This can be confusing. On the one hand, if you wanna be big and strong, it only makes sense to look to big strong guys for advice. And to be sure, this can be an effective game plan in many cases. But here’s the problem: being big and strong isn’t quite as simple as learning as much as you can and then working out as hard as you can. There are at least two other confounding variables that often enter the picture: drugs and genetics.
Let’s tackle genetics first: when I was in my early 20’s, I worked for a house painter by the name of Bob. Bob had a very interesting physique in one specific regard: although Bob was about 6 foot tall and only weighed about 170 pounds, he had a pair of calves that were just shockingly impressive. In all seriousness, any pro bodybuilder would be thrilled to have Bob’s calves. One day I asked Bob about it…
…and he quickly replied “It’s from climbing up and down ladders all day!” “Wow” I thought, “this will be awesome, not only will I get paid, my calves will get bigger too!” Well as you may have already guessed, after 2 years of climbing ladders, my calves hadn’t grown a speck. So the lesson is, while we can all improve, the rate and specific nature of that progress is highly variable.
Which leads us to the second confounding variable: performance enhancing drugs. You know: steroids, growth hormone, and God knows what else is coming around the corner. Now I’m going to sidestep the health and ethical issues and just stick to the practical point I’m looking to make, which is that for many people, drug use can lead to impressive levels of progress despite poor genetics and despite low levels of knowledge and despite a poor work ethic in the gym (that’s why it’s called “cheating” by the way.)
Just remember, when you’re looking at guys in your gym, you’ll see huge guys who have great genetics and who use drugs, huge guys who have great genetics but who don’t use drugs, scrawny guys who have decent genetics but don’t know how to train, moderately impressive guys who used to be scrawny but then figured out how to train and eat- you get my drift.
In bodybuilding and strength-training, you can’t always judge a book by it’s cover. If you’re seeking a coach of trainer, look at the success of his clients first and foremost. If you’re looking for a training partner or just someone for occasional training advice, look for someone who’s made significant progress, even though he might not be the biggest guy in the gym.
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  1. Lailia 15 years ago

    This is very true Charles. In realty this is why so many supplements are sold to newbies.
    I recently watched the Bigger Stronger Faster movie where Christian Boeving basically called all these newbies stupid for believing he ended up that way from taking Muscletech products.
    Bottom line is newbies are easily fooled by a 19″ arm into thinking the guy must have a clue.
    The reality is the guy with the 16″ arm could well be vastly more clued up on real world training.

  2. Will Brink 15 years ago

    One statement I often make at seminars which sums up the above is “the worst person to ask advice from is usually the biggest guy in your gym.”

  3. TC 15 years ago

    I agreed with you Charles. Most people are biased and tend to believe that the biggest guy are the ones they should seek for advice. And I seen that a lot in the gym I used to work in. People actually believe the person full of steriods know how to train naturally.

  4. Dan 15 years ago

    The gym i go does not have any really huge guys there, so i do not follow anyone i train with a friend and we train hard.We push each other to the limit and i am very happy with my gains over a six month period i have put on 15 pounds of muscle. I am training well without a mentor.Though i must say i have set a goal to work to.

  5. Robyn Booth 15 years ago

    Great read, Charles. When I first got into strength training, I picked someone to emulate. I was pretty naive about steroids, growth hormone etc (and still am), so it definitely took the gloss off when I discovered that this person’s physique was enhanced by a bit of chemical help. So I am definitely wiser about my ‘mentor’ these days.

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