A blog by the Next Level  2013 Advancement Team.  

This blog provides the insight, in-jokes and inspiration of a team in action.  Each post is by a team member as their journey continues.  

In The Next Level, an "Advancement Team" is a team built of experienced athletes designed to "advance" the program.  The spring 2013 Advancement Team is comprised of eight men: Tom Keon, Phil Cohen, Stephen Cyr, Seth Carbonneau, Stephen Forgione. Phil Biondo, Yarza Winn and Chris Noonan.  

Each post represents only the views of it's poster, and is not intended as a reflection of the opinions, views or beliefs of any other teammate, the team as a whole or The Next Level.  

Follow these men as they make their marks on a small corner of history.


Confidence vs. Cockiness in Strength and Physique Sports

I think everyone who lifts weights has moments when they impress themselves with the way they look in the mirror, or the amount of weight they are moving. When you set a goal and you realize that you're making progress it's a great feeling and we all deserve to have an air of confidence when that happens.

However, too often I observe or interact with people that either elevate this confidence to a point of cockiness, or are overly confident without any evident progress.

I know that everyone reading this can picture the people in the gym whom I am taking about.  Maybe it's that guy spending an entire workout in the squat rack doing curls, staring at his arms in the mirror and grunting to make certain that the entire gym is aware of his presence.  Perhaps it's that guy walking around giving everyone advice like he is an expert – even though he only does partial squats in the Smith Machine.  Maybe it's that woman with a tight body that only does cardio but claims she is getting ready for a figure competition which never seems to arrive.  Or maybe it's the guy using all the space in the gym because he thinks he is entitled to it – like because of his build he is somehow better than everyone else training. While these types exist at just about every gym, they also exist in perhaps greater numbers in competitive strength and physique sports.

When I competed in my first strongman competition three years ago I was impressed by the general attitude of the other competitors. While everyone seemed relatively confident, there were very few people who came across as cocky. Most of the competitors were willing to give advice to each other, as well as cheer each other on during events. At first I was completely taken back by this because I expected that since we compete as individuals it would be every man for himself. I started to realize two things; many of these competitors had been doing this for a while and they wanted to share their knowledge and get new people excited about the sport and also, since they had been competing for a while, they were confident in their abilities because they have been making progress.

Over the last three years I have noticed a steady increase in the number of cocky competitors in strongman. Competitors who feel self-entitled to win and act like they run the show. I have seen my fellow competitors cheer or get excited when their opponent bombs an event, or even if that opponent gets hurt and has to drop out of competition.

I think the influx of cocky competitors comes from the fact that strongman is gaining popularity very quickly as well as the fact that I am becoming one of the guys with more experience. I am very willing to give advice to my competition if they are new to an event or ask questions as long as the advice is appreciated. Yet unfortunately there are several competitors who will act like they are entitled to my advice and have no reciprocal appreciation. I try my best to avoid people like this because it can ruin a competition day – and really piss me off.  

Yet – as much as I don't want to say it – some overly-cocky competitors are also actually very strong competition. This is probably because, while they may have gained their confidence through gradual progress, they now express that confidence in an overtly self-congratulatory and offensive way.  Unfortunately for them, while these competitors do well on their own, they will probably miss out on useful advice from more advanced competitors because no one wants to offer advice to a cocky prick.

One of the things that particularly frustrates me about many cocky lifters is their unwillingness to heed the advice of others when in comes to lifting with correct form. For all movements, there are right and wrong ways to move the weight. The way "wrong" is generally defined in weight-lifting is that you are at increased risk of injury if you lift that way. Examples of this are rounding the back while deadlifting, trying to press something without both arms moving at an even speed, or leaning far forward while squatting. Most people who know better will try to correct the form of someone lifting wrong as a common courtesy.  But cocky lifters either don't want to hear it, or are too confident that they are lifting the correct way.  Look: if you are truly confident, you should be willing to take the advice of other lifters.

Ever since I started lifting I have tried to learn as much as possible from everyone around me because I realized early on that weight-lifting is a complicated sport littered with contradicting information and opinions. The importance of having an open mind and willingness to listen and learn in the field of strength and physique sports cannot be understated. Athletes that are overly confident and thus cocky are not only at risk for making less progress, but they are also at serious risk for injury. If you want to be a serious lifter, you have to heed this advice.

Lifting weights, being strong, or having big muscles doesn't automatically make you better than everyone else. You have to earn your confidence. Once you have earned confidence, don't let it control you.

You have to control your confidence if you want to be successful.

-Posted by Seth Carbonneau


Here's an interesting perspective by professional bodybuilder and nutrition counsellor, Dave Pulcinella about the healthiness of competitive bodybuilding.  It's one with which I somewhat agree.  

I agree with Pulcinella that when bodybuilding is taken as a sport, a number one concern should be winning.   Of course not everyone will share that sentiment.

However ultimately it should be a moot issue, right . . .? After all, as bodybuilders we are presumed to be a picture of health – the "Gold Standard" so to speak.  Should that be our reward?

While I believe that – for the most part – bodybuilders are probably healthier than the average person.  But  bodybuilding competitors who have literally died backstage as Dave mentioned are the exception to that rule.  

It's like I've always said: its not the supplement that causes the problem, its the user;  An idiot could screw up a bologna sandwich.

There are rotten apples in ever industry, bodybuilding is no different.

-Stephen Forgione-

Ego Maniac!

posted by Phil Biondo

This is my first blog post ever, so while it will most likely not go down in history, but I am meanwhile not afraid to go down.  Which brings me to this weeks topic: Girls in the gym.

More specifically: when I enter the gym, should I check my ego at the door and only lift appropriate max weights?  Or should I let my ego run wild, as usual, and use the possibility of hooking up with the bikini model in the elliptical to push myself past my normal max weights?

Most days I would tell you to check your ego at the door. In fact I often make fun of guys trying to impress some mildly fit female, as if that extra 10 lbs. is the deciding factor in wether or not she lets you in her pants. Most days i'm so focused in the gym I wouldn't even notice Kim Kardashian doing squats right next to me. Having said this I myself earlier this week was a victim of my own ego.

During my weekly sets of dead lifts to start off back day, otherwise known as OMG my lats are huge day! I started off light with a couple warmup sets(135x10, 225x10). Then two sets to failure(315x10, 405x8). Then finally finished with a one rep max where I tied my PR of 500 lbs. That's right 500 lbs., I was impressed too.

Unfortunately this testosterone high only lasted a couple seconds until a very attractive female walked up to me flirtatiously, wearing a midriff tank designed to prominently display her lower back tat (tramp-stamp/), along with the tightest booty shorts in the world.

But then things shifted.  This smoke show proceeded to call me a, "P#$$y" for ONLY lifting 500 lbs. when she had clearly seen me already lift that same weight the previous week. 

It was at this point I probably should have listened to my extremely sore back, and told her to go back to her Zumba class. Instead I decided to impress her by throwing on another 10 lbs. on the bar.

Half way through that lift, I could feel something start to tear...

To make a long story short I now have a new dead lift PR of 510 lbs. but have not been able to lift or stand up strait for the last five days.

I'll leave it up to you to decide: is an ego a positive tool for bodybuilders?  Or just a reason to have a chiropractor on speed dial?