Back to the Bandana 3: Work Ethic

It would be the responsible thing to tell you about the balance in my life. To pontificate about the need for boundaries and scheduling, properly ordering priorities and decompression. About wellness clinics, getaways and self-care. But the truth is, I run on fumes most of the time, with my foot on the floor. I train too much and don’t sleep enough. And I haven’t taken a day off of work in more than four years. I’m sincerely thankful for that fact.

I always say, “busy is a blessing” because I’ve seen the alternative. I’ve been dodging the couch and the barstool for decades. I can’t afford the idle hands, the small talk, the wasted hours, the down time. The luxuries of neighborhood normalcy come at a price I’d never want to pay. I don’t try to pass the time with pastimes. It is too valuable. And though the product of endless interests and influences that still inspire, I don’t have many hobbies. I don’t particularly care about that new TV show, or those after-market rims on your truck. My “Netflix and chill” has no chill and I haven’t watched Netflix in months.

When we chat, I’m listening to every word you say, but the whole time, there’s a part of my mind working on my dream. Obsessing on the low, like a program running in the background of a Mac Book Pro. I’ve compartmentalized it all in the space between my ears.

Truth is, since I was a kid, I lived in a box. In pursuit of all that I wanted most, I sacrificed a lot. And I did so with joy. I’ve trimmed all the fat from my life for a shot at the extraordinary. I’ve got five beautiful ladies weighing heavily on one side, but otherwise my scales are far from balanced. That’s life in “the box” and since I was 12 years old, that’s all I know.

I like the monastic monotony. I flourish under self-prescribed regimentation that is far from routine. Anything that I pour myself into is a labor of love, because when it comes to my aspirations, I literally love the labor. They say the idea at the heart of a “work ethic” is the thought that hard work is intrinsically virtuous and worthy of reward. That paying dues pays dividends. I sure as hell hope so because I’ve bet my life on it.

Hammered into place every morning in the dark is a way of life. My work ethic is reinforced every single day that I get up early to train. I use the word “train”, because what we do is not mere mindless “exercise”. It has intent. It is purposeful physical exertion, with a specific desired outcome, done over and over again for years. It is executed with focus and intensity, with hunger and humility, and with religious consistency. It is physical. It is intellectual. It is spiritual. Not unlike martial arts, where the lifetime student becomes a sensei, it is my duty to share this gift with the world.

The title of the third annual edition of this article is less about fashion than it is representative of a frame of mind. The bandana has graced many famous heads from Dorian to Deion to DMX. But it is equal parts outlaw and blue collar and can most often be found from the field to the factory, where you earn your keep with your work. Where hustle pays. I wear mine to keep my wild hair out of my face, my sweat from my brow and my feet grounded firmly near my roots, even when my mind is in the firmament. My hoodie, like blinders, narrows my gaze. I’m in the box. Here I thrive.

My religious morning ritual starts with an alarm singing its siren song abruptly before the dawn. My feet still sore from the previous day’s cardio, I gingerly walk to an ottoman in my bedroom to get dressed. I quietly make my way downstairs, where a clean shaker cup and pre-selected container of my preworkout awaits. I set them up the night before on the kitchen counter, in preparation. I like to line up factors in my favor to ensure success.

After creating my workout beverage, I descend another floor to the cold darkness of my basement. My vision as a kid was to have a full training facility in my home, so I could roll out of bed and get to work. To make progress, off the grid, when no one was watching, and to push myself whenever inspiration would strike. I’m not preparing for an upcoming season in the league as a young G had planned, but the dream endures intact.

Flipping on the lights, each training session starts the same. On the vintage LifeCycle 5500HR, I do my daily fasted cardio and slowly come to life. In an almost tantric exercise of self-discipline, I do not drink until I have reached 20 minutes on the bike. Within arm’s reach, 2 scoops of Pumpin’ Purple Haze VICE X await, in 20 ounces of cold water over slowly melting ice. Rocket fuel for the spaceship, I prepare for liftoff. The first sip is transformational.

Mornings Make “The Man”

I’ve never been a “morning person”. I’m always tired, getting out of bed hurts, alarms suck. But none of it is as objectionable as being average. There is an undeniable advantage to be gained by getting familiar with the darkest hours before dawn. And I lust for that edge. The opportunity is there each day to generate momentum, to invest in yourself, gaining ground on those in your crosshairs and further widening the gap between you and the competition. Simply by doing what they’re unwilling to do, before they’re even willing to roll out of bed. You might not like it, but one day you will grow to love it. I guarantee it. Get your ass up. There’s work to be done.

What follows, though always slightly different from week to week, has been the same for two decades. Refined for efficiency. Sophisticated in its simplicity. Pulling tools from a toolbox that has grown heavy with additions over the years.

Here is a week of my training set for set and rep for rep, straight, quite literally, from the underground. Where what you do in the dark, will one day bring you to the light.

Monday: Biceps/Triceps/Forearms

Cardio: 60 minutes

  • EZ Bar Curls: 2 sets x 15-10 reps
  • Hammer Curls: 2 sets x 12 reps
  • Preacher DB Curls or Machine Curls: 2 sets x 20-10 reps
  • Pushdowns: 3 sets x 15-10 reps
  • EZ Bar Overhead Extensions: 2 sets x 15-10 reps
  • One Arm Overhead DB Extensions: 2 sets x 15-10 reps
  • DB Wrist Curls: 2 sets x 20-15 reps


Tuesday: Shoulders/Traps

Cardio: 60 minutes

  • DB Side Lateral Raises: 3 sets x 12-6 reps
  • One Arm Bent Rear Lateral Raises: 2 sets x 12 reps
  • Seated DB Press: 3 sets x 15-10 reps
  • DB Shrugs: 2 sets x 15-12 reps
  • One Arm DB Side Lateral Raises: 1 sets x 15 reps

Wednesday: Back

Cardio: 60 minutes

  • Wide Grip Front Pulldowns: 3 sets x 15-10 reps
  • T-Bar Rows: 3 sets x 15-8 reps
  • DB Pullovers: 2 sets x 12 reps
  • Wide Grip Pullups: 3 sets to failure


“Gorilla Math”

“Daddy, why  would you do 46 reps?” Sienna asked, observing me banging out crunches on the floor on a Saturday morning, and counting each rep unbeknownst to me, as I stopped on an odd even number. Pulling my headphones from my ears under my hood, I responded, “I only counted 25.” Since I was in junior high school and I’d begun my nightly bodyweight training regimen before bed, I developed this habit of only counting the perfect reps of a set and discounting all others, often repeating a number several times, determined to make each one count. My concern wasn’t mere perfect execution, but simply not doing enough. If I was supposed to do 10, I’d do 12 for my jersey number, if 20 was the goal, I’d do 23 for Mike. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t doing the bare minimum in living up to my own expectations. I always wanted an edge over whatever my imaginary competition was doing. I wanted doing more than I planned, or was expected or than what others were doing, to become commonplace for me. Standard operating procedure. This crude and unreasonable, less evolved and enlightened method of addition, I call “Gorilla Math”. 

Thursday: Quads

Cardio: 60 minutes

  • Leg Press: 2 sets x 20 reps
  • Squat Machine: 3 sets x 10-6 reps
  • Barbell Squats: 3 sets x 10-6 reps
  • Leg Extensions: 2 sets x 20+ reps (last set to failure)


Friday: Chest

Cardio: 60 minutes

  • Barbell Bench Press: 6 sets x 10-3 reps
  • DB Floor Press: 2 sets x 15-12 reps
  • Cable Crossovers: 2 sets x 20-15 reps
  • Parallel Bar Dips: 1 set to Failure

Saturday: Hamstrings/Calves/Abs

Cardio: 60 minutes

  • Dumbbell Stiff-Legged Deadlifts: 2 sets x 12 reps
  • Lying Leg Curls: 3 sets x 15-10 reps
  • Standing Calf Raises: 2 sets x 20-10 reps
  • Seated Calf Raises: 2 sets x 20-10 reps
  • Standing Bodyweight Calf Raises: 1 set x 50 reps
  • Hanging Leg Raises: 2 sets x 10 reps
  • Floor Crunches: 2 sets x 25 reps
  • Cable Rope Crunches: 1 set x 50 reps

Sunday: OFF


The Bandana Supplement Stack

This is my essential training supplement protocol 6 days per week. I do my best to be meticulous and not miss, filling all the gaps in my diet every day. Also included, is why I use what I use, and why we developed these supplements at GCode Nutrition in the first place.

  • AM Preworkout: 3 KING capsules, 2 scoops VICE X
  • Postworkout: “Super Shake” featuring 1 heaping scoop Slammin’ Strawberry Milkshake FEAST
  • Afternoon: 1 scoop LIFE
  • Evening: 2 scoops RISE
  • Before Bed: 3 KING capsules, 4 DREAM capsules

VICE X starts every day. It gives me energy and focus and ridiculous pumps. It wakes me up, taking the place of coffee with no crash. It is a performance supplement, and a trusted training partner–not a mere energy drink.  It is experiential and I literally look forward to it daily.

KING I use to optimize natural test production and address some common vitamin and mineral deficiencies. It also helps boost immunity, combat stress and cortisol output, enhance strength and libido, and even improve sleep. It is one of my low-key secret weapon wonder supps. I take split dosages half and half, AM/PM.

FEAST is the primary source of protein and nutrients for postworkout/Meal 1. I blend it into my “Super Shake” aka the “meal in a mug” that has popular bodybuilding breakfast components, breaking the fast and kickstarting growth when that day’s target muscle tissue is the most broken down. Here’s the recipe, try it and tell me you don’t grow…

  • 1 scoop Slammin’ Strawberry Milkshake FEAST
  • 8 oz liquid pasteurized egg whites
  • 4 oz oat milk
  • ½ cup plain oats
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 2-3 strawberries or a handful of blueberries
  • 1 TBSP wheat germ
  • Ice

LIFE is prepared every afternoon. Typically, I mix two scoops in 16oz of cold water with ice and split it between Tara and myself. I see LIFE as the midday pause that ensures you’re taking care of yourself. None of us eat as many fruits and veggies as we should or we’d like to, so LIFE checks that box for me.

RISE is as utilitarian and versatile as a supplement can get. I take two scoops per day, in between meals. Using RISE daily heightens recovery, makes me less sore, helps me hydrate and bolsters immunity. It makes you resilient. What’s ideal about it is how good it tastes. It absolutely replaces a couple daily cans of diet soda or glasses of Crystal Light for me, while actually being beneficial. I often sip on RISE around the clock.

DREAM is truly a “sleeper” product, another secret weapon in my arsenal. I don’t sleep anywhere near as much as my body would like or my training necessitates, so the sleep I do get needs to be of the utmost quality. Try it for a week and you’ll realize what I did. DREAM is a performance product. It is a hyperbaric chamber in a bottle, one that I utilize to bounce back day after day.

The Legend of the “Super Shake”

What I make daily using FEAST as a foundation has roots that literally go back decades. The first ever protein shake I purchased was a weight gainer at the Shore Mall GNC. It was called Mus-L-Blast 2000. I blended it with bananas, skim milk and whole eggs. It tasted good and really helped me make the most of my brutal teenage bedroom home workouts. It was magical. One of the factors that has always appealed most to me about the lifestyle is the biochemical “alchemy” that allows a regular person to use crude weights and common foods–with consistency and in special combinations, to create something extraordinary. Some of that “magic of creation” can be found in the routine ritual of assembling and blending your own super shake every day postworkout. Make it a part of your own daily sorcery.

For the third Summer in a row, I share with you, what for me is the raw material of a transformative physical process, one rooted in my personal philosophy, a “code” if you will. A blueprint for lifelong domination broken down, one rep, set, workout and day at a time.  In isolation, none of it is all that exceptional or noteworthy–and that’s precisely what makes it extraordinary. In that uncommon consistency, effort, personal accountability and the resulting self-knowledge, can be found great confidence. Each day is a tiny tile in a massive mosaic, a dream carefully set and cemented in place by calloused hands, for years.

Not a product of passing fancies, phases or fads, work ethic is not a gimmick, it is who we are. Our bandana is less of a du-rag than it is a tribal flag… The symbolic headdress of a rare breed fighting to survive. Those who will gladly strip away all the bullshit and commit. They live in a box in order to be the best. Those capable of anything because there’s nothing they won’t do. That’s you. The words on this page are nothing more than a note from a friend, a reminder, nudging you in the direction of your destiny.

Dedicated to the Memory of Coach Stan Lisowski

The bearer of big dreams will always remember and cherish those they encounter who showed faith and encouraged them on their journey. Such a friend and true believer was Coach Stan. Thankful for the knowledge, the anecdotes and the laughs, I miss him. Coach Stan was a true student of iron culture, and his insight and ideas helped me to examine my own training, many of those findings I have felt compelled to share with others. Thanks for the inspiration, buddy. May we all live with such passion–spreading love, wisdom and enthusiasm to those who cross our paths. You will forever be a part of the GCode legacy.