NO STRAIGHT ANSWERS • HEAD COACH XN'S BLOG

​Head Coach and Next Level founder Christian Matyi – a/k/a "XN" – gives notoriously complex answers to even the most simple of questions.  He'd always rather you "think more" than "know more." So you can only imagine what'll happen when there wasn't any question even asked . . . 

You never know what his many years of coaching will inspire him to claim as "relevant" to your progress. 

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Globally-Ranked Pro StrongMan Is Made Stronger By Revealing He Loves Men

Rob Kearney did not roll out of bed on October 20th thinking he would change the world. But this particular Monday wKearney shifted the thinking of an entire community and stepped onto the pages of the history of social change in the whole world!

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The loss of some good bullshit: bodybuilder Mike Matarazzo dead

Image is bullshit.  Until it inspires.  Then, even though the image is still bullshit, it becomes some really good bullshit.  Recently deceased bodybuilder Mike Matarazzo's image was that kind of bullshit.  

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The misuse of the word "aesthetics" is an aesthetic, brah. Sorry, Zyzz.

Barely-known, self-made, D-tier fitness celebrity Zyzz symbolizes the "permission" for guys to fuck up via their ego-masturbation and get away with it.  So why has his name persisted, even if only in small circles?

On the third anniversary of this guy's death due to excesses in partying and pride, the 22-year-old persists as an internet subculture meme and an iconic figure many young hopefuls admire – or "mire," as he termed it.  Maybe it wasn't because he has a great body but rather because he represents an entry point into topics we usually are starving to discuss.

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Why many gyms, trainers, coaches, training centers and fitness trends fade.

A lot of gyms and coaches get ahead for a while.
But they fade, and profits fall
and eventually their appeal withers and their skills are forgotten.

The reason is because they showed up
eager to sell you the right answers.  
FINALLY!  Someone selling you the answers!
And then they make good on that sale.

At first they profit.  Then they prosper.
But eventually – seemingly far too soon –
they lose momentum.  
They become tired and worn.
Then they fade and fail.

But meanwhile, there are some places that last,
some coaches who remain consistent
and certain methods that truly stand the test of time.

What makes them different?
Well, these are not the ones that showed up
and eagerly sold you the answers.

The long term survivors are the ones that 
– no matter what – 
just keep selling you more questions.

Strength athletes and bodybuilders on steroids stand for nothing.

Amazing how little the guys on steroids and recreational enhancement drugs stand for.

Yet they are so fond of their "accomplishments."  
These powerful men love to have their image and their work right up in the faces of anyone who will pay attention.  
They love to brag about their lift numbers, or their body's shape.
They love to win prizes and earn titles.
They love the attention.
All that they do thrusts them into our eyes.  
Yet while they stand before the crowds, they meanwhile almost never stand for anything.
Maybe for vanity.
Maybe for excess.
But they rarely stand in their spotlights for anything that has substantial benefit for the vary same audience they coveted.

Sometimes they make pathetic claims that they "seek to inspire others."  Yet that is just a cover story; they get people excited, but the few they inspire are really just inspired to do the same selfish trick. 

And sometimes they try to claim they are beyond social judgement because it is "a personal choice," as if their use of drugs doesn't concern anyone but themselves.  However, any public act is inherently not private.  What you paint the inside of your house is personal; but what your neighbors see you paint on the outside affects the value of their property as well.   Steroid-driven strength and size is absolutely a public dialogue.  Nothing private about it.  Nothing "personal" about making a public display.

So then sometimes they try to bolster their image by spouting disingenuous morality, claiming to be spokespeople for virtues.  Yet these statements, are ad hoc; just ideas stapled on "after the fact."  These things are not at all the basis of their choice behind using the drugs or reaching their goals.  

All the while their enhanced bodies and feats build such grand audiences, they meanwhile do little to sway these audiences towards anything good, anything substantial or anything sustainable.  It's all vain, petty and short-sighted.  They have the power of the podium yet say little of value to the people.

The guys on steroids stand for nothing.

And this is what drives me to push all of us – even those who do not use the drugs – to set forth examples of heroism, not just examples of achievement.  

We must stand for something before we act, not try to promote something after we've acted.
And so rarely do the people who use the chemicals start out standing for something greater than their own desirous lust for a goal.

Where are those who will forsake the craving for for titles, trophies, fame and adoration in the name of a greater purpose?  In the name of benevolent benefit towards their fellow man?

And can a strong body with a majestic image even do any of that, anyway?
Can the mighty sway the masses towards anything other than might?

Yes.

Yes they can.

Yet they don't.

And so sadly we are just inundated with examples of the opposite.
Men of might and scale who shout so much, show so much and claim so much
yet say very, very little.

Little people with big flesh.
Little minds with big objects.
Little impact from such big output.

And this amazes me.  
It amazes me how little the guys on steroids and enhancement drugs stand for.

I don't feel anger towards them.
I feel shame for them.  

And that  reminds me of shame from my own life.
And that makes me want to heal.
And that makes me want to work.
And that makes me want to show how work can stand for something noble
not something nifty.

And I await the day the heroes emerge from the armies of the vain
and use their strength and imagery
to cause such effects
without us having to correct their homework for them.

Nothing wrong with being big.
Nothing wrong with building strength.
Nothing wrong with an image that excites.
Unless it doesn't stand for anything other than a self-indulgence.

Then it's a waste.

Stand for something.
Please.
Stand for something great and good.
Use your power to guide, not indulge.

And get off the fucking drugs.  
They serve little purpose to any meaningful cause,
they serve shortsighted purposes
and they undermine your ultimate ability to be great anyway.

Stand for something.

And amaze us all.

OUR OFFICIAL WORD ON PALEO DIETS (again): Clever but stupid.

More and more, Paleo-style dieting is seeping out of the fringes and into the mainstream.  No longer just a fanatical tool in the world of athletics, Paleo, "neo-Paleo" and "carb-cleanse" diets are graduating into pop culture touchstones for fad dieting.

To be fair: lemmings enjoy sugar.  

To be fair: lemmings enjoy sugar.  

Which means more and more "regular people" are taking forays into this method of eating.  And while I have written similarly on this topic before, I couldn't hold my tongue while watching a new wave of idiots fall like lemmings off the carbohydrate cliff.  I must restate a simple and true fact of human dieting. (I'll get to it in just a second – bear with me.)

You see, what makes Paleo Dieting so convincing is that it is borrowing off of biological facts to describe it's content.  Facts are hard to argue, especially those wrapped in the bright-colored sugary shell of "science."  Once science becomes candy, everyone falls in love with it.  And this was Paleo Dieting's marketing success to the masses: it uses simple, bite-sized scientific facts to uphold it's rationale.  It basically is promoted as "how our bodies were designed to eat."  It looks at our biological design and draws conclusions based on evolution.  And therein lies the candying of the message: it's so yummy with facts it's hard not to dig right in.

Facts are hard to argue, especially those wrapped in the bright-colored sugary shell of “science.” Once science becomes candy, everyone falls in love with it.

However, as true as these facts are, they are only part of the story.  If you want to talk about "how we are designed to eat" and evoke our evolutionary track, then you can't just selectively pick from the candy bins only those sweet facts that uphold your story.  You have to assess all the facts when analyzing a design; anything less creates misleading conclusions.

The biggest overlooked "fact" in analyzing how we were "designed" to eat via our "evolution" is also the one that has always seemed – to this coach, anyway – the most glaringly obvious:

NO GREAT HUMAN ACCOMPLISHMENT
THAT LED TO THE BETTERMENT OF OUR SPECIES
WAS EVER ACHIEVED WITHOUT ADDED SUGARS.
PERIOD.

And I mean all our greatest accomplishments.  Whether it is Stonehendge or the Sisteine Chapel; open-heart surgery or the Mars rover; a Shakespearian sonnet or the internet where you are now reading this article; nothing awesome we humans have ever accomplished didnt also require tons of excess sugar to get done.  Including:

THE POSSESSION OF THE SCIENCE WHICH ALLOWED US TO LOOK BACK 
AND DETERMINE THE DIETS OF OUR ANCESTORS
RELIED ON TONS OF SUGARS TO INVENT.

PALEO DIETING WOULD BE UNKNOWN TO US
WITHOUT MILLENNIA OF HUMANS
INTENTIONALLY EATING NON-PALEO DIETING.

Our ancestors – the guys who ate Peleo – were the ones who invented non-Paleo, added-sugar dieting.  And thank god they did!  It was a boon to our evolution!  

While mass-production of carbs has caused us terrible setbacks, that is not the fault of the carbs themselves.

And this is a fact: to get ahead, we must use out ability to develop technology.  And while there are many worrisome woes to the industrialization of food, industrialization is different from applied technology.  While mass-production of carbs has caused us terrible setbacks, that is not the fault of the carbs themselves.  The application of technology – the use of refined tools – to enhance our diets is not the bad guy here; we are not going to get our best performance by shoving twigs into ant holes for a mouthful of bugs.  Avoiding crappily-produced (read: industrialized) foods is a good thing, but avoiding added sugars all together?  Yah, that idea didn't really work out for our ancestors either.  

Which is why they invented adding sugar.  And then all kinds of awesome started going down.  

And that is an evolutionary fact.  Just as factual as the face used to bolster Paleo Dieting.  Th problem is that thy are not as sugary sweet; these here are like the factual brussel sprouts to the M&M's ofd Paleo's science tray.  Of course they are easy to shove aside.  Way too much fiber to be any "fun."

Mmmm!  Science!  So factsy!!!

Mmmm!  Science!  So factsy!!!

Paleo-style dieting is a trick of logic and marketing, not a boon of health promotion or a maximization of human potential.  Our potential was maximized when we used tools – one of the evolutionary traits which helps define our species – to change what we ate.  Then pyramids, The Beatles, Great Wall and airplanes, not to mention Olympics, marathons, baseball and bodybuilding, among many other cool things.

Paleo-style dieting is a trick of logic and marketing, not a boon of health promotion or a maximization of human potential.

Paleo is clever, but stupid.  It is a useful compendium of ideas on our biology, but a lousy prescription for maximizing human performance.  yes, the short term benefits have been extolled time and again through countless "after pictures."  But the fact of the matter is human betterment relies on adding sugar to our diet – judiciously and conscientiously, but absolutely.  

And no sweetening of facts will out-nourish the nutrients in that fact.

From Mr. Scott, Mr. Olympia and Mr. Corey: Shame The F#@% On You

I originally had no interest in bodybuilding.  Absolutely none.  

When I discovered lifting, I fell in love with it.  I fell in love with the process.  I fell in love with the results.  (Duh.)  I was fascinated by the culture.  I admired the practices of physique athletes.  But even with all that love, I had none for the competitive sport.  In fact, I never really understood the sport, and so beyond just disinterest I also had a bit of revulsion.  

Scratch that; I had a lot of revulsion towards it.    Bodybuilding, to me, seemed weird.  And I'm weird.  So if a thing seems weird to me, it seems ESPECIALLY weird. 

And still does.

And yet I am now a competitive bodybuilder. I guess I am a bit of a hypocrite.  So shame the fuck on me, right?

But "normal folks" have to interest in the sport of bodybuilding either.  It is fringe.  It is quirky.  It is esoteric.  So my shame is mitigated; I was in the majority; my take was the common take. And while many people admire the look of a sculpted, muscular physique, only a few find the pursuit of it to be much beyond a frivolity; certainly not important for the "big concerns" of life.

The first eve Mr. Olympia, Larry Scott.  While only a footnote in the broad history of muscle culture, he is nonetheless a bro in the eyes of many who are part of that culture.

This morning, I discovered my attitude has not much changed in the over two decades that I have become a competitor, a coach, a reference in the sport.  it was proven to me win I learned that an icon of the sport's American history had passed away.  And I thought: "Holy crap, XN!  You didn't know?  Shame the fuck on you!"

Now, again in my defense, the name Larry Scott is not hardly a household one.  Th average person on the street will more than likely not know the name, and if they do it is just random trivia – certainly not known for some relevant place Mr. Scott holds in the cultural fabric.  And, if we really push the issue, he wasn't super-relevant unto himself.  

The Mr. Olympia . . . is a “proof of concept,” but not the concept itself. And thus Mr. Scott will forever be a name on a list rather than character of heritage; he was a player of the game but not nearly the rulemaker.

Larry Scott was a footnote in a much larger and more complex cultural history.  He was the first to ever have the title which is now at the center of a media propaganda empire: Mr. Olympia.  And while endless discussions and accounts can uphold muscle culture and bodybuilding as a major cultural shaper (pun intended) in the American pop landscape, The Mr. Olympia itself is merely a detail; it is a "proof of concept," but not the concept itself.  And thus Mr. Scott will forever be a name on a list rather than character of heritage; he was a player of the game but not nearly the rulemaker.

"The Golden Boy" of competitive bodybuilding.

But this is not to say he was not important to many pool in his career in the sport.  Since the 1965 Olympia title he won, he has been idolized by many who admire muscle, and even more by those who seek to craft their own.  He was "The Golden Boy."  He was a legend within a sport's culture.  He was a hero.  And I am force to admit this because that is how I learned of his passing.  I am not someone who spends much time groping about the internet and newsstands for the lats bodybuilding news.  However, being in a central spot of a big community, I learn fast when big news goes down.

The death of Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia, is try big news.  If you are in any way connected to muscle culture, it is like the loss of a star; like the passing of a rock star for music fans or the passing of an actor for movie buffs.  

And so with such passings, the culture that praises the star pours out with eulogies of solace.  Countless posts about "what this great athlete meant to me."  (Such posts on social networks were how I learned of his death, actually – not to mention was reminded of who he was in the first place. I know, I know: shame the fuck on me.)

That was where I paused.

So often when there is the passing of a significant person in culture, the eulogaic commentary waxes slightly hypocritical.  Folks want to exult their response to the death, and really prove that their sadness is not only valid but significant to the loss. Everyone takes to comments of what the person's work meant to them.  And often these comments are beautiful.  Yet they are also too often hollow.  Too often, people claim a sadness for the loss, and yet indicate no interest in learning from what the deceased offered in the form of gain.

Let me get more specific: being amidst strength athletes, I am seeing many comments about what a loss the death of larry Scott is, and how much he was admired.  And yet so few of these admirers have stepped up to compete, as Mr. Scott did.  They admire his drive and passion, and yet emulate none of his resolve.  They sing his praises as an important influence, and yet have not taken his example and stepped up to compete. And I am speaking here of strength athletes and lifters with a long personal history of muscle-building and the basic equipment to take on a bodybuilding challenge with high rewards.  The guys who seem dented have rarely been competitors, yet have often been loyal, hard-working and driven athletes.  See the hypocrisy? How can we learn what Mr. Scott had to teach us if we do not at least dabble in his example?  Shame the fuck on you!

Revering the iconic alone is not the sam as understanding what they might signify for us.

Now, this is not to say his influence is strictly across a parameter of competitive bodybuilding.  Of course he was also iconic, and his imagery held profound encouragement, motivation and positivity towards many exceptional pursuits far beyond bodybuilding.  These aforementioned lifters certainly did validate the examples of Mr. Scott in many ways.  I am really just questioning why they wouldn't also validate his work by walking in his shoes?  

Many of them have great explanations.  Life and family and business are valid.  A time-consuming desire to accomplish more in the sports they already engage is solid.  Disinterest in the sport's details – the trunks, the posing, the diet, the dye – certainly has merit.  Heck, they sound like what I used to sound like.  I didn't want the added burden either.  I was happy with what I was doing.  In fact, i was beyond happy; my practice was rewarding and peaceful and I wanted for nothing within it.  Compete in bodybuilding?  Why bother?  I was fine without that addd pressure, thank you.  Who needs the added burden of the weight of something they may be cut out for, but just have no interest in pursuing?

Adding the challenges you are not originally excited for is what builds skill.

The answer is found in the try practice lifters engage week in and week out.  The very quality of the work they love holds the answer to: "why add the pressure of something on doesn't like?"  It is the try quality of their hands on the iron that tells the truth: has any great endeavor in physique sports been accomplished by aggressively de-loading the pressure of added weight?  Dos lifting less improve a strength athlete?  Does obeying the excuses of preference and heeding the avoidance of inconvenience make someone powerful and strong?

As Chris Corey once told me: "shame the fuck on you?"

Oh, did I mention Chris Corey yet?  No?  Well, Chris Corey is a man whom I consider my own, personal Larry Scott.  It was nothing short of the brief influence of this man who got me started and everything and – I mean everything I have ever accomplished since, in bodybuilding and beyond – has been influenced by the lessons he taught me.  The Next Level,  The PhysiQademy, The PhysiQulture Collaborative, The Big Inside, even my branding & design business Scorpio Creative have all been touched, indirectly or specifically, but the lesson that Chris taught me which put me into a bodybuilding contest.  

Now most people don't know my origin story.  That is partly strategic – as a coach it is good to play one's cards close to the cuff, pulling aces only when needed – and partly respectful – I some parts are only understood after other parts are completely comprehended prior.  And fewer that have heard my origin stories know who Chris Corey was.  He was the man who was the single most resonating influence on my work, and to whom every single athlete I have assisted, peer I have collaborated with and dreamer I have inspired owes a huge debt of gratitude.  Similar, I guess, to how people hold gratitude for Mr. Scott.  While Mr. Scott was not the main hero, his influence certainly helped inspire those who would act heroically in his legacy.

But Chris was no levitating demigod; he was merely a peer.  He was someone whom I went to college with at Carnegie Mellon University, and knew at first mainly through artistic endeavors rather than athletic ones.  Chris was bright.  Chris was whipsmart.  Chris was funny and highly intelligent and creative.  He was many remarkable things, but his stature in people's opinion was always elevated by what Chris possessed not only from the neck up, but also from the neck down.  You see, Chris was built.  I mean crazy built.  Like, "how the heck did that guy get such an awesome roll of the genetic dice?!" built.  Of course he had an incredible work ethic, and attacked the gym with a passion and playfulness that only made his exceptional genetics shine all the brighter.  He was a military man as well, which added to his disciplinary abilities and expanded his physical talents.

The guy was pretty incredible.  Yet to those unaware of his soulful heart and heightened intelligence, Mr. Corey was, by anyone's concept, the epitome of a bodybuilder.  It worked against him often, obviously, because you could to "see through" his exceptional mass and shape try easily; the muscle was unavoidable.  The very ways he moved and presented himself declared physical confidence, an enviable aesthetic and a fascinating self-awareness of the influence of his own image.  

If you truly have the ability to do something, but don’t do that thing, well, then shame the fuck on you.
— Chris Corey

It came as no surprise to anyone that, after laving the service, he took on his first bodybuilding contest.  It was even less surprising that he loved it.  Well, less surprising to everyone but me.  I was still skeptical, remember?  I still didn't see the point; to me it was just added pressure towards something I cared little for.  And I challenged him (as I am now known for doing) on his point; I wanted to see and comprehend just what was really in it that such an artistic, creative and influential young man would go for it.  And in response to my questions, Chris had many answers.  But the one that really stood out was the one he concluded with:

"If you had the ability to do something," he told me. "But don't do that thing, well, shame the fuck on you."

The only thing stopping me was thoughts and ideas. In other words, the only things stopping me weren’t real at all, in spite of how I treated them that way.

Wow. That one hit me.  I had reasons for not doing it, and they were good ones.  I had explanations why I wasn't going to, and they were well-conceived and sensible.  And I had opinions why I was not interested, and they were logical and rational.  But I also had the ability.  There was no doubt I possessed the ability; there was really nothing stopping me.  All the reasons, explanations and opinions could be recreated as easily as they had ben originally create.  The only thing stopping me was thoughts and ideas.  In other words, the only things stopping me weren't real at all, in spite of how I treated them that way.  

 "I am an artist," is what I roughly recall of all the things he told me on so many occasions.  "I have the heart of an artist, and I personally believe everyone does.  We just forget that when we start thinking and planning and explaining our world to ourselves.  The art goes away, and we become monotonous and stuck.  It's a risk to let that all go, but when we do we are following our heart, so the risk always pays off.  Which is why, when we can do a thing, we should just risk it and get going.  Those who don't and get stuck in their thinking are the problems in this world.  And this world needs less problems.  So shame the fuck on them!"

And it made sense.  A lot of sense.  And then Chris had an opportunity to go on a trip to Bali.  Just an excursion to explore the Far East.  And it was a dream come true, and his artist's heart sure as hell wasn't going to be unable to do it.  And so he planned to prep for his next contest after he got back from the trip; day one on his return from Bali was all bodybuilding contest-prep mode.  

And he got on the plane to come home from Bali and the plane crashed and he died.

And that was the end of Chris Corey's bodybuilding career.  The end of one of the most perfect physiques I have ever seen.  Now all just a memory.  Just an inspiration.  He could never compete again.  And here I was – alive and well and with all the ability in the world to arrange it – still dismissing it.

Shame the fuck on who, now?

Such a profound influence on me, I mutter thanks to him every time I hit certain poses.

The lesson only sunk in after his death. Which is what has made it so poignant to me.  Even after two decades, it still feels like fresh lesson.  I suppose that is because it is true.  If you have the ability to do a thing, but don't it is rather shameful.  It's entitled, self-indulgent and wasteful.  It gains you only temporary comfort, but ultimately helps almost no one.  And it was how I was regarding bodybuilding.

Mere months after Chris dies, I was in my first contest, and I was very much thinking of him in thankful prayers the whole event.  In fact, when I execute the pose "abs and quads" pose, Chris' name is invoked, with gratitude.  The pose requires an athlete to exhale completely and hold – literally without breathing.  It is like being underwater; you are literally trying not to suffocate to execute it properly.  It is a moment in competition where you need as much strength as you can muster.  And when I execute it, many have seen me mutter something – just my lips moving – right before I breathe out.  I am saying a quick "Thanks, Chris; stay with me."  Literally, over scores of contests, I still thank him every single time.  It reminds me of the lesson: I have the ability and will not shame myself by ignoring it or doubting it.  My role model no longer has the ability; I do.  So forward I go.

Which is why the passing of Mr. Scott, the Mr. Olympia, reminds me so much of Mr. Corey.  The lesson, in a nutshell, was simple yet clear: "You are alive and well, and have the ability, so if you turn away from your callings, then shame the fuck on you!"  We all have talents, and just because our talents don't match our interests does not mean we should therefore squander our talents.  Of course we can not do everything at once, but that does not mean a pursuit of a talent does not make it to the to-do list, the bucket-list, or the long-term-planner.  It is not the same as saying "maybe one day"; the goal needs to be an absolute agenda.  This is what truly shows that a hero influenced us; when we elect to not only learn their lessons, but walk the path on which they learned them.  

Don't be shameful: tai on the challenge!

So many of the people mourning the passing of Mr. Scott have no specific plan to compete in Larry Scott's sport of choice.  Sure, many of them say "maybe one day," but no gains were ever retrieved through maybes.  No one puts on strength by saying "maybe I'll lift heavy things."  No one gets faster by saying "maybe I'll sprint some day."  No one gets wiser by saying "maybe I'll look into it."  Maybe is useless.  Mr. Olympia knows no maybes, so Mr. Scott knew no maybes.  And neither did Mr. Corey.  Because maybes are a little shameful.  And stack too many maybes up, and you got a big ol' shame-the-fuck-on-you headed your way.

So when you look at the death of Inaugural Mr. Olympia Larry Scott, also meanwhile look at your well-crafted rationals for not competing in Larry Scott's sport.  Look closely at your explanations, and even closer at your opinions.  Because I guarantee you will find you totally – absolutely – possess the ability; no explanation you offer will diminish that fact.  You possess the ability.

So don't just honor your heroes in words; learn their lessons in deeds.  Nurture your talents as they did, not just with eloquent rhetoric but also by agenda'ed action.   

You possess the ability to compete.  And if you turn away, "just because," well, on behalf of Mr. Olympia, Mr. Scott and my beloved Mr. Corey: shame the fuck on you.


Please post thoughts, opinions, reactions, responses and any thing else below, or hit me up, as always, via email.

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