Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now

Written by

Don’t we all wish that we could go back in time and do some things differently? Take note of these lessons in training, business and life that Team Juggernaut members wish they could teach to a 5 year younger version of themselves…


Chad Wesley Smith, Read His Training Log Here

I have gained such a new perspective on how I should have trained for the shot put. The 21 year old version of myself was so caught up in chasing weightroom numbers and didn’t put nearly the emphasis on the event that I actually competed in. I remember always thinking about ways that I could change my squat to bring up my clean or other accessory movements to do that would bring up a particular lift. I squatted 595 when I was 18 (in just a belt) and at that point I thought I needed to squat 700 to throw the distances I wanted in college, but realize now after learning more about Dr. Bondarchuk and just gaining my own perspective on what I personally needed to succeed, I was strong enough (in the squat at least) as a college freshman to throw distances that would be highly competitive in the Olympic final. My time and energy as an athlete would have been so much better spent throwing more and doing other exercises with higher degrees of transfer than just chasing weightroom numbers. While I can’t go back and change things for my own track career now, I hope that I can help others not make the mistakes that I did through articles like Thoughts on BondarchukJuggernaut founder, Chad Smith, was a national champion shot putter before becoming a record holding powerlifter.

Five years ago, Juggernaut Training Systems, wasn’t even a glimmer in my eye. I was coaching football and track for the high school I graduated from and was going to school to become a teacher, so I could make coaching high school my career. There are so many things that I would have done differently from a business perspective I don’t even know where to begin. The two main points though that I would have wanted to tell myself back then, would have been to take some business classes and to start small and grow from there. My degree is in History and because of that I have really flown by the seat of my pants on a lot of business decisions. I have been lucky enough to guess right more often than not, but some basic business and marketing classes could have really helped me out I’m sure. Juggernaut started off in 6,000 square feet, with literally no clients the day it opened. I am very happy to say that it didn’t stay that way too long and that I now have a reputation as a coach/trainer that I’m very proud of, but there were plenty of sleepless nights worrying about paying bills, that could have been avoided had we started off in 2,000 or so square feet and let things grow as the demand dictated.


Courtney Gould, Read Her Training Log Here

Don’t try and fit the standards of those women you see on Oxygen or M&F hers, if you lift hard and eat right, the results you want to see will come naturally.  Stay consistent, don’t switch up your training every 2 months because you get bored, if you want to see results, you should stick with a program for a minimum of a year, this will give you enough time to find what works for you. Learn proper technique of lifts first! This will save you a lot of time of having to rebuild your lifts from the ground up and break bad habits. This especially comes into play with olympic lifting, trying to get a max lift up with improper technique will only hinder long term goals.  Put your ego aside and learn first.  This also means that this is a lifestyle change, you need to understand that you’re allowed to go out and have fun, but the college binge drinking (and crap food) is detrimental to your long term goals. Have an overall lifetime view of your training as well as short term goals.

Team Juggernaut's Courtney Gould is a fast rising star in women's olympic lifting. JTSstrength.comFind reputable and knowledgeable sources for your training.  Anyone with access to the internet can claim themselves as a fitness/strength guru when they don’t know jacksh*t.  Understand and research the sources you are getting your information from.  Along with that, don’t spend a stupid amount of money on every ridiculous supplement you see on the shelf at GNC.  Find one source that sells quality product protein, and spend the rest of your money on food that are the building blocks.  This will get you further in the long run rather than a four month supply of pre-workout energy bs and protein with a bunch of garbage fillers.

Last, but not least: Embrace your legs!!! Not everyone has the genetics to grow big ol’ thunder thighs, love them as they are the corner stone of your strength.



Nate Winkler

I would of course do everything differently, but not like you would think. I would change very little about my diet other than trying to cook my own meals more often. My training volume, intensity, and programming left me little chance of success. This is no shot at my coaches, they had the best of intentions and I appreciate them greatly.

The late great Charlie Francis popularized the illustration of comparing our bodies to a class of water. Our ‘glasses’ have finite resources and when the water is removed only time/recovery means can replenish those resources-not more work. Athletes must understand that preparation off the field/court, attention to improving technical skills, and commitment will make them better than high intensity EVERY day. Many times, I would lose Saturday’s race on Thursday doing maximal effort /speed work in practice.  I remember being on the team with Chad Smith, his training plan and volume were all so structured, and most importantly his best performances always came during competition.

In your training, emphasize recovery, preparation, and strategy as much as anything. Making sure that your ‘glass’ is full when you need it to be will make all the difference on game day and ultimately in everything you do.


Brandon Lilly, Read His Training Log Here

If I had the chance to rewind time five years this is the advice I’d give myself.

•Follow your gut. Literally, quit the imagination that you can be a pro bodybuilder and eat like a power athlete. Eat better quality foods, and commit to a solid diet and supplementation.

•Believe in yourself, and what you know. Five years ago I was a very strong lifter. I was doing powerlifting, strongman, and bodybuilding all wrapped into one. As I got stronger I felt I had to choose a method and stand behind it 100% even though some of the principles went against what I believed.

•Compete. Compete often. Learn. I was so sure that I had to put up a huge total early on that I actually stayed out of competitions for years. This allowed me to get bored, and my training to stall at times. Pro powerlifter and Team Juggernaut's Brandon Lilly is one of the World's best raw and geared lifters.

•Respect lifters with bigger totals, but never assume they are better than you. I believe I was born a leader and I like being in control, not saying I can’t step aside, but many times I did things just because someone stronger than me did it. I didn’t look at all the reasons they may find success in their advice. For years I was told to squat super wide. Guess what my five biggest squats came narrow. Never be afraid to believe in yourself over someone else.

Lastly, keep perspective. Powerlifting can be a wonderful addition to your life, but it can also consume it. And for what? Spend more time with your friends and family, go out and have a beer with your high school buddies. Remember you can always hit the gym hard, but you can’t get time back. I’ve only gotten better the further lifting has gotten from #1 on my list. 4th or 5th seems to be a better fit in my life.


Kalle Beck, Read His Training Log Here

I decided to dip my feet in the water in strongman 5 years ago. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had only been lifting weights for about 6 months with no real athletic background. I did know I had to try. I would tell myself to be patient, you will eventually get there. Don’t try to rush things! Many times I would think I needed to hit a certain number, misses don’t help anybody and just lead to over training and injures.  Be happy with a 5lb PR! I also got caught up in the eat big to get big and be strong. Again you can’t force things. Getting fat doesn’t help anything getting to some magical number of body weight isn’t going to instantly increase your strength plus in strongman you still need good speed and conditioning, maximal strength is nice but you need to be well rounded. Train what you are weak at twice as much as your strengths again, be well rounded!  Get your core strong! This held me back for a long time and I should have really hammered it a lot sooner. Don’t buy into the benching/strict press is unnecessary for strongman! Having a good jerk is great but what happens when you get tired or your legs from a truck pull? Live by the jerk die by the jerk, strong is strong and in the end you can always count on strength. EVERYTHING should be strong.

Team Juggernaut's Kalle Beck is an accomplished Strongman Fitness competitor.

A big transition I made was learning the difference between training and competing. I was good at training but would come up short in competition. It should be treated as a sport. When training for a competition your whole focus should be on improving those events and what aspects you need to address to be good at them. if your log press for reps is going up but your max bench seems to be taking it hit? It doesn’t matter! Trust me once you are done with the comp you will probably hit a new PR on bench. Another aspect of learning to compete is having the confidence, never doubt yourself! Once you believe you can do something you will be amazed at what you have actually accomplished


Ryan Brown, Read His Training Log Here

Five years ago was pretty the birth of my training career. I had been in the Marines for a couple of years and had just started being introduced to CrossFit. Before that the extent of my workouts consisted of running for about an hour, and then doing a bunch of pullups, possibly a couple crunches. When I was first introduced to CrossFit I took the whole “constantly varied, routine is the enemy” stuff really seriously. I randomly made up workouts, but, even though they were random, the goal was always the same. Come up with the hardest thing we could think of, do it until people are crying and/or puking. Most of the time I would say it was more “hazing” than training. Once, I actually had other Marines hold a kid down and waterboard him while we were out in the field. It’s really not allowed, but that was a long time ago, so I am sure that it is fine.

The first time that I ever deadlifted over #300 I did #315 in a CrossFit workout like 50 times or something. They were terrible, and the worst part is that I was having other people do it to. Worst hazing than the waterboarding. I never did strength work. I lived by the formerly popular motto in CrossFit that I didn’t need to be able to deadlift 500#, I needed to be able to do #300 a million times, because I needed endurance. I thought that the more and more that I could do the better I would get and took no time to learn to do things correctly. Then I was convinced that CrossFit was the best thing ever and that everyone should be doing it. 5 years represents most of what I would consider my “training” career and at this point, I would say that I am almost 180 degrees from where I was then. Every thing I did was just about doing as much as I could as fast and crazy as possible all the time. I regret all of the time I wasted trying to do things that I had no business doing, and not really seeking out the knowledge I needed to get better. I think that it is a big reason that I have been able to make people improve so much faster than what I did.

Team Juggernaut's Ryan Brown is an accomplished Crossfit competitor and coach. I have learned to focus on preparing the body not just   testing it everyday. I have also learned that their is a real advantage to routine. The funny thing about doing something over and over is that you get much better at it. Odd. The other most massive change in approach to my training is focusing on my & my athletes/clients mobility. I look back and see some pictures that I had on facebook from when I first started to get into training and almost vomit when I see what I was doing. I saw Jim Laird use a car analogy the other day. If your car is broken you don’t fix it by stepping on the gas. Of course, there is a time to step on the gas, but it is only one factor in how long it takes you to get down the track. I guess my advice would be to take your time and learn to do things correctly. Seek out the best coaches and learn all that you can about everything and most of all make sure that you get all your bits moving the way that they should. I would say for any sport, especially in CrossFit, that it is a huge advantage to have great stability throughout all ranges of motion. Becoming efficient will support any goal.


Jen Comas Keck, Read Her Training Log Here

Find What is Right for My Body

I remember religiously reading all of the muscle mags when I was younger. I’d write down the training programs, absolutely certain that they would make me a lean, mean badass machine, just like in the pictures. (My first Team Juggernaut and Girls Gone Strong's Jen Comas Keck is a role model to strong, fit, and sexy women. JTSstrength.comprotein powder was – what else? – Nitrotech. Those flashy Muscletech ads suckered me everytime!)

However, as I’ve grown and evolved in this overwhelming arena that we call “fitness”, I’ve learned that our bodies are so individual and unique, there is absolutely no one-size-fits-all program, no matter what the mags or overaggressive internet gurus tell us. If I could give my younger self advice, the first part of it would be to do my research, become really in tune with my body, monitor my results, and tweak things that are relevant to me and my individual needs – it doesn’t matter what your friends are doing.

Consistency plus hard work, topped off with a hefty dose of time. 

 Patience is not my strong suit, and it never has been. This is particularly true when it comes to making changes to my physique or performance improvements. I used to think that if I wasn’t noticing significant changes on a weekly basis, something was wrong. Of course, now that I am wiser, I know that building a strong and/or beautiful physique is not something that can be accomplished in a few weeks, or even a few months of adhering to my plans. In order to get to our goals, we must be in it for the long haul. That means working hard and being consistent 95% of the time, for a very long time. Compliance to a specific program for a few months doesn’t mean shit in the big picture; sure, it’ll get you progressing, but you need to be consistent and work hard for years. For the most part, the people that are insanely strong or have a bangin’ bod didn’t get it overnight. They have been working at it for a very long time. I wish my younger self would have realized that we must view our diet and training as a long term commitment.

Brad Little, Read His Training Log Here

If I could sit down with myself 5 years ago, I would be talking to a small 16 year old kid who is about to turn 17. I would tell myself to enjoy my youth as much as possible before life started getting more serious. I would encourage myself try harder in my classes and develop a strong work ethic for all the things I would be encountering in the very near future. I was always a good kid but never took things very serious at all.
From a training point of view I would tell myself to actually start eating. At this age I was less than 120lbs and didn’t take very good care of myself at all. It wasn’t uncommon for me to only eat one small meal a day. Despite being small I was a mediocre pitcher, I would encourage myself to begin lifting more seriously and strive to be better at all things I did, including baseball.


Matt Vincent, Read His Training Log Here

So what was happening in 2007?  First of all I was broke and busy trying to keep it together at the bicycle shop I opened in summer of 2005.  This was eventually an exercise in futility and eventually closed down.  I had not really started traveling and training hard again yet.  My training at that time consisted of cycling a couple times a week either road or trails and my diet was almost 70% taco bell.  However life was soon to change. 

The next 5 years of my life are what have shaped everything I believe in the gym.  I have had to sort out tons of info to get where I am now.  All of the info I got came from reputable lifters, the trick is sorting through it.

  1.          You are going to get excited about everything you do and dive in head first at 100mph.  This is how you have approached everything in your life.  Not always the best plan.  You will learn and an ounce of planning can prevent plateaus in your training.  Think about what are the biggest goals that you want to accomplish and stay focused on the course.  You think this is simple however it gets tricky.  You would think that since you want to compete in strongman that your goal should be getting as strong as possible.  This is only part of it.  You have to train to become a good strongman.  Approach it with some thought about how to get where you want to go the most efficiently.  Use your barbell lifts to build your max strength and all accessories are done specific to Strongman.  This will hold true and you will not start to really progress in your chosen sport till you really focus and get your training together.
  2.         Get used to air travel.  You are going to be doing a lot of it.  I know this is not one of your favorite things but you will learn some key tricks to making it not suck as bad.  Travel comfortable and get a drink or two in you.  It doesn’t matter what time it is flying is always better on a Bloody Mary or two.  Get noise canceling headphones, yes they are expensive but worth every penny.  When picking seats (I fly Southwest) choose one with another big guy and spread out.  Chances are if there is an open seat left available no one wants to cram into that one.  This goes double if you can sit next to a black guy.  (I’m not racists but most travelers are.  I take advantage of this and gain more legroom and space.)  Take both arm rest, this is a war of attrition and any little battles with help the time pass.  You will be flying about 25-30 weeks a year so get comfy.
  3.       People think too much and want to be someone that invented the best new thing.  You have a tendency to be a gear whore as it is.  There are plenty of neat toys out there.  Some of them are actually useful and can assist you.  But remember they are assisting you and not as important as the basics.  So, when in doubt keep it simple.  Squat, press, bench, Pull, Clean, and snatch every week straight bars and straight weight and you will be fine.
  4.       Realize how much more to it there is than lifting.  Get your head around recovery and pre-hab work.  Rolling and stretching and consistent cardio paired with contrast showers and ice baths will keep you pushing for a long time.  You see tons of old dudes who can’t move, and by old dudes I mean 40.  Remember half of being a strength athlete is being an athlete.  Athletes can run, jump, and move.  Being big and strong is no good if you can’t use it.   
  5.                Squat a ton.  Your body loves to squat.  You respond well to it volume or strength building low reps it doesn’t matter.  Also get rid of any ideas of boxes and bars with bands.  They are good on occasion or rehabbing injuries.  Squat to the bottom, do it often, and move the bar fast.
  6.                REST!  You are getting older and the sooner you learn that less is more the better.  Some days you just need to do the RX’d and get out.
  7.       Conditioning 3 days a week no matter what and no excuses.  When you do this consistently everything is better.  You feel better, throw farther, recover faster during workouts and after, and are more of a man.
  8.        Sort through the bullshit.  No matter what program you follow consistency is the most important thing.  Do it and figure out what works for you best and do it.  Find your own path and stick to it. I am sure there are more life lessons I could have shared but these regard to training and competing.  Hope some of these will help you.  Steady as she goes!

You may also like

Opening Your Own Gym: The Juggernaut Training Systems Story

Opening Your Own Gym: The Juggernaut Training Systems Story

Ever since September 2009, when I opened Juggernaut Training Systems, I’ve been asked the same question about 200 times – in person, through e-mail, on …

What Are You Training For?

What Are You Training For?

By Brandon Lilly Do you know? Do you set out a plan or do you just go with the flow of what your training partners are …

Ease Off the Throttle: Lessons from Pushing Too Hard

Ease Off the Throttle: Lessons from Pushing Too Hard

What you’re about to read comes from some hard lessons I’ve had to (re)learn this year.  It’s not always easy or fun to write about …

Wisdom For the Young Gorilla – The Squat

Wisdom For the Young Gorilla – The Squat

3 Things I Would Have Told my Young Gorilla Self About the Squat In part 1 of this 3 part series I will be discussing what …

Patience and Belief

Patience and Belief

“The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with …

5 Things to Know About Your First Weightlifting Competition

5 Things to Know About Your First Weightlifting Competition

1. Know When To Compete Trying to figure out when to sign up for your first weightlifting competition can be a confusing thing. Many are faced with …

Periodization for Powerlifting – The Definitive Guide

Periodization for Powerlifting – The Definitive Guide

WE HAVE A PROBLEM WHEN WE TALK ABOUT PROGRAMMING AND PERIODIZATION. We talk about periodization, and various aspects of periodization, as if they’re mutually exclusive. Most …

The Greatest Squat Article Ever!

The Greatest Squat Article Ever!

The squat is the king of lifts and Team Juggernaut is home to the kings of squatting. The authors of this article have raw squatted …