Podcast: Strength Trolls and Social Media with Jake Boly

Jake Boly is a writer, powerlifter, and online personality who has written (literally) thousands of articles covering the world of strength sports. He’s also BarBend’s Fitness Editor and a huge part of our social media team. Over the past three years, Jake has had a ringside seat to one of the biggest issues plaguing the strength community: social media trolls.

In this episode of The BarBend Podcast, Jake gives his honest take on the impact trolling has on the strength community, and why so much of that hate is directed at a couple of sports and strength disciplines in particular. We examine the origins of online criticism and how it’s shaping today’s discourse on strength training, especially the development of new techniques and strategies when it comes to getting stronger.

Jake and David also talk about some of the strength athletes they admire most, along with why it’s more common to see athletes jump between strength sports in a particular pattern.

Every time you post a CrossFit video or a post or an article, whether it be positive, negative, and so forth, there’s always at least one troll comment, no matter what. Without fail, there’s always one comment.

In this episode of The BarBend Podcast, Jake Boly and host David Thomas Tao discuss:

  • How athletes in the strength community communicate online — and where misunderstandings happen (3:40)
  • The strength sports that get the most hate online (7:30)
  • Why people are so slow to accept new methodologies and advances in strength training (9:50)
  • The reason Jake picked powerlifting as his athletic pursuit of choice (15:58)
  • Athletes Jake admires for their performance across strength sports and disciplines (19:22)
  • David and Jake talk about a very underrated athlete in strength sports, someone who moved from CrossFit to the World’s Strongest Man (!) (21:51)
  • Jake and David talk about why some athletes commonly progress from one strength sport to another — but not the other way around (24:50)
  • How athletes — and outlets like BarBend! — can promote more collaboration within the strength community (31:00)
  • Jake turns the tables and examines how strength sports compare to “regular” sports when it comes to athletes respecting one another (33:28)
  • Why strength sports are really so very similar — and why online trolls and critics are fighting a losing fight (36:47)

Relevant links and further reading:


David TaoDavid Tao

Welcome to the “BarBend” podcast, where we talk to top athletes, coaches, influencers and minds from around the world of strength sports. Presented by barbend.com.

Today I am talking to BarBend’s fitness and training editor, Jake Boly. Jake holds a Master’s in sports science and a Bachelor’s in exercise science. He’s also a certified strength and conditioning specialist. He’s spoken at strength conferences on the topics of writing in the fitness industry and building a brand.

Jake has written, literally, thousands of articles on the strength sports and training. He’s also a driving force behind BarBend’s social media efforts. In our one-on-one chat we go deep on a topic near and dear to Jake’s heart. Respect and trolling in online strength communities.

Jake is an athlete, coach and writer with first-hand experience when it comes to the positives and negatives of strength’s growth online.

He’s seen what happens when strength athletes work to learn and communicate openly. At the same time, he’s also seen what happens when disagreements boil over into downright hostility. What does this mean for strength athletes, their fans and their communities?

I’m excited to help bring you Jake’s perspective and thoughts. A quick reminder, if you’re enjoying the BarBend podcast make sure to leave a rating and review in your podcast app of choice. This helps us stay on track in bringing you the best content possible week after week.

If there’s someone you’d absolutely love to hear on a future BarBend podcast episode, let us know on your Podcast review. I personally read each and every review. Your suggestions will be seen.

All right, today on the BarBend Podcast I have a very special guest. That is BarBend’s fitness editor, Jake Boly.

Jake, thanks so much for joining us. This is the first time we’re recording the BarBend podcast with someone who is full-time on the BarBend team. A lot of pressure on your shoulders.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Thank you for having me and I feel that pressure. I feel like I’m carrying a one-armed squat right now, just sitting here.

David TaoDavid Tao

 [laughs] We’re talking about some topics that are a little bit more on the personal side. We might get a little bit personal and it’s going to come a lot from our experience. The pressure is only there for how you can convey that personal experience. No one is testing your one-rep max today.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Thank goodness, because I am not conditioned to one-rep max. I’m excited to talk about these topics. On the topics we are talking about, we have an interesting point of view because we do cover so many different strength sports. We interact with these audiences on a daily basis.

The topics we’re going to cover today are going to not only resonate with a lot of our readers and viewers and listeners, but hopefully give some people some insight into what we see as an objective journalistic outlet.

David TaoDavid Tao

At least what we attempt to stay objective on, although we have our own personal biases that I’m actually most excited to dive into those. The topics that we want to discover are the topics all centered around respect in strength sports, particularly when it comes to strength sports online and respect or perceptions of strength sports across the different sports.

How weightlifters perceive powerlifters, how powerlifters perceive weightlifters, how everyone perceives CrossFitters and vice versa. Where Strongman fits into this? Other more and more niche strength sports like the mas-wrestling community, how do they perceive everything?

That’s really what we’re diving into today, and my first question for you Jake is, do you think there is a problem online when it comes to athletes across strength sports perceiving, interacting with and communicating with athletes from different sports?

Jake BolyJake Boly

That’s a great question and I’m actually going to break that into two different populations because I think that’s the way we should approach it.

Let’s break it down from the athletes and then let’s break it down from the fans, the viewers, the people who follow these athletes. From a purely athletic standpoint, the athletes themselves who are in the nitty-gritty or competing, I don’t see a huge lack of respect between other athletes.

I think if you are competing at the top of the game for whether it be weightlifting, CrossFit, powerlifting, Strongman and so forth, you understand the hustle and the work it takes other athletes to do so.

I don’t really see that being a problem.

I see the issue being more so the folks who don’t regularly compete or don’t really have their nails deep and do a sport, who lack that understanding of what these other athletes are going through because at the end of the day every strength sport has a degree of volume and intensity that is equivalent to all the athletes and sports.

I don’t think a lot of fans and viewers necessarily understand that. That’s where that lack of respect really comes in.

David TaoDavid Tao

I think, first it’s worth noting that, it’s probably a very vocal minority. I think that a lot of our readers, listeners, viewers at BarBend, the overwhelming majority of feedback and comments we get, they’re respectful for athletes who might come from different backgrounds, come from different sports, have different skill sets. It’s really a vocal minority that you will see trolling Instagram comments or really goading athletes.

When we were first discussing topics for this podcast and this episode, it was in response to a few situations where we saw some members of a very vocal minority goading athletes on social media, elite athletes on social media, which was really confusing for us.

We have a perspective very much in the community. These athletes are working hard. Why can’t we respect that? That understanding doesn’t necessarily carry over to everyone.

My question for you then, Jake, and I like how you broke that down, is where do you see that directionally coming from? Is it athletes from one sport or maybe more specifically fans from one sport criticizing athletes from a different particular sport the most? This is very much anecdotal, just what you’re observing online. Where are you seeing that the most?

Jake BolyJake Boly

For a little bit of background, I’m one of the main guys who runs our Instagram page. I see all the comments we get from the vast amount of post we put up. If I had to pick, honestly, one population that I would say gets a little bit worse than others is, obviously, I think a lot of people are going to be agreeing, it’s CrossFit, right?

David TaoDavid Tao


Jake BolyJake Boly

Every time you post a CrossFit video or a post or an article, whether it be positive, negative, and so forth, there’s always at least one troll comment, no matter what. Without fail, there’s always one comment.

What strength sports that’s necessarily coming from? It’s hard to say, because a lot of times these trolling comments are from faceless characters, or they’re just from people who don’t actually compete, or really look like they’re really invested into a sport. It’s hard to say if there’s any form of direction.

I do get a feeling that it’s from more of the old school population or the people who take everything they hear for what it is, and they think that CrossFit’s bad, CrossFit causes all these injuries.

Again, it all comes down to the context. A couple of instances do not equate for everything. I think once you get one of those snowball instances going, and it gets enough hype, that’s where a lot of this has come from.

If I had to pick one that usually gets it worse, I would have to say it’s probably CrossFit, and then maybe powerlifting here and there, depending on the context of the lift, the population who’s watching it, whether it was like in a federation that’s respected for someone to athlete, another athlete, and so forth.

David TaoDavid Tao

I would definitely echo those sentiments from my own observation. We recorded a podcast recently, that will probably air before this one, with Pat Barber, who is a multi-multi-time CrossFit games athlete.

Actually, was one of the original, the OG CrossFit level two, three, and four trainers, still works very closely with CrossFit HQ. He’s been involved with the sport since 2004. That’s like an eon in CrossFit years.

He got involved with the sport when he was still in high school. I asked him on the podcast, “What was the perception of the sport, and the reaction you got from other strength athletes who weren’t CrossFitters in 2009 compared to 2019?” He said, “It’s a complete 180.”

He was absolutely…One of the most shocking things to him in his involvement with the sport, with athletics, has been the change in perception because there was this turning point where folks started to realize…It came differently for different people, and it came differently for different sports.

Where people start to realize CrossFit wasn’t going away. In fact, CrossFit could be one of the best things for the growth of these other barbell sports, period. The growth of weightlifting, the growth of powerlifting, the growth of Strongman.

We even see Strongman competitors, world’s strongest man competitors, who found strength sports through CrossFit, which would have been unthinkable to me even six years ago.

There has been this progression, and there has been this change of perception, and maybe an acceptance that no one’s going to beat CrossFit. CrossFit is here to stay. When you mention these old school characters making a lot of these trolling comments, that does resonate with me.

I do think that throughout the strength community, there is a hesitancy to accept change. I don’t think that’s specific to CrossFit. Whether it be change in the training methodology, nutrition, approaches that you’re seeing a lot of like old school trolls, if you will, be really, really slow to accept, and really actively push back against.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Yeah, totally. With the strength training, in general, I think people are very resistant to accept new methodologies. The fact of the matter is that even with all of the literature in the game, those are suggestions for best practices.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all. When people fail to see the context of concepts like that, it translates into every perception they have towards athletes, sports, methodologies, new kind of findings, and so forth.

I see a lot of push back, usually in terms of things that people don’t agree with. That’s the toughest part because if somebody doesn’t agree with anything, even though it might be a little bit more sound and knowledge, then it’s tough to get your point across. That kind of mindset trickles into the strength sports and the topics we’re talking about now.

I like that you bring that up. It’s not always the old school guys. That makes up the majority of the folks who have these more, let’s say, ill-conceived conceptions of the strength sport community and different sports. This is also the population that once they are set in their ways, there’s no change. That’s only limited to old school characters, but every population across the board.

David TaoDavid Tao

People understandably are protective of the things they love most. That was certainly true more so back when strength sports…I wouldn’t say strength sports are mainstream, or as mainstream as they’re going to be. At least, our hope is that we can bring strength mainstream. That’s a big reason BarBend exists.

10 years ago, 15 years ago, if you were a powerlifter, you were struggling to illustrate to people, “Well, here’s what powerlifting is, here’s how it’s different than weightlifting, here’s how they’re both different than bodybuilding.” We still have those misconceptions.

When these sports didn’t necessarily have the mainstream exposure that CrossFit is honestly largely responsible for, people got defensive.

I remember when I first was getting into weightlifting, I would get defensive. When people would call it powerlifting or they’d see it like Olympic powerlifting, or they ask me how the bodybuilding was going, I was like, “Well, I’m clearly not a bodybuilder. Have you seen me?” It’s easy to get defensive when you feel your sport is under attack or underappreciated.

As these sports gain more mainstream recognition, there’s going to be a shift. Because as more people are interested in participating, your first reaction, this was my first reaction, I’m just as guilty of this as anyone, was to be defensive about the sport, when, in fact, someone might have just been asking questions or asking for clarification.

Maybe they were interested in participating. I wasn’t being as open as I could, or as encouraging. My first response was to get militantly defensive, and be like, “No, it’s this,” and any other approach is wrong. Did you ever feel that when you were first getting into strength training, particularly when you were first getting into powerlifting years ago?

Jake BolyJake Boly

100 percent. I’m going to ask you a question next on this. 100 percent, I think everybody goes through that phase, especially when you first find something you truly love, and something that really works. You tend to really grip to it and stick to it, and want to use that until it’s pretty much blew in the face, and you can’t anymore.

If I had to ask you, from an athlete to athlete point of view, what was the one variable that has changed your mindset from being a little bit more elitist in your way of training compared to respecting everyone else’s?

David TaoDavid Tao

Wow. I wasn’t necessarily expecting that question. This is throwing me for a loop. I don’t know if it’s one variable. I will say that when I first started interacting with people outside the weightlifting community who were interested in strength sports, it was realizing that they ask good questions, and I didn’t need to be defensive.

My response to the questions was always about being defensive, and showing why weightlifting was the best. I don’t need to convince them weightlifting is the best. Weightlifting is different, weightlifting is not better than powerlifting, it’s not better than CrossFit, it’s not better than Strongman. It’s different.

Questions aren’t coming from someone to shoot you down or take you down a peg. They were because people were genuinely curious. CrossFitters were genuinely curious about weightlifting training volume and methodology. They were genuinely curious about differences between the Russian system and the Bulgarian system.

They weren’t saying this just to say, “Oh, you know, ’cause CrossFit’s better.” Of course, CrossFit learns from and borrows from so many different training methodologies. For someone to say, “Oh, CrossFit’s the best,” and they just attack weightlifting, that’s antithetical to the thesis of CrossFit. “Regularly learn and play new sports. Adapt, take methodologies, borrow, learn from.”

It’s not like there’s one training point, or one turning point, but it was really when I realized, “Oh, people are asking questions ’cause they’re genuinely curious.” Now, we could dive back in how maybe that was the kernel of inspiration for starting BarBend years later.

All people have these questions across strength sports. Where do they go to ask them? Where do they go to answer them? Where do they go to engage in this conversation?

I am curious where in your strength training career you started identifying with a particular training methodology, you started identifying more with the powerlifting community. I know strength training for you, originally, was something that was for sport training.

It was getting better at hockey, it was getting better at cheerleading, it was getting better at your gymnastics skills. When did you decide like, “OK, powerlifting, that’s something I want to dive into more than any of these other strength sports that might be accessible to me.”?

Jake BolyJake Boly

Totally. If I had to pick one defining moment, I always wanted to be strong. I was always a smaller guy. I saw all the powerlifters around me. They were huge, just jacked guys, man. I wanted to squat a lot. I wanted to deadlift a lot.

My bench press will always be abysmal, and I’ve accepted that, but I wanted to bench more. I wanted to get strong like these guys I was looking at. It was like three or four months into my strength training career when I was going to the gym, messing around, not knowing what to do, doing full-body workouts. I started to see guys running the 5/3/1, the classic simple programs.

I started running 5/3/1, for example, for a while. Since then, obviously, I’ve changed my methodologies. I do think that there are better ways to approach strength training, but that program worked for me greatly from beginner to intermediate.

The moment you see that first amount of progression, that’s what really gets you hooked into one. That’s what got me into the powerlifting kick, and it’s kept me there. Since then, I’ve started branching out into other sports, and my appreciation for everything has grown tenfold.

Circling back to the question I asked you, the variable that has inspired this one way of training to appreciation of everything, it’s time. Every beginner, once you find one thing that works, you stick with it as long as you can.

As time passes, and as you begin to appreciate all the work of the other athletes and coaches they’re putting into their trade, you begin to realize that reality is that strength training, no matter the sport, is pulling here and there from everything, like you mentioned.

Whether you’re in weightlifting, you’re probably pulling some principles from other strength sports. No matter who you are, and how elite you are. Once you have enough time in this world, in the strength sports world, and you see enough coaches, and you listen to enough, and you learn more, that’s when you really start to build that appreciation.

David TaoDavid Tao

There’s also a historical prospective that’s important here. All strength sports have common ancestry. A hundred years ago, there wasn’t weightlifting, powerlifting, CrossFit, Strongman. 50 years ago, there wasn’t really that differentiation although it was beginning to differentiate.

Tommy Kono, who’s one of my all-time strength sports heroes, he was a bodybuilder and a weightlifter. He had multiple titles in-bout. He was the best in the world in both sports at points in his career around the 1950s, early ’60s.

You go earlier than that, there wasn’t so much of a differentiation between bodybuilding and weightlifting. Powerlifting was very much a child of our progression from weightlifting, Strongman. What was honestly designed to showcase strength on television, is what started as a TV show in many ways.

It also hearkens back to the days of the old-timey Strongman, feats-of-strength, whether it be this traveling strongmen and strong women of the circuses in Europe, or the Coney Island strong men and women. All of these strength sports have different and mixed origins.

They’re all interrelated and interconnected. They have a history of athletes who have been bouncing around between the disciplines whether it’s showcasing their musculature in the early 20th century, while also performing feats-of-strength. It’s like two sides of the same coin.

Given that, are there any athletes today who you particularly respect or admire for their ability to borrow across strength disciplines and sports?

Jake BolyJake Boly

Oh, 100 percent. I’m trying to think of…

David TaoDavid Tao

Just to clarify, especially when it comes to content they’re producing and the way they’re talking about that progression and that borrowing.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Totally. I’ll try to think of a couple of examples from every niche demographic. Weightlifting, I really like Travis Mash because he has principles pulled from powerlifting and weightlifting.

He ties them together. He’s experienced in both. I really like how he has presented his information and is taking a lot more youth, building them up, highlighting them, and making them the focal points of his training. Obviously, it’s his methodologies. I really respect his diverse background.

In terms of more new-school, online program-based places, I love what Hybrid Performance Method are doing. I like that they try to tie in a little bit of everything and create programs that are sound. Also, they give everybody a little bit of everything and create programs that are sound, but also give everybody a little bit of exposure to the different strength sports.

I think that’s really cool because it leads people on a path to progressing. Maybe not at the fastest rate in one of their niches but let’s say powerlifting. It’s building them up in multiple directions which I think is really cool. Do you have any while I think on this one?

David TaoDavid Tao

No, I do very much admire what Hybrid’s done in a lot of ways. I think what Stefi, in particular has done is been very…she’s been very open about her progression through the different sports. Now, she’s primarily known as a powerlifter. An all-time record holding powerlifter.

She has also, I don’t want to say dabbled in weightlifting because undersells, I think, her proficiency in weightlifting at a certain point. She’s posting a lot more content about nutrition and training when it comes to your physique and bodybuilding accessories and things like that. I definitely admire…I know that you’re very close with her. A lot of the work she’s been doing in that regard.

I think Mash is fantastic example. If you had asked someone 20 years ago, if an incredibly accomplished powerlifter like that would be running one of the best youth and junior developmental programs for weightlifting in the United States, everyone would have thought you were crazy, except for maybe Travis Mash. Those are fantastic examples. I like Rob Kearney’s example a lot.

I think Rob is someone who…he’s told this story, but I think Rob’s reach is still young and growing. I think that he doesn’t quite have the audience yet that he will in a couple years. I think he’s such a good personality and such an inspiring athlete. Rob Kearney is a World’s Strongest Man competitor. One of the top American Strongman today.

He’s still actually very young in his Strongman career. I think he’s got a lot room to grow. Literally and figuratively, in that he can get a lot bigger. He found strength sports through CrossFit. Which is hilarious if you think about all the Internet trolling that always said CrossFit is where strength athletes go when they want to get small and weak.

He was exposed to strength training through CrossFit methodology. Now, he’s competing at the World’s Strongest Man. The top, most famous, Strongman competition against the biggest and strongest people on Earth. That’s pretty absurd and pretty cool. I mean absurd in a cool way.

I think that story is one that he can really leverage and tell and inspire a lot of people who might want to journey across the strength sports a bit more.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Totally. I totally agree with that. I love that example. Do you have any good examples for let’s say CrossFit to weightlifting?

David TaoDavid Tao

I think there are a ton of good examples. There are good examples from CrossFit to weightlifting and CrossFit to powerlifting. Even the other way around, Rob is the only example I can think of that’s CrossFit to Strongman, which was the one that I thought was going to be the toughest to bridge.

I mean, CrossFit to weightlifting, Mattie Rogers is an example in the United States, of someone who originally found weightlifting through CrossFit. Now she’s been specializing in weightlifting for a long time and she’s been an athlete her whole career. She’s an example a lot of people point to. The other way around, weightlifting to CrossFit, Mat Fraser is the key example there.

Someone who is a very high level youth and junior competitor on the weightlifting stage, trained under Chris Polakowski in Vermont, very storied, accomplished weightlifting program there. Was injured, went through some surgeries, and started getting back to training and found a CrossFit gym in Vermont where he started training. Now, he’s the four-time defending Reebok CrossFit Games champion.

Clearly, the progression can work both ways. He brought a fantastic weightlifting capacity baseline, strength, and skill to CrossFit. Then, hey, there are some athletes who can juggle both simultaneously. Tia-Clair Toomey, not only is she a three-time Reebok CrossFit Games champion, she’s also an Olympian Commonwealth Games gold medalist.

I guess you can have the best of both worlds, at least almost the best of both worlds, two at once. Are there any examples, and you would know this better than I do, of an exchange back and forth among lead athletes between CrossFit and powerlifting?

Jake BolyJake Boly

Let me rack my brain really fast.

David TaoDavid Tao

That one’s tougher. I can’t think of any examples off the top of my head.

Jake BolyJake Boly

No, I’m going through all the people we follow through Instagram, thinking who is a great example of this. I actually can’t think of any examples off the top of my head. At least, at the very elite level.

David TaoDavid Tao

I definitely know of some exchange between weightlifting and powerlifting. James Tatum is a very accomplished American weightlifter who made a name for himself in powerlifting. You’ll see some back and forth between weightlifting and powerlifting.

Obviously, on the international level there are many, many, many examples of people who have competed above the Olympics and at an IPF World’s. I don’t want to name too many specifics off the top of my head because we write about it a lot on barbend.com. I don’t want to get anyone’s particular numbers or years of competition wrong off the top of my head.

Powerlifting to weightlifting, that’s one that we don’t see, again, anecdotally, quite as often as weightlifting to CrossFit.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Yeah, 100 percent. That within itself, I think has a lot to do with specificity, especially as you train a certain way for so long. I think it makes it a lot tougher to go to some of these sports.

The examples that you brought up earlier between the cross-pollination of let’s say CrossFit to weightlifting, some CrossFit to Strongman, I think that’s all great to bring back to our original point. The respect between the strength sports and the athletes.

You see these athletes, especially the ones at the top of their game, going back and forth, and there isn’t a lack of respect because they’re doing it. They’re living it. The people who follow them, I don’t think always understand maybe their full beginnings and roots.

I would be curious to see if the Mat Fraser fans knew that he was a very accomplished Olympic weightlifter before going to CrossFit. I think that circles back to the whole topic of this podcast. I love that you brought those up because that brings us back to the topic of respect between the athletes versus the people who are following.

I’d be curious to know if the people who are following some of these athletes who love them and are die-hard fans knew that a lot of them got their starts in other sports.


David TaoDavid Tao

It’s difficult. I think there actually a burden on the athletes to balance it because they want to cater to the fans. Their fans are…Mat Fraser’s social media following is largely because he’s an amazing CrossFitter. Four-time fittest man on Earth. His fans expect that. They want that content. He’s built that following.

He doesn’t talk about his weightlifting background and being a youth and junior weightlifter that often on social…not that he’s never addressed it. Not that he’s hiding anything.

There is this burden on athletes, because they want to be authentic. They want to tell their stories online. I’m sure of it. Some more than others, but at the same time, they want to give content to their followers that their followers expect, that they think their followers want.

Rob Kearney is a great example. He produces fantastic content. He’s only barely started to tap into his potential as a strength personality. People follow him because he’s a Strongman.

They’re not following him, because they want his story of walking into a CrossFit gym the first time or, at least, there’s attention there. Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t.

These athletes, that’s how they monetize. They build their followings. They build engagement. It can be risky for them potentially for that very reason.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Very true. That’s a great point. I didn’t even consider from that angle actually about how at a certain point you let the past be the past. Then you work with what you have now and what you have going for you.

David TaoDavid Tao

Again, this isn’t anything I’ve have talked to…I’ve only talked to Rob very briefly about this and not in this level. Not like, “Oh, do you think posting about how you used to do CrossFit would hurt your following?”

I haven’t asked him that specific question. I haven’t asked Matt that specific question. It’s something I’m sure that they would have to consider, at least.

Jake BolyJake Boly

100 percent. I would be curious to see the interaction they get on those specific posts, at least, from the folks who do not necessarily respect other strength sports to the same degree who are fans of them.

I wonder how they would view that if it would almost be maybe a turning point in their eyes between, “Oh, wow. They did this, and I love what they do now.”

Maybe that’ll make me respect it a little bit more. Or do you think it will go back to the roots of defending what you know and going against the other side of things?

David TaoDavid Tao

I do want to bring it back to one of your original points, which was that determination, grit, hard work, dedication. That is a commonality across not just strength sports but across sports and especially for strength sports, where the mechanism to get better is often painful like adaptation, training. Especially at that elite level, going for the extra one percent.

It’s rough. It hurts. I don’t care if you’re training Strongman or weightlifting and powerlifting, CrossFit. We all understand that point of being tired, being sore. Pushing yourself past that on or pushing yourself beyond what’s comfortable.

The fact that athletes across sports go through that, it’s an important thing for us to acknowledge. Look, it’s different. That feeling in the middle of Fran, the classic CrossFit workout, most powerlifters aren’t experiencing that weekly in training, but each have their own struggles.

Each is dealing with injury. Everyone’s trying to balance training volume and trying to get that perfect level of adaptation, that sweet hit, that sweet spot.

I do think there are certainly some ways where athletes and also outlets like BarBend. Perhaps we could be a little bit better about talking to folks and bridging the divide and illustrating that everyone is struggling, going through hard things, and working to be their best, especially at that elite level.

What are some of the ways you think maybe we can do a better job of that and maybe athletes in specific sports can do a better job with that?

Jake BolyJake Boly

One form of video that I always love seeing — and I know it’s not a common type of video — I love seeing other athletes, especially who have, let’s say, more of a social media/friendly presence online take on other types of workouts.

It shows a lot into what they end up going through, how hard it is. It helps their followers understand just how difficult another form of training is. Oftentimes, we get into the mindsets that we don’t dislike something because it’s different but because it’s hard for us. It’s easy to dislike something that’s difficult for us.

I am not a great weightlifter, and I know that. Sometimes, I have that mindset where it’s like, “I don’t like weightlifting,” but it’s like, “No, it’s just I’m not that good at it, so I don’t really resonate with it.”

From our point of view, we could do a better job of almost highlighting more athletes going through this and maybe even working with athletes hand in hand when they have a down moment in their off-season to bring them through a different form of workout.

Maybe even bring in two athletes together to have them share experiences in their own sports, talk about it more, and open up that conversation. We have a cool means to do so with all these different strength sports and athletes we work with that some outlets may not necessarily have. We’re very fortunate to have it.

Almost making more content around athletes sharing experiences with one another from different backgrounds would be very cool.

David TaoDavid Tao

Definitely agree. It’s something that we’ve seen some other outlets have a lot of success with. Brute Strength has done it. They did it in a particular way and that it wasn’t someone showing the training. It was just showing what can you do in this battery of tests, in this combine we give you, which is important.

It’s good, but it does leave some questions unanswered as well, which is about the training, the day-to-day. Not just the impact and effect of the fitness and strength you’ve built but the going through emotions and the not-fun part. That’s really something that has a lot of room to be illustrated and to be highlighted for sure.

Jake BolyJake Boly

100 percent. I have a question for you, David. We’re talking about all these commonalities between the strength sports. Everybody has to go through a certain level of pain in terms of their intensity volume to reach their best self.

In terms of regular sports, let’s talk about how they view one another really fast. Between, let’s say, football and a sports like soccer, they are both going through a ton of different pain in different ways. Stuff like that. Do you think that they respect each other in the same way? Or do you think there is…I’m curious.

David TaoDavid Tao

All of this is anecdotal. It’s subjective. It’s based on what you think. There are plenty of American football players out there who love soccer, respect soccer, wish they could play more soccer, and watch more soccer.

There are also those fans we all know. We all have those friends who are like, “Oh, soccer players are soft. Football is where it’s at.” It’s based on a perceived level of contact.

Soccer is a contact sport too. People get injured all the time. Soccer hurts. You ever been playing soccer and had someone run over your foot with cleats? Yeah, it’s pretty painful. I’d have to weigh whether I want to get tackled or have that.

There are levels of contact, risk, and difficulty with every sport. Then soccer players might see American football players and be like, “Oh, it’s so easy. You just like run for 10 yards, and then play stops, and you get to rest.”

That’s an example you bring up that we talk a lot about in the United States. It’s something that a lot of people might point to as like, “Oh, here’s why soccer isn’t bigger in the US.”

I’m not convinced that’s true. It’s maybe more nuanced than that. Soccer, as we saw at the Women’s World Cup this year, is obviously very, very popular in the United States. It’s just maybe we’re looking at the wrong demographics.

That’s a good question. My athletic career was not outside of strength sports. It was not long enough or accomplished enough to have the best perspective on that across sports. I will say that the more specialized and the more elite you get in a lot of these sports, the more people tend to respect them because of the jaw-dropping feats of athleticism. For example, in the NBA, what LeBron James does, what Zion might do for New Orleans this year.

We all look at that. Every athlete can look at that and be like, “That’s amazing. What they’re able to do, the dunks they’re able to do, the moves they’re able to pull, that’s amazing.”

My hope is that as strength sports become more mainstream, people can look at what Jen Thompson has done and say, “Oh, my God. That’s just as amazing as throwing down a windmill slam dunk. It’s just as impressive. It’s just as difficult.”

We’re not there yet. That was a really round-about way of answering your question, Jake. [laughs]

Jake BolyJake Boly

No worries. I basically wanted to get to the point that’s, every sport had their vast amount of differences, but if you look at the ask me, between the strength sports, they probably have the most overlap. That’s why I don’t understand the lack of respect for one another. In terms of how these athletes are progressing, it’s more similar than any other sport.

While there is differences in other sports, obviously, everybody has their own struggles. Strength sports tend to be a little bit more closely intertwined. That’s why I’m always shocked to see the amount of trolling out there on other sports just for the art of trolling.

It’s like, why, do you understand that we’re all progressively overloading on a regular weekly basis to get to our best selves, no matter what kind of training you’re doing?

David TaoDavid Tao

My guess is, look, trolling is going to happen. Again, it’s a vocal minority. A lot of listeners, readers, viewers, for BarBend and across strength outlets, they’re smart and they’re in this because they love it and they have a lot of respect. A level of trolling is going to happen. There are going to be those people who are so defensive that they’re going to troll.

Some people just troll because they enjoy it. They might actually be super-knowledgeable and understand the nuances and connections and overlap, but they’re going to troll because they like getting a reaction out of people, like you and me.

Jake BolyJake Boly

To be honest, for most, they see it as an art, to getting a reaction out of somebody who was not looking for any form of reaction. When you get it, it’s almost a pleasure thing. You’re like, “Yes, I got a reaction. I got this many likes.”

David TaoDavid Tao

 I got a trolling PR.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Yeah, right. Yeah, I agree. It’s never going to go away. I think that our different degrees of trolling between doing it on purpose for almost the art of doing it, and then just doing it because you’re a little bit ignorant. That’s what I wish would start to fade away as strength sports keep growing.

David TaoDavid Tao

To be fair, to end this conversation of a positive note, it’s been getting a lot better.

Jake BolyJake Boly

It has.

David TaoDavid Tao

People are more knowledgeable. They’re more engaged. They’re more curious across strength sports and about different methodologies of strength training and fitness than they were 5 years ago, 10 years ago. I’d say overall the strength community is moving in, not always the right direction, but certainly, I’m optimistic about where it’s headed.

Jake BolyJake Boly

I would 100 percent agree with that. I think since…even, starting at BarBend in later 2016, I’ve seen a shift in how engagement is across the board for all our articles and our social media channels. I think when we put up a question now, it’s not so much like a fighting matter.

Even if it’s not about anything specific within the training world, people are much more receptive to sharing their thoughts and asking questions, and starting to understand a little bit more of how one another thinks. I think as athletes continue to grow and build their influences and start to really take these challenges on and share that every strength sport is great.

I think that’ll shift more and more, but I 100 percent agree. I’ve definitely seen a shift in the last three years alone. I’m excited to see what happens as strength sports continue to become a little bit more mainstream.


David TaoDavid Tao

Awesome. Well, Jake Boly thanks so much for joining the podcast. Your first BarBend podcast episode, almost surely not your last.

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We hope everyone enjoyed listening to the conversation. This is definitely one where we’re interested to hear the reactions and thoughts online. Thanks so much for tuning in.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Thank you for having me, David, and yeah. I look forward to reading some of the comments in this video.