Interview ‘STRONGER! Bodyweight Workout Series 2’

Hi guys, it’s great to talk to you! Can you give us a short introduction on yourself and especially your training background!?

Tyson: Hi Paul, thanks for taking the time to talk to us about ‘STRONGER! Bodyweight Workout Series 2’ (SBWS.2)!

My name is Tyson, I’m 26, 5’10” and 85kg from Sydney, Australia. I’m the current Guinness World Record holder of the highest standing backflip, I’ve won state titles and represented my home state of New South Wales in Olympic weightlifting and I’m a qualified gymnastics coach. I describe myself as training for skill acquisition; training to make my body better at doing things though my bulk of experience comes from gymnastics (bodyweight training) and weightlifting.

I’ve always been athletic and interested in sports ever since I was young, but not team sports, I always gravitated towards solo sports. I started in athletics and favoured the 100m, 200m, high jump, long jump and triple jump, it was the most basic way to test the limits of my body, “how fast can I move? How high can I jump?”  and I liked it because it was just me moving in total control, no ball to dribble or club to swing. I did athletics for fun so when I would compete for my school I would do well but as it got more competitive, I would fair worse because I was going up against kids that were coached and practicing, I was doing it for fun and relying on talent. 

As I entered my teens, the internet was kicking off and parkour/tricking/acrobatic videos were going viral – I remember one time waiting all night for a 3 minute video of Joe Eigo to load on my dial up internet! The video that really triggered my interest in these movements was a video of Team Evolution (now 3Run) that blew my mind! I couldn’t believe what I saw. I was watching wall flips and gainers from ledges, skills that are basic now but seemed super human in the early 2000’s. Combining that with my love of professional wrestling at the time, I’d collect mattresses (my record was 7 at one time) in my backyard, a trampoline and I would hang out with friends, mock wrestle and flip until the sun set and sometimes later than that. The flips and wrestling turned into legitimate tricking and tumbling by my late teens and I’d also started lifting weights after being inspired by ‘Pumping Iron’. During my late teens I was still tumbling/tricking but decided I didn’t want to just lift weights to look good (I’d always been attracted to movements that gave me more control over my body), I wanted to get strong! So I began powerlifting (squatting, deadlifting, bench and overhead pressing). Shortly after that I wanted more, and decided that Olympic lifting would be the ultimate weightlifting pursuit as it not only required strength but speed. Yay! More control! 

At the same time I was transitioning to Olympic lifting I met up with Lachlan (who I knew at the time as ‘my friends brother’) and was amazed how much muscle he’d put on since I last saw him. Lachlan introduced me to the gymnastics still rings and since then, at 19, I’ve been an avid proponent of bodyweight training. The benefits have included increased strength, greater mobility, stronger joints and they carryover into all other movements.

Lachlan: My name is Lachlan Walker, I’m a 6’1″, 77KG competitive gymnast from Sydney Australia who started gymnastics very ‘late’ – I competed in my first gymnastics competition when I was 22, and have been working my way up to now competing at Nationals in the Level 7 (out of 10) category – placing second in Australia on Rings last year. I want to demonstrate that things like age, height.etc do not matter – you should pursue what it is you love and work through and overcome obstacles – do not let them be excuses. I LOVE bodyweight training and believe it is the ultimate way to train. Through it you gain incredible control of your own body, which can apply to ANY life situation, as well as giving you an impressive physique. I am a very disciplined person, trying to always analyse what is most important to me, and then live my life truest to that. I hope you see that shine through every video on my YouTube channel.

Now, going back to how I got to where I am today:

I have always respected a good physique, as well as displays of strength. Sport-wise however, as a child I played tennis and soccer, so these are much more cardio style and didn’t particularly build strength. I also was naturally good at long distance running, finishing school races in the top %s and going through to the next level, without training specifically for it. Ironically I find endurance much less appealing than power (sprinting for example), though I wasn’t naturally strong in sprinting.

Throughout highschool my brother Matthew, my cousin Chris, and I were all very inspired by Parkour – particularly the simple back flip. Naturally we all learnt how to do it, training in a variety of sketchy ways such as into a pool, onto mattresses.etc

In early high school I knew I respected a good physique so I started light weight training in a gym. I was very thin and also very short until year 11. I was conscious of damaging my growth plates through heavy weight training, so I kept the reps high and weights low. I grew tall rapidly, going from being one of the shortest in my year to one of the tallest in a matter of months, and that, my man, is when I started packing on the gains NYES! 😉 Haha not exactly, though I did start pushing the weights heavier gradually and saw some gains.

Having trained weights consistently I had a better than average physique and thought I was relatively strong. Every now and then Matthew, Chris and I would visit a gymnastics centre to practice flips in a safe environment. During one of these sessions I had an incredible realization. During the session of just playing about with different skills, I went over to the rings and tried to get myself on top of them (muscle up, though I didn’t even know what this skill was called at the time). I could only get to the top of the pull up and couldn’t get on top of them. It was a very humbling experience: I thought I was already strong, yet here I am realizing I can’t even pull myself above these simple rings!!! It made me instantly respect the rings and want to work toward at least getting above them (into support).

I asked a nearby coach about how to do it and he taught me about the false grip and the general technique. I then worked consistently at getting strong enough to perform this skill, and after not too long,I achieved it. Anyone who does bodyweight strength training knows just how incredibly fulfilling it is when you achieve a new skill. I just wanted more – first back lever, then iron cross. I knew I needed to train more consistently to achieve these skills so I bought my own rings and hung them up in a tree at home, training 3 times a week, replacing weights training completely.

The rest is history, baby. Who’s keen for me to write an autobiography? Nyes.

How did you guys come up with the idea of producing the ‘STRONGER! Series’ in the first place?

T: We actually tried two series before STRONGER! ever came to be. The first one was in August 2010. It wasn’t technically a series but it was the concept of STRONGER! in its most infantile form. It was for ourselves. We wanted to stick to a program for 2 weeks, train incredibly hard, attempt our training goals and get it all on film. The second time around, 2 years later, we put effort into documenting our training with an audience in mind and put the videos on our YouTube channels (you can still see what that came to be on our respective YouTube channels: here for Tyson and here for Lachlan).

Lachlan and I both enjoyed the process that went into creating video content and we both had a few thousand subsribers by 2013 so we invested some time into developing the idea of a ‘training series’ further. We would ask questions like, “What would make our training series entertaining/motivating/valuable for the viewer?”. Side note, among other details, we spent a month trying to come up with a name, haha, eventually Lachlan just said “stronger?” and we ran with it, it was almost too simple but it summed up what the series was about better than anything else we had come up with! Once we had the blueprint for the series we approached many companies to see if they could offer us support in the way of finance, equipment or nutrition as we were going to be committing to this full-time. After many rejections, we managed to score a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (an epic DSLR camera), a little bit of financing and some supplements. I was stoked, we’d managed to get businesses to invest in our idea!

In mid-2013 we started shooting STRONGER! Bodyweight Workout Series 1. It was 6 weeks, took several months of editing and was by far our most popular series to date! Lachlan and I learnt a lot from making the series, we were getting great feedback but the work was time consuming. We didn’t have any immediate plans to make a second series but as time went on the demand kept building.

Lachlan and I had a couple of meetings in early 2015 and decided to invest in a second series; the main reason being we were 100% confident we could improve upon the first series and offer something new with increasing value to the viewer. And now, the second series is less than a month away from release!

L: When I started training rings at home, hung from a tree, it was unheard of. All my friends were curious what I was doing and how I was getting such good results (aesthetically). I also love passion, discipline and inspiration, and I love that the video medium is such an effective way to show a journey and really inspire people to get up and do something in their own life.

It really all started in August 2010 just before I flew over to Canada for university exchange. Tyson had been training rings with me casually, and he stood out to me with his consistency, discipline, and results. He is a hard worker, strong, and hence he was someone I naturally wanted to train with. It’s always more inspiring if you’re training alongside someone of a similar level as their own progress always pushes you to do more yourself (that competitive voice inside pushes you further). When I was about 2 weeks out of flying to Canada I still hadn’t achieved some strength goals that I was hoping to achieve before I left. I thought ‘why don’t we make very distinct goals, give them a deadline, and then train as hard as we possibly can in these 2 weeks to achieve them!?’. Tyson was completely onboard and so we did it. We both certainly made good progress, though we were WAY too ambitious with our goals and had far to little time between sessions to recover adequately. In the end we failed all our goals, though made great gains and learnt a lot through the journey.

I was overseas for the rest of 2010 and then away living at university in 2011 so didn’t have too many opportunities to train with Tyson – we both continued training independently and meeting up to train together now and then. Then, in December 2012, we decided to take advantage of the 2 week holiday for Christmas and New Year’s and do another intense training program together, though applying a lot of the things we learnt from the first program. We decided we would film the series and put our training from it on our respective YouTube channels. I called my videos the ‘Insane Strength Series’, and Tyson’s was the “INTENSE Bodyweight Workout Series”. We did this as we knew our friends enjoyed our training, everyone was always asking how we achieved the results we did, we both enjoy entertaining and we always had great fun training together. These videos became our most popular on YouTube – if you’re a fan and haven’t seen them, check them out!!! (links here for Lachlan and here for Tyson)

Right after that I started working full time in the Finance industry and was flat out between just working and training. I was fitting in filming and editing of my training anywhere I could! One and a half years later my full-time job in finance was starting to become more and more demanding on my time – to the point where I couldn’t train as much as I knew that I needed to. Following my passion (not following typical convention) I decided to quit my job and jump into another series with Tyson that we’d film, and we decided to do it full time, making it bigger and better in every way! The STRONGER! Series was born.

I really would love to get a quick introduction on the upcoming ‘STRONGER! Bodyweight Workout Series 2’. What can people expect from it?

T: The series follows Lachlan and myself on a 12 week training program to achieve 4 bodyweight skills. My training is uploaded to my channel and Lachlan’s training is uploaded to his channel. We have separate training backgrounds, mine being in weightlifting and Lachlan being a competitive gymnast, we both bring something unique to the table. The bodyweight goals are laid out in the beginning of the first episode with the training program designed by Nile Wilson, an immensely talented elite gymnast from the United Kingdom. It is everything a training series should be.

STRONGER! Bodyweight Workout Series 2 will entertain you with our antics, help you with your own training journey; we’ve packed this series with an incredible amount of information regarding training, nutrition, recovery and it will motivate you by showing you what you can achieve with perseverance to overcome adversity.

We filmed the first 6 weeks in Sydney, Australia and the final 6 weeks on the West Coast of the USA. As well as the rich content, we found so many great places to train that the series could double as a travel guide for where to train in those areas!

L: If you’ve seen the original series – this sequel follows a similar formula, though we stepped it up in all areas!!! You can expect to be inspired, entertained, and educated by the series. First and foremost you will be inspired to pursue interests and passions in your own life. By watching us set goals, make a plan, and then work relentlessly, showing you both the failures and successes of our training – the natural reaction is to be motivated and inspired to do the same yourself – and not necessarily with just your training!

You will be entertained by our crazy humor! Tyson and I have an undeniably hilarious chemistry, and there are plenty of jokes peppered throughout the series. These help keep our training fun, and always keep me in a fantastic mood!

Finally you will be educated by seeing exactly how and why we are training the way we do. This isn’t just any training program. We went to extreme lengths to design the best possible program to achieve our specific goals in the given time-frame. This included having the gymnast Nile Wilson – an Olympic medalist, as our strength coordinator throughout the series. He wrote the program based on the Great Britain national strength training program, yet modified to perfectly cater to our level, time-frame and goals.

How do do you guys fit training in your life? What do guys do for a living?

T: Following the 12 week program for the series, training took up most of our time (I worked 2 – 3 days a week at a supplement store when we were filming in Australia). Lachlan and I did everything for the series ourselves (apart from the graphic design); we were the directors, producers and cinematographers so when we weren’t training we were planning it.

I want to make a living doing what I love and that is physical activity and creating content. I take tremendous enjoyment out of having an idea, creating it and sharing it with the world. It is extremely fulfilling to create something of value, put it into the world and have people appreciate it.

L: It’s a very natural part of my life. I live my life to pursue my passions and what’s most important to me. I feel like movement is freedom – by becoming flexible, you are less limited to certain positions, and by becoming stronger, you are less limited to certain moments. I ensure my training program is optimized before scheduling anything else. The reason being that the body needs consistent training, with sufficient rest in between. With work/study however, you can realistically cram that in to any available time-slot – and so that’s exactly what I do.

I value ‘free time’ exceptionally highly, and as such I run my own business and work short, efficient hours every week. My business partner and i share the philosophy that we don’t try and make as much money as possible (which seems to be the norm in the world), though instead we ensure we earn enough to life the life we want to, and the focus is on minimising the amount of time we spend to achieve this. This allows us to pursue our passions in various fields with very little distractions from ‘the shackles of society’.

What does training mean to you? Sacrifices?

T: Training is a significant part of my life. When I’m not working on a series training is still a very high priority. I value physical health a lot; when I can’t train I become moody, angry and stressed easier, haha, it’s not good if I can’t train. I am always looking to learn new things so I’m always working on something. I look at learning new physical skills like upgrades to my body, it’s addictive!

Training does not mean sacrifice to me if that is what you mean. Training to me is a choice to place a high value on my body and its development; I want to learn skills that increase its worth and enhances my experiences.

L: I don’t think of it like that. That’s a negative spin to put on it, and seems to me as a simple excuse someone may use as to why they aren’t as good as they could be. I understand how someone might say they have to sacrifice socializing or relaxing because they are training, though you could say that about anything. Someone that is at a party is sacrificing potential time they could be learning, or training.etc

Instead, the way I see it is: what is the most efficient way I can use my time to achieve what’s important to me in life. Training is one of the most efficient possible uses of my time. It alone results in countless priceless benefits such as: improves my mood, keeps me healthy, makes me look good, keeps me disciplined, constantly gives me the opportunity to face fear directly and overcome it (which applies to all aspects of life) – this is more in my gymnastics training rather than bodyweight strength, makes me stronger (which gives me deep, fulfilled happiness), and keeps my mind sharp. Therefore, training improves basically every aspect of my life.

How did you guys meet each other and end up being training partners?

T:  knew his brother first. I met him once when I had to go over to his house, I remember thinking how skinny he was and that he hadn’t grown into his body yet (I didn’t know he was older than me at the time!). Some time passed and he suggested we train together as he’d gotten into some gymnastics movements. As soon as I saw him I noticed he’d packed on a lot of muscle. I couldn’t believe it! He wasn’t Mr. Olympia but it was one of the most significant changes I’d seen. I’m talking a guy who had hips wider than his shoulders last time I saw him to having biceps peaking higher than a lad at a rave! Lachlan introduced me to the gymnastics still rings and since then, at 19, we’ve been regular training partners. From our first session together I noticed we had a very similar hunger and intensity for training and that is where I think we bonded.

L: Tyson was friends with my brother Matthew and they did tricking and Parkour together for a few years. I found it very cool, was impressed with their skills, though was never into it quite like they were. So I knew Tyson casually as an acquaintance. Even just knowing him casually, I found him hilarious, always making me genuinely laugh a lot!

After I had started training rings for perhaps about 6 months, Tyson noticed my rapidly developing physique and was interested in trying rings for himself. We did some training sessions together and I really respected his work ethic. As such we began training together more frequently and it has grown to what you see today!

Your opinion on calisthenics?

T:  Calisthenics is an umbrella term for bodyweight training, as long as we can call a planche a planche, it’s all good! If you’re talking specifically about the dancing type pull-ups etc here is our take on it.

L: It’s great! I love all bodyweight training so naturally I respect it! I do gymnastics rather than calisthenics though as I also love the dynamic power of gymnastics. That is – gymnasts are incredibly strong on the rings (I dare say the strongest of any athlete), though on top of that strength they can generate immense explosive power to swing up into a handstand, and throw their body around metres into the air, still landing in perfect control.

Gymnastics and calisthenics share a lot of similarities, though I can’t say I know a great deal about calisthenics as I only know of it casually and it seems to be constantly evolving. I personally most enjoy the most intense holds such as Iron Cross, Planche, Maltese.etc – so if a calisthenics guys is doing that I enjoy watching it. However I’m not so interested in the dancing pull-ups and the clapping push-ups.etc

What would you guys consider the most difficult gymnastic moves you ever trained for!?

T: In terms of bodyweight strength skills I would have to say the front lever, not because it is the most brutal but because it is, personally, the most annoying. I see people get it in one month, yet for me it is an absolute necessity to train it often, which takes well over 3 months and if I slack off at all, it’s gone, it’s like my body has no muscle memory just for that skill.

The most difficult skills I’ve trained for would have to be the four that I train to achieve in SBWS.2. It was a tough 12 weeks, you’ll see what I mean!

L: Strength-wise it is the Azarian, without a doubt. It is roughly twice as difficult as the Iron Cross, which already requires an insane amount of strength and tension throughout the body. To be able to press up into that position from below puts incredible pressure through muscles that aren’t just contracting for a static hold, but are pulling through and moving into a final ‘resting’ position – the Cross.

Gymnastics wise that’s a tough question… I am still conquering the basics so don’t feel I’ve trained for any massive skills in particular. First thing that springs to mind however is the double back flip dismount on parallel bars.

You went to the USA for ‘STRONGER! Bodyweight Workout Series 2’. What was training like over there!?

T: It was amazing, I loved the USA! I’ll be honest, before I went over I was expecting a lot of loud obnoxious overweight people with guns. I was so wrong. Everyone we encountered was so nice, encouraging to what we were doing and positive. We filmed in LA, San Diego, Las Vegas and San Francisco and had such a great time everywhere, I can’t wait to go back.

Different to Australia where a lot of the gyms are owned by businesses, many of the gyms in USA were owned by retired gymnasts or coaches and were very understanding and accommodating to our journey.

Just one of these instances of generosity: Lachlan and I had checked out of our hostel in Santa Monica that morning and hadn’t sorted accommodation for that night. Whilst we were filming at Santa Monica Beach, by chance, we met a guy who was familiar with our videos on YouTube. It got to midnight and we literally had nowhere to sleep so we were just going to find some shelter and be ‘homeless’ for the night, then at 1am, the guy who recognized us earlier at the beach, offered us his brothers place to crash at. He lived with members of a hip hop group called Ubiquitous Love Tribe in an apartment complex. We ended up going to one of their gigs, they were amazing! Another group of his friends took us slacklining over a lake in Malibu! We crashed at that apartment for several days. On the third or fourth day, Ubiquitous Love Tribe drove us down to Santa Monica beach for our training. Standing there in the glorious sun on Santa Monica beach, I just remember thinking “this is incredible, I will never forget any of this”. You can see part of this experience in this behind the scenes vlog.

L: Fantastic! The US is very strong in gymnastics so I wanted to immerse myself in it and learn from their training styles. It was also quite challenging however – as we were travelling into new cities every week without knowing much about them – we had to quickly make connections with gymnasts/gym owners to be able to train when and how we needed to stick to our demanding program.

It resulted in some very interesting situations that you will get to enjoy – where we were heavily improvising for some exercises, using everyday areas at ridiculous hours of the night, and using them in ways they were certainly not designed for! In the end this part of the series demonstrates that with perseverance, you can achieve anything!

Will there be a ‘STRONGER! Bodyweight Workout Series 3’?

T: Haha! SBWS.2 hasn’t even launched yet mate! We’ll blow you all away with this second series and we’ll see where we’re at.

L: I would love that, and would be willing to do it. However, first the sequel will need to do very well and greatly surpass the views of the first series. I also realized it is not feasible for just Tyson and I to feature in, film, and edit the entire series (as we did for this upcoming series). It took us 2 years of incredibly hard work to do it – though we wanted to have it finished within 3 months!

For a future series it seems we would need a team working with us – such as videographers and editors. However – as we would naturally want to continue stepping up the quality of the series in all ways, having a team like this would certainly be the next step forward! If SBWS2 is successful enough it will allow us to afford to step it up again with a team, and then absolutely I’d love to make another!

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Paul Böhme
About Paul Böhme
Co-Founder of Calisthenics-Parks and chief of editorial staff.