by Nicholas Villar Starting Strength
“I’m going to change the world,” I told my mom in my early teens. Her response was, “I believe it.” Since then I have grown up, and learned that I probably will never fulfill that promise, but I’m okay with that. I’m not a particularly good-looking man, I don’t have a large stature, and I’m not authoritarian enough to impose my will on others to gain much power, so that dream has since faded. I’ve learned many things since those ignorant and naive years, and none more important than the power of strength training with barbells.
Growing up, I knew I wanted to help people. I didn’t really know how or through what capacity, but I was determined to positively impact those around me and beyond. I had dreams of becoming a chef: bringing people together around the table to enjoy food and facilitate discussion would help everyone. I wanted to become a Physician’s Assistant: help heal people through medicinal practice and guide them toward better lifestyles. A teacher would have been a home run: helping educate the next generation to think critically. I even entertained the idea of becoming a scientist to help discover new and exciting technologies and medicines to improve people’s lives.
All of this sounded wonderful, but I didn’t think it would truly satisfy what I wanted to accomplish. Listening to SSCs Jonathan Sullivan MD and Jordan Stanton talk about their time working as providers in the medical field really cemented the idea that the encounters I would have with the previously discussed professions wouldn’t give me near the contact time with people I would need to impact their lives in a meaningful way. I needed something more.
When I was in the military, I tore my ACL and meniscus doing something stupid. Before my surgery my Physical Therapist told me that I needed to become stronger and continue to work the injured knee so recovery would be quicker. I obliged, and six months after surgery I ran a 5k in 19:36 and was squatting and deadlifting with a barbell even though I didn’t think it was possible. The run time is important because with the barbell training came the confidence that my knee would hold up to the beating. I had been exposed to barbell movements before and did them randomly without any real purpose, but my PT was the person that really introduced me to the importance of progressive overload. She was the one who got me interested in becoming stronger.
When my therapy was over and I left the military full time, I knew I had to stay active. I stumbled across some SSCs making a podcast and I was hooked. From then I purchased the three books: SSBBT, PPST, and the Barbell Prescription. I dabbled in SSNLP a couple times while still attending college classes, thinking something would finally click and I would discover a career path.
Then one day it occurred to me: I could become a strength coach and greatly impact everyone’s life that wants to get stronger. I dove in. I finally came to my senses and hired an SSC, I started studying the books, listening to all the podcast material put out by SSCs, read the newsletters and articles from the website, and tried to spread the word like wildfire. I loved the stories about people like Gus and Sibyl, in their 90s and are functioning independently. The stories about people’s chronic pain disappearing and others regaining their old way of life after discovering the power of strength training are always great to read. I realized that SSCs are not just personal trainers, but life coaches. They’re there every step of the way, helping you build a better self through the basic barbell movements. No other method or means of instruction that I have seen can help create a more robust and resilient human being, both physically and mentally.
Strength training doesn’t just have a physical impact on you – barbell training has given me insight to my own world as well. It has reinforced that whatever I want to accomplish, I must work for it. Every other thing on a day-to-day basis is also easier to handle. Any kind of stress outside training isn’t that bad anymore. The things I thought to be challenging aren’t as intimidating as a heavy set of 5. Physically and mentally I have improved since becoming part of the Starting Strength community, and I am not in a unique situation; this is the case for everyone who does the program correctly and under the watchful eye of an SSC. It has changed my life. For all we know, we get one body and one mind, and we must preserve them both until we leave this rock. The human must be stressed to improve, and barbell training accomplishes just that.
I am pursuing the SSC credential to impact the lives of people I coach. The apprenticeship program through the SS Gyms will provide a place to learn and hone my coaching skills. The SS Coaching Development Course was built to teach the SS method and is a great self-paced course. The instructors provide excellent feedback and create an environment in which to grow into a better coach and critical thinker. Join me in my pursuit to greatly improve the lives of those you interact with. I may not be able to change the world, but I’ll be able to change the world of my trainees.