Protonex Technology Corp

Corps Strength – Leopards Vs Lions

Over the past few months I’ve been working with someone who purchased my book CorpsStrength and is using my PT system. After six weeks of good progress, he stalled and couldn’t get his max pull-ups past 13, or his mile run time below 7 minutes. People hit walls with their PT goals all the time, so this was nothing new. However with him I knew immediately what the issue was. He was just too big, (a very solid 240 lbs). A former competitive power lifter who racked up some very impressive lifts over the years, but now due to injuries decided it was time to move away from the heavy lifting and get in better overall condition. His problem brought me back to something I’ve spoken to many people about when helping them get into shape; it’s the mental dilemma of Leopards vs. Lions.

As we all know people come in all shapes and sizes, however stuck in the minds of many people (especially young men) is this misconception that to be in true kick-ass physical condition you need to be big, physically large. To illustrate this concept in a simple way, they want to be lions. You know the big cat, King of the Beasts and all that that. I get the appeal, however the problem is that most people are just not born lions, (I’m talking physically here, attitude wise is another thing) they’re something else. Some people are badger size, some are more like a buffalo. In my own case for example, I was designed pretty much to be leopard size, with my best fighting weight right around 160lbs. However when I was younger, that wasn’t enough. 160lbs? No way, too little. I wanted to be a lion, and that meant 200lbs of muscle, so I went heavy on the weights, chow and supplements for many years. At my biggest I got up to a very solid 195lbs. Was I now a Lion? The simple answer was no, In reality I was just a overweight, slow ass Leopard. I was very strong in all the standard weight room lifts, and I could still run ok, but I just wasn’t at my best. I didn’t feel all that hot either, my joints were sore all the time and my uniforms didn’t fit right. I was just too big and frankly in denial about it. After many years (Marines are hard-headed), I figured this all out and got my weight to where it needed to be (160-165lbs), and like magic I immediately felt better, looked better in uniform and could do almost everything (physically) better, much better in fact (with the exception of a max bench or squat). That ideal ratio of muscle to frame size made everything work more efficiently. There is no getting around genetics, nor should you try. It won’t work in the end. If you’ve ever seen a bodybuilder is huffing and puffing after then just do a posing routine you’ll get my drift. Looks are just looks, and size is just weight unless you can use it. Real conditioning is a combination of many factors, and carrying a bodyweight that matches your natural frame size is one of them.

I related this simple concept to my reader about two months ago. He tightened up on his diet, the PT program didn’t change, didn’t need to. I received an email from him last week where he stated that his weight was now around 210lbs, he can easily do 20+ pull-ups, and his last timed mile run was 6:04. But more importantly he said he has never felt better. He feels stronger, healthier with much more energy. Magic huh? No, not really, its just long practical experience that has lead me many times to this conclusion. That’s if you really want to get and stay in great condition for the long term. You need to wear the uniform you’re issued and work on making that the best you can, not trying to up-size just for its own sake. Be a kick ass leopard, wolverine, or whatever you are and forget about the Lions, they always seemed kind of lazy to me.

Be safe and good luck



14 Responses to “Corps Strength – Leopards Vs Lions”

  1. This guy says says:

    Any good ways that you recommend to determine one’s appropriate size? Considering factors such as age, height, long vs short limbed, broad or narrow shouldered, and torso size?

    • JohnC says:

      @This guy says

      “Any good ways that you recommend to determine one’s appropriate size? Considering factors such as age, height, long vs short limbed, broad or narrow shouldered, and torso size?”

      Yes. Of course, that’s pretty much THE question in training, isn’t it: How strong do I need be?

      Ultimately, it depends on the person, so YMMV with particular guidelines. Take sample of NHL players of the same height, and you find weights ranging from ~ 170 to 215 pounds, but weak correlation between mass and qualities like VO2 Max (largely because fatigue isn’t determined by some global mechanism). The same variation can be found in rugby players (though, in both sports, individual performance tends to decrease as someone loses mass during the season).

      That doesn’t mean adding mass is an afterthought. Being “bigger” doesn’t make you stronger or better; it is, however, an important step (and it’s effects go beyond just beach muscles to influence, say, endocrine function).

      So, yes, if you were a competitive athlete, a good trainer would look at you and at least have a sense how much additional muscle would provide significant increases in job-related strength and power, without exceeding skeletal/anthropomorphic structure, connective tissue, the circulatory system, mitochondrial function, etc. (viz. “optimal hypertrophy”), and use that info to develop a long-term plan. If you were underweight (say, a freshman wrestler expected to jump weight classes, a young gymnast, a receiver just turned tight-end, coming off a long deployment, etc.), had anthropomorphic quirks, or or just plain weak, functional hypertrophy would be part of the initial scheme (for, among other reasons, to give you more time to adapt).*

      As for specific recommendations, you can probably get some rough guidelines from Physiological Tests for Elite Athletes. Personally, I find comparisons to Rugby League for tactical personnel useful, given the skill sets and the ranges in physical qualities. “Growth, Development, and Physical Ability” also has some research, especially re limb-length and like anthropomorphic data). Mel Siff and Verkoshansky also cover the subject.

      *More technically, optimal/functional hypertrophy entails sarcomere hypertrophy (re the actual contractile features), rather than sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (re non-contractile proteins and plasma between muscle fibers); development of type I rather than type II muscle fibers (inter alia, the accompanying growth of slow twitch fibers affects fast twitch contraction during fast movement); attention to restrictions in the fascia; and also keeping lean body comp.

      Done right, theoretically there’s a pretty high ceiling for optimal hypertrophy (competitive o-lifters in the 105kg class, for example, tend to be about 5’9, yet rival sprinters for 20 dash times, gymnasts for mobility…and fwiw, have a V02 Max close to 60). Wrestlers likewise can improve physiological abilities while moving up classes. Ultimately, time and energy are the limiting factor for tactical personnel, particularly when their CNS is already swamped from work.

      I suspect this is far more info than you really wanted.

      • Abraxas says:

        I’m going to spend the next hour on Wikipedia to understand your comment, but thanks a lot for the detailed information.

        • MGunz says:

          Typical John C comment: text book and lab double talk. Stay in the real world bro. Send me an email at, and i’ll help you with any specific issues you have on weight loss and fitness.
          Semper Fi

          • Ash says:

            I checked out your site/book. I have to say, using this statement in your bio: “I have very little desire to write (or talk) about myself. Absolutely no subject bores me more.” and following it with 10+ paragraphs about yourself strikes me as double-talkish… Just sayin’, bro.

        • JohnC says:

          Google “Functional Hypertrophy.” As mentioned, it’s essentially part and parcel of the (pen)ultimate question: “How big and strong do I need to be?” Opinions vary.

  2. Frank says:

    This also goes the other way, which I’ve seen more of recently. A lot of really big guys, and particularly women, want to be that super cut 160 lbs athlete. If you’re built as tall as you are wide that look and athleticism ain’t comin’ your way. Maximize what you have but never delved into places you were not meant to go. There are very few NFL linebackers or Seals in this life. But we can all do better. That’s the key, doing better, and striving for something without becoming unrealistic to the point where our bodies are constantly failing us, setting us back all that much further and setting the stage for a very painful life by the time we’re 40.

  3. MGunz says:

    “This guy says”
    Hey bro thanks for your question, its one I’ve gotten many times. Actually your asking this is reverse order. The key is to focus on performance first, how you feel second and how you look third. don’t worry about your age, hgt, torso, limb size and all that. I have seen Marines of all shapes, sizes, ages and ethnic backgrounds score a maximum score on the Marine Corps PFT and CFT. I’ve also seen Navy SEALs and Army Rangers of all sizes. First work on getting yourself in the best possible condition (based on what you can actually do). Eat a balanced healthy diet and after you honestly obtain a high level of physical fitness, take a look in the mirror, ask yourself how do you feel? Do you like the way you look? Do your clothes fit right? Only you know the answers to these questions, everybody is different. If your in top “performance based” condition, feel great and like the way you look – then check out your actual scale weight. That will be pretty close to your ideal weight. I for one have never bought into this theory that its ok to gain a bunch of weight just because you get older. I think that your best weight is your best weight, period. In fact my own person experience, observation and lots of study is that older people (40+) are far better off being on the thinner side of an ideal wgt rather than heavier. In my book I go into much more into detail on all of this, but the bottom line is performance. My system is designed to develop and maintain a “Go” body first and foremost, the “Show” body that comes with that frankly is just a collateral benefit. Hope that helps, thanks again
    Good luck

    • This guy says says:

      I appreciate the response. I’m looking to lose weight and I’m wanting to set a goal that balances out the show and go. Go being the more important of the two. After a couple of nasty brain injuries and nagging side effects I haven’t done much but ride a desk for far too long. My brain and my body don’t cooperate much.

      • MGunz says:

        Hey man, drop me a email. I’d be glad to work with you. I’ve helped lots of vets and others that have injuries and other physical limitations. I’m sure we can work out something that works for you.

  4. JohnC says:

    I bet this is what meeting Mr. Gunz is like: