My trip to the 2017 FIBO Expo in Cologne, Germany, was full of firsts. It was my first time in Europe and it was my first international expo. It was also my first time training with Animal's Roman Fritz. Thinking back, that training session was probably the part of my trip I was most nervous about, and with good reason.
Let me tell you, training with a respected IFBB pro bodybuilder is a world of difference from training with your local gym buddy. But even other IFBB pros have told me Roman is one of the most intense guys they've ever met. And best (or worst) of all, I'd be training on Roman's home turf in Germany.
Since the first workout wasn't legs, I wasn't going to worry—too much. With the exception of a few "filler sets" of calves—Roman's choice, since he was trying to bring them up—this was a full-on upper-body assault, and I knew from the opening reps that this was the real deal. But, there was no way I was backing out.
1. Simply Brutal at Simply Fit
Roman and I took the local bus to Simply Fit Gym in Cologne. I was anticipating that we'd train shoulders and some chest, but Roman had different plans. Upon arriving at the gym, Roman told me we'd train chest, after warming up with a little back—since it's the antagonist to chest—and calves. Then, we'd crush chest…and finish off with shoulders later that same night.
Because I was still jet-lagged and because I knew I would need to dig extra-deep today, a pre-workout was a must. I alternate between Animal Fury with Animal Rage for three months at a time, then go without a pre-workout for a month to ensure my tolerance isn't shot. Aside from that, my stack was the norm for a long, heavy workout: a scoop of aminos and 30-50 grams of Universal Carbo Plus. I knew I was going to be tested to my limit, so fueling up strategically was a no-brainer.
Roman's philosophy is to train two or three body parts per workout, twice daily. That may sound like a crazy amount of work to cram into a single day, and he's heard that response plenty of times, but he doesn't care.
"People will say, 'That's a lot of volume. You're starting out with calves, then you go into back, then the third exercise is chest.' What I say to that is if you're eating enough, and you're sleeping enough, trust me, there is nothing that will break you down or overtax you in a way that you can't build muscle," he says. "Fuck overtraining. Bring the pain. Go for it."
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Chase the Pain, Find the Pain, Befriend the Pain
I live for training sessions like this. When Roman screamed at me, it felt like he could wake the dead. But even with that voice in my ear, throughout the workout I had to work to mentally push past the pain I was experiencing. 10 sets of dumbbell bench, then 5 supersets of high-rep flyes and bench press—that's more than most people do in a week. At that point, I remember thinking—hoping—the workout was nearly over. I was wrong.
Roman had saved the best for last. He took me through one of his favorite chest exercises: the dumbbell pull-over. Not only does it effectively work out your chest and back, it also improves your flexibility in the upper spine and shoulders. The important things to keep in mind with the dumbbell pull-over are: have your head and waist below the bench, take deep breaths with the stretch, and keep focused. Of course, it also helps to have a pro push you through that last rep—or those last 5, as it ended up being. Not wanting the dumbbell to knock out my teeth was also motivating.
So, what does it take to improve? I traveled halfway around the world for the answer: you have to chase the pain. And when you catch it, you have to push past it. Improvement happens in the extra reps, the extra set you didn't think you could make. I know this will not be the last time I train with the kind of intensity I experienced in Cologne. Hopefully, I'll be able to return the favor one day and train Roman here in Long Island.