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Very Strong, But Out of Shape? Here's The Fix, Interview with "Rigger" Butch G.

Butch G. Snow Elbow Lever
Dragon Door: When we talked earlier, you mentioned always being active, what were some of your first physical activities?

Butch G.: Where I grew up, there were a lot of kids in my neighborhood. We were all into sports and bike riding—it was all a big part of growing up. My uncle was a rigger and a big, strong, and lean guy. He would come to the house and I would jump up on his forearm—I think those might have been my first pull-ups! He could just walk around the house carrying me around on his outstretched arm. He was a strong, hardworking guy.

Dragon Door: Were you inspired to try fitness and rigging because of your uncle?

Butch G.: Probably, but many other family members have also been in that trade. I've been doing it half my life, I'm 47 years old and have been a rigger for about 24 years. Riggers belong to the Iron Workers, but the category also includes machinery movers, riggers, welders, ornamental workers—there's different classifications under the broad union. Mainly, a rigger is the guy who moves big, heavy stuff.

Dragon Door: I’d imagine you’d need a high level of strength and fitness for a job like that!

Butch G.: You do, it's true. I've been carrying, dragging, lifting, prying, pulling, and pushing heavy objects around for a long time. Usually the jobs are in weird locations, too. You definitely need strength to do the job, but you can also end up being strong and out of shape! It happens to a lot of guys, and personally, I wanted to make a point to get that squared away. I also think that it’s important to first learn to move your own bodyweight before moving external weight.

ButchBeforeDragon Door: How did you decide to make a change and improve your health along with your strength?

Butch G.: Basically, I just looked in the mirror one day and realized that while I was strong I was also out of shape. I was pulling it off because of the physicality of my job—it’s a long day of 7.5-8 hours of constantly moving, being aware, and working around heavy, heavy, objects. I would have been a lot worse shape if I had been sitting in an office all day. When those guys are out of shape, they’re probably not even strong!

Dragon Door: I remember we were all really impressed with how well you did at the PCC, then we found out that you'd worked an entire shift overnight before showing up to the workshop!

Butch G.: That is true, I worked until 6AM that day, then came right to the PCC workshop! That was tough!

Dragon Door: How did you decide to come to the PCC?

Butch G.: I have always been active, and have always done pushups and other basics—it’s a big part of who I am. But when I decided to get leaner and stronger with bodyweight exercise, I started reading a lot of the Clarence Bass books. After I made some progress, the guys at work noticed and asked me what I had been doing and what I was eating. The real game changer was seeing Al and Danny Kavadlo on YouTube.

I caught up with Al at one of his free classes in New York and I also started training a little bit with Al and Danny—then it was on! When I saw that the PCC workshop was coming to New York, I thought I'd go for it if the time was right, so that's what I did!

Dragon Door: How are you using what you learned at the PCC?

Butch G.: I like Al's philosophy on the whole journey, it’s just part of me now—I get up and get my training in before the workday. Going to the PCC and earning the certification was a great goal to achieve, but it doesn't stop there. I am still working towards tougher standards, better, more strict form, higher reps, and more difficult moves. I’ve learned to concentrate on each rep—one at a time—and put aside everything else. When I work out with good music, I am one with the movement and my body—it's a good feeling.
Butch G. Pull-Up home workout

Dragon Door: What’s your advice for people with physically demanding jobs like yours who also want to work out and stay in shape?

Butch G.: I have a lot to say about that. In fact I'm working on a big project about that subject, so I don't want to give away too much. When I eat, I try to make healthy choices with one ingredient foods. Milk, nuts, chicken, fish, pineapple, avocado—uncomplicated foods that aren’t packaged. I usually prepare all of my meals—there are so many choices, and food tastes so much better in its pure form. When I’m on a job, at lunch I open up a can of mackerel, and eat it with an avocado, some pineapple, and 20oz of milk. Most of the other guys are pulling out bags of crap, and they just can't understand why I'm eating a can of mackerel, and an avocado with a giant glass of milk. I have a whole plan for hard-working guys, it can be done, and I've proven it. You can also save a lot of money by not getting a giant roast beef sandwich, giant soda and chips every day from a deli!

I also like to experiment too, I am the king of healthy French toast! I use organic eggs with high quality high fiber bread, coconut butter and a little bit of cinnamon to start. Then I build and layer the recipe from there. Sometimes I make a French toast sandwich with peanut butter and jelly. I experiment with other ingredients as well.

Dragon Door: What was your favorite move from the PCC?

Butch G.: I am a basics guy, so while there's a lot of things that look cool, I really enjoy the pull-up. I also really like dips, we touched on them a little at the PCC, but I think it should be a bigger part of the training because it's very humbling for a lot of people.

Dragon Door: Are you working on any specific goals right now?

Butch G.: As a long range goal I'd like to be able to do my own personal circuit (it’s similar to how the Century Test is put together) but with 75 straight push-ups, 35 dips, 20 pull-ups, and maybe a pistol squat.
Butch G. Snow Pull-Up

Dragon Door: Are you doing pistols now or working towards them?

Butch G.: I've been working on them. I use a low bench or sometimes I put a rope around my pull up bar for assistance, but I haven't been able to get an unassisted one yet. I am also working towards the Russian dip, it’s a serious move.

Dragon Door: Are you still training with Al and Danny in New York?

Butch G.: Yes, I caught up with Al earlier this week and we did a push up and dip workout. I cross paths with Al and Danny a few times a year. I like to train with them so that they can evaluate what I'm doing and give me some cues and changes. Then, I have key points to work on. So, I work on it and catch up with them again. The feedback is really good.

Dragon Door: What's the most difficult part of training for you?

Butch G.: I think the most difficult thing for anyone is to just get started and stay consistent. But then it just becomes part of you, so you've just got to get it done.
Dragon Door: I remember when we talked earlier, you also mentioned focusing on getting leaner and losing fat over time. What was your approach?

Butch G.: I never counted calories or followed a specific diet, I just made smarter choices, and kept honing those choices more and more. Even though I'd always done push-ups and tons of bike riding, dog walking and working, as things progressed I started getting into more bodyweight exercises like push-up variations, dips, pull-ups, bodyweight squats, and hanging knee raises. I also ramped up my training with tighter guidelines on form and what I was eating. Consistency and progress pay off, and still do!

Dragon Door: What’s next for you and your training?

Butch G.: I want to continue getting stronger, leaner, and improve my form. I also want to work on more difficult bodyweight exercises. I am trying to perform each rep with full concentration. And the training never really ends, it just keeps evolving.

Butch G. Elbow Lever Park
Dragon Door: How do you balance your workouts with your physically demanding job?

Butch G.: Everyone is different, but for me, I find that it works best to train before I go to work. If the job starts early, then I just get up earlier in the morning to do it, if the job is at night, I make sure to workout when I get up. I think I have the most energy before work, and no matter what else happens during the day, I know that I’ve already done my workout. It's a sacrifice to have to get up earlier. During my work day, we might be moving wheel barrows full of cement, tons of rebar, and guiding pieces with a crane. It is hard, heavy, work that requires skill and balance—and I used to think it would be enough on its own, but it's not, I still need to workout!

ButchGSnowElbowLever thumbnailButch G., PCC is a rigger in NYC, a lifelong athlete, and a dedicated calisthenics enthusiast.