Push Harder!

What does it mean?

By Rich Gaspari

You probably know me as the owner of Gaspari Nutrition. I’m most famous in the world of bodybuilding and fitness as “The Dragonslayer.” I was one of the youngest men in the history of the sport to turn pro back in 1984 when I won the IFBB World Amateur Championships at the age of twenty-one. As a pro, I set a new standard in conditioning and became the first man to ever display striated glutes. I went on to win nine pro shows, including the first Arnold Classic. I was also part of what was possibly the greatest rivalry the sport ever witnessed, pushing Lee Haney to the brink as I was runner-up to the Mr. Olympia title for three years in a row.

What you may not know is that I was never ‘supposed’ to succeed as a bodybuilder. When I got serious about working out at the age of fifteen, I weighed a measly 89 pounds. A strong wind could have picked me up and blown me down the street! I was just this short, scrawny kid from New Brunswick, New Jersey with a dream of becoming a champion bodybuilder and a fierce determination to turn that dream into reality. Even when I started competing just a year later, people tried to tell me I had no future in the sport. It’s true that my genetics were less than perfect. There would always be guys out there that were bigger than me, taller, wider, and with more gifted structures. I couldn’t do a thing about any of that. But I decided it didn’t matter. What I did have was a will to be the best and the resolve to make it happen. I wanted it more than anybody else did, and I would do whatever it took to win. If I had to train harder than any other man on the planet, so be it. If I had to be more meticulous with my diet than all the other guys, fine. Nothing and no one was going to stop me.

During my pro career I became famous for two things: my shredded condition, and my almost inhuman training intensity. I am proud to say that whenever there are discussions or debates about who the hardest-training bodybuilder of all time is, my name is always mentioned at the top of the list along with legends like Tom Platz and Dorian Yates. You see, I figured out very early on that one of the few things I could absolutely control was how hard I pushed in the gym. I wasn’t afraid of hard work, and I definitely didn’t shy away from pain or discomfort. Instead, I welcomed them and sought them out each and every time I walked onto the gym floor. When the sets got tough, I was just getting started. I would take my workouts into places almost no other bodybuilder dared to, or had the guts to. In my mind, every workout was do or die. There were no ‘light days,’ and I never saw the gym as a social club to hang out and chit-chat. I was in there for one reason and one reason only, to test myself against that cold iron and give it everything I had.

After I retired from competition over a decade ago as an IFBB Hall of Fame athlete, I knew I loved the sport far too much to walk away. I had to stay involved, but wasn’t sure which avenue I would take. Then it came to me. What if I took the same work ethic and never-say-die attitude that had taken me so far battling it out on stage and focused it on a supplement company? I certainly felt I knew what it took to make dramatic changes to the human form through my own physique as well as those I had mentored. Again, people told me to forget about it. I was a small-timer out of New Jersey up against established multimillion-dollar companies and I couldn’t compete with that. They should have known that when you tell me that, you only make me want to achieve that ‘impossible’ goal even more. Now, nine years later, Gaspari Nutrition has grown into one of the leaders in the supplement industry. Why? The obvious reason is that our products really work. I simply thought that if I was to make products better than anyone had ever done before and sponsor the unbiased, independent research to prove it, I couldn’t go wrong. So when you buy a product and it does exactly what you hoped it would, you tend to buy it again. You’re also likely to recommend the product to others. And, you’re probably going to try any new products that company makes. With all of the effort you put into building your physique, trying to figure out which supplements are real shouldn’t be an added strain on your time.  Every athlete should be availed the opportunity to maximize his or her efforts with the best supplements available. Learn as much as you can, check the sources of your information, and the truth will reveal itself.

Thanks to a lot of hard work and a level of integrity that’s rare in this industry, Gaspari Nutrition has built a solid reputation and continues to grow. The odds of me becoming as successful in this business as I was in the sport of bodybuilding weren’t very high. But I don’t believe in luck. I believe in making your own luck through consistent effort applied in the right directions. I am proud to say that the Gaspari Nutrition brand has far outgrown Rich Gaspari the athlete. This company is really not about me. It’s about you. In my eyes, this has been the greatest reward of all.

Many of you out there right now dream about having a better physique. You may get discouraged at times because you don’t know if you’ll ever have a body you can be proud of. You stare at the pictures of the guys in the magazines and they look like they’re aliens from another planet. What’s it going to take for you to have a physique that’s dense with thick muscle, one that looks chiseled out of granite? I’m talking about the type of muscles you don’t want to hide – and you wouldn’t even be able to if you tried. What if I told you that the absolute most important factor in turning that vision into flesh and blood is nothing more than your attitude? Once you decide that you are going to push harder every day, to put forth more effort than you thought possible or that anybody else thought you were capable of, nothing can stop you. The guys and girls that sit around wishing they had exceptional bodies will never have them. The ones that aren’t willing to do what it takes every day will always be average, nothing special at all. But the ones who push harder to reach their goals and refuse to listen to the voices inside and outside their heads telling them they can’t do it – you’d better believe they will make it happen. I’d like to guide you now through the mindset you need to adopt if you truly want to be the best you can be, and will accept nothing less.

Push harder in the gym

What is the gym to you? Is it just a building with a bunch of weights and machines? Or, is it a foundry where you forge your physique in the fires of intensity?  Most people just got to the gym to work out. They may want to look good, but they don’t want to have to work too hard. A lot of their time is spent resting, talking to their buddies, and checking out the other members. They are more concerned with their hairstyle and outfit than actually training. Yeah, they go through the motions, but they stick to pretty easy stuff and don’t often break a sweat. If you ask, they have a million excuses why they aren’t as big or strong as they’d like to be.

Then there are the chosen few that actually know the meaning of hard work and effort. Training is all business, and they avoid all distractions once it’s time to get down and dirty with that iron. One thing they don’t avoid are the toughest exercises. You’ll see them doing squats, deadlifts, bench presses, barbell rows, military presses, and dips. They push and pull until the bar or dumbbells won’t budge another millimeter, and then they will push some more. Maybe a training partner gives them just enough help to grind out another rep. You watch this person and think he or she can’t possibly get another rep, but they do. Sweat runs down their face in rivers. Teeth are gritted and eyes are squeezed shut. These people pour out every last ounce of effort into their sets until their muscles can no longer contract. And guess what? When you see that, you just watched the beginning of muscle growth.

Here’s a little secret you may not be aware of. The human body does not want to become big and muscular. We evolved over hundreds of thousands of years from hunter-gatherers whose survival depended on being able to move to where the food was, hunt or gather the food, and also to be able to subsist for long periods without food. There were no supermarkets, or even farms, back in the Ice Age. Having a lot of muscle mass would have been a handicap, believe it or not. All that muscle takes a lot of calories and protein to feed, after all. Our bodies would much prefer to stay smaller and thus require less effort to maintain. What does that mean to you as a bodybuilder or an aspiring bodybuilder? Simply put, you are literally at war with your own body in your quest. How do you win this war? You push your muscles harder than they have ever been pushed before! It’s this ‘shock’ that forces your muscles to adapt by growing bigger and stronger. This is why it takes real effort to build mass, not just messing around with weights. And it also means it takes greater effort and intensity as the months and years go by to stimulate more gains. Few people are willing to keep ‘raising the bar’ by forcing themselves to use more weight, push further past the pain barrier, get one more rep than last time, over and over again. That’s why most guys in the gym reach a certain level and never get past that. You see them all the time, and they always look exactly the same. I know you don’t want to be one of them!

Another point I need to make is that slinging around weight will not produce the results you are looking for. I always used strict form and a controlled rep speed. I would pause at the completion of each rep and squeeze the muscle for all it was worth, then fight the negative so the muscle got a good stretch on the way down. There were no half-reps. I always felt using a full range of motion was the best way to fully develop the muscle. And when you train, that’s how you need to think of it – training the muscle. I would seek out a deep burn inside the belly of the muscle by about eight reps into a set. Getting a full-blown pump was the goal, but the real challenge was being able to do that with heavy weights. Anybody off the street can take a light weight, do fifty reps of curls with it, and his bi’s will get pumped. It takes a strong mind-muscle connection to generate that same feeling with a weight you can only get for seven or eight reps.

Remember the old cliché, ‘No Pain, No Gain?’ Learn to live by that mantra. Most people never build an extraordinary physique because they can’t handle the pain, and they stop their sets before they’ve really stimulated any growth. Think about it for a minute. What’s the most painful bodypart to train? That’s easy – legs. There are few things you will ever do in life that are as excruciating as a twenty-rep set of squats, drop sets of leg extensions, or super-setting hack squats and lunges. It literally feels like there is battery acid in there melting your muscles down to the bone.  Squats are the worst. Your lungs feel like they are going to burst and your head may just explode from the pressure. Not many guys can take that kind of pain. Not many guys have great legs either. That’s no coincidence. 

If you want to look better than the average Joe in the gym, you have to push harder. There’s no other way. 

Push hard with your supplementation

Just as your training needs to be taken to a higher level for outstanding results, so does your supplementation. Most guys don’t get much out of their supplements. You can write off a lot of that as being due to their failure to put out enough effort into their training in the first place. But many others will buy either the cheapest stuff they can find, totally ignoring the time-honored adage that ‘you get what you pay for’ or buy simply on the marketing promises of companies who never bother to prove or validate anything. Companies with zero scientific evidence to back up the claims they make, except for maybe a few obscure studies done on single ingredients, but not on their finished products. If you’re serious about supplementation, you’ll use Gaspari Nutrition products. I made sure from the very start that anything with my name on it was going to meet label claim, contain only the highest-quality ingredients available, and would be backed by independent research studies. Gaspari products work, and that’s why thousands more bodybuilders every day trust them to improve their physiques. 

Another reason for supplement failure is the fact that many athletes take products haphazardly. They will use something for a couple days, then forget to take it for a while instead of being consistent. It takes a little planning and discipline to stay on schedule with all the various supplements a bodybuilder may use, but that extra effort is what will separate you from the other guy that puts little or no thought into what he uses or how he uses it.

Rest and eat perfectly so you can keep pushing harder

When you train like a wild beast and leave nothing on the gym floor, you definitely need to make rest and recovery a priority. When I was trying to turn pro and into my first few years as a pro, most of the guys my age were out partying all the time. Not me. I was in bed at a decent hour because I knew I needed my sleep. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to grow from the workouts I had completed, and I wouldn’t be recharged for my next assault on the weights. I even took a solid nap of about an hour every afternoon to make positively sure my body was getting all the rest it needed. You can’t stay out late at night hanging out in bars and nightclubs if you want to be the best.  Life is all about choices. You can choose to be like all the other young guys and run around until sunrise, or you can sleep and give your muscles adequate opportunity to repair the damage you’ve inflicted on them so you can keep growing bigger and better.

Always remember that you stimulate growth in the gym, but you grow outside. Being diligent about getting the rest you need between workouts is the only way those intense training sessions will ever bear fruit in the form of massive biceps, triceps, pecs, lats, quads, hams, delts, and calves.

The final area you need to push harder in is your nutrition. Feeding your body quality food five to seven times a day isn’t easy. It takes planning, preparation, and often sacrifice. Most guys aren’t willing to put that kind of effort into their eating. They miss meals, they let too much time elapse between meals, and they don’t eat the right things. But guess what? A box of chicken nuggets is not the same as a grilled chicken breast. A bag of chips or French fries is not the same as a baked potato or a bowl of rice. To be sure you always have the food your muscles need to recover and grow, you have to plan ahead and you may need to bring your food with you in a cooler so you don’t get stuck without it. In the old days, when someone was so poor they couldn’t afford food, they would say they didn’t know where their next meal was coming from. As a bodybuilder, you always need to know where it’s coming from. You always need to have enough protein at every meal, because without it; your muscles lack the raw building blocks necessary to grow. What’s the difference between this type of attention to diet and what the average Joe in the gym does? Do you really need to ask? You can always spot the guys that push harder with both their training and their nutrition, because they look awesome. Anyone that tries to downplay the importance of proper nutrition in the big picture of bodybuilding is only fooling him or herself. It’s not easy to make sure you’re always stocked up on all the meats, starches, and vegetables you need. It sure isn’t easy to keep meals cooked and packed ahead of time for the whole day when you eat every two to three hours. It’s not convenient to always make sure you have the right amounts of the right foods at the right times, every single day. But if it were easy, everybody would have fantastic physiques. 

Are you ready and willing to push harder?

It’s time for a final question, and it’s not one I need to ask you. It’s one you need to ask yourself. Just how badly do you want the physique you dream of? Just a little bit? Maybe you’d like to look like that, but it wouldn’t be a big deal if you never got it? If that’s how you feel, you’re not ready and perhaps you never will be. But if you’ve made it this far, I don’t think that’s who you are. You want to be bigger and stronger so bad you can taste it. You close your eyes and you can’t stop picturing yourself with so much more thick, striated muscle that people will hardly recognize you. You dream about what it’s like to own that type of physique, and you are determined to make that dream a reality. Yeah, you know it’s going to take a ton of hard work and it won’t happen overnight. But you’re in this for the long haul and you will never quit. You will challenge yourself to train with greater intensity, be totally precise with your nutrition and supplementation, and to always be sure your body gets adequate rest between each and every ferocious workout. You don’t need someone yelling in your ear to motivate you, because that voice is already inside your head. Is this you I’m talking about now? Are you ready to push harder every day to reach your goals? If you are, you have come to the right place. Stick around. You’ve got a lot of growing to do!


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