This week on Barbell Shrugged we talk about squatting heavy every day for a year, and vicious mile-long lunge challenges with Cory Gregory, former coal-miner, powerlifter, natural bodybuilder, fitness cover model, gym owner, & co-founder of MusclePharm.
That wasn’t a typo. This guy has an amazing story, and it actually begins way back in an Ohio coal mine.
Mining is a way of life in many old-school, blue-collar communities. It’s pretty much all Cory knew growing up, that and training. As he talks about on the show, he didn’t really care much about school. His passion was lifting weights and writing workouts. And while family and friends didn’t always share his vision for where the barbell might lead, that certainly didn’t slow him down.
Cory always had a strong belief that he, “Was meant to do big things.” At least he knew that it was definitely possible. After all, childhood hero and future business partner Arnold Schwarzenegger did it, and he started off on an Austrian farm!
If it worked for Arnold, why not give it a try? From early in the journey Cory has diligently reviewed, refined and reinforced his vision and goals. He learned long ago to push hard and hold himself accountable, and it worked. An early goal was to be in magazines. He made it happen. As it turns out hard work and belief pay off – For immigrant farm boys, for Cory, for you too.
Journey to the top You cannot worry too much about where you start, how much you make, or what you lift. The goal doesn’t matter. Getting to work and grinding is the most important thing. Cory stacked lumber and worked the mines in 15-hour shifts, all the while collecting checks and living bare-bones. When he had the dough to venture out on his own, that’s what he did.
At first he would just train people. The rate was $20 bucks an hour, which isn’t a lot, but it was enough to keep the start going. Through that same daily grind and blue collar work ethic, Cory was able to accumulate something like 35 clients within 2-3 years of work. I know, that’s slow progress, but that’s just the point. You don’t need extraordinary talent, circumstance and resource to do what you want to do. You just need that dream big, grind hard farm boy work ethic.
When a new landlord acquired his gym space, Cory decided against cutting the guy 30% every month, and instead ventured out on his own again. This time, he moved into a 900 square foot closet space that was costing him $600 a month. Again, by most people’s standards, these circumstances would be considered very tough. It looks like the bottom, but that’s not true. When you start a program, a business, any kind of venture in life, the most important thing to consider is how you work and think. What do you get done, and how effective are you really? What are you learning? What habits and skills are you reaffirming daily? Where does your time go, how big is your belief, and how hard are you actually working, really? Be honest with yourself, and don’t hesitate to get back to work.
In time, Cory built his gym and training business into what is now the Old School Gym. It’s not much nicer than that old closet, but if you want to get really strong it’s the perfect sort of place. That same approach is also what has helped Cory co-found and grow MusclePharm. Take note – Everyone has a journey to make, and a unique summit that can be reached. You can have anything you want, you just have to be willing to keep up that work. Like a miner with pick in hand, you have to keep swinging every single day
Today’s #SquatEveryday was a 380 PR back squat pause no wraps (60lb comp bar) A video posted by cory gregory (@musclepharmpres) on
The key to getting strong AND shredded? …Start squatting!
Daily effort is really the key to everything, including strength.
By now you get that Cory has accomplished a thing or two in business. But the truth is that he’s first and foremost a lifter and gym-guy. He’s done plenty of the cover shoots and has competed as a natural bodybuilder, but he’s also done performed very well on the platform.
As a somewhat plumper Powerlifter, Cory’s best lifts are a 700 pound squat, 480 bench, and a 575 deadlift for a total of 1,755 pound at a bodyweight of 208.
Cory is currently training to squat and pull 600 pounds, all while maintaining a fitness cover-ready physique. How is that possible? Well, to be honest, his blue-collar workhorse upbringing helped build Cory’s foundation and work capacity base. That’s one answer. You might have had a tough job growing up, but you didn’t shovel coal 100 hours a week in a 43-inch crawl space.
The second answer has to do with heavy barbells. Specifically, if you want to look great naked and be really strong at the same time, you should start squatting.
Squat heavy every day
Cory’s squat training is based off the training style of Jon Broz. Simply put, the idea is to go heavy often to rapidly build strength skill, and it does work.
If you’ve never heard of Jon and Average Broz Gym, don’t worry. You’ll meet him on Barbell Shrugged very soon. You can also learn more about his approach to training in this T-Nation Article.
Here’s the plan!
- Get up every damn morning and go to the gym
- Get under a squat bar and work up quickly in triples. As the barbell get’s heavier, switch over to singles.
- Front squat 5 days a week, and back squat twice. Having the barbell in front is MUCH harder and will make you very strong, but it’s still easier to recover from. That’s money.
- Work to a “technical max.” The idea is not to blow an O-ring and bust blood vessels. Once you reach a limit that affects your ability to complete a high-quality repetition, you just move on.
- As another level of variation, work pauses at the bottom of your squats frequently. If it’s good enough for Klokov, it’s good enough for you, Comrade!
- Squat more often with a weak foot position. For Cory, that means feet close and heels elevated. Training that way every day makes him stronger. At the meet when the Chuck Taylor’s and knee wraps come out, he knows that he can squat 100 pounds more. That’s the benefit of making things tough on yourself – Competition becomes an easy thing.
Pull a heavy barbell once or twice a week, and add in all the upper body work that you like. You’ll no simpler and effective way to build size and strength fast.
Cardio is for the damed!
This might surprise you, but Cory doesn’t do cardio. He doesn’t need it, and neither do you…But there’s a catch. You don’t get out of working hard.
Cory keeps his metabolism and connective tissue strength super high with lunge challenges. Here’s how you do it:
- Put some headphones on and play an audio book or podcast.
- Lunge non-stop for 400 meters. Week to week work up, until you can eventually lunge for 1 mile (1,600 meters).
- Add a vest or hold load in the hands if you want to make things even harder. Cory has gone for a mile an 80 pounds vest, and so could you in time.
That’s it. Coupled with the heavy and frequent squats – and a no-grain diet – Cory was able to add 14 pounds of muscle to his frame before his last photo shoot. All with no additional programming or traditional cardio work. That’s pretty dope.
I know it sounds a little too good to be true. Your first thought might be that Cory has taken a short cut, or has an edge of some kind. But you also probably grew up thinking the same of guys like Arnold. Your heroes. Your mentors and teachers. They all were very, very impressive to you at some point in the journey. But what you need to realize, though, is that they are simply people who never stopped dreaming big and grinding away for what they wanted out of life. In fact, they are still at it now.
Why can’t that be you? Start now!
Check out the history of the squat. Fascinating article.
Cory, we had a blast talking training and life with you. Next time around we’ll have to do some squatting together.