Back to the Bandana IV: Lead By Example

I hear voices. I have for a long time. Since I was a kid.

Internal conversations. Inner dialogue. That “inside voice” is strong.

Holding me accountable. Urging me on. Keeping me in check.

Because I know that even when I’m alone, I’m still watching. And I can’t escape that stare.

No matter where I go, I can’t hide from the man inside.

I know high expectations. I have made promises. Signed non-negotiable contracts. The weightiest of all, the pacts I have made with myself.  Bound by blood.

Among the folklore associated with the undisputed G.O.A.T. was that Michael Jordan would take perceived slights, disrespect or comments out of context from the competition, and twist them in his head to create conflict he’d use to motivate himself. Almost entirely fabricated scenarios he’d invent in his mind, just to raise the stakes. Allowing him to tap into the repressed rage that was at the heart of his greatness. His opponents would feel the wrath of his mind games, almost innocent bystanders caught up in a very real battle that only existed between Mike’s ears. I intuitively understand this semi-sociopathic motivational method and have called upon it often. I suggest you do the same when you need some extra juice. These darker energies can be transformational. When motivation wanes, discipline, dedication and sometimes outright defiance will keep you in check. Dig deep to find fuel wherever you can.

I do my best to hold myself to an often unreasonable standard every day. Because the truth I know well, is that someone else is always watching. Since my childhood, I tried to carry myself as a role model. Constantly disappointed by the matinee idol athletes of my youth, I promised myself that I wouldn’t falter. And even if my circle of influence was only my peers, I wouldn’t let them down.

As a father, I am now even more thankful for my “code”. Each day I am accountable to the gaze of little ones forming opinions and ideals for their lives. Metrics against which to measure all friends, significant others and authority figures to follow. From my work to my physical activity to coaching to the more menial tasks, I strive daily to set that bar so high in the clouds for them. It is my duty. But alas, I am just a man. Impatient and imperfect.

As a mere mortal, I am thankful for any gifts with which I have been blessed by the divine. For some reason, I was lucky enough to be given a way with words. Able to weave together an odd noun or verb, toss around some similes and metaphors, piling up a few profound paragraphs along the way. But no matter the lyric or poem, I realize these weapons are only words. And what truly matters most, are my actions.

A massive, maximum-strength infrared telescope allowed for a recent quantum advance in astrophysics. In a single image, NASA gave us a glimpse back in time billions of years to a cluster of galaxies light years away. A tiny photo displayed the almost unimaginable vastness of the universe, one so large and limitless it is beyond our comprehension.

In this expansive darkness of the cosmos, it is commonplace to feel small and insignificant. But in the face of something so huge, I instead find great empowerment. With a body so comparatively small, a lifetime approximating the blink of an eye in the course of human history, I figure we might as well air it out. We might as well live large and out loud. We might as well spend our time learning all we can and leading the lost into the light. We might as well be kings and queens.

With this in mind, I have committed my life to leading by example. To holding myself as a role model for others who walk a similar path. Not because I am in any way inherently special, but because I refuse to be just like everyone else. I take myself, my goals, my work, my legacy, seriously.

When I was a kid, Bret “The Hitman” Hart was always one of my heroes (he was also my Pop’s favorite wrestler). With the insight of history’s hindsight, we find that among his peers he was often chided for taking himself too seriously. In showbiz, he was all business. In a world of illusion and “sports entertainment” he sincerely cared about his craft and took being a champion deeply personally. Where others played roles, he strove to be a role model. He realized that in the quest to become “the best there ever will be” there was no room for casual.

If you truly love something and have a burning desire to be great, it can’t be a joke or “just a job” to you. It is your life. It is who you are. Elementally. In your bones. In your soul. It is personal. And to be protected.

My daughters, as strange as it seems, do not like me to wear my baseball cap facing forward. That more traditional style–too reminiscent of their friends’ fathers, is as they see it, an external indicator of a specific world view. Too conventional and conservative. In their Dad’s eternal quest to never be an “Average Joe” they’ve come to unconsciously understand even these subtle symbolic differences. In the gym you will find me with my GCode cap backwards, or my skullcap, or most notably, in my bandana. A daily unspoken tribute to the outliers and outlaws–from Dorian to Deion, who inspired me in my youth to be different and great on my own terms, I endeavor to bring hard work and individuality back in vogue. If to lead the pack is what you seek, you can never simply blend in with the other wolves.

One of the cornerstones of my leadership, and another point of distinction between myself and everyone else, though subtle, has always been my training. The consistency and daily accountability to be found in rigor and routine. Relentless and unyielding. Private and personal. It makes a bold statement in commitment and discipline that trite tough talk could never express. Work ethic quietly displayed every single day, speaks a thousand well-articulated words. Actually walking the walk, I’ve found, is the only way to progress on the journey of a million miles. Running your mouth unfortunately won’t get you very far.

Each morning I set my alarm clock for 5:12 or 5:23 or 5:36 or 5:44, depending on how exhausted I am the night before. Those random numbers are not random, they’re significant, if only to me. The trip down the steps from my bedroom to the first floor is typically slow and deliberate. Initially, I feel the stiffness of a peaceful six hours of deep slumber. The sore feet of the previous day’s cardio. The mileage of a lifetime pounding the iron.

On the counter awaits a clean shaker cup and my preworkout of choice. I set this up in advance, one of my nightly rituals. I like to line things up in my favor ahead of time, making the small efforts now to ensure future success. It is a tiny gesture making a pact with myself about what is expected in the morning.

I descend another floor to the subterranean where my trusty 1990s-era Life Cycle 5500HR stationary bike awaits. My daily goal is to have this cardio session underway before the clock has hit 6:00AM. These quiet hours to myself are critical to my mental health. Six and sometimes seven days a week, I aim for a minimum of 45 minutes, but usually an hour. With my headphones on, I’m often riding with my eyes closed, in a tranquil, Zen-like state. Pedaling away, I take my first sip of VICE X. I feel it rapidly course through my veins. Alone in the still dark, I come to life.

Unlike years past, I start each day with both my cardio and weights fasted. I joke that I’m better when “running on fumes”, but the truth is, my late dinner the night before had lots of protein, lots of carbs, lots of calories. I’m burning through that fuel and stored muscle glycogen without feeling sluggish, unnecessarily diverting blood to the gut to digest food. On an empty stomach, my VICE is like a magic elixir prepared by a shaman on a journey to see The Great Spirit. It is a mystical experience. In my head, I see the depletion and muscle damage of my training as setting the stage for every macro- and micronutrient to be absorbed like a sponge immediately postworkout. I’m tilling fertile soil in which to later irrigate and plant seeds.

In a world of complex programming and complicated letter and number-ascribed specialty push/pull workouts, I hold steady to my six-day-per-week “bro split” that is two decades deep. This training style has allowed me to perform and recover from a bare minimum average of 52 separate bodypart workouts per year, every year for twenty-five years. I will take that track record against the latest guru’s gimmick to grift a buck any day. Another aspect of leading by example is not abandoning your own methods and tenets in the name of the hottest trends. It takes confidence and independent thought to stay the course. Holding your ground is necessary in order to lead.

This perspective touches every aspect of my life. In an industry often wrought with schemes and memes, we set out to build a brand that had meaning. That stood for something. A “code”, if you will, that would provide a roadmap for real people in the real world to believe in themselves and chase their dreams. And to do so by example. Not to indoctrinate people with our belief system but to find common ground and to be the spark that would set their hearts ablaze, empowering them to define, develop and live by a code of their own. To lead by example, at its best, is to be an example to others who dare to lead.

As I write this article, I read of the passing of Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell at 88 years old. An immortal center who won 11 rings for one of the most-storied franchises in sports history. He lead his team with quiet majesty and unmatched ferocity on the court, doing whatever it took to win. Russell, however, lived in an era where his leadership was required in arenas more important than the parquet floor of the Boston Garden. In the heat of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, Russell did not have the luxury to “shut up and dribble”. Instead, he stood in lockstep with those who literally put their lives on the line daily in the name of equality and justice, using his platform to help others, doing so with dignity and respect. When the stakes were the highest, he led by example.

As is the yearly custom of the “Bandana” series, here I will delineate my current training program. While I unreasonably adhere to my routine, I do my best to prevent my workouts from becoming stale. Altering variables to the best of my ability, whether that be exercise choice or order, rep range, time under tension, the speed of my training, supersets, circuit training, etc, I’m forever looking for the “hot sauce”… That splash of a spicy condiment transforming the bland to the bold. To do so, I’m constantly pouring over old books and magazines, forgotten websites and message boards and digging in the crates of files archived in my head.

A training style that often intrigued me was the Beyond Failure Training (BFT) method conceived and executed by the late Trevor Smith. A massive giant of a man, his passion for the iron and his keen intellect allowed him to create something that would have impact far beyond his all-too-short time here in the physical realm. Let my inclusion of his methods, and this awesome feature by my brother and training partner Tank2000 (READ FEATURE) serve as a proper tribute to the brilliance and efficacy of Trevor’s brutal lifting system—one that takes a simple approach in building upon the Heavy Duty principles of Yates and Mentzer that prioritized intensity over volume. It allows you to maximize minimal time, extracting the most from the least. As I’ve said many times and have come to understand intimately over the years…

“With mastery comes efficiency.”

It is with this thought in mind that I put together my training split and current program. Usually in the range of 10-12 sets per workout, allowing for greater frequency and intensity by minimizing overall volume. This allows me to hit everything directly and thoroughly over the course of six days, while still prioritizing recovery. The BFT-inspired portion of the workouts comes in the form of at least one triple dropset per session, where you drop the weight after reaching failure three times over the course of a single set. I almost exclusively train solo, but if I had a regular training partner, they’d help me with forced reps in that triple drop, adding to the intensity, impact and productivity of that all-out set. I also often employ pre-exhaust techniques allowing me to fatigue the target muscle group while also sparing my joints.

Here’s a sample recent week swinging the hammer, building something, one day at a time. Not for the tripods or TikTok, but to live up to my own standard and lead by example.

Bring Back The Bandana IV Training Program

Arms aka #MondayGunDay

Cardio: 30-60 Minutes of Incline Treadmill, Elliptical or Exercise Bike

  • Incline DB Curls: 2 sets x 15, 8 reps
  • Hammer DB Curls: 2 sets x 15-10 reps
  • Rope Pushdowns: 3 sets x 20-10 reps
  • One Arm Overhead DB Extensions: 2 sets x 12, 8 reps
  • DB Wrist Curls: 2 sets x 15-12 reps
  • Machine Curls: 1 Triple Dropset x 20 to 15 to 10 to 8 reps (40+ total reps)
  • Straight Bar Pushdowns: 1 Triple Dropset x 20 to 15 to 10 to 8 reps (40+ total reps)

Shoulders aka #DeltDomination

Cardio: 30-60 Minutes of Incline Treadmill, Elliptical or Exercise Bike

  • “Run The Rack” Standing DB Side Lateral Raises: 1 Warmup Set, 2 Triple Dropsets x 8 to 10 to 12 to 15 reps (45+ total reps)
  • Front DB Raises: 2 sets x 12 reps
  • Reverse DB Rear Delt Raises: 2 sets x 12 reps
  • Seated DB Press: 3 sets x 12-8 reps
  • DB Upright Rows: 2 sets x 12 reps
  • DB Shrugs: 2 sets x 15 reps

Back aka #WideWednesday

Cardio: 30-60 Minutes of Incline Treadmill, Elliptical or Exercise Bike

  • Wide Grip Pulldowns: 3 sets x 15-10 reps
  • Deadlifts: 3 sets x 6 reps
  • DB Pullovers: 2 sets x 12 reps
  • Wide Grip Pull-ups: 3 sets of BW to failure
  • Machine Rows: 1 Warmup Set x 15  reps, 1 Triple Dropset x 8 to 10 to 12 to 15 reps (45+ total reps)

Quads aka #LegendaryLegDay

Cardio: 30-60 Minutes of Incline Treadmill, Elliptical or Exercise Bike

  • Leg Extensions: 3 sets x 20, 15, 10 reps, 1 Triple Dropset x 15 to 12 to 10 to 8 reps
  • Barbell Squats: 5 sets x 10-3 reps
  • Bulgarian Split Squats: 2 sets x 12 reps per leg

Chest aka #BigFriday

Cardio: 30-60 Minutes of Incline Treadmill, Elliptical or Exercise Bike

  • Flat DB Flyes: 3 sets x 15-10 reps
  • Flat Barbell Bench Press: 4 sets x 10, 8, 6, 4 reps
  • Incline DB Press: 3 sets x 15 reps (slow w/ maximum stretch and contraction)
  • Cable Crossovers or Pec Deck: 1 Warmup Set x 15 reps, 1 Triple Dropset x 12 to 10 to 8 to 6 reps

Hams, Calves, Abs aka #DetailsDay

  • Cardio: 30-60 Minutes of Incline Treadmill, Elliptical or Exercise Bike
  • DB Stiff-Legged Deadlifts: 2 sets x 12 reps
  • Lying Leg Curls: 2 sets x 15 reps, 1 Triple Dropset x 12 to 10 to 8 to 6 reps
  • Standing Calf Raises: 2 sets x 15, 12 reps
  • Seated Calf Raises: 1 Warmup set x 15 reps, 1 Triple Dropset x 12 to 10 to 8 to 6 reps
  • Crunches: 2 sets x 25 reps
  • Sit-Ups: 2 sets x 15 reps
  • Planks: 2 sets x 30 seconds


There you have it, another week on the grind, bringing the bandana back. I’ve long believed that you can’t talk it if you don’t live it… That words ring hollow that aren’t written in the blood, sweat and tears currency of consistent daily effort. I’ve always lived with a deep-rooted fear of not keeping it real… Knowing that all of the motivational rhetoric and the philosophical jewels in the world were worthless, if I didn’t personally ardently adhere to the code I’ve enthusiastically espoused my entire life. You’ve gotta walk the walk to lead.

It is the accountability to an ethos bigger than yourself. The responsibility you have to others to hold yourself to a higher standard. And the audacity to believe that what you think and say and do truly matters in a world of eight billion people. After all, it takes confidence to lead by example… To know you have the capacity to be a role model for others, and that yours is an example worthy of emulation.

Life is too short to be spent following. Today is the day you begin to lead.