The past 3 years have been a trip.
A ridiculously long, and concurrently too short, incomprehensibly amazing trip.
While I’ve worked tirelessly to provide the best service for my clients – and am honored to display their extraordinary results for the world to see – I’ve also spent a staggering amount of time and effort developing myself as an athlete, coach, and business owner.
In that light, I’m excited to share with you my personal transformation story which displays the culmination of my efforts over the past 3 years.
I hope you enjoy the article and, as always, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, leave them in the comments section below.
Never Minimal. Never Maximal. Always Optimal.
Before: 19 years old
Raw Squat: 245lbs
Raw Bench Press: 155lbs
Raw Deadlift: 345lbs
Now: 22 years old
Weight: 140lbs (+21lbs)
Raw Squat: 377.5lbs (+132.5lbs)
Raw Bench Press: 240lbs (+85lbs)
Raw Deadlift: 485lbs (+140lbs)
Total: 1,102.5lbs (+357.5lbs)
My Transformation Story
Phase 1: Get Lean
My story begins as teenager, 19 years old, in my Freshman year of college at The University of Delaware.
Coming off a year spent travelling and volunteering in Israel, I wasn’t happy to be back in the U.S. and was pissed to be stuck in a college dorm.
I hated school. I hated my teachers. And I hated everything around me.
I was an angry, angsty, teenage boy.
Fortunately, prior to moving into school I made one of the best decisions of my life in hiring Martin Berkhan as my strength training and nutritional consultant.
I wanted to get shredded and I knew Martin could help me do it.
Martin’s program arrived in my inbox on the 3rd day of school and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Through hyper-focusing on my training and nutrition I was able to center my attention on something enjoyable rather than my ever-growing disdain for everything Delaware had to offer.
Within mere weeks I saw drastic results.
I was losing a minimum of 1lb per week – sometimes 2lbs – and my body was rapidly transforming in front of my eyes.
For the first time in my life I actually had a 6-pack and, I’ll be honest, it felt pretty damn good.
It felt great to have finally achieved my lifelong goal of getting shredded…but being that lean was fucking awful.
And I mean terrible.
I’m smiling in the picture but trust me when I tell you it was forced. I wasn’t happy or energetic. On the contrary, I was tired, upset, and a truly miserable human being.
It’s important to understand that how I felt had nothing to do with Martin or his program. Martin provided me with an extraordinary plan which produced astounding results.
I felt miserable for two major reasons, both of which were out of Martin’s control:
1) I was depressed and I hated school and everything around me. I would have been miserable no matter what.
2) Being extremely lean doesn’t suit me. Anything below ~9% BF causes my energy to plummet and me to transform into a miserable dick. I’m much happier and more pleasant to be around while maintaining between 10-15% BF.
After Martin’s program I realized focusing on body composition wasn’t for me.
I wanted to get strong.
Phase 2: Get Strong
We were the gooniest of goons but we trained hard, had a ton of fun, and got pretty damn strong.
It was a huge relief, both mentally and emotionally, not to worry about my physique and instead focus on performance.
Oddly enough, once my focus shifted from improving body composition to improving strength I began to love my body – a completely foreign concept to me up until that point in time.
In addition to improving my physical health, training for performance improved my mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
For the first time at University, I was truly happy.
Fast-forward to a cold day in mid-November, several friends and I were exiting the dining hall after a particularly satisfying rotisserie chicken dinner.
Noticing a missed call and new voicemail from an unrecognizable number, I entered my 4-digit pin, listened to the prompt, then stopped dead in my tracks as the voice of Louie Simmons rang through my ears.
Louie, owner of the world famous Westside Barbell, was inviting me to Ohio as his newest intern.
I was in shock.
Prior to starting Louie instructed me to visit Westside to see if I’d be a good fit. Shaking with excitement, I booked my plane ticket, hotel room, and counted down the days until my first training session.
Months later, after countless sleepless nights defined by anxious anticipation, I finally opened the glass-paneled door leading into the strongest gym in the world.
Heart beating so fast I could barely see straight, Louie flashed an unexpectedly warm grin, unnecessarily introduced himself, and told me to get ready.
“Today’s Max Effort Squat day,” he said.
After working up to a new Squat 1RM Louie told me to do heavy rack pulls.
5 sets of 5 reps.
As heavy as possible.
I’d barely taken two steps towards the power rack when he added, “Don’t forget to chalk up.”
Following 5 excruciating sets Louie introduced me to the Reverse Hyper. I asked how much weight to use and how many sets & reps to perform.
“As heavy as possible…and go until it hurts too much,” he said.
Beaten and exhausted, Louie progressed me to Weighted Glute-Ham Raises. Again, I asked how much weight to use and how many sets & reps to perform.
“As heavy as possible…and go until it hurts too much,” he repeated.
Just when I thought I would pass out, Louie informed me it was time for Belt Squats. Barely able to stand, I asked how much weight and how many sets & reps to perform.
“As heavy as possible…and go until it hurts too much.”
I knew Louie didn’t actually train like this…he just wanted to see what I was made of. In order to get the internship I told him I would train harder than every lifter in his gym – he was testing me.
For 2 days Louie put me through hell. Never in my life had I trained with such volume and intensity, but I didn’t let up.
I’d made my point.
Drenched in sweat and barely able to stand, I shook Louie’s hand as he said, “Finish the school year strong. I’ll see you in the summer.”
With the same warm grin I’ll never forget, he bid me farewell and made his way back inside the gym.
I was Westside Barbell’s newest intern.
Phase 3: Get Smart
Training a minimum of 8 times per week for 3 months straight, I added roughly 150lbs to my Squat, Bench, and Deadlift total.
More importantly, I began to learn the real science of strength training and how to replicate my results with others.
Unlike most internship’s which largely consist of grunt work and cleaning, Louie took it upon himself to teach me as much as humanly possible.
He answered my endless onslaught of questions, gave me unlimited access to his extensive library, and presented me with the extraordinary opportunity to sit for his Westside Barbell Certification exam.
I learned more in those 12 weeks than I did in 4 years of University.
Best of all, I left that summer with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. From then on I spent every waking moment studying every reputable article, book, DVD, and resource pertaining to strength and conditioning.
I was obsessed.
Lo’ and behold, several months later I found myself shaking hands with none other than Eric Cressey. It was the first day of my internship at Cressey Performance and, once again, I was about to undergo a drastic transformation.
The previous 8 months of my life had been dedicated to learning the science of strength training. At Cressey Performance my focus would switch to learning the science of the human body.
One day near the beginning of the internship Eric approached me and handed over a dry erase marker.
“Write down all the muscles that attach to the scapula,” he said. “There are 17.”
My stomach dropped.
After a 10-minute struggle at the whiteboard I had named just 9 of the 17 muscles. I was not only embarrassed but completely ashamed. It was at that point in time Eric gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received.
“How can you know what the body does if you don’t know what the body is?”
From that point on I dedicated my life to learning human anatomy and physiology. I went out of my way to take extra gross anatomy courses in school (per Eric’s recommendation) and spent endless days and nights studying how the body functioned.
My knowledge, expertise, and coaching abilities improved rapidly.
With a more complete understanding of how the body functioned I was not only able to recognize patterns affecting my clients’ performance, but I also came to understand (and often predict) when and why certain things would happen.
My clients were getting better results, experiencing fewer injuries, and performing at extraordinarily high levels.
It was like magic.
Phase 4: Get Smarter, Stronger, and Work Like a Dog
More motivated than ever before I was waking up at 5:30am every morning and working until 11:00pm every night.
Unfortunately, my friends, roommates, and even family members began to guilt me into feeling badly about my “workaholic personality.”
“You need to go out more and do stupid things” they’d say. “These are the best years of your life!”
It bugged me, at first, but I eventually realized it had nothing do with me and everything to do with them. As strange as it sounds, my work ethic made them feel insecure. They saw my level of productivity and, in turn, examined their own.
They weren’t satisfied with what they saw.
Rather than support me or simply work harder, it was easier for them to put me down in an attempt to feel better about themselves.
The same thing happens to the person who tries to maintain a healthy diet around others who don’t. Have you ever ordered a salad and the people you’re with try to guilt you?
“A salad!? Come on, live a little!”
“You can have a treat just this once!”
“Quit being such a killjoy.”
The same thing was happening to me but in the realm of work.
Fortunately, I didn’t care. I was on a mission and nothing was going to stop me.
My website was rapidly growing in popularity, my work had been featured in several high-end publications, and I was finally becoming a respected authority within the industry.
Several months following my return to school I passed my Precision Nutrition Certification exam and, for the first time in my life, Deadlifted triple bodyweight.
Best of all, my clients and athletes were getting better results than I ever could have hoped for. Increasing their strength by literally hundreds of pounds every few months, I was in the midst of developing my own training systems and even I was shocked by how effective they were.
Syatt Fitness was on the rise.
Phase 5: Build a Business
Pertinent to my goals, that was my first real test-run working from my computer while travelling abroad.
See, when I first started Syatt Fitness I knew I wanted the freedom to travel the world while working solely from my laptop. That summer was all the proof I needed; one day [soon] I was going to make that dream a reality.
In order to make it happen, though, I needed to do some work.
A lot of work.
By this point I had the fitness part down to a science (see what I did there?). I knew how to get results and I knew how to get them consistently. Fat loss, mass gain, athletic performance…it didn’t matter. My clients were getting leaner, stronger, and faster at an astonishing rate.
It was honestly ridiculous.
What I didn’t know how to do was build a business. Sure, I was making decent money for a college kid (a hell of a lot more than my buddies slaving over double-shifts as waiters) but not enough to live the life I’d imagined.
I tried to improvise for a bit but soon realized I needed help so I hired an expert business consultant.
In 6 months my income more than doubled.
I added a variety of components to my business repertoire but new e-books, an organized mailing list, and systemized coaching services drastically increased my reach, effectiveness, and productivity.
Most importantly, I never sacrificed the quality of my work.
Hell, my e-book The College Students Guide to Grocery Shopping: Healthy Eating Made Easy was ranked #1 in Amazon’s nutrition and cooking sections and has been downloaded nearly 10,000 times.
While many in the fitness industry view marketing and growth as “selling out,” through building my business I’ve been able to help thousands of people world-wide.
In other words, building my business actually allowed me to help more people than I could have otherwise.
It’s a win-win.
Phase 6: I’ll Keep You Posted
Two and half years after starting my business and a recent college graduate, I’m currently (literally, at this very moment) on a cross country trip across America.
Fortunately, my dream of travelling while maintaining and building a successful business has become a reality. I’ve been able to work with my clients, write, and support myself while travelling for the past 3 weeks.
As I begin the final leg of this trip, though, I can’t help but get excited for the future.
First and foremost, starting January 15th I’ll be coaching full time at an incredible facility called Total Performance Sports in Boston, Massachusetts. They have an extraordinary community and fantastic coaches so I have no doubt I’ll learn a lot and have entirely too much fun in the process.
Second, I plan on continuing my Powerlifting career for at least another year. Coming off my recent performance at the IPA Powerlifting National Championships (setting 3 junior world records and totaling my first Elite) I’m excited to progress in the sport and see how far I can go.
Third, Syatt Fitness is going to take the fitness industry by storm. While I’ve been productive these past few years, I plan on releasing more articles, products, and information than ever before. From speaking engagements to e-books, DVD’s, and more, I couldn’t be more excited to share everything I’ve learned with you.
Finally, I’m looking forward to living the life I want to live while helping as many people as possible achieve their ultimate goals.
Other than that…I’ll just have to keep you posted 😉
Thank you for encouraging and inspiring me each and every day. Your continued support means more to me than I could ever express in words.
To a life filled with success, happiness, and love,