From Royal Marines to Powerlifting: A Journey of Fitness, Growth and Lessons Learned

From Royal Marines to Powerlifting: A Journey of Fitness, Growth and Lessons Learned

Join us on a journey through the world of fitness, where one man's upbringing, military service, and passion for strength have shaped his approach to training and life. From the physical demands of Royal Marines training to the pursuit of strength and function, discover the valuable lessons learned along the way and gain insights into the mindset and strategies that drive success in the gym and beyond.

Author - Owen Chisholm
Reading time - 4 minutes

I've always lived an active lifestyle, thanks to a childhood filled with physically demanding sports and hobbies like, rugby, football, trampolining and skateboarding. I always had a very active upbringing something that I can thank my parents for pushing onto me. However, it wasn't until I joined the Royal Marines that I truly embraced my love for fitness and the challenge of pushing myself to new limits. The rigorous training and preparation required to become a Royal Marine pushed me both physically and mentally, instilling in me the values and characteristics essential for success in this elite force.

The preparation to even join had me step up in ways I didn’t know I was capable of, and I had already started to adopt those need much needed characteristics and values that you need to be successful within the Royal Marines. It's not something I can ever make someone truly understand unless you’ve been there and done it yourself.

Upon passing-out (achieving my Green Beret) I decided I wanted to get in the best shape possible and thus my love for body building began. I trained hard and ate extremely well, but I was new to the game and made a lot of mistakes along the way. 

With this I started to find a love for the three big lifts, squat, bench and deadlift. I started to pursue strength in these disciplines through the sport of powerlifting. I gained strength in the squat and deadlift very quickly but made a lot of mistakes in how I trained and approached these lifts.

So, if you are new to the fitness game, regardless of your discipline (CrossFit, bodybuilding, or powerlifting or simply for health and pleasure) here’s some advice for you;

  • Don’t compare yourself to anyone on social media and don’t let what you see make you think you aren’t strong enough; you aren’t doing enough, or you aren’t big enough. I did this and ended up pushing too hard too fast and I injured myself many times as a result. Fall in love with the process and not the end goal, it will come in time trust me on this.
  • Learn from the professionals and credible sources, just because someone is big doesn’t mean they know what they are talking about, ultimately do your own research!
  • Learn proper technique, don’t think you know best and learn from those with credible experience and knowledge. Take time to master the small things in each of the techniques and be patient! If only I could tell my 23-year-old self this.
  • Sometimes less is more, I used to think the gains were made in the gym and the days I wasn’t in the gym I was missing out. I couldn’t bring myself to take many rest days and I used to train 7 days a week for a long time.

  • Intensity is key with your training, but proper recovery is where the growth is. My training these days is more intense, but I keep to 4 or 5 training days a week and usually rest two to three days. Second to this, do not be scared to take a de-load week or even a week off. I went for about two years with no more than 2 days off the gym, then on the back end of a deployment I had 7 days abroad drinking and eating junk food for the majority of the time. I came back home, went to the gym about nine days later and I hit a PB on everything. I had hit 140 on the bench easily for the first time after trying for almost two years? All because I allowed my body to rest, granted it wasn’t the most ideal rest given the junk food and alcohol I had consumed but that shows you just how valuable good recovery is.
  • You don’t need to eat chicken, rice, and broccoli every meal to make gains. I can’t stress this enough, I used to religiously eat chicken, brown rice, kale and avocado every single meal and it used to kill me, but I did it. Did I make gains? Sure. Was It necessary for I what I wanted? Absolutely not. Learn the basics of nutrition, invest in yourself even if it's just a little bit. Unless you’re a bodybuilder dieting right down for a show, there’s no requirement to eat this clean all of the time. Have balance in your diet and enjoy your food, life is to be enjoyed first and foremost.
  • Do not overlook the power of mobility work, I can’t stress this enough, poor mobility in certain areas of the body can have a massive impact on your lifts so warm up properly. Prime the body to lift, don’t just walk into the gym and get under the bar and do 10 reps with the bar to warmup. Mobilise the body, the smaller muscles that assist in our big movements are usually the ones that will cause you injury if they’re not firing correctly. Tight hips can lead to poor squat technique and injury, instability in the rotator cuff can lead to weakness in your overhead movements.  Be smart and invest in yourself and your base knowledge.
  • Don’t overcomplicate movements and learn to enjoy them, there are far too many people these days putting their own opinion out there on what you should and shouldn’t be doing in the gym. Everyone has their idea of the most “optimal” exercises for each muscle group but do what you enjoy as this will allow you to stick to your plan first and foremost. Keep it simple stupid.
  • Exercise order is important. When planning your sessions understand that some movements are more taxing than others. You should ideally have your big compound movements or the movements that are very taxing on your central nervous system as first or second within your session. 

As for me now I love to train for strength, function and aesthetics; in that order. I want to compete in various competitions which means my training will vary each programme, as I will tailor to be specific to the competition closest to the boat (Shoot the crocodile closest to the boat as they say).

My next closest crocodile is a powerlifting competition in America against the USMC with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines powerlifting team. After that I'll look to compete in another ATHX games and I might even dabble in a Hyrox to fully broaden my experience and to challenge myself with something new. 

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