Dragon Ball fan? If so than much like me you’ve probably been inspired in some way to hit the gym and become more active because of this popular show.
After the success of last week’s One Punch Man workout article, I figured I’d follow suit and pay homage to my all time favorite anime series: The legendary Dragon Ball.
Dragon Ball centers around the story of Goku, from his humble beginnings of an exceptionally strong yet naive young boy living alone in the mountains to growing into a super powered muscle man capable of blowing up entire planets without breaking a sweat!! Of course he’s the hero of the story so this power is only used to combat evil, saving the world (and universe) time and time again with the rise of new foes each more powerful than the last.
Along his journey, Goku meets a vast array of new friends, enemies, and rivals, each strong in their own right. Some become friends and some remain enemies, but each and every one of them pushes the others to train harder and grow stronger.
Dragon ball’s training sequences were always so intense detailing how our favorite characters used their own methods to push themselves past their own barriers and ascending towards the strongest version of themselves – all the while building physiques that’d put even the most muscular superheroes to shame. It’s hard not to be motivated to hop up and hit a workout after watching this show!!
It was actually dragon ball that really took me to the next level of fitness.
As a skinny young teen, I’d get so fired up by watching dragon ball after school that I had to get up and do something. So while I couldn’t look away from the tv during the action, when the commercials hit I’d have to drop down and hit a few sets of push ups, sit ups, and dumbbell curls to pass the time until the show came back on. I fell in love with the feeling that these simple workouts gave me, which led to me purchasing some of my own gym equipment and joining my first gym when I had outgrew my home workouts. Fast forward to today and I have 4 bodybuilding competitions under my belt and get to share my experiences in the fitness world with others!
My 10 health and fitness lessons from Dragon Ball.
Throughout the series I learned many lessons in training, health, and fitness all of which are actually applicable in real life. Sure we don’t have a room of spirit and time, gravity chambers, or senzu beans, but there are a ton of basic things we can learn that will lead to some impressive gains in and out of the gym.
Let’s get started.
#1. If you wanna get big and strong, you’ve gotta eat!!
Spawning from a warrior race that lives and breathes to grow stronger and win battles, the Saiyans, especially Goku, are known for eating giant meals as frequently as possible. Due to the intensity of their training routines, eating massive amounts of food is necessary to repair and refuel their bodies, pushing them further and further towards becoming the strongest.
Just like the Saiyans of the dragon ball universe, we also need to take in more calories than the average human to properly refuel after our hard workouts. When you start training hard your body will naturally crave more food to make up for calories burnt and muscles broken down. Just be smart with it and fill up on whole, nutrient dense foods such as meat, eggs, potatoes, sweet potatoes, avocados, and plenty of healthy fruits and veggies.
#2. You have to break yourself down to build yourself back up.
When Vegeta comes onto the Dragon Ball scene and joins in the battle against Frieza and his crew on Planet Namek, we learn that the Saiyan body will become stronger upon recovering from devastating bodily trauma. He even goes as far amidst a battle to provoke Krillin into shooting a near fatal blast through his chest so that when he recovers he will come back stronger than ever before (which will be in an instant due to the healing powers of a young namekian boy named Dende).
In the real world an injury like this would set us back and pull us further from our goals. We do however have a more controlled way to break ourselves down to build ourselves up. That’s hitting the weights hard in the gym, hitting sprints in the field, and even going hard using our own bodyweight as resistance.
#3. It’s not going to be comfortable.
Goku and Vegeta train in increased gravity. Gohan had to sit perfectly still for 25 hours while an old man paced around him dancing to unlock his true potential. Piccolo splits himself into multiple beings and literally kicks the crap out of himself to get stronger. Tien stands underneath rushing waterfalls for hours on end. Nothing about any of that sounds comfortable. Sometimes we really have to push the envelope on our quest to become stronger.
Enter training your body in the real world. It’s uncomfortable, it can be awkward, and you’re guaranteed to be sore. But just because it’s unnatural and uncomfortable we have to keep pressing on.
Besides, there’s something out there that is equally uncomfortable…
Being an out of shape and having health problems! It comes down to the choice of which discomfort you want to embrace. I choose the discomfort that’s going to make me look and feel better.
#4. Calisthenic training is no joke!
In Goku and Vegeta’s training especially we see A TON of handstand push ups, single arm push ups, sit ups, and gymnastic movements. They perform these exercises in a gravity chamber, which increases gravity and adds extra resistance to their bodies.
Of course we don’t have gravity chambers in real life (and thank God because we’d probably end up killing ourselves in them) but we can use calisthenic movements in a similar fashion to strengthen our own bodies. Using your own bodyweight as resistance is about as primal as it gets. I’ll even do strictly bodyweight training for a couple weeks from time to time to deload and give my joints a break from the weights, so I can tell you firsthand that this type of training is no joke.
Sample bodyweight only routine from my previous article “No Gym? No Problem.”
- Pull ups– 50 reps in as few sets as possible
- Push ups– 50 reps in as few sets as possible
- Air squats-100 reps in as few sets as possible
- Handstand pushups– 3 sets to near failure
- Jack knives– 3 sets to near failure
#5. Get proper rest.
Early in the series when Goku and Krillin are training under Master Roshi who was the strongest human on Earth at that time, we see that they take a break from training after their morning training to eat lunch, do school work and… take an hour long mid day nap. Goku asks his teacher why they’re taking naps when their competition is out there training, to which Master Roshi explains that “everyone, even the strongest warriors, need a bit of shut eye.”
Getting enough rest is an important factor in our training and recovery that we often skip over but is necessary if we want to take our physiques to the next level. We’ve been so programmed to just go, go, go in our modern society that we forget that we need it. Remember, it’s when we’re resting and recovering that we’re growing! We’ve become so in love with the training process that we go for days and weeks without a break. I’m all about working hard but without proper rest, all we’re doing is beating ourselves up, leading to overtraining, injury, a drop in testosterone, amongst other things that will set us back rather than pushing us forward. Listen to your body and know when it’s time to take a break.
“Work hard, study well, and eat and sleep plenty. That’s the turtle hermit way.”
#6. Stay hungry and keep consistent.
I’ve said it plenty of times before that consistency is key to building muscles. This is very real in the Dragon Ball world where unlike typical super heroes, characters who don’t keep up with their training fall behind and lose everything that they worked so hard to achieve. Goku’s son Gohan is the biggest example of this, going from being the strongest character in the show when he ascended beyond the levels of a Super Saiyan and beat Cell at the age of 11, to one of the weakest by the time he reaches adulthood because he shifted his focus away from training during times of peace.
This holds true in real life as well, if we aren’t eating right, training hard, and getting proper rest on a regular basis all we’re doing is setting ourselves up for failure.
#7. Supplementation isn’t completely necessary but it definitely can help.
The heroes of Dragon Ball don’t have the real world supplements like we do, but they do have an extreme recovery aid in the form of senzu beans.
Senzu beans are grown by a large talking cat named Korin and upon ingestion, completely restore a character’s energy, health, and battle damaged bodies in a matter of seconds, making this the perfect supplement for the heroes. For the Saiyans and their ability to get stronger after recovering from an injury, this also means a new surge in power and strength.
Sadly we don’t have senzu beans in real life. We do however have certain supplements to aid with recovery from tough workouts. As a general rule of thumb, I try to get most of what I need out of proper diet and adequate rest while keeping supplements to a minimum, but I never omit them completely.
- If there was one supplement in my stack I’d compare to the senzu beans I’d have to say it’s ashwagandha. Ashwagandha works great as a stress and anxiety reliever (study), helps keep you at a healthy weight (study), and even helps with the strength gains (study)! I take it every night before bed.
- Creatine monohydrate works well for size and strength gains too which is another supplement I use almost year round (aside from the occasional cycle off).
#8. Competition is fun and will push you to do great things.
Throughout Dragon Ball we see that rivalries and competition have always been there to push the characters beyond what they thought were limitations.
Master Roshi has young Goku and Krillin enter in the World Martial Arts Competition (Tenkaichi Budokai) not to win, but to further their training. After Vegeta came to Earth and got beaten by Goku, he never stopped pushing himself and striving to become stronger than him and beat him in battle. Goku’s biggest competition is himself, training hard to never stop moving forward and always be a step ahead of his friends and foes.
#9. Never stop learning and growing.
From the beginning of the series, we see the Dragon Ball crew being trained by those with more experience than them, learning new techniques and training strategies to grow stronger along the way.
Goku had Roshi in the beginning, onto Korin, then Kami, King Kai, and finally in the latest series Dragon Ball Super the angelic Whis who is one of the strongest beings in the entire galaxy. Even the prideful Vegeta who usually trains solo realizes he needs help to get better and seeks out training from Whis. As they train with progressively stronger and more advanced trainers, they grow stronger themselves taking what they learned from them and combining it with everything they learned previously.
The real world lesson in this is simple really. Humble yourself and never stop learning and growing. And that’s not only in the gym but in all aspects of life. I’ve been learning this more and more as life goes on. When it comes to fitness, being a dad, learning about God and studying the bible, and just about everything else in my life I’m at the tip of the iceberg.
#10. Never judge a book by its cover.
Time and time again throughout the dragon ball series we find the least likely appearing person being the strongest. When Vegeta and Nappa come to earth Nappa is about 5x bigger than Vegeta yet Vegeta is about 5x as powerful. As Frieza mutated and became stronger and stronger he was actually at his strongest in his smallest state. The strongest version of the monster Majin Buu was actually Kid Buu who was about the size of a 12 year old.
The lesson here is simple: Don’t judge what others can do simply by their appearance! This can go multiple ways.
#1. Just because someone is bigger doesn’t necessarily mean they’re stronger. A 175 pound power lifter might be a heck of a lot stronger than a 200 pound bodybuilder. And the 145 pound mixed martial artist can probably take on both of them in the ring and mop the floor with them.
#2. Just because a trainer isn’t the biggest and strongest guy in the gym, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The trainer of the best bodybuilders/powerlifters in the world may not be pushing any crazy records themselves, but they do have the know how to take your training to the next level and bring out the strongest version of you.
#3. Don’t run your mouth about someone just because you think you’re better than them. You don’t know what they’ve been through or how far they’ve come. Get to know them and be helpful if they’re willing to take help.
The heavy chick on the treadmill? She may have lost 50 pounds at home before she finally got the confidence to go to workout in front of people. And her journey is far from over.
The skinny guy curling 15 pound dumbbells? Maybe he’s dealt with bullies all of his life and he’s finally ready to make a change to put a stop to getting picked on.
The “roided out meathead” shoulder pressing more than you can squat? He might battle severe depression and found that hitting the weights is an outlet. Maybe it’s all he has.
Oh and the outgoing fit girl who the other girls think is stuck up? You have no idea what she’s been through. She may have recovered from an eating disorder and just loves to be at the gym because she’s finally figured out how to stay lean and healthy the right way.
We all come from different walks of life and have lived through different things. We don’t know everyone’s stories and we have no right to judge!!
Eat big, train hard, rest well, and stay hungry! Don’t judge and never stop learning. That’s the Dragon Ball way.
If there’s been any way that Dragon Ball has inspired you on your health and fitness journey or in any other area of your life feel free to share it with everyone in a comment below. Thanks for the read!
See you on the next exciting episode of Sweet Machine Fitness.
Check with a physician or qualified healthcare provider before embarking on any changes made to lifestyle, training, supplementation, or eating.