Jordan Syatt: World Record Deadlifts and the Great Calorie Debate

Jordan Syatt is a record-setting powerlifter and content producer who’s best known to many as Gary Vaynerchuk’s personal trainer. We sit down to talk about sacrificing everything to reach lifting goals, the psychological components of fitness, and the number one thing everyone in fitness can do to improve their communication skills. Jordan also shares a personal story of how Westside Barbell kept him from dropping out of college. 

In this episode of The BarBend Podcast, guest Jordan Syatt and host David Thomas Tao discuss:

  • Jordan’s background in powerlifting (3:15)
  • Conventional vs. Sumo deadlifting (and the “cheating” haters) (5:50)
  • Failing biology and how Westside Barbell saved Jordan’s academic career (9:30)
  • Working to the 4x bodyweight deadlift (13:00)
  • Sacrificing everything to reach lifting goals, and why it’s just not sustainable (15:30)
  • Achieving balance after a decade of specialization (19:40)
  • Becoming Gary Vaynerchuk’s personal trainer (22:00)
  • The great calorie debate — and how to make messaging stick for everyone (27:09)
  • Why the ideas of “good” and “bad” foods are disingenuous (29:00)
  • When adherence is more important than optimization (34:54)
  • “Motivation is fleeting” (37:50)

Relevant links and further reading:

Transcription

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

You can tell people, “Cigarettes are going kill you,” all day long. They know it, there’s a skull and crossbones on the box, but there are still new people buying cigarettes every day. It’s not stopping them.

You show them what a lung looks like when it’s all tarred and black, you show them a video of someone who went through emphysema, and all of a sudden, they stop, because you appeal to their emotion.

It’s one thing that as a content creator and as a coach, it’s really important to learn how to do is you can have all the facts and logic that you want, but if you don’t know how to speak with someone and get them to feel it and the emotion that you want them to derive from it, you’re never going to get them to change in the way that you want them to.

David TaoDavid Tao

Welcome to the “BarBend Podcast,” where we talk to the smartest athletes, coaches and minds from around the world of strength. I’m your host, David Thomas Tao, and this podcast is presented by barbend.com. Today, I’m talking to Jordan Syatt, a world-record-setting power lifter and noted coach. I first met Jordan when he was still a college student, dedicating most of his time toward breaking a deadlift world record.

He’s the rare lifter to accomplish the four times body weight deadlift, giving him real strength sports cred. But Jordan isn’t just an accomplished lifter.

Some might know him as the personal trainer of entrepreneur and media personality Gary Vaynerchuk. Jordan has built an impressive online presence in his own right.

In the eight years since I first met him, Jordan has gone from a promising college power lifter to experienced coach and Internet fitness star, taking his own and his clients’ experience and translating it into real world takeaways for folks looking to live healthier and happier lives.

Jordan’s journey is incredible, and his brand of real talk is unlike anything the fitness world has ever seen. So getting him on the mic was a real treat. Also, I just wanted to say, we’re incredibly thankful that you listen to this podcast.

So if you haven’t already, be sure to leave a rating and review of the BarBend podcast in your app of choice. Every month, we give away a box full of BarBend swag to one of our listeners who leaves a rating and review.

Jordan Syatt, I know you’re no stranger to our Brooklyn office, but thanks again for coming in on a cold winter day.

Last time you were here, I think it was the hottest day of the year during the CrossFit Games.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

Wow, I forgot, it was super hot that day.

David TaoDavid Tao

It was super hot and sometimes when we record, we actually have to turn off the HVAC…

…and so it will warm up in here over the course of the next half hour or so. If we’re talking faster and hyperventilating by the end, it’s just because it’s so hot near…

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

You can hear the sweat coming off our lips going right in the microphone. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

Drip, drip. The conversation, it’s just too hot to handle. Jordan, you’re one of the busiest guys I know in the fitness industry, but when I first met you were still a college student.

I was going to a say a snot­nosed college student, but you were very polite and awesome. At the time, you were on your way to becoming a record-holding power lifter. Now you’re known for a lot of other different things in the fitness industry.

For those who don’t know tell us a little bit about how you got involved in the sport of powerlifting and maybe how that’s influenced where your fitness career has come to today.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

I guess you could start with wrestling. I started wrestling at eight years old. I made varsity as a freshman. I started wrestling at eight years old. I started wrestling because my mom suggested it. Mainly, because my older brother, and I didn’t this it at the time, my older brother was getting picked on a lot. She was like, “All right. I want you guys to wrestle.”

I didn’t know what wrestling was. I only knew WWE. Literally, I remember I was in the living room coach and she was like, “Hey, so you guys are going to go to a youth wrestling camp.” I was like, “You want me to hit someone with a chair?”

David TaoDavid Tao

You’re like, “Awesome.” Yes.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

 [laughs] I was like, “This is very different than what I’m used to. She’s like, “No you idiot.” She’s like, “Olympic-style wrestling.” It’s just one of those vivid memories. I don’t remember what happened next. I remembered being like no, you idiot, Olympic-style wrestling. My memory next just goes to being in the old high school in my town and just learning wrestling.

I was obsessed with it. I was absolutely obsessed with wrestling. It became my life. It’s all I thought about. I did other sports, too. I did soccer and baseball, but wrestling was really…I was made for it. I’m a short, stocky guy. Good balance and fortunately, gifted in it. I made varsity as a freshman and I had to cut a lot of weight.

That’s how I got involved in strength training because I was good technically. I was a good technical wrestler. I was good endurance wise, but strength-wise, 13, 14 years old, going against 16, 17, 18 year olds, I didn’t have it. I applied to a gym in Newton, Massachusetts, and I was like, “Let me just intern here. Let me take the trash out, clean the floors, and just learn from you.”

Fortunately, they took me under their wing, and they were very science-based. They were actually big fans of Eric Kresse, Dan John, Mike Robertson, a lot of those people.

David TaoDavid Tao

The old school failings of early Internet sports performance guys.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

Exactly. Pavel Tsatsouline, and they got me involved in science-based strength and conditioning. The coach there, Kevin, I remember, he had me do my first ever deadlifts. I’ll never forget this because it was actually a kettlebell deadlift, the first one I ever did.

The next day, he took me out to lunch. I remember, my butt was so sore. I’d never felt a soreness like that before. I’ve never felt my ass sore. Standing up from the chair after a lunch was terrible. It was excruciating.

I remember, Kevin looking across the table and being like, “Your ass is sore?” I was like, “Dude, what happened?” He was like, “Get used to it.” I was hooked. I was hooked, and then obviously it progressed from kettlebell deadlifts to barbell deadlifts.

I started with conventional, but I kept finding that conventional deadlifts really bothered my back, no matter what I did. When I got to more maximal effort weight, it didn’t feel good. I eventually switched to sumo.

 

David TaoDavid Tao

Which is cheating…

..of course, as everyone listening to this podcast knows sumo is cheating.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

You know what? This is a good discussion to have. I know you’re joking.

David TaoDavid Tao

I’m completely joking. [laughs]

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

This is important, because I got a DM about this maybe once a month or so. I don’t have a powerlifting following anymore. It’s not like people follow me for power things. I don’t post about that very much.

Every once in a while, once a month, I’ll get someone being like, “Sumo deadlifting, it’s cheating.” I would be like, “Why?” “It’s a shorter range of motion.” I’m like, “Is that the reason? I want to clarify before we go into the logic behind this.”

They’re like, “Yes, it’s a shorter range of motion.” I was like, “OK. Do you do wide-grip bench press?” They’re like, “Yeah.” “OK, so you’re cheating. Go close-grip bench press.”

David TaoDavid Tao

The only legitimate squat is with your heels together, by the way.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

It’s exactly that. It’s like, “This is ridiculous.” Yeah, so I went sumo. Then, basically, right around the time I met you, I was in college. I was obsessed with powerlifting now. I’m in college and I hated it. I hated school with a passion.

David TaoDavid Tao

Oh, you hated college? I think you liked powerlifting at this time.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

Powerlifting saved my life, as cliché as it was. Powerlifting was the reason I actually stayed in school. What happened was, around that time, Westside was everything. Westside was like, everyone wants to know about Westside barbell.

What was Louie doing there? He seemed psychotic, but he was putting out these videos on YouTube.

David TaoDavid Tao

[laughs] It was this thing around that time. This was like 2010, ’11, ’12?

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

Yes, exactly.

David TaoDavid Tao

In powerlifting, Westside was the thing. In weightlifting, which is a community I was involved in at the time, the equivalent of Westside was the Bulgarian system. It was this mysterious thing…

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

…that no one else had. Like, “Oh, we have to learn the Bulgarian system. That’s the secret to ultimate performance.”

 

David TaoDavid Tao

When I hear Westside, I think of the weightlifting equivalent as being the Bulgarian system, because in 2010, ’11, ’12, there are a lot of young American strength athletes who were just preaching these as Gospel.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

It’s funny, because Louie would actually talk about the Bulgarians a lot. He would talk about the things that they did well, and the things they didn’t do well. But this is like in the age of Internet forums, when everyone was talking in forums and… [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

Goheavy.com. Remember the old GoHeavy?

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

h, my God. Man, the T Nation forums, GoHeavy forums. There were some really good ones. I remember sitting in college. I failed Biology. It wasn’t an exam, it was a project. Literally, a project that was worth 50 percent of our grade, I didn’t do.

I didn’t realize we had a project, because it was all online. It was on this…it was called [indecipherable 08:46] it was like an online board in which they would post all of our assignments.

I literally never went on it. One morning, our biology teacher was like, “All right, take out your projects.” I was sitting next to my buddy, Kyle. I was like, “What project?” He laughed. I was like, “No, no. Seriously.” He’s like, “Shut up. Are you kidding me?”

I was like, “Dude, I didn’t know we had a project.” He was like, “Dude, it’s been on [indecipherable 09:07] literally since day one of school.” I was like, “I’ve never logged in.”

David TaoDavid Tao

Never logged in to [indecipherable 09:13] , but never missed a set of deadlifts. You know what I mean?

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

I didn’t miss one workout.

I didn’t miss one workout. That’s a fact. For five years, I didn’t miss a workout. I went to the teacher. I was like, “Can you please give me an extra week and I’ll get this to you?” She was like, “No, you fail.” I went and I was like, “All right, I’m dropping out.”

What had happened is, about a week before I had written Louie Simmons an email. I wrote Louie Simmons an email and I was, “Hey, let me come and intern. Let me take the trash out, clean the floors.” I know he had dogs. I was like, “I’ll walk your dogs. Let me just come and train.”

I don’t remember doing this. But I must have put my phone number in the email, because the day after I failed biology, I had actually booked a one way ticket to Israel. I was like, “Screw it, I’m leaving. I’m not going to do this.”

I get a phone call when I’m in the dining hall, Pencader dining hall and it’s an unknown number from Ohio. I was like, “I don’t think about it.” I let it go to voicemail.

As I’m walking out of the dining hall, I listened to this voicemail and was like, “Jordan, this is Louie Simmons from Westside Barbell. I got your email. I think, we should talk about seeing if you can come out here and train.”

I still have that voicemail on my phone. I said it’s crazy. That’s the reason why I stayed in college because then I went to Westside. I trained there for the better part of three and a half months my total increased by 300 pounds that summer. My squat bench press deadlift went up by 300 pounds.

David TaoDavid Tao

Did you add another lift?

Did you add like the clean and jerk to that?

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

It’s crazy. It was unbelievable. I trained 2 times a day, so it was about 11 times a week that I trained. Louie was the most generous guy in the world. He took me out to eat every single day breakfast, lunch, dinner. He literally spent several hours a week just sitting down with me answering all my questions.

I remember, at Westside, that’s when I really started to practice Sumo a lot. Louie was like, “Not you’re going to do Sumo.” Basically I learned the Sumo at Westside.

David TaoDavid Tao

Because you’re a dirty rotten cheater is what you are.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

[laughs] I remember at a certain point, at the end of the summer, I hit four or five for the first time.

David TaoDavid Tao

 This was at a just for context for people who don’t know, bodyweight at the time.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

I was 127 pounds.

 

David TaoDavid Tao

OK

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

I remember Brandon Lilly was at Westside at that time, and he told me, “I’m going to be honest. When you walked in, I thought you were a cross country runner.”

David TaoDavid Tao

There’s almost no recovering from that.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

It was nothing. I didn’t know what to say. He was like, “I thought you were a cross country runner, and then he tried to give me a meal plan. He was like, “I’m going to tell what you got to eat.” He gave me the most obscene meal plan. This is the most outrageous amount of food I’ve ever seen in my life.

I was like, “Brendan, you’re like 330 pounds.” I’m 127 fucking pounds and the only person at Westside who didn’t want me to gain weight was Louie. He was like, “No, no,”

David TaoDavid Tao

He saw the potential to do really cool things in that body weight category.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

Exactly. Everyone else was, “get huge, get huge, get huge.” It was the age of get fucking huge in powerlifting.

David TaoDavid Tao

Gallon of milk a day, go man.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

[laughs] Exactly. Louie was like, “No.” and Louie’s even like, “I think I might want you to go 123 and I was like, “Absolutely not.” I was about by 127-128. This was like right around the time I had just gotten over a lot of binge eating and emotional eating issue that I had from wrestling. I was like, “No, I’m not going to cut weight.”

I just competed at 132 pulled 405 for the first time, and when I pulled 405 for the first time at the competition, actually I missed it on my first attempt. I came back and I pulled it. I remember being like, “I’m going to do the four times body weight.” Then about three, four years later I did.

David TaoDavid Tao

This was at a time in powerlifting, we hear 4.5 times bodyweight deadlift is the new 4 times body weight.

Someone told me that recently and I was like…

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

What?

David TaoDavid Tao

…”Powerlifting has come a long way.” But this is at a time when there weren’t that many active powerlifters in the world.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

Correct.

David TaoDavid Tao

Deadlifting four times body weight. We hear about it now and it’s like everyone has been training for two years and they post it on Instagram.

In 2010, 2011, it wasn’t a common thing. You could count on one hand maybe. The number of athletes in the United States who were active, who were doing that at the time.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

[laughs] Yes, three times body weight is seen as advanced. Relatively few people are doing it. Of the top of my head right now, I couldn’t name more than four people I know who’ve ever done it. I don’t

It’s a very high level of strength. I remember at my competition when I did it, once I put the bar down I was like, “I’m done.” My body was wrecked. It was just brutal. Your body isn’t made to do that.

David TaoDavid Tao

Was that a federation record at the time?

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

Yes, that was…What was that? The RPS Meet. I competed in a bunch. Made an RPS, AAU, IPF, IPA. I competed in USA PL. I competed in all of them. Not all of them, but a bunch of them. [laughs] I competed in the SPF with Louie, which there was a funny… [laughs] .

David TaoDavid Tao

I never went to an SPF Meet, but I heard that was where you go to see some freakish things.

 

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

Yeah, I remember. That’s where I saw Donnie Thompson at 3,000. That was crazy. He’s such a nice guy. I loved Donnie Thompson. Powerlifting was my life for the better part of from…We’ll call it 18 to 25, and I didn’t miss a workout. Literally, didn’t miss one workout from that entire time.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s interesting because I know. We’ll get to this in a second. Your career right now is, you’re still a trainer. You’re still working hands on with clients and you’re creating a ton of content online. You’re probably best known for people listening to this podcast.

They might follow you on Instagram. They might follow you on YouTube. They might have been exposed to the content you’ve done. Not just in strength-training, but in general wellness, nutrition, etc.

There is something to be said about being a world record-holding, or world record-setting power lifter if they want to dig one level deeper into your credentials, like, “Oh, this guy, yeah, what he’s saying makes sense, but what does he really know? What does he really know about performance?”

You always have that in your back pocket, like, “I know what it takes to get to this maybe ridiculous, maybe unhealthy level and very much unsustainable level of performance.”

Which gives you such interesting perspective and perspective beyond what I definitely have when it comes to, “OK, what is normal, what is sustainable, and what can the average person do?” because you’ve been so far in the other side of the bell curve.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

It’s so interesting. I see this play out in a lot of aspects of my life, but in other people’s life. For example, I say I never missed a workout proudly, but what does that look like in terms of a balanced life? It wasn’t balanced.

I was saying, no, to going out with friends. I was very much only focused on what I wanted. Anything in anyone that got in the way of me getting my workout in, it was unacceptable because that’s what I had.

That’s not a healthy lifestyle if you want to look at it like that. It’s not healthy, but when you’re doing something, when you’re chasing a goal that’s such an elite level, then you’re going to be doing things that are not necessarily balanced or healthy.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s this champion’s mindset we hear about and BarBend is proof positive of this. While I’m so thankful that social media and the Internet has helped popularize strength sports, at the same time, I find myself, and I think a lot of people, so I’m guilty as guilty of this as anyone, we look up to the most elite level athletes for advice, how to live their life.

We see them posting online about mentality and the champion’s mentality, and I’m like, “Yeah, I want to emulate that, but they’re sacrificing so much. It’s not normal. It’s not healthy. It’s not sustainable in many ways and by many different measures.

It’s weird we have this false idolization of these people who are chasing these records and breaking these records, “Oh, I want to be just like them,” but what you give up, is such a huge sacrifice relative to the richness of a life you could be leading if that wasn’t your only singular focus.

 

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

It’s an interesting discussion because what happens is, when you see someone on social media doing something that you deeply admire, you tend to want other people to deeply admire you for that same thing.

You’re like, “I want to be admired as well. And I want to inspire other people in the same way that that person has done it for me.” I see a lot of people doing this in the online-fitness world, where they see people posting fitness information.

They may be hired an online coach. They got great results. They improve their life and like, “I want to be an online coach now too. I want to be a fitness professional too.” They look at these “influencers” with a lot of followers and they’re like, “I want to do that,” because of how it impacted them in that one isolated way.

They don’t realize what it takes to be an elite level lifter, what the sacrifices actually are involved, which is why I think a lot of people, they get very down on themselves when they hit that first roadblock, or that second roadblock, or that third, that’s really hard.

They’re like, “What I do because my family is not supporting me? What I do because my partner isn’t supporting me? What I do because I got an injury, what I do here?” whatever it is.

The main difference between someone who’s elite champion — and that could be in business, it could be in fitness, it could be in weightlifting, it could be in whatever — someone who’s an elite champion or whatever it is, is willing to endure an excruciating amount of pain and an outrageously unbalanced lifestyle in order to achieve a single goal.

And it’s not common, and it’s not healthy. It doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be done, but it does mean that if you’re thinking about doing that, you have to be aware of it.

David TaoDavid Tao

A big part of the content you push out right now is about balance.

It’s about finding sustainability whether you’re trying to lose weight, whether you’re trying to build muscle, whether you’re trying to just improve how you feel through fitness and wellness practice.

You talked about deadlifting four times body weight, putting down the bar and being like, “I’m done. I don’t want to do what needs to be done to maintain this level of strength so far beyond the norm.”

Where was the turning point where you said, “OK, I’m going to take my involvement in the wellness industry and I’m going to focus it on helping people achieve balance or pushing out content that helps people achieve something a little more sustainable”?

Because I remember shortly after your powerlifting career was over, I remember talking to you and you were at an interesting crossroads. You weren’t sure if you were going to stay in the United States, you’re going to move to New York, you’re thinking about moving to Israel. I remember we had like a goodbye catch up.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

Yeah.

David TaoDavid Tao

Because I was like, “Up, Jordan’s moving to the Middle East and I might have to go out there to visit him. That’ll be a good excuse.”

And then suddenly you’re in New York training clients, working with clients, working with Gary Vaynerchuk, and pushing out this content about balance and about finding that for people individually.

Was there a turning point when you were like, “Oh, I’m going to stay in the wellness industry, but this is the approach I’m going to take,” or was it more gradual?

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

It was a way more gradual. There was a lot of trial and error. There’s a lot of failure and there’s a lot of cognitive dissonance and a lot of internal almost turmoil in a way. Starting off with when I put that bar down. I hit my goal for the better part of a decade what my goal was, I felt very lost.

Like what now, every training session for that entire time frame was geared towards four times better a deadlift, everything. Going to Westside, going to train at Cressey Performance. Every training program I did, every workout, everything was geared towards that. Every set every rep is what I was thinking about constantly. It’s all I wanted.

So I put the bar down. I’m like, “I’m done.” Then I’ll never forget when I was ready to go to my next workout, that next week, I was like, “What the fuck do I do?” “What do I do?” Like, I don’t have a powerlifting thing program. But I had been, I’d just spent the better part of three, four years writing about powerlifting and studying powerlifting for the better part of a decade.

Like, “Am I doing something wrong by not powerlifting?” “Is it OK not to powerlift?” “What do I do if I’m not powerlifting?” So that was a huge shock and then not to mention, a major portion of my clients were powerlifters. So does that mean that they shouldn’t be powerful anymore like and that was a big learning lesson as a coach is understanding that your goals are not your clients goals.

Eventually what happened was I started to understand that powerlifting isn’t the only way to train and that it’s OK not to be trying to lift as heavy as you possibly can all the time. I ended up didn’t. I moved to Israel for a little bit, and I was there and then I got the job coaching Gary Vaynerchuk.

They reached out and they’re like, we’d love for you to coach Gary. So I moved to New York. That is when my fitness for the first time since I was 13 years old, when I went to shit, [laughs] it was awful because I basically more or less stopped training. Not completely but not like a powerlifter not like an elite lifter I was traveling with Gary.

He was in Hong Kong, I was in Hong Kong. If he was in London, I was in London, he was in LA I was in LA, seven days a week for three years straight. So basically what happened is, I went from a very unbalanced lifestyle, focusing on my own lifting to a very unbalanced lifestyle, focusing on my business and Gary Vaynerchuk.

In that time, in which I was very unbalanced in my own fitness and my own health, I was able to then come up with strategies to help other people live a more balanced life with their own fitness, going through the most extremes of it.

It’s like when you learn to deadlift, four times your body weight, you don’t have to help other people do the four times their body weight but you learn how to help other people deadlift maybe more than they could have or wouldn’t have otherwise.

You learn the mental side of it. You learn the emotional side of lifting. You learn the recovery side of it. You learn things that you can’t learn in a textbook. It’s the same thing. I have clients who travel a lot. When I have clients who are super unbelievably busy, when they don’t want to or don’t have the desire to count calories.

I learned how to do all of these things on myself so I could help them with it. Really, I think the major thing that I try and teach people and say a lot is in order to live a “balanced life” in whatever it is, you are going to through periods of unbalance, in which in order to know where your limit is, you have to toe the line. You have to go too far the other way.

I think that’s really one of the things I’ve done for better or for worse is I toe the line so other people don’t have to.

David TaoDavid Tao

When it comes to toeing the line or maybe exploring those extremes of imbalance, whether it’s working towards the four times bodyweight dead lift or traveling internationally seven days a week and not necessarily having that home base, which is something you just described and you very much went through.

What do you have to keep in mind when it comes to taking lessons from living at those extremes and applying them in a broader sense to a truly a very broad audience that’s going to be meeting you at different levels along the way?

 

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

Clarify the question for me just so I…

David TaoDavid Tao

You’ve experienced imbalance in these several different ways. You went from one lifestyle of imbalance to another in many ways. You just mentioned how you learned lessons through that imbalance. Those lessons, you have them in your mind. How do you distill those lessons down in a way that’s going to applicable to a broad swath of people?

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

Yeah. That’s a great question. I think I’ve failed more times with that than I’ve succeeded. That’s what I think has allowed me to succeed.

David TaoDavid Tao

When you say you’ve failed does that mean you’ve pushed out content videos things like that?

 

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

Yes. Exactly.

David TaoDavid Tao

 You look back at it and you’re like that’s not right. That’s not exactly the way I would present that.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

Yes. Not because what I said was necessarily what I said is wrong or inaccurate, but more because the way I presented it wasn’t as clear and vivid enough as practically applicable enough and it didn’t it home enough. Especially right now we have big focus just in society and culture just on logic versus emotion. That it’s only logic or only emotion. That’s not true.

They’re both important. I think that on one hand you have to be able to present logical facts and help people understand them. I think one of the best people to get people to apply logical facts is to appeal to their emotion. That’s one things that I think I’ve gotten very good at in understanding is you can tell people, “Cigarettes are going to kill you,” all day long. They know it.

There’s a skull and crossbones on the box. There’s still new people buying cigarettes every day. It’s not stopping them. You show them what a lung looks like when it’s all tarred and black and you show them a video of someone who went through emphysema and all of a sudden, oh. They stop. Because you appealed to their emotion.

I think that one thing as a content creator, and as a coach, it’s really important to learn how to do is you can have all the facts and logic that you want, but if you don’t know how to speak with someone and get them to feel it and the emotion that you want them to derive from it, you’re never going to get them to change in the way that you want them to.

David TaoDavid Tao

 Is there a specific example of something, could be a piece of content, it could be a lesson learned? It could be a wellness principle that you’re trying to get out there and spread to your audience. Can you think of an example of where your messaging say four or five years ago on that principle is much different and maybe less effective than your messaging would be with that today?

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

Absolutely. Yeah. You can look at this from the perspective of…I’ve said for years a calorie’s a calorie.

Only in the last year, year and a half have I figured how to make that message so obscenely clear and vivid to people that even some of the highest, the largest proponents going against that, opponents of that view have now turned sides because they can see it from a much more clear basic practical sense. Basically when people would…They would say like, “Oh, a calorie is a calorie.”

People would say, “Well, no, all calories are not created equal.” I would just combat. It’s just like head-butting. Saying the same thing over and over again, not accomplishing anything. The way that I’ve framed that more recently that’s worked very well for people has been basically understanding number one what is a calorie? It’s unit of measurement. That’s all it is. Just measures how much energy is in a food.

The way from them like, “OK, so cool.” A mile is also a unit of measurement and measures how long something is, it doesn’t matter if the mile is in the forest, or on pavement, or uphill or downhill or in sand or in the water, a mile is always a mile. The composition of that mile is what changes. It will take you longer to run a mile in the sand than it will on a pavement.

It doesn’t change the fact that you’re still running a mile. Same thing with the calorie doesn’t matter if it’s calorie in pizza, calorie in a donut, calorie in an apple or avocado. It’s all delicious.

David TaoDavid Tao

Those are all delicious calories.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

 All delicious calories.

David TaoDavid Tao

I have yet to come across anything I don’t like in that statement.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

The nutrient composition of those foods changes obviously, and they affect your hormonal profile, they affect how likely you are to stay full, they affect your ability to build muscle mass. It does not change the fact that the calories in each of them are all equal simply because they are a measurement of how much energy is in each food.

When I framed it like that, for the first time, there was a massive switch that went off and a lot of people and I’ve continually reframed that with a Big Mac challenge, and with a lot of stuff in my content where people are completely blown away and it’s the best part for me is it’s improved literally hundreds of thousands if not millions of relationship with food.

People have stopped binge eating, people have stop having food anxiety, because they can finally understand that this idea of good and bad food is massively over simplified and disingenuous.

David TaoDavid Tao

Alright, so the next phase for you is changing. You will go from changing perspectives on a calorie is a calorie and changing relationships with nutrition and food to convincing people that Sumo isn’t cheating.

That’s the ultimate. That’s the ultimate goal and the combination of your fitness career. I’m convinced.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

It’s so funny like, just observing my own emotional response. When I knew you were joking about Sumo being a cheap stance I felt myself get triggered by that.

[laughs]

I felt myself be like, “Oh hold on oh I mean they make sure everybody knows it’s not cheating.”

David TaoDavid Tao

Well just so everyone knows David is an idiot.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

I like so rarely deadlift anymore. Anyway, it’s so funny how, just like those emotional responses, it’s using emotion in order to put logic into practice.

David TaoDavid Tao

The thing that we joke about at the BarBend office is no matter what it is, it could be a man, it could be a woman, it could be set PR rep PR could be a world record every time we post a Sumo deadlift. It could be Cailer Woolam, deadlifting 900 some pounds at 205 pounds body weight, just like this amazing thing doing it hook grip by the way.

Someone will always post, “Sumo’s cheap.”

But then when we post, because of that, when we post a conventional deadlift, we tend to get people who comment, “Oh, thank you for conventional, thank you for doing this lift the right way.”

That’s what really gets to me is people think the lift is the right way, not because they’re taking a biomechanical stance or not, because they, in their minds think that from a force production perspective, there’s only one way to deadlift, but because that’s how they learned yet to deadlift them, because that’s what they learned a deadlift was when they first went into a gym.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

That’s right.

David TaoDavid Tao

There’s an emotional connection there. It’s not a logical loop they’re doing in their brain. They’re not basing that opinion on logic. They’re basing and I think, on an emotional connection, because iron sport and lifting means something to these people. That was what they learned a deadlift was.

For them, a sumo deadlift creates this like emotional dissonance. It separates them from that emotional connection they have with the lift.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

 I agree. I also think that just in terms of like gym culture, especially in powerlifting culture, there’s always big dudes in the gym who are like, “Oh, yeah. Sumo’s cheating. Sumo’s for wusses. Dah, dah, dah, dah.”

 

David TaoDavid Tao

Great powerlifter voice, by the way.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

[laughs] Of course, if you grew up in a gym in which the people that taught you and you admired always said that, then no matter what happens as you grow and get older, you’re always going to repeat that. It’s like the people who believe what their parents believe in terms of politics solely because that’s what they were brought up with, not because they actually believe it.

David TaoDavid Tao

This is what a deadlift is, and anything that isn’t this, isn’t a deadlift. Ergo, anyone who deadlifts differently is wrong.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

That’s exactly right. Chuck, when I was 14, the guy who taught me how to deadlift, Chuck always said that sumo’s for wusses. So sumo’s for wusses. Chuck said it. I was like, “OK, well, Chuck also blew out his spine and is in a wheelchair right now.” I don’t know.

I mean, that’s a whole separate topic is the injuries and the bodily damage that the powerlifting can do if you take it to the extreme. The whole thing for me with fitness, powerlifting, nutrition, or whatever, life in general, is finding what works best for you.

That’s really the most important thing in all of it is, if sumo makes your hips feel better, sumo makes your back feel better, if sumo makes you feel more confident, do it. If conventional does, do it. If trap bar does, do it. If Single-Leg RDLs do, do it. I don’t care, just make sure you’re lifting and doing something and moving.

David TaoDavid Tao

What is an area of fitness or wellness that you think is a little unexplored in your career and something that you would like to dive deeper into?

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

Behavioral psychology, emotion. I think — this is really behavior change — is really the biggest aspect that’s not explored enough for a number of reasons. I’ll tell you when I first went into college, I went into as exercise science because that was what I thought I was supposed to do. I was like, “That’s what you do.”

I had just spent the better part of three and a half years in turning in a very science-based gym, learning program design, coaching people, reading books from Eric Cressey, reading Dan John, Pavel Tsatsouline. I didn’t even know how good of an education that I had just had.

I go into exercise science thing like, “Oh, yeah, now I’m really about to learn.” I’m hearing what these professors are saying. I’m reading these old tattered books that I’m like, “Not only is this outdated. This is just wrong.” You’re not willing to look at new research. You’re not willing to look at this stuff, not to mention what really hit home for me.

I remember sitting in the lecture hall listening to one of my teachers, one of my professors give a lecture, and I was thinking, “This is not going to help any of my clients, ever.” I had clients. I had clients I was working with.

I was like, “You could have the best program in the world. You could have the best meal plan. You could have the best diet. You could have the best exercise selection. You could have the best volume and intensity. You could have the best phasic periodization, whatever you want, but if they’re not following it, it doesn’t matter.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s almost like we spend so much time learning how the body moves, we forgot that people are individuals and clients move differently and they behave differently. Maybe the more important thing is figuring out how they operate, mind and body, as opposed to femur length and proportions when it comes to leverages.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

Oh, my God. Pelvic tilts and all that stuff. It’s just not that it’s not important, but we need to place a greater emphasis on individual psychology and individual behavior change, individual preferences to better understand how to get that person to do something because usually what we’re doing is we’re try to find — I’m guilty of this.

I remember growing up spending so many countless hours and weeks and months and years trying to understand the best way to program the perfect program.

What is the best way to have a perfectly designed program? Meanwhile, after I spend three hours on this program for someone, they’re telling me they’re getting to the gym once or twice a week, when it’s a four or five-day week program.

I’m like, “What the hell is the point? I would rather design you a two-day week program that you hit 100 percent of the time, than design you a four-day week program that you hit 60 percent of the time.”

What I ended up switching to was more behavioral health psychology, understanding, “OK, I would rather have someone hit a program that’s an 80 percent good program, a 100 percent, than someone hit a program that’s a 100 percent good program, 60 percent of the time.”

Every time, I would way rather that. One of the things I’ve been saying about lately is really pushing the value of walking, just the value of. People…

 

David TaoDavid Tao

I feel like I’m talking to Mark Bell. Now, I’m talking to a younger [indecipherable 36:39] Mark Bell right now.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

 [laughs] We’re going to see Mark Bell next month in a couple of weeks. People almost tune me out when I say that. If you actually look at the research on the physiological benefits, the psychological benefits, the hormonal benefits of 20 minutes of walking, it’s bewildering how much on a cellular level it can positively impact you.

We’ll look at the physiologist in the second, but not to mention, when you get someone who has not done any exercise, and they think that they can’t do anything. They don’t want to go to gym because they’re embarrassed. You get them walking three days a week for 20 minutes a day and all of a sudden, they lose a couple of pounds. What happens?

Their self-efficacy increases. They go, “Oh, my God.” Like, “Maybe I can do this.” Then all of a sudden, they start paying a lot more attention to nutrition. Then all of a sudden, maybe they start going for four days a week walking, five days a week walking. They lose a couple more pounds.

This is how people make dramatic life transformations. People are always looking, “How we get them motivated?” No, no. It’s the wrong question. How do you get them to take action? From that action results will come. From the results come motivation. When you’re so focused on trying to get them to be motivated to do something that’s unsustainable, it’s failure.

When you can get them to take action no matter how small, it can grow, and grow, and grow. Motivation, that’s fleeting. You have to get them to do something first.

 

David TaoDavid Tao

My billion-dollar idea that anyone listening to this podcast can steal…

…by the way I’m putting it up — is to create an app service whatever hot tech buzzword you want to connect walking buddies.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

Wow.

David TaoDavid Tao

Because walking has all these benefits and I have a lot of anecdotal experience rehabbing from injuries and Jordan’s known me for a while.

So you see me go through some of these. The one of the best components of my rehab was, I had an orthopedist who has told me to find a walking buddy. Just start walking, just start moving again.

Finding a walking buddy, walking is something you can do with anyone. It’s such a cool way to cultivate relationships, you’re off your phone, you’re talking about things. You’re often outside or even if it’s cold, you’re finding indoor track or something. It’s a really cool social activity. I think for a lot of folks who haven’t experienced the warm embrace of having that gym buddy.

Finding a walking buddy and realizing this is an activity that can be social is a really good gateway into a broader realm of physical culture.

 

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

I love that. I think that’s amazing. Maybe even if I’m thinking just like now my mind, Scott, how are we? How do we create that slitter? As remind goes on, like, what are the issues that come in? “OK, well, maybe they’re going to be people on the app or going to cause harm to others with someone nervous.”

I’m like, OK, well, what if it’s a call in app where it’s connecting you with someone who else walking, maybe just anywhere else in the country, where you just connect them, and you either have a voice call, or you can go and do a FaceTime, you can probably hard walking. But that’s incredible. It’s a great idea.

Then you could have different games or different achievements along the way, you’ve been walking for this amount of time, you’ve unlocked this achievement, whatever it is, like, maybe different. You get access to different workouts, the more you unlock, or you get access to different songs like workout songs, whatever it is, the more that you do it, like the faster your pace The longer you go, like that’s a great idea.

David TaoDavid Tao

I think a lot of people see running apps and there was this, this wave of running apps a few years ago. When people were trying to beat each other for distance and gamify running, the same can be done for walking. I’m sure those apps also have functions that work for walking. Walking is a heck of a lot more accessible to many people like you tell me I have to run five miles.

Like I can, but I’m not excited. Walking five miles, sounds so bad even takes longer, right? It takes more time out of my day.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

Exactly.

David TaoDavid Tao

I get pumped about it. So that’s a fantastic, fantastic piece of advice.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

You can do stuff when you walk too. If you want to do business calls, you can do that, if you want to, like, do some type of errands or groceries or whatever, like, as long as you’re tracking your steps, like you can just do whatever when you’re walking. I think it’s one of the best things about walking per se is it doesn’t necessarily have to impede your life.

Running, you’re running, you’re going to get sweaty, you’re going to be out of breath. There’s nothing I don’t have anything against running.

But I actually think that especially for people who have a lot to lose, and for people who might be a little bit either embarrassed by it or self-conscious about it, not to mention the joint strain that can come with it, I would way rather you do 30 minutes of walking and feel good about it to continue than to do running once or twice, be super sore, have your ankles and calves and knees hurting, whatever, and then who knows.

David TaoDavid Tao

Jordan, we have come to the end of our recording today, but if people aren’t already following you, where is the best place to keep up with what you’re doing and the content you’re putting out?

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

First of all, thank you for having me on, this was great. I have my own podcast, the “Jordan Syatt Mini-Podcast” and that’s just S-Y-A-T-T. YouTube, putting out a lot of content, Jordan Syatt, and Instagram as well, @syattfitness.

David TaoDavid Tao

Awesome. Jordan, thanks so much for joining us.

Jordan SyattJordan Syatt

Thank you, man.

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