Maximize your strength training routine by cutting out these time wasters.Read article
Steve Cook is terrible at keeping secrets. He shares just about every aspect of his life with his 2.5 million Instagram followers. His boulder-shoulder workouts. Challenges and Q&As with his girlfriend, fellow fitfluencer Morgan Rose Moroney. What he eats in a day. His globe-trotting adventures. His adorable French bulldog, Hobbes (who himself boasts 38K IG followers). Which is why Cook was so relieved when, last September, he was finally able to reveal his biggest secret—that he was the new trainer of USA Network’s The Biggest Loser reboot. “I felt really weird not sharing things [for weeks],” he told his 1.26 million YouTube subscribers. “I had to be in total silence.”
The popular reality competition series—which awarded $250K to the contestant who lost the highest percentage of weight—ran for 17 seasons on NBC. Cook was still in high school when it originally premiered in 2004.
“I remember watching it and just being taken aback by how intense the trainers were, especially Jillian [Michaels], and how much weight people were able to lose in a relatively short time,” Cook recalls. “I kept thinking, ‘This is crazy; I would never yell and scream like that to my clients.’ But at the same time, there were some amazing results.”
Now the sneaker is on the other foot, and the 6’1″, 215-pound Cook is taking a holistic approach to motivating his Blue Team. The teams, with Erica Lugo as the Red Team coach, also have access to nutritionists, on-site docs, and therapists to round out their transformations.
“I always say, ‘It’s not just what you’re eating, but what’s eating you,’ ” Cook says. “He’s like the big brother I never wanted,” jokes Lugo, proving the competitive nature between Red and Blue didn’t get lost in translation for the reboot. OG trainer Bob Harper is back, this time as host, and he gave Cook some sage advice going into the season. “He said, ‘These are your babies; you are their go-to person, and they’re going to do whatever you tell them to do.’ And that’s a great responsibility, you know, that I don’t take lightly.”
Whereas Lugo used her own dramatic weight loss to connect with her team (she lost 160 pounds), Cook relied on his own upbringing and struggle with food to connect with his.
“I remember working at a restaurant and being in the back, stuffing my face full of ice cream because I didn’t want anyone to see me. I thought that I needed to look perfect. And I think that people can relate to that.”
Cook grew up in Boise, ID, the middle of seven kids. His dad was a high school coach who had the key to the weight room. Cook discovered his passion for weightlifting early on. By the sixth grade, he was benching 225. “My dad always said you either have that electricity that runs through you when you grab a dumbbell, or you don’t.”
Cook loved the feeling of getting stronger—of course, it didn’t hurt that he was also getting more looks. “Girls would come up and ask, ‘Can I touch your pecs?’ ” he says. “It was really the first time I was like, ‘Oh, you get noticed for it.’ ”
Cook played football from the age of 7 through college, and while his team was pretty good in high school, “I learned how to lose in college,” he says. A fractured ankle derailed any shot of pursuing a career on the gridiron. Cook was one semester shy of graduating. He got married, but his wife cheated.
Here Cook was, a 23-year-old divorcé, back home with his parents and working as a waiter at Texas Roadhouse. It was a wake-up. “I needed something to focus on,” he says, and that’s when he started competing in natural-bodybuilding competitions. Then came the opportunity that would change his life—and career. Muscle & Fitness was staging its first-ever Male Model Search during Olympia Weekend in 2010, where the winner had a shot at landing a future cover.
The surprising physique he wanted to aspire to? That of pro bodybuilder Steve Reeves, who crossed over into Hollywood as a sword-and-sandal star—most notably, in 1958’s Hercules. Cook would wake up at 6 a.m. every day, come home at 11 p.m., and then train for the competition and work toward finishing his biology/psychology degree. “I had no social life,” he says. “But I had a sense of purpose.”
The M&F Male Model Search was essentially a testing ground for men’s physique, Cook says. “It was the first time you had 250 guys onstage, wearing boardshorts. There was no bodybuilding poses. The NPC and the IFBB Pro League were gauging how popular it would be, and when they saw the turnout, they’re like, ‘Oh, we do need to create a new division.’ And that’s what came about.”
Cook was chosen as the champ. “It was like a flood of emotions. All the hard work, the sacrifices.
I felt validation.” The victory opened up doors of opportunity. “A few months later, I won the Bodybuilding.com spokesmodel search, signed up with Optimum Nutrition, traveled the world, and my fitness career at that point in time just exploded.” Cook became an IFBB Pro League competitor the following year and competed in the newly created men’s physique division at the Mr. Olympia in 2013 and 2014. Around this time, he also landed a cover with Muscle & Fitness in 2013.
He parlayed that into a successful online coaching business. But a decade after M&F changed his life, something was still missing. The Biggest Loser filled that void. “I kind of got away from this one-on-one connection,” he says. “But when you’re helping people where this is literally life-or-death to lose weight, it really gave me kind of a renewed sense of purpose. It’s not about how we look, but how healthy we are mentally, physically, and emotionally.”
You’ll have to tune in to The Biggest Loser on USA Network to see whether Cook or Lugo coach the eventual winner, but he does promise cool new team challenges, heartfelt stories, and amazing transformations. And Cook himself was transformed by the experience. “I’ve also learned to love myself the same,” he says. “Health is not a destination but a state of mind.”
“On The Biggest Loser, I got more into functional and body-weight workouts that test active muscular endurance and your cardiovascular system, too.” Cook says to only do one of these workouts at once. If you’re more advanced, you can try all three.