CO-FOUNDER OF T-NATION SAYS BODYBUILDING IS SUFFERING
“I’d tell me [my 30 year-old self] to give up seeking self-worth and killing your insecurities through lifting weights. To not work so much on the external and more on the internal.”
Not only is TC Luoma a sublime writer who knows bodybuilding well, he is an enlightened man.
I was happy to discover my questions drew out another side of him that’s worth knowing.
This statement may seem arbitrary to those of you exposed to him for the first time.
However, those in the bodybuilding game awhile know him more for his trademark take-no-prisoners disposition and may be as pleased to read this as I was.
In this interview, TC offers a more thoughtful ambiance to accommodate his sharp edge, which is clearly an effective integration in this case.
Some Background on TC
Through this experience, he interviewed hundreds of competitors and became well-versed in the bodybuilding industry.
Later, TC got connected with George Snyder and Bill Phillips (former owner of EAS), and started writing for their magazine, “Muscle Media 2000.” He climbed quickly to the top and soon became the Editor-in-Chief.
A few years later, TC left that crew and hooked up with Tim Patterson. They founded T-Nation, the second most trafficked bodybuilding website on the planet.
Q: What does the first hour of your day look like?
The usual morning ablutions, plus smearing expensive emollients made from sheep placenta over my face to keep my youthful appearance. Kidding! About the sheep placenta emollient, not the ablutions.
I then go outside to check the grounds for rats, cats, racoons, Presbyterians, you name it, anything that might cause my dogs to bark up the neighborhood when I let them out.
I feed them and walk them and then come home to drink a cup of coffee and compare two newspapers, one conservative and one liberal, to see how they each treated the day’s news, which always pisses me off more than it amuses me.
I then head up to my upstairs office with my Metabolic Drive, Superfood, blueberries, and granola gruel to check my hate mail and start working.
Nothing too out of the ordinary.
Q: What is something most of my friends don’t know about you?
Ha! I’m going to give you a kind of non-answer answer. The thing is, I don’t usually divulge personal information about myself to my friends unless I’m asked specific questions, and I’m almost never asked.
As such, I play this kind of perverse game where I see how long someone who fits the traditional definition of a friend can go without asking me anything about my personal life; can go without truly knowing anything about me.
As an example, a friend of mine just died of pancreatic cancer last Christmas day. I’d known him for 17 years but he never, ever asked me anything personal! The closest he got was, “So, what’s new?”
He never even knew when my birthday was, which, while not important, just seems like something you’d know about somebody who you’d been friends with for 17 years.
He died having pitched a perfect emotional no-hitter.
So if you ask me to name something that most of my friends don’t know about me, the list would be very long, starting with my birthday, which is July 8th. So now you know something my friends don’t know.
You should try it yourself. Just ask questions and don’t offer any info about yourself and see how long, if ever, it takes your friends to reciprocate. And I’m not just talking about superficial stuff, but asking you something personal and significant. If you’re lucky, some of them will, but most won’t.
“Maybe my game is a fool’s errand, but I want friends who are really interested in what I have to say, and friends who say things I’m really interested in. I don’t want to be just a sounding board so someone can hear himself talk.”
Q: Who most influenced your trajectory at a young age?
My older brother, not necessarily by anything he said or did, but quite by accident. He left things lying around for me to pick up and read. My first book, at the age of five, wasn’t Winnie the Pooh or something like that, but Tarzan and the Ant Men by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
I started reading all the fantasy fiction and science fiction in the house and in the library, but I also started reading the books on the shelf about astronomy, botany, and biology, along with fiction by Salinger and Nabokov and Philip Roth and even nutty Ayn Rand. And I can’t forget the comic books. He got me started on Marvel Comics and that’s what got me interested in muscle and heroism and the concept of masculinity.
So, thank you, Tim. I think.
Q: What advice would you give your 30-year-old self?
I’d tell me to give up seeking self-worth and killing your insecurities through lifting weights. To not work so much on the external and more on the internal.
Hell, boy, if you worked as much on your inner self as you do your outer self, you’d be a modern day Lao Tse or Buddha by the time you’re 40.
Unfortunately, my older self didn’t appear to me when I was 30 so it took me a bit longer to learn that particular truth.
Q: What was the most fulfilling goal that you’ve accomplished?
I haven’t accomplished it yet, but I’m in the process of accomplishing it. For seven years, I’ve been taking classes in a new type of psychology.
Instead of defining mental health as the absence of disease – which is the same definition modern medicine uses in defining physical health – this type of psychology focuses on what it takes to ensure mental and emotional health before problems (neuroticism, lack of self-worth, lack of innocence, etc.) arise.
In my classes, we look at historical figures and learn from “good” people and “bad” people and we see what they did or didn’t do to live a fulfilling, meaningful life. We use a scientific attitude – using observation and reason to come up with a hypothesis about life and then experiment with it to see if it’s true – to realize universal, experience-based facts about what defines happiness and makes life worth living.
“Eventually, you see that traditional goals or definitions of success, competition, distraction via mindless entertainment, security – the stuff that 99% of us obsess over — are kind of hollow and don’t make anybody happy.”
It takes a lot of work to see things differently, but I’m getting there, and if I get there, that’ll be the most fulfilling thing I’ve done. Oh snail, climb Mt. Fuji, but slowly, slowly.
Q: Given that your writing is very bold and challenges many prevailing paradigms, what are your thoughts on “The 4-Hour Body”?
Well, one of things I’ve observed is that motivation determines outcome in just about everything, and when I use the word “motivation,” I mean purpose for doing something.
It seems that Ferriss’s motivation for writing the book was to write a book to make lots of money and hopefully outsell his first book, “The 4-Hour Workweek.”
To do that, he had to come up with some seemingly magical and highly marketable answers to a whole host of health-related questions, which he succeeded in doing.
“I’m doubtful that he believes half the stuff he wrote about, but I did like the book’s common-sense diet approach and his practice of keeping track of all his blood chemistries.”
Q: Which of your books is your favorite and why?
I thought both of my books were pretty funny and both contained a few grains of truth about different aspects of manhood, but I’d do both of them differently if I were writing them today because my understanding of the subject has evolved considerably.
That being said, I suppose I like the second one, The Testosterone Principles 2: Manhood and Other Stuff a little better because I think it’s a bit more thoughtful and better written.
Q: I sympathize completely with your sentiments that “real” men are a dying breed. Please walk us through the nuances of your observation.
Okay, but we gotta’ go back to the 50’s or so first. Back then, Gary Cooper, or the Gary Cooper type strong-but-silent male defined manhood. He, and all men in fact, were dominant. Hell, women didn’t even get to vote until the 1920’s, and it took until the latter half of the century for women to gain an unprecedented degree of equality.
As a result, the old definitions of manhood became obsolete because women no longer needed the protection of males. Men no longer knew how to be men and they lost confidence.
“But here’s what’s true of even the Gary Cooper type male and the modern male: neither were/are had/have any degree of competence in the internal side, i.e., the emotional aspect of existence.”
A true man would be fearless in the face of emotional pain, but that’s not true of men at all. In that regard, they are HUGE pussies.
“Can you think of any guy that doesn’t worry about his image, who can accept the truth about himself, who doesn’t equate his job with his worth as a human being, who can accept criticism, can accept being wrong, who learns by experience and not imitation, who does things without self aggrandizement or need of applause or recognition, who doesn’t wilt at the very thought of having some painful truth pointed out to him, who doesn’t desperately seek the approval of others despite believing he’s independent and marches to the beat of a different drummer, and who by and large equates manhood with such silly notions as not showing pain when he accidentally hits his thumb with a hammer?”
I’ll give you an example of “manly” men living for the approval of others. I wrote some article, just a riff, really, about gym etiquette, and I busted the balls of men who wear cut-off sleeves to expose their guns, writing that it’s pretty much the same thing as a woman with big breasts always wearing a tight, low-cut blouse.
Some guy on Facebook responded, “I don’t give a shit what you think, I like wearing cut-off sleeves to show off my guns.” The sad thing was that his statement showed that he clearly did care what I, and for that matter, everybody thought. He done dropped his emotional pants and didn’t know it! In fact, he showed the world that all he cares about is approval, hence the desire to show off his guns.
Poor dumb bastard.
Anyhow, I can’t personally think of anybody who has the virtues I listed above, but I hope you can. Anyhow, that’s why most men, despite sometimes being warriors on the outside, are complete pussies on the inside.
“Oh, and speaking of being warriors on the outside, half of that is usually bullshit, too. Most men do ‘heroic’ things for the approval of others and to fit in and the half-baked idea that there’s some meaning behind it.”
What’s needed is a new definition of manhood. I might not be the one who popularizes it, but I’m certainly going to give it a try in the future.
Q: If you had to choose only three exercises, what would they be?
Deadlifts. Trap bar squats. Pull ups. You could probably do very well if that’s all you did.
Q: If you only had to choose three supplements, what would they be?
Biotest’s Indigo-3G for the insulin modulating and health-promoting effects in general, Biotest’s MAG-10 for superior fast-acting protein peptides, and Biotest’s Plazma for work endurance and recovery.
But I gotta’ tell you, selecting only three would be painful. I take a lot of good stuff.
Q: Thoughts on kettlebell training?
They don’t arouse any particular passions in me, positive or negative. They’re nice tools. I think doing heavy hip hinges is a great idea. However, the people who latch onto these different training modalities to the exclusion of all training modalities freak me out.
Why are there kettlebell specialists? Why are there kettlebell certifications? It seems odd.
It probably belies a strong urge to belong to some school of thought without having to question the methodologies or think for themselves. Hey, I think I just defined religion, too.
Q: You once wrote in an article “As far as what catches my eye, I usually defer to one thing, and that’s if the article makes me want to try whatever it is they’re writing about. If I’m interested in it, chances are the readers will be, too.” What three things would you encourage people to try?
I’d probably give you a different answer next week, or even tomorrow, but right now I’d suggest Ben Bruno’s 100-rep trap bar workout. Week 1, you start out with 6 sets of 8, and then the next week you progress to 6 sets of 10, using the same weight you did for week 1. The third week, you do 7 sets of 8, but adding 10-20 pounds to your week 2 weight.
You progress in this manner week by week, adding sets and weight until you’re doing 10 sets of 10. I’m not sure how smart it is for everybody to do, but damn it’s brutal, and I kinda’ like brutal.
I’d also recommend Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 training, because it’s something everybody should try at least once. You think to yourself, week after week, that you’re just not doing all that much work, but damn if you don’t get stronger every week.
“Even if strength isn’t your whole reason for existence, it gives you a different perspective and teaches you some truths about your body and training in general.”
And just off the top of my head, the third thing I’d recommend is John Rusin’s vertical plate press exercise because it’s one of the few core exercises that isn’t bullshit.
You position the hips and knees at a 90-degree flexed position while holding a weight plate directly in front of your chest with your arms extended and then “press” the weight vertically by contracting your core.
You can check it out here if you like. I like to do it on the Smith Machine and instead of holding the bar out at arm’s length, I clutch it to my chest. It’s brutal.
Q: Where do you see bodybuilding heading currently, in what ways is this good or bad? What old, unhealthy bodybuilding habits/trends would you like to see changed and why?
Weightlifting for health, functionality, sport, and “buffitudiness,” is alive and well and will likely keep on growing, at least until we all live in a virtual reality world and are tended to and fed intravenously by old crones, who, thanks to virtual reality, appear to be luxurious Amazonian super models.
“Competitive bodybuilding, however, is suffering the same problems it always had, except for the Arnold years and the subsequent period (brief) afterwards in the 90’s. It just represents wretched excess to most people.”
It’s not attractive to them and without another charismatic cheerleader like Arnold, it’s not likely to experience any kind of resurgence.
As such, it’ll likely sputter along, practiced and patronized by only a few die hards.
So yeah, I’d like to see wretched excess go bye-bye. I’d like for people to stop jeopardizing their health for a few moments (or a few photographs) of perceived glory. I’d like everybody to “body build,” but for the reasons I listed above (health, functionality, etc.).
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