From John Alvino
Strength And Conditioning Coach, Fat Loss Coach, Vegetarian, Fitness Author, MMA Junkie, Pit Bull Advocate
If you have been searching for cutting edge fitness information, you’ve probably heard and read about me and my methods. The success has been flattering and humbling at the same time. I’d like to share a little of my story with you, so that you will understand how I came to arrive at my unique training and nutritional philosophies.
Mine was definitely the “road less travelled”, and it wasn’t always paved very well. In fact, it seems like yesterday that I was a college drop-out with a nice combo platter of OCD and ADD! But let’s start at the beginning…
SCARED AND WEAK
Up until I was 13 years old, life wasn’t much fun for me. I had a difficult childhood for many reasons. Among them was my insecurity about my 11 1/2 inch arms and feeble strength, and my inability to physically protect myself from my mother’s wooden spoon collection. Basically, I walked around feeling skinny, weak and defenseless most of the time. It certainly bothered me but I was determined to change it.
As a matter of fact, if you had told me back then that I would be in this business when I grew up, I probably would have laughed in your face. I guess it’s funny how things work out. Anyway, at 13 years old, the only two things I had going for me were a burning desire to get jacked and strong, and a case of OCD that could latch onto any task like a rabid pit bull.
Back then, I was quite content working odd jobs for minimum wage, as long as I had enough money to buy my food, supplements and a set of sand filled Joe Weider weights to lift in my mother’s dungeon-like basement. I went down there every day after school and crushed the only three exercises I knew. I certainly tried hard, but I knew absolutely nothing about training, and my total ignorance was reflected in my lackluster results.
Soon after I began training, I received the Arnold Schwarzenegger Encyclopedia as a gift. This was the first material I had actually read by choice (as long as the cheat sheets I kept on my lap during history class exams don’t count!). I loved that book and it served as a great inspiration for me. But I certainly couldn’t follow the workouts with my poor excuse for a home gym.
So I decided that I needed to get to a gym at all costs. At fourteen, however, one’s transportation options are a tad limited. I had three choices, all of them bad: hitchhiking (probably not the best idea weighing 145 lb with a high pitched voice), my Nike’s, or my Mongoose bike.
Fortunately, there was another option I hadn’t counted on. One of my best buddies had an older brother named Anthony who was a bodybuilding champion (1st in the state). He saw my passion and invited me to train with him every day. He would pick me up from school and off to the gym we would go.
AT THE GYM FOR THE FIRST TIME
For the first three years Anthony and I trained together, my goal was simply to gain as much muscle as possible. I actually did very well at achieving this goal. My bodyweight went from 145 to 185. Although it wasn’t all pure muscle, it was a serious transformation.
Right about the time I had tipped the scale at 185, I was seventeen years old and Anthony had convinced me to commit to competing in the Mr. Teen New Jersey Competition. He said, “You have two years to get ready, kid” and told me that my eating and training would have to change dramatically.
Instead of eating as much of my mom’s linguini that I could stuff down my throat, I had to have more structure with my meals. In other words, I ate bone dry grilled chicken, steamed broccoli and a small baked potato 5 times per day. Talk about boring!
And my training had to start focusing on improving my weaknesses and decreasing body fat.
I agreed, and we were on our way. I was now more determined than ever. I knew with Anthony in my corner, I could not go wrong. For he was known for getting ripped to shreds! I listened to everything he said and followed his advice to the letter.
Our training changed, and for the first time, I started doing cardio routines.
Unfortunately, I hated cardio with a passion. I was bored to tears while walking on a treadmill or numbing my prostate on a stationary bike for 30-45 minutes straight. I asked myself, “Could I finally have found a physical activity that I despise more than English class?” The answer to this disturbing question is an unequivocal yes.
How could a kid with as much passion for working out as I had actually start dreading his own workouts? Mentally, this was very difficult for me. But being as stubborn as I am, I stuck to the plan and battled through the program on a daily basis. I learned a valuable lesson from that cardio experience that would help me much later in life: working out is much more enjoyable (and thus, easier to do) when you actually like the workout you’re doing!
Anyway, even though I truly hated my workouts for the first time in my life, I did not want to question Anthony, for he was my mentor (along with Arnold himself, of course) and I wanted to put my trust in him completely.
Just when I had finally convinced myself to stop my internal whining and do exactly what Anthony said, I hit another roadblock with his training method; and this one was physical.
TRADITIONAL WEIGHT TRAINING CAN MAKE YOU LESS ATHLETIC?!
Ever since the fifth grade I had played football and wrestled. And without fail, I was always the fastest and quickest kid at my weight – that is, until I started bodybuilding.
I figured that after all of my intense training, I would be able to dominate guys more than ever on the field or on the mat. No one in my school was training as hard as I was. Many of them weren’t working out at all! I was completely confident I had surpassed them by leaps and bounds.
But a good dose of reality smacked me right in the face one Saturday morning. I was playing football for the first time since I had started bodybuilding. Much to my amazement, I was slower and had less endurance than all of my friends who did nothing except play Nintendo during the off-season. I couldn’t believe how they were running circles around me. And then, to make matters worse, I pulled my hamstring during a down-out-&-up pattern. Prior to this, I had never pulled a muscle in my life!
Are you kidding me?! All of this hard training made me LESS athletic and MORE injury prone? This was completely unacceptable to me. My friends (who I had played sports with for years) were shocked that my athleticism had deteriorated, but of course they had no trouble using this opportunity to bust my chops about it!
Meanwhile, while my pals were having a laugh at my expense, I was in a total panic. What do I say to Anthony? All I kept thinking is that, “He will kill me if I tell him that I want to change his plan.” I kept my mouth shut for a few days as I thought of the best way to approach him about my growing concerns about his training philosophy.
But as fate would have it, I didn’t have to say a word to Anthony. Instead, he delivered me some shocking news. He had decided to move away with his girlfriend. He gave me two short weeks notice and poof…he was gone.
ON MY OWN, FLYING SOLO
Needless to say, I was devastated about losing my training partner. I also had lost the only teacher I had ever truly listened to. And I was very scared that I wouldn’t be able to get good results all by myself. It was time for me to fly solo, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to handle it.
Even though I felt a tremendous amount of fear and apprehension, I also knew that I wanted serious results more than I had ever wanted anything in my life, and I was not about to let the loss of my mentor and a little bit of fear stop me from realizing my goals and dreams. Also, I knew that Anthony believed in me, and after all he had done for me, I didn’t want to let him down. It was here that my true journey began.
The hardest part was the uncertainty. As great as Anthony had been, I knew that his methods didn’t totally work for me. There had to be something better out there. I just didn’t know how or where to find it. So I decided to go out there and look for it. And I left no stone unturned.
Due to the bodybuilding-induced loss of athleticism I had experienced using Anthony’s methods, I decided to look outside the bodybuilding world for my training approach. I looked at everything from athletic training to martial arts to military training. I investigated football players, gymnasts and marines. I looked everywhere.
I read every book on training and nutrition that I could get my hands on. I would regularly hop on a plane at a moment’s notice to visit the best strength coaches in the world, just to see what they were doing to get results.
But perhaps even more importantly, I learned from myself. I literally turned myself into a human guinea pig. I experimented with every training and nutritional method I had learned along my journey. Of course, the more I learned experientially, the better my results were, and the more confident I became in my own intuition.
The more advanced I became, the more I realized that the fitness philosophies that most “experts” adhered to were limited, boring and even outright flawed at times.
At this point, I was training at Diamond Gym, one of the most famous hardcore gyms in New Jersey. I was also getting incredibly ripped, strong, and athletic without using any traditional bodybuilding methods at all. As far as I know, this had never been done before. And it sure created a scene at the gym.
See, because of the visibility of Diamond, and because of the results I was getting, more and more top-notch bodybuilders were asking me how I was getting so ripped. At the same time, the so-called “experts” were screaming that my theories and methods were nonsense.
It seemed that everybody had a strong opinion about me and my techniques. It was kind of ridiculous, because while some people were claiming that my protocol was unorthodox and unsubstantiated hogwash, those who actually met me in person were all about taking notes and asking questions because what I had to say was so different from the norm. As for my results – well, let’s just say they spoke for themselves.
MY BIG SECRET
It wasn’t too long before I had become the leanest guy in the gym. Potential competitors would regularly say to me, “Man, you are really shredded. Are you competing?” I would always say, “No, I’m just trying to get a little more ripped.”
I never shared with anyone in the gym that I had secretly intended to compete in that year’s Mr. Teen New Jersey State Bodybuilding Championship. This was a huge thing to keep a secret! But I managed to do it. I didn’t tell a soul. I let them find out the hard way – the day of the competition!
By the time Mr. Teen Jersey rolled around, I was in the best shape of my life. All my friends from the gym were completely shocked to see me at the contest of course, as I had assured them time and time again that I had no intentions of competing. My competitors were furious, since they knew how ripped I was.
Well, I guess all my obsessive work and research paid off; I won first place in the Mr. Teen New Jersey State Bodybuilding Championship that year! I also placed in the top five at the Nationals. Some competitors of mine were Jay Cutler, Craig Richardson, and Branch Warren, to name a few.
Needless to say, winning that competition was one of the greatest moments of my life. I did it my way, and I proved that a great looking physique doesn’t have to be “all show no go”. I never forgot that loss of athleticism and pulled hamstring from years before, and I made sure that my training protocol not only got me ripped, but made me more athletic too.
My improved athletic function was confirmed throughout my training by keeping detailed journals on performance tests during my training (vertical jump, 40 yard dash, squat test, bench test, pull up test).
As it turned out, I had not only maintained, but had actually improved athletic function during my transformation. In fact, I was the only guy in the gym who could jump up and touch the ceiling.
A few years later, I entered the powerlifting arena and competed in a meet to show that one can possess function and low body fat while still possessing awesome strength. In case you were wondering, I took second place and missed first by only 11¼ pounds. The judges were so suspicious of my outstanding performance (especially considering that this was my very first meet) that they had “randomly” selected me as one of the two people drug tested at the meet. Needless to say, I passed the urine test.
I had finally done it! I had created a system that could get me as ripped as a bodybuilder, while simultaneously improving athleticism and strength. This was unchartered waters for the exercise world.
A STRENGTH COACH IS BORN
After my awesome results, all of my former critics were stumbling over each other to ask me to design programs for them. Up until that point, I had only been interested in training myself. But so many people were asking me to help them, I decided to give the business of personal training a whirl.
My business took off in no time, and before I knew what was happening, I was completely booked. And I guess I just never looked back. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had found a renewed surge of passion for exercise and fitness.
The idea of helping other people who were struggling as much as I had been when I started totally inspired me. I guess that’s why I still get on the floor and train clients today. I’m very fortunate to say that I truly love what I do.
Looking back on it all, it was a wild ride. There were some painful times, for sure; but I would not change a single moment of it. I have now been a professional trainer for over 16 years. I have developed very successful systems that simultaneously improve both aesthetics and function.
My clients include professional athletes, professional bodybuilders, amateur athletes, fitness competitors, and corporate men and women. I have also consulted with amateur and professional sports teams, individual players, coaches, and organizations.
I’ve trained hundreds of professional athletes including: Shawn Springs (Washington Redskins), Darcy Hordichuk (Nashville Predators), Joe Nieuwendyk (New Jersey Devils) and Brad Elder (PGA Golfer), to name a few. Check out some success stories here.
Additionally, I have authored hundreds of articles that have been published in the top fitness magazines around the world. In fact, I’ve recently been added to the exclusive training and nutritional advisory board for Men’s Fitness magazine.
Anyway, that’s my story. I hope it gives you a little insight into what makes me tick, both as a person and as a trainer. I hope it also shows you how hard I worked to learn what I know. This is no fly-by-night operation here.
This is my life’s work – and I want to share it. It is my journey, my research, and my experience that allow me to say with total confidence that if you read this blog carefully, and adhere to the advice it contains, you will achieve results you did not think were possible. So read on, and transform your life, just like I transformed mine!
I look forward to helping you achieve your goals!
PS I still continue to refine my methods to this very day. I am as active as ever researching and experimenting, and I share my new findings on blog posts on a regular basis. So make sure to come back daily to see my latest and greatest training and nutritional techniques!