“I’m not smart (or rich) enough to know how to beat a test! I don’t even take much for supplements – some grass-fed whey, creatine monohydrate and caffeine via too much coffee.”
I had the honour to interview old skool titan, and all-round nice guy Levi Markwardt, we had a great chinwag, read his responses below.
Name: Levi Markwardt
Have you always been this athletic and strong or was there a time when you were skinny and scrawny?
Haha! Actually the opposite. I used to be very overweight. Just over 10 years ago my father passed away from pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is basically a “lifestyle” disease, meaning it could stem from how we choose to live our life (food choices, exercise habits, smoking, how we cope with stress, etc – of course other factors as well – but my dad was not in good health leading up to his diagnosis). When he passed, I had just turned 28 and was approaching 136kg – much too heavy for my 6’1” (185cm) frame. Not only was I too heavy, much too high % body fat as well. Some tests had me close to 28%.
When did you start training? Did anything specific get you into training, or did you just decide it was time to start looking like the hulk?
I played all sorts of youth sports and varsity sports in high school. So there was some training involved with that. I also wrestled through college. After college I decided to be a personal trainer, but I kind of backed my way into it. I may have been a personal trainer by title, but I wasn’t living the lifestyle. The passing of my father is what really woke me up. Changing my diet and training habits wasn’t easy, or enjoyable in the beginning. But with results comes motivation. At the start, I read Never Gymless by Ross Enamait. I tried to forget everything I thought I knew and start fresh. No supplements, no jogging, no weight training… just committed bodyweight training – mainly burpees, pushups, squats, and lunges. I ended up losing 32kg in the first year and have maintained within a few kg +/- ever since. After losing the weight I reintroduced weight training to help increase my strength. this is all late 2007
What got you into kettlebell training? Was there something specific that you remember that day, or did you just decide to pick up a kettlebell one day?
I run a performance training center and a 24hr health club. A member of mine had two 20kg and two 24kg KB sitting in his office. They were unfortunately collecting dust so he asked if I’d be willing to trade a few months membership for them. So I did – and then they collected dust at my gym :). Other than some really sloppy 2 hand swings, I had no idea how to use them. I guess a few years prior I had a lesson in the sport of KB. But it was only one brief lesson and my interest was minimal then. So a few years later I have these 4 KBs at my gym not being used. One day a friend was visiting the gym and was asking about them and after sharing this story, he asked, “did you know I’m an RKC?” I believe I responded, “an RK what?” as they say, the rest is history. He showed me the “big 6” and taught me how to incorporate them with barbell or bodyweight training. I just couldn’t believe how effective they were. I was hooked almost instantly. So I started to use KBs consistently in my own training in 2014, became an RKC myself in Apr ‘15 and then joined Strength Matters (SMK) in Feb ‘16.
I got this comment the other day from a moron racist, making accusations about steroids. If someone would look at you, and ask if you take steroids, what would your response be?
Ahh yes – steroid accusations. Certainly not my first time dealing with accusations and probably not the last. It’s frustrating, absolutely. You commit to training and clean up your diet for years and years. The sacrifice it takes over the long haul – and someone who has no idea about your story dismisses everything you’ve done with a quick, irresponsible comment. I try to take it as a compliment – “oh, this person thinks I’m strong/lean/fit,” but it bothers me, truthfully. Some people have made up their minds, regardless what I say. I’ve found those making these sorts of comments live their life by making excuses and this is just another example of that. Instead of studying how, doing the training, and committing the time, they dismiss the truth and make more excuses. But the honest truth to the question? I’ve never taken hormones or steroids. Ever. I’d happily take a test on command 😉 I’m not smart (or rich) enough to know how to beat a test! I don’t even take much for supplements – some grass-fed whey, creatine monohydrate and caffeine via too much coffee. The reality is, if you commit to dedicated training and diet over time, you can achieve a helluva lot! But there is zero gain for me to take steroids – it’s all unnecessary risk. Now, with all that said, if someone reading this does take steroids – if you can justify it, awesome for you. To each their own. I could honestly care less what someone else does because I’m not competing with anyone in anything. You do you, I’ll do me.
What are your three favourite exercises and why?
- Burpees were my first ‘love’ when I made the commitment to change my life. They’ve given me so much in return. I still do burpees and their variations all the time.
- KB snatch. I train both the single and double snatch. It’s a huge ‘bang for your buck’ exercise. also provides mental toughness once you’re deep into the sets
- Turkish Get-Up. My favorite right now. I think it ties your mind and body together. Requires tremendous focus. Gets your left side to work with your right (and vice versa) and your lower body to work with your upper body. Improves mobility AND strength. Can be used as a warmup, cooldown, a part of a complex, or as a stand-alone piece. And you can get up just about anything. barbells, KBs, DBs, humans, macebells, clubbells, sledgehammers, etc
How many days a week do you train?
I typically train six sessions each week. All generally less than 40 minutes. Four sessions heavy or intense with two scaled back.
Do you follow a particular program?
Currently – no. Summers are my busiest time of year and I fit my training in at different times. Summer is more about maintaining, for me. However, I usually pick a goal and program to achieve that goal – sometimes it’s someone else’s program, sometimes I’ll program something for myself.
Have you ever had any serious injuries, if so, what, how did they occur, and how did you overcome them?
Disc herniation between C6 and C7 would be my most serious injury while wrestling in college. I do have issues with my upper back and traps, shoulder issues, etc etc. thankfully no surgeries! Most of my issues just come from non-stop training. Over-reaching or overuse. But I do think injuries (serious or not) are a way to become better. To reflect on what happened and to adapt and overcome. I think as most would agree, the mental aspect is often more difficult than the physical aspect. For me, overcoming injuries is often slowing down, doing the “little things” (massage, chiropractic care, hydration, rest/recovery), addressing weaknesses, prayer and patience.
What workout on the Cavemantraining channel speaks to you and why?
“Where eagles dare challenge” looks plenty brutal 🙂 I love strength endurance. And this has burpees too! Except I do pushups with mine 😉 but I LOVE simple concepts when the results come from the work of the individual. It’s not about being fancy. It’s not about having the most toys. It’s about stopping excuses and just getting work done.
Best achievement that you’re the proudest of?
Being a dad is the top of the list. But if we’re talking physical or performance wise – I think it’s just the changes I’ve been able to make (with plenty of help/support from my wife). Eliminating excuses, owning up to past mistakes, being willing to learn and relearn, and just finding out what commitment and dedication really are. I really try to lead from the front. Doesn’t mean I always do, but it’s something that is always on my mind.
Future goals? Anything in specific you want to achieve and why?
Performance goals – a bodyweight getup 🙂 currently at 90kg on a barbell. Also, longer term goal will be to snatch the beast (48kg) 100x w/o setting it down. Why? Because those are two performance goals that are defined by perseverance and commitment.
A final word for the Cavemantraining readers
I think just surrounding yourself with people that support you. We live in a world that can be very negative and it’s easy to get caught up with nonsense. Family support can’t be overlooked. And also to have faith. I think that helps keep me humble and adds much perspective to my life as well. This has gotten me through the loss of my dad and the murder of a close friend.
You can find Levi online at:
- [email protected]
- @leviarsl on instagram
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