At 14 years old, Bryan Wong weighed 200 pounds — borderline obese with a BMI of 31. Over the past nine years, he’s transformed his body twice: first to a healthy 150 pounds, and later to his current weight — 200 pounds of muscle. Today, Bryan is a competitive powerlifter, a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym UMP, and a third-year marketing student at UBC.
Q: When did you first start going to the gym?
A: I originally cut down weight basically by starving my body doing cardio an hour or two per day. I started working out toward the senior years of high school — grade 11 and 12 — when a friend of mine introduced me to the gym. I started out with a couple of bicep curls and then I decided, ‘I should try something else… be more adventurous!’ So I added bench press to it. It took me a solid year of ‘bro-lifting’ before I started adding legs. I did get beginner gains but not the results I wanted until I ‘grew up’ a little, got more mature and realized I had to take things more seriously. I have goals I need to prioritize and I have to sacrifice some things and plan accordingly to make sure I achieve those goals. In business school they teach us about ‘SMART’ goals — you can apply them to almost everything in life.
Q: What was your original workout routine like, and what’s it like now?
A: I started out with the classic ‘arms four to five times per week’. I didn’t put any focus on my legs. I didn’t have a good routine — I didn’t plan it. I would just keep hitting the same weights every single week. After a while, I adopted the principle of progressive overload. You need to record your exercises, your diet, your sleep — there are so many factors you need to control. It’s like a science experiment! Once I started powerlifting, I started out with 5×5. It’s a good hybrid workout. After a while I got a coach and he made me do the variation of the Westside Barbell method, which employs a lot of box squats, pop squats and a lot of bands. It targets the specific weaknesses that every lifter has.
Q: What’s your diet like, currently?
A: I try to eat healthy. I don’t eat any processed food, if I can. I do eat out — but when I do I try to look for healthier options. Calorie-wise, I’m reducing it a bit. I had to cut weight before my last meet, and I felt pretty weak and dehydrated. My goal is to stay under the weight the whole time so that I don’t have to cut weight. I feel like it’s healthier, as opposed to binging myself. I’m cutting right now at around 3,200.
Q: What was your diet like when you were bulking for the first time?
A: I went to all you can eat sushi a lot! There’s a lot of value there, and there are good places near UBC. If anyone wants to bulk up, all you can eat is the way to go.
Q: How many hours per week do you work out?
A: I work out two hours per session and come to the gym three to four times per week. I do enough to make sustainable progress. If I added an extra day I may gain a little faster, but the effort isn’t necessarily sustainable.
Q: How is your work-life balance?
A: I’m working two jobs, I go to school, and I do have a social life! I have a schedule for every week — it’s a little tight, but it works. It’s convenient going to a gym at UBC where I rarely have to wait for equipment.
Q: What inspired you to get serious about fitness?
A: Arnold Schwarzenegger. He inspired me to get into bodybuilding. I heard that he was in the military before, that he kept his weights in his tank and that he would work out at 5:00 AM. He went AWOL [absent without leave] to do his bodybuilding show, so that’s a lot of commitment there. What got me into powerlifting was, I saw Kevin [another trainer at Gold’s Gym UMP] and Emily [a Gold’s Gym UMP member] and I really looked up to them — those two got me into it.
Q: What made you decide to become a competitive powerlifter?
A: I hired a coach, and he encouraged me to compete. I feel like there’s no such thing as being too weak to compete — as long as you have the proper form, anyone can.
Q: What are some helpful fitness resources?
A: Personal trainers! Gold’s Gym UMP has lots of good equipment, and a very friendly community. Ask any of us for advice — we won’t bite! And also YouTube, but be careful — it has a lot of stuff that may not make sense. You have to be skeptical.
Q: Any final tips or words of advice for someone wanting to gain or lose weight like you did?
A: It’s not impossible! It just takes time. You have to be incredibly committed. You have to track everything, and you have to be consistent. Consistency is key for progress. If you bulk for two days and stop for the rest of the week, you won’t make any progress. I spent 15 months bulking from 180 pounds to 220. Consistency and commitment. That’s the only way.
You can follow Bryan on Instagram @brywonglifts.