That worked. That worked. When I first started training, I was probably around 18 years old. That’s when I started taking it seriously. I was first introduced to the world of strength through a professional strength coach for a South African rugby team called the South African Blue Bulls.
He became a personal trainer at the gym that I was working at, which was a commercial gym in Sydney called Fitness First. I was intrigued by his title. He was a professional strength coach. I didn’t know anything about strength training. I just thought men train weights to build muscle and women do cardio to burn fat, and that’s how we train.
I was intrigued by this whole idea of strength training, so I employed him as a personal trainer. It had nothing to do with powerlifting. It had nothing to do with strength sports. It was just to do with being strong. For him specifically, it was for rugby in South Africa. I thought, “Let’s see what this is about.”
He introduced me to some very simple concepts that I had no idea about. Things like progressive overload. I used to train and be of the belief that the muscles didn’t have a set of scales in them, and you needed to train for a pump, as Arnold would say. How much weight that you’re lifting is irrelevant.
As long as you feel a great stimulation, and then you train close to proximal failure, you’re going to be developing a muscle mass. I plateaued after about five years of training this way. I stopped building muscle and I lost a lot of interest, so I changed sports. I took up Brazilian jiu-jitsu and kickboxing.
Then I employed this strength coach. I thought maybe he can get me stronger for my sport. For the first time in I don’t know how many years, I was following a very simplistic model of periodization. We were monitoring how much weight I was lifting week after week, and for the first time in I don’t know how many years, I started actually building muscle again.
That was because I was monitoring how much weight I was lifting and making sure that I was following simple progressive overload principles. That’s when it kind of flipped my whole world upside down, and I turned towards strength. My goal was muscle building initially, and that stopped. When I turned to strength training, I started building muscle again.
Cut to the chase, through college in Sydney, I was given a task to create a program for professional athletes. Because I was doing jiu-jitsu back in the day, it was a very small community. This was over 10 years ago. It was about 10 years ago.
I knew a lot of the professional fighters, so instead of creating a mock-up case study, I approached a professional fighter and offered to be his coach for free. He was an MMA fighter. This was my first professional athlete that I was coaching. No other coaches in my area were coaching professional fighters.
Even though I only had one professional athlete, I was known as the guy that trains the pros. Soon after this, I got my next professional fighter. He was a boxer. He was a middleweight champion of Australia. Then after that, I got my next professional athlete, which was a powerlifter. I wasn’t a powerlifter at that point. I was just training to be strong for martial arts. It just evolved.
Probably about five years into this, I competed in my first powerlifting competition because I thought, “You know what? I need to start walking the talk and practicing what I preach.” Powerlifting was like the cross between…I didn’t have the time to train jiu-jitsu if I wanted to be successful in my career.
I thought, “What do I have to do to walk the talk, practice what I preach, to show some credibility for my athletes, for my clientele?” Powerlifting just so happened to use squat, bench press, and deadlift, which you don’t have to be a powerlifter to train those movements. They just so happen to be quite beneficial for anyone that wants to get strong.
I thought that’s going to bridge the gap between non-strength sports and someone like me who just wants to be a good coach. I became a powerlifter. Then I became a fanatic at it. I just so happened to get pretty good at it because I put all my time in that space.
It wasn’t making me money as a powerlifting coach. People were intrigued by my ability to lift heavy weights and I was a coach for the pros. It all happened by accident. As you know, my name, Australian Strength Coach, that wasn’t me choosing the optimal name. It’s one of the only ones that was available.
It was a sequence of events that happened like this. I had a list of professional athletes under my name. I had a pretty good powerlifting total at that point. With my wife and her sister, they’ve got a business called Base Body Babes. They were quite popular on social media in Australia. We collaborated, and we opened a gym together.
Opening the gym attracted another larger audience again, and this is when I met Hafþór Björnsson. By the time it was 2016, he came to my gym. I had a list of really strong athletes, from professional rugby players to MMA, like UFC fighters and, of course, powerlifters as well.
Hafþór came to my gym to present a seminar from…He was employed by a company called SodaStream. Anyway, after the day of holding the seminar, he was happy with the way that I coached, and he approached me and asked me to be his coach.