Insightful Interview With Fitness Coach Menno Henselmans From Bayesian Bodybuilding
From Business Consultant to Online Fitness Coach Who Helps People Transform Their Physiques Using a Science-Based Approach
Have you ever seen someone quitting a respectable job as a business consultant to become an online fitness coach and pursue his passion for fitness?
If you haven’t, let me introduce you Menno Henselmans. Menno is an online physique coach, fitness model and scientific author.
As a fitness coach, Menno helps serious trainees attain their ideal physique using his Bayesian Bodybuilding method.
But what is the Bayesian Bodybuilding method?
The word Bayesian refers to the statistician Thomas Bayes. Menno is actually applying his previous knowledge in science and statistics to bodybuilding.
Continue reading to learn more:
Damian: Before creating Bayesian Bodybuilding, you have worked as a business consultant. What was the motive, what pushed you to take this important swift in your life and start sharing your knowledge through your website?
Menno: I’ve always been passionate about exercise. I’ve participated in almost every sport there was in my region when I grew up, including track and field athletics. I guess the real question is why I didn’t pursue fitness in the first place. I think that’s because of my environment.
Though my parents came from poor families, my father and mother both rose to the top of the corporate world in their branches.
I was expected by my parents (or at least my father), my teachers and even a professional job profiling agency to become an econometrician or a management consultant. Maybe a scientist: while not commercially successful, it was at least respectable.
Looking back on my childhood, there were many hints that the life that was expected of me and what I was actually passionate about were different things.
For example, I had to play the piano. I hated that. After a year I still refused to read notes, that’s how badly I despised it. The only reason I could play songs was because I couldn’t avoid my weekly class and there I just memorized the buttons I had to press to churn out a play.
I also played chess and I have a closet full of trophies. That was fun, because it was intellectually challenging, but when I got to the national level, the matches started taking hours and you had to travel a lot.
“Hey bro, what are you doing Saturday?”
“Playing a chess match.”
“Yeah, but after?”
“Nah, that’s pretty much it, bro.”
You were expected to do homework and my opponents talked about Russian openings and Chinese whatever. It was just a game for me and this took all the fun out of it.
A game I liked much more was Unreal Tournament. It’s a high-paced shooter on the computer. I was ranked top 10 in the world on Last Man Standing and placed second in a major European tournament. I was one of the first to introduce item timing, a method where you clock the appearance of items so that I was always the best equipped person on the map.
I actually lost that European tournament because my mom started using our internet connection, causing my ping to spike in the last match. Ah well, no hard feelings, mom. It was just a game (though I could have bought you a nice present with the prize money…)
It wasn’t just hobbies though. Over time, my passion slowly bled through the cracks of my career.
I first dropped advanced math and physics in high school. Teachers went mad, because they said it was a waste of talent and I was destroying my potential. The physics teacher even refused at first, though he didn’t even have that official power.
This trend continued through college and then I dropped econometrics at Warwick. Here the response was milder, because I moved more towards science and away from finance.
I still became a business consultant before I had even handed in my Master’s thesis, but I then already started coaching clients online on the side. I did a lot of soul-searching and, more importantly, an extensive review of all the literature on happiness, career prospects and personal fulfillment.
I could see myself on my deathbed, looking back on the life that was expected of me. It felt like being smothered. So I made the jump, quit my job and traded in my company car to help people with their gains.
Anyway, so far from my life biography. Next question please.
Damian: You have been published at T-nation without having an online presence. Then you have been featured in Sports Medicine Journal which is an even bigger accomplishment. What does it take to achieve things like these when it comes to mindset and self-improvement? It’s definitely not easy to accomplish these goals.
Menno: I naturally have very high standards. In everything. Combine that with passion and you can get stuff done. Being published was then mostly a matter of finding the right platform for me.
Both at T-Nation and at Sports Medicine I knew that if I submitted high quality work, it would get published. You can’t expect organizations like that to hold your hand while you learn or experiment.
Damian: What’s the importance of bodybuilding in life and how can it help people live a better life?
Menno: To me, bodybuilding is a lifestyle of self-improvement. It goes back to the ancient Greek ideal that education should encompass both mental as well as physical development.
In psychology, fitness is called a keystone habit, because it spreads to many other realms of your life.
Damian: Let’s say that a friend of yours wants to start building his physique. What’s the most important thing that he should be aware of to get the maximum results out of the least amount of time?
Menno: Get on a systematic training program. Many people spent their first years messing around, yet on an optimized program you should transcend the novice stage within a matter of months.
Damian: You are one of the few people in the world that is able to live from his passion. However for everyone who is able to do this, there are 100 out there who can’t live from their passion (or don’t have one at all). What do you think that separates those who can from those who can’t?
Menno: Well, as much as I’d like to take credit for hard work, the truth is that I’m a privileged white kid that was afforded some of the best education in the world and then learned a lot more about people and business in the corporate sector. So the odds have always been in my favor.
I’ve seized and capitalized on every opportunity in my life, but not everyone is so lucky as to have these opportunities in the first place.
(Note from Damian: this doesn’t mean anything, hundreds of people have these privileges and never accomplish anything worthwhile. Hard work, trusting your gut instinct and grabbing opportunities from the neck is far more important. This is what most people lack even if they have the best formal education in the world.)
That said, to answer your question, I see a major difference between popularity and business success. Most personal trainers try to be popular. They spend a ton of time on social media, make controversial statements, run advertising, etc. Yet many of them can barely get by.
On the other hand, I’m not that popular, at least not compared to many mainstream fitness ‘experts’. Yet I’m consistently fully booked with clients, speaking engagements and other projects.
I’ve never even paid to advertise my site or social media. Much of my advertising is good old word of mouth.
The message here is that if you’re a personal trainer/fitness coach and you’re worried about your finances, stop worrying about how popular you are. Those kids on YouTube aren’t going to give you a dime. Instead, worry about helping serious people get serious results.
I’d note that this specifically holds true for personal trainers. A lot of people make money selling products or running ads. If you don’t have actual clients, popularity is of course much more important.
Damian: You have created one of the most credible resources about fitness on the web. Your data driven approach is amazing because it gives your site a way to distinguish itself from all the bro-science out there. What other components make Bayesian Bodybuilding different, more efficient and more trustable than other fitness websites?
For one, I publish very little, but when I do, I aim to have my work stand the test of time. My article on the optimal protein intake caused a noticeable shift in the industry towards lower protein intakes.
My article on the fact you can’t increase a muscle’s length by stretching it also changed many people’s perspective on stretching, posture and flexibility.
As for how, there’s no secret sauce. Most of my articles are the culmination of months or even years of scientific research and experience with my clients.
Secondly, integrity. I’ve gotten offers from many companies to be an ambassador for their stuff or to sell it, but not much of it works out, because I cannot advocate something I don’t believe in.
I’m also not afraid to lash out at big companies when they cross the line. All this really hurts my options with the big players in mainstream fitness, but I don’t care about going mainstream anyway.
People know how to spot a fake and they will dump you like a rotten protein shake when you lose your integrity.
Take Home Messages From Menno’s Interview
1. Following the path that is expected of you by your parents, teachers or society won’t really make you emotionally fulfilled. You will always feel like something is missing from your life.
If you follow it you will probably feel regrets for the rest of your life. Take your own path and follow your desires and passions from the very beginning.
2. Do you want to accomplish big things? The recipe is: High Standards +Passion + Quality Work
3. Your mental development is a sign of your physical condition. Mental and physical condition are totally interdependent.
If you want to improve your life, start from changing your body. This will impact any other area of your life in a positive way.
4. If you have already realized the benefits of weightlifting you might probably want to get into shape faster. Find a systematic training program and stick to that. You will reap the rewards on a faster pace.
5. If you want to follow your passion stop worrying about what others think or do. Most people care for publicity and popularity. You should make the difference and care about helping people genuinely.
6. Follow Bayesian Bodybuilding god damn it! You won’t read bro-science there and you will definitely learn a lot.
I would like to thanks Menno for participating in the interview and sharing all this useful information with us.
Stay tuned for the next interviews!