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How to be Smart AND Strong, Alexis Bouzidi, First Place Runner Up, Get Strong Challenge, Interview

Alexis Bouzidi Before and After the Get Strong Transformation Challenge
Dragon Door: What is your overall background with fitness and exercise?

Alexis Bouzidi: I didn't have that much of a fitness background. Before that I was the smart kid in class, who didn’t do very well at sports. Here in France, we have a somewhat Cartesian mindset. Basically, we’re taught that if you are smart, you cannot be strong at the same time—you have to choose. So, I grew up despising physical activity a little bit. But after a while, I discovered I had physical capabilities when I met a sports coach and cyclist who was leading a charity.

At the time, I was looking for something—I wanted to travel, and I was very unhappy with where I was in my life. So, when I had the opportunity to join a team and travel all the way through West Africa by bicycle, I got involved with the project. We also raised a lot of money to carry out projects in Africa. I soon discovered that I could accomplish athletic feats related to fitness and endurance. And, that's how I started.

AlexisB cycling sahara with coach 2011
Dragon Door: When was the trip to Africa?

Alexis Bouzidi: That happened in 2011. Before the trip, I trained for almost a year. We covered something like 5,000km during the training sessions, then about 3,000-4,000km during the actual journey. I was absolutely pleased with myself after that accomplishment—and then I went back to my normal life.

In late 2014, I went on another cycling trip. We started in Namibia and went all the way up to Ethiopia. I even got the chance to climb Kilimanjaro on the way. Back home in 2015, I was miserable again. I wasn't happy with my life or anything. So, I decided I needed to start all over and left everything I had. I wanted to make a big change because I was living an unhealthy life, cultivating bad habits and basically wasting my life. I knew I needed to do something different.

Now that nothing held me back, I would just travel and work here and there. I would say my fitness journey really started in autumn 2015. I worked in the fields at that time and camped outside every single night. I felt I needed to get stronger, more resilient and also occupy my free time with something positive. Basically, I needed calisthenics, so I would have the freedom to train anywhere at any time. That's how it all started!
Alexis Bouzidi Kilimanjaro summit 2014

Dragon Door: How did you find out about the Get Strong Transformation Challenge?

Alexis Bouzidi: I’ve been following Al Kavadlo for a while. At first, I was looking online trying to find out if it was really possible to get strong and build muscle without lifting weights or using any equipment. So, I found about Convict Conditioning and soon after that discovered Al and his channels, videos, and advice.

Dragon Door: Why did you decide to try to do the Transformation Challenge?

Alexis Bouzidi: I decided to do it the day I got Get Strong, especially after reading through the workouts and looking at the end—phase four and the final test. I was really happy because I thought that I could be there in a few months if I followed the program. It was like a promise, and I decided that I was in, I had to do it. The contest was a bonus, but I felt it could help me stay accountable and remain consistent with the training.

Dragon Door: Before the challenge, what were your workouts like? It sounds like you had already started training with calisthenics.

Alexis Bouzidi: I was training Convict Conditioning style, but not a program. I was doing what I could to get in the workouts. I was basically doing a lot of push-ups and pull-ups. I began to love pull-ups because when I first started doing them I really sucked! I could only do one or two in the beginning but knew I could get better. I was also doing squats, running, and skipping rope. I really liked my program.

I noticed quick gains at the beginning, but after that I kind of stalled. After the newbie gains, my strength kept increasing, but not as quickly. I wasn’t gaining a lot of muscle either, so I needed to try a new program.
Alexis Bouzidi Training in Iran 2017

Dragon Door: While you were working though the Get Strong program were there any particularly difficult moves? Do you remember having to overcome any obstacles?

Alexis Bouzidi: The "nemesis" moves! I was already quite strong in my upper body, but my legs could have been stronger. Since I didn't have a benchmark for comparison, I thought I was doing well with my squats and lunges. But, when I saw what was expected of me in the Get Strong program, I knew I would have to do better. Also, I had trouble with the "drinking birds" because I have tight hips. I used to sit a lot in my job, so my flexibility and balance was not very good. The drinking bird was really difficult for me, but it’s better now.

Dragon Door: Now that you've competed the contest, what's next for you in your workout? Where are you in the program?

Alexis Bouzidi: I am still in phase three, week four. I’ve been stuck there for two months now because of the pull-ups. I still cannot manage to do those ten pull-ups twice. The test for phase three is fifteen pull-ups in a row. So far, I’ve done twelve once, but it was a struggle. My goal is to do the fifteen and complete the program. I want to go all the way to the final test.

Now that the challenge contest is over, I feel like I can modify it. During the contest, I really wanted to stick to the program as written in the book to remain faithful—and to be fair to the other guys participating. A week and a half after the contest ended, I started modifying the program. I added a few exercises to turn it into a push-pull legs. Now, I can train six days a week.

Alexis Bouzidi climbing Kilimanjaro 2014Dragon Door: Out of curiosity, which exercises did you add?

Alexis Bouzidi: I am still doing the incline pushups, and I added wall handstand push-ups. At first, I had to use a yoga brick to limit the range of motion, because I couldn’t go all the way down. But now I can do three full handstand push-ups! I also added dips and a few sets of push-ups on handles for an extra stretch to failure as a finisher. On the pull day I added the flex hangs back in. I kept leg day the same since it was challenging enough for me and I am still improving my range of motion on the pistol squats.
Dragon Door: You mentioned not liking some of your previous jobs, are you now in a fitness career or considering one?

Alexis Bouzidi: I am considering becoming a trainer, but I’ll need to go back to school to get a diploma—and find out when I can fit that in. Unfortunately, you need to either study the classic group fitness, or old school weightlifting—there's nothing in between in France, so I will need to figure that out. I am also interested in kettlebells and recently got my first 16kg. Thanks to your YouTube videos Adrienne, I started practicing swings. This is so much harder than it looks!

I would like to thank the Kavadlo brothers and everybody at Dragon Door for putting all this knowledge out there to help us improve our lives. And hats off to all the awesome people from everywhere who entered the Get Strong Transformation Challenge, skipped the excuses, and shared their journey in the Facebook group. You guys are an inspiration!

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