About Me

Hello Friends,

Welcome to my website...a website that I built...with my bare hands.

When I was a kid, I have always admired those who looked strong, and were strong.

The were the dominant ones, the "Alphas", the ones people would look up to and fear/respect, just by looking at them. I wanted to be like this.

I was the type of kid who preferred the Hulk over Spiderman.

I recall when Street Fighter II came out to the arcades, I knew right away that I wanted to play as Zangeif, the muscle-bound Soviet wrestler, simply because he was the most jacked, and appeared to be the strongest character out of all the World Heroes in my eyes. (Note: I didn't spend too many quarters to find out a big and jacked video game character equates to the best person to use in the game).

Zangief

Bruce Lee was always a hero of mine, but I've always wanted the physique of Bolo Yeung instead. Just look at him...he's a monster!

Forever Bulk

This appeal of becoming a strong, muscle bound, villainous type of person led me to the world of weight training. Which really all started with getting my parents to buy an issue of Muscle & Fitness.

York Concrete PlatesI had no idea what the hell I was reading (I was around 11 or 12 at the time), but I knew I wanted to be big and strong like the guys in the magazines. I got a set of dumbbells and concrete-filled York plates, and probably attempted to follow a professional bodybuilder's routine (only the dumbbell part) straight out of the magazines in a futile attempted to get huge.

Eventually I entered high school which had a gym filled with rusty dumbbells and a muti-station Universal machine. I did the typical bodybuilding workout (which, again was pulled out from a magazine), and have taken more bodybuilding supplements than I'd like to admit. This was before the Internet became popular, so a lot of the so-called education I got came from the articles and advertisements in my growing collection of bodybuilding magazines. Also being young, gullible to clever marketing and a general lack of critical thinking skills didn't help at the time.

I never kept a training log, so I don't remember exactly what I did. I do recall it was relatively aimless (compared with what I'm doing now), and the exercises were focused around dumbbell bench press, standing dumbbell overhead press, some form of rowing on the machine, and "Yates" barbell rows. I probably did leg presses for my legs, but I don't think I did them often, because my legs were "big enough" in my mind from jumping around every now and then. University was more of the same, however weight training become inconsistent.

Despite all this, I was usually one of the stronger guys in whatever gym I was at. At least I thought so in my mind.

Falling Out Period

It got to the point where I stopped "working out" with weights because whatever it was I was doing at the time wasn't working. In other words, I wasn't making any progress. My poorly structured, undocumented workouts left me on a plateau, and any efforts to “shock my muscles” (something I learned from FLEX magazines that seemed to be a common topic at the time) made me feel burnt out.

Over the course of the next 10 years or so, I dabbled in Muay Thai kickboxing, calisthenics, random circuit training, Wii Fit training and even running. Basically anything to stay in shape. But in the end, all I was doing was exercising, and not training towards a certain goal.

Although I loved training in Muay Thai kickboxing (I even went to Thailand to train for a short time), I knew that my weight relative my height wasn't ideal for this sport. My chances of becoming world class was slim to none.

The random exercises I was doing was keeping me in shape, but there was a lack of satisfaction from these workouts. There's no glory to be had for breaking a sweat and staying in shape. There wasn't any long term goal or direction, other than to stay healthy and not be at risk for any complications from being inactive. And being able to eat whatever I wanted.

I had turned 30 at the time and was having a semi-mid life crisis: I had not become the Chong Li/Bolo Yeung that I wanted to be earlier in life.

Return To The Weight Room

I was getting older and finding it a lot easier to put on weight, and I had a feeling of malaise with what I was doing physically. I grew tired of direction-less, unfocused, groundhog-day workouts.

This lead me to consider lifting weights again. After all, I had some relative "success" (if you count being one of the most jacked, strongest guys in a small high school gym populated with mostly pencil necks who had no idea what they were doing a success) with it in the past despite my haphazard efforts, so why not stick to what works.

But this time, I decided that if I'm going to do this, I might was well do it right.

I've always read that the squat was one of the most import lifts in the gym, but have never bothered to do them consistently. So the first thing I searched for on Google was, "how to squat". Somehow, this led me to the book "Starting Strength".

Now, I know there are people out there who do not agree with Rip, but I think the quality of his content outweighs the negatives.

Bruce Lee once said, “Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own,” and Rippetoe's book was pretty useful.

Bruce-Lee-absorb-what-is-useful

Everything in the book made sense to me at the time. It was like a revelation. Whatever knowledge I had accumulated in the past about strength training started to come together in a logical and rational sense. Not only that, the program was simple, applicable and tied in with the theory.

I ran a modified version of the program (YNDTP, I know), and this was the result:

Initial workouts were (November 29, 2010):

  • Body weight: ~83 kg (182.6 lb)
  • Deadlift: 142.5 kg (313.5 lb) (1 set x 5 reps)
  • Squat: 102.5 kg (225.5 lb) (3 sets x 5 reps)
  • Bench: 97.5 kg (214.5 lb) (3 sets x 5 reps)
  • Press: 55 kg (121 lb) (3 sets x 5 reps)

Here's where I ended up on March 4, 2011:

  • Body weight: ~87 kg (191.4 lb)
  • Deadlift: 185 kg (407 lb) (1 set x 5 reps)
  • Squat: 152.5 kg (335.5 lb) (3 sets x 5 reps)
  • Bench: 117.5 kg (258.5 lb) (3 sets x 5 reps)
  • Press: 75 kg (165 lb) (3 sets x 5 reps)

Somewhere during this time period I started doing power cleans, and got it up to a measly 72.5 kg (~160 lb) for 5 sets of 3 reps.

So in 3 months (95 days):

  • I put on 4 kg (8.8 lb) in body weight
  • Increased Deadlift by 40 kg (93.5 lb)
  • Increased Squat by 50 kg (110 lb)
  • Increased Bench 20 kg (44 lb)
  • Increased Press 20 kg (44 lb)

Not too shabby for a novice strength training program on a guy who has spent a few years in the weight room already.

Hitting PR's

Eventually I graduated from the novice stages of training into the intermediate and moved onto the Texas Method (which, in a nutshell, is an intermediate strength training program that goes through a high volume day, recovery day, and intensity day through the week) and started to hit weekly prescribed personal records (or PR's) every Friday. Initially, this was a 5 rep max.

I soon realized that breaking PR's was addictive.

I started aiming for not only 5 rep maxes, but also 3RM, 2RM and 1RM. There would be times where I would fall short of a 5RM by 1 rep, so instead of chalking that up as a failure, it would be a 4RM.

I started posting videos on Youtube and my training log on my website.

Here's a link to my Youtube playlists, organized by different lifts. It'll show various repetition maxes for each individual lift:

Over time, I've digitally met others who were on the same mission as I was: to become stronger.

Competitions/Powerlifting

I really wish I had paid more attention to the powerlifting section in those bodybuilding magazines all those years ago. That may have influenced my thinking and I would probably be a real life monster today.

To make these PR lifts officially offical, I decided it was time to compete.

To date, I have competed in a couple of competitions which I write about here (100% RAW) and here (CPF).

Today

My current training has morphed from the standard Texas Method template into my own program. And even after all this time, I'm still hitting PR's on a regular basis.

Today I have managed to:

  • Squat 585 lb
  • Bench Press 405 lb
  • Deadlift 585 lb, and
  • Overhead Press 275 lb

I've also put on roughly 30 lb of muscle since I first started. Despite the gains, I'm still not satisfied. My quest to become stronger continues.

Additionally, I've written articles for T-Nation, Fitocracy, and AllThingsGym.com, and I've done some personal training on the side. And it's satisfying to see others get stronger from my efforts.

I've also obtained some certifications to expand my knowledge (NSCA-CPT, FMS, and working on Precision Nutrition) and have trained others to become stronger versions of themselves.

Hitting PR's, posting an accompanying video online as proof, getting feedback and inspiring others to get stronger, interacting with others and giving them advice to hit their own PR's and become better versions of themselves lead me to realize that this is what I want to do: get people stronger.

After all,

"A weak man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were strong". - Mark Rippetoe

Anyway, if you want to connect with me, you can do so via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, or just contact me on the contact page!

John Phung

  • Dave

    Great read John…always look forward to receiving your training updates

  • glow

    wow, great read! this is soo me!