Stuff I Learned From 2 Years Of Strength Training

November 29, 2012 — 5 Comments

Believe it or not, but it’s been exactly 2 years since I first started taking strength training seriously.

That is, setting goals, having a plan, working that plan and keeping a record of my training.

I was about 183lbs at the time, and this is where I began:

Old_Training_Log (1)

Check out the training logs I kept in my Moleskine notebook while I was training and living in Bangkok, Thailand 2 years ago. Man, I can barely read my own handwriting!

Fast forward 2 years and ~20lbs later, here are my current personal bests:

Here are some random thoughts, opinions, lessons learned, and observations I have accumulated over the past 2 years:


  • I should have started earlier.
  • The best time to train is after you take a crap.
  • 2 exercises per day can get great results.
  • Having a plan is key. I never have to go to the gym and not know what to do. You know what they say, failing to plan is planning to fail.
  • 5 sets of 5 reps for squats is a great stamina builder.
  • You don't need bumper plates to do power cleans.
  • You can deadlift more by making yourself shorter (ie. by taking off your shoes).
  • Injuries are educational. If it hurts, don’t do it. Figure out a way to train around injuries.

Big Box Gym Observations

  • “What supplements do you take?” seems to be a common question.
  • The overhead press is the manliest looking lift that rarely anybody does in the gym (that I’ve been in).
  • In my experience, it seems as though men & women stare at those moving big weights more than the guy with big muscles.
  • Guys pay more attention than girls to other men with jacked, muscular defined bodies.
  • Naked dudes walking around in the change room seem to be a North American phenomenon. I did not see this while I was living in Thailand…except for one guy. I think he was new to the gym and did not know that female and transgendered janitors regularly go in and out of the men’s change room.


  • You don’t need supplements to get results. I didn’t start taking any whey protein, creatine or other bodybuilding supplements until well after I squatted over 400lbs, benched over 300lbs, deadlifted 500lbs, and put on >10lbs in bodyweight.
  • Eating a light breakfast before lifting feels a lot better than eating a heavy breakfast.
  • I wouldn’t be where I am today without a rice cooker or slow cooker. Next upgrade: pressure cooker!

Success & Motivation

  • Discipline is required for the first few weeks. After that, it becomes a habit. In other words, it becomes "normal"...and it would be abnormal not to do it.
  • Success comes from focused, sustained effort to a measurable goal.
  • Continued progress and always trying to break my personal records is motivational.
  • Motivational pictures aren’t that motivating to me. Seeing videos of other people lift insane amounts of weights, or simply beating their own personal bests are more motivational than words on photos.

Random Stuff

  • Don't reinvent the wheel. By following a program, at least in the beginning, can probably get you better results than trying to do something on your own. Modifications can be done down the road.
  • Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Especially from anonymous keyboard warriors on forums and Reddit.
  • Test things out for yourself.
  • There’s more than 1 way to skin a cat.

John Phung

Posts Twitter Facebook Google+

Ever since I started taking strength training seriously, I was bitten by the Iron Bug. Then it burrowed under my skin and laid eggs in my heart. Now those eggs are hatching and I... the feeling is indescribable.

Quick Stats
Height: 5'4" on non-squat days
Weight: 200 lb 210 lb ~220 lb (FOREVER BULK BRAH)


  • Texas Method: March 4, 2011 - April 28, 2013
  • Smolov Jr for Bench Press: June 4 - 22, 2012
  • Starting Strength: Nov 29, 2010 - March 4, 2011