years later and do the same thing at a much lighter body weight — and 24 years older. …

20 minute abs, 20 minute calves, 20 minute butt, 20 minute any-f***ing-thing is a pile of bulls**t. If you see somebody with great abs, a great butt, a great whatever, they didn’t do the s**t in 20 minutes, and if they tell you they did, they are a f***ing liar. Trust me on that. No matter what, cause I hate complainers and I hate criers … if I could come in here with a metal valve implanted in my chest, taking 10 different medicines just to stay alive every day and do my workout, you have no excuses. So no matter what — your nose bleeds, it’s that time of the month, the kids are crying, you don’t feel like it, your back hurts, you got aches and pains — it’s still your mother-f****ng set. Let’s get it done.”

Related: CT Fletcher inspires: Your body can never be stronger than your mind

Schwarzenegger’s ‘Six Rules for Success’: Sage advice for all Americans

Schwarzenegger’s most important rule of all for attaining success: “Work your butt off.” Sage advice from the Austrian Oak.

Like all of us, Arnold Schwarzenegger has his moral failings. We know what they are since he’s a public figure, but if we’re honest with ourselves we know that we too are “warped timber.” Given that, the question becomes:  How did a scrawny kid grow up to become the Austrian Oak, and can the principles that helped bring him success be applied to the rest of us? There’s a video that’s been on YouTube for quite some time that highlights Schwarzenegger’s “Six Rules for Success.” I believe they can be inspiring to anyone, in any field.

As I’ve noted before, it’s been my experience that those who are serious about lifting weights tend to have a conservative streak in them — or at least seem to be more open to the worldview than my other friends and acquaintances. The weights are about tough love, and Arnold does a great job imparting their wisdom here:

Now of course, people ask me all the time, they say to me: “What is the secret to success?” The first rule is: Trust yourself. But what is most important is that you have to dig deep down — dig deep down — and ask yourself, “Who do you want to be?” Not what, but who? I’m talking about not what your parents and teachers want you to be, but you. I’m talking about figuring out for yourselves, what makes you happy no matter how crazy it may sound to the people.

Rule #1 is: Trust yourself, no matter what anyone else thinks.

Rule #2 is: Break the rules.

We have so many rules in life about everything. I say break the rules — not the law — but break the rules. It is impossible to be a maverick or a true original if you’re too well behaved and don’t want to break the rules. You have to think outside the box. That is what I believe. After all, what is the point of being on this earth if all you want to do is be liked by everyone and avoid trouble? The only way I ever got anyplace was by breaking some of the rules.

Which of course brings me to Rule Number 3: Don’t be afraid to fail.

Anything I’ve ever attempted, I was always willing to fail. You can’t always win, but don’t be afraid of making decisions. You can’t be paralyzed by fear of failure or you will never push yourself. You keep pushing because you believe in yourself and in your vision. And you know that it is the right thing to do and success will come. So don’t be afraid to fail, which brings me to Rule #4, which is: Don’t listen to the naysayers.

I mean, how many times have you heard that you can’t do this and you can’t do that and it has never been done before? I love it when someone says no one has ever done this before, because when I do it that means that I’m the first person who has done it! So pay no attention to the people who say it can’t be done.

I never listen to “you can’t.” I always listen to myself and say, “Yes, you can.” And that brings me to Rule #5, which is the most important rule of all: Work your butt off. Leave no stone unturned.

Mohammad Ali, one of my great heroes, had a great line in the 70’s when he was asked: “How many situps do you do?” He said, “I don’t count my situps; I only start counting when it starts hurting. When I feel pain, that’s when I start counting because that’s when it really counts. That’s what makes you a champion.” And that’s the way it is with everything: No pain, no gain.

While you’re out there partying, horsing around, someone out there at the same time is working hard. Someone is getting smarter and someone is winning. Just remember that. Now if you want to win, there is absolutely no way around hard, hard work. None of my rules for success will work unless you do. I’ve always figured that there were 24 hours in a day.  You sleep 6 hours. There are 18 hours left. Now, I know there are some of you out there now who say, “Well wait a minute. I sleep 8 hours or 9 hours.”  Well, just sleep faster, I would recommend.

That takes me to Rule #6, which is a very important rule. It’s about giving back. Whatever path that you take in your lives, you must always find time to give something back. Something back to your community. Give something back to your state or your country.

Let me tell you something: Reaching out and helping people will give you more satisfaction than anything you have ever done.

Remember these six rules:

1. Trust yourself
2. Break some rules
3. Don’t be afraid to fail
4. Ignore the naysayers
5. Work like hell
6. Give something back

Well said, Arnold. Well said, indeed.

Related: ‘Pumping Iron’ inspires, decades after its release