Ricky Lundell is the youngest North American to receive the rank of Black Belt in Gracie (Brazilian) Jiu-Jitsu. His training began at the age of six under Pedro Sauer (8th Degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Coral Belt under legendary Grand Master Helio Gracie and Master Rickson Gracie), earning his black belt by age 19. Currently, he is a 4th degree Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt, the youngest to achieve this honor by age 31. Lundell trains some of the world’s most elite MMA fighters and World Champions in Las Vegas, Nevada, in addition to serving as the head wrestling coach for national powerhouse Bishop Gorman High School. He is also a strategy coach and head trainer for MMA at the University of Grappling, offering affiliate opportunities for gyms to specialize in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, MMA, or wrestling. A motivational speaker and voted Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Instructor of The Year from 2012-2017, Lundell shares his 1% Better Every Day philosophy with groups looking to improve in any area.
Tell me about yourself and career:
I am the youngest North American to receive the rank of Black Belt in Gracie (Brazilian) Jiu-Jitsu (age19). I am currently ranked a 4th degree Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt under Professor Pedro Sauer, the youngest to achieve this honor by age 31. In 2006, I was the Black Belt Gi Gracie Jiu-Jitsu World Champion (149lbs) and won Bronze in the Black Belt Gi Open Division (all weight categories). In 2007, 2008, and 2010, I was the Pankration and FILA Grappling World Champion. Currently, I train some of the world’s most elite MMA fighters and World Champions in Las Vegas, Nevada. I serve as the head wrestling coach for national powerhouse Bishop Gorman High School and am building the University of Grappling association world wide.
What inspired your book?
Seeking a new physical challenge in my life, I met with a world-class lifter. I wanted something to build up by strength. Specifically, I was looking for a “throw down the gauntlet” objective with incremental wins. I set a goal to squat 500 pounds in 500 days. At the time, I weighed 155 pounds and was able to squat about 275 pounds. Day 500 of my self-imposed challenge, I squatted 610 pounds at 181 pounds. I was pleased with the increased strength of my body. Surprised to be pain-free for the first time in many years. These outcomes exceeded my expectations. But nothing could compare with the greatest benefit I internalized from my squatting experience: the knowledge that striving to be 1% Better Every Day is a lifestyle that will change every aspect of your life for the better. For those fellow truth seekers out there, it is a life philosophy that works for every situation, age, and culture.
What is the biggest mistake people make with squats/working out?
Lack of proper stretching before and after squats.
Lack of proper form (head & eyes up, hips in, knees out, heels on the floor).
Lack of depth. Move past the 90-degree angle. Get to the point where your butt and heels touch.
What kind of diet do you recommend in conjunction to working out?
Drink a protein drink post lifting for macronutrients. Increase fruits and vegetables at every opportunity for micronutrients. Drink 8-10 glasses of water every day. This will help to flush out toxins and help to reduce lactic acid build up. Plan for additional sleep as you start reaching higher weights in squatting. The first time you place more pressure on your body than it has ever had you will need more sleep to recover. Don’t be discouraged by fatigue. As you continue to squat daily, your body will adapt and evolve transitioning to longer periods of REM sleep.
What diet/workout plan do you follow?
I stretch and squat every day, and add either a snatch or front squat for explosiveness. I do that daily along with jiu-jitsu and wrestling training. I focus on proteins, fruits, and vegetables. If I know I will need extra energy the following day, I eat pasta and carbohydrates the night before. I drink 8-10 glasses of water a day. I also drink protein drinks pre and post work outs. If you need a cheat day I always enjoy pizza.
One of the benefits of squatting for me is no longer having chronic back pain. For those of us who love sports, hundreds of hours of practice in the sport we love has created sport specific imbalances. In fact, in many cases, to excel in our sport of choice, we needed those imbalances to compete. My Jiu-Jitsu training was strengthening my chest (pectorals) but was insufficiently addressing my back (rhomboids) creating a strength imbalance. My weaker rhomboids (as compared to my stronger pectorals) were causing chronic pain. It is the strength of our rhomboid muscles (erector spinae) and tendons that hold our backs in correct position. The strength of our rhomboids and erector spinae muscles must match the strength of our pectorals to be pain-free. I found my strength balance around squatting 450-500 pounds. Now I focus on maintaining that strength balance rather than increasing more weight. My mother (age 57), who has worked at a desk her whole life, found her strength balance with just the bar (45 pounds). Doing squats with just the bar keeps her pain free. My grandmother has found her strength balance at age 84 by doing squats with only her body weight. The beautiful thing about squats is that they are beneficial to anybody at any age.
What advice do you have for people starting out in a workout plan?
Consistency is the key. If you do squats every day, you will improve rapidly. If you choose to do them 3 times a week, then be consistent. Don’t do them every day for one week then do nothing for the next week. Doesn’t matter where you start, just focus on getting better by 1% Every Day and whatever you do, stay consistent.
What is a fun fact about yourself?
I collected insects as a kid and entered my collections in the fair. Makes for a different type of kid. Lol
What are you watching on TV these days?
My fiancé and I are watching the new series, Lucifer, on Netflix. It has a great script and the performances are thought provoking. When I need a good laugh, I watch reruns of The Office and That 70s Show.
Anything else you want to share with us?
I am a strong advocate for bringing spirituality into our lives creating a partnership between the mind, body, and spirit. What I learned from squatting 500 days to 500 pounds is that the mind, body, and spirit are all separate entities areas that can improve. Squatting with maximum effort every day for 500 days caused a great deal of physical discomfort which exposed the emotional/mental well-being in my life. It became easy to zone into one or the other because the max effort daily would tax both areas until they could no be of use. When both broke down it put me in a place where I had to use my will power/spirit to keep driving my body and mind every minute of every day/. I learned that just because you think certain things, doesn’t mean they are true. For example, I would wake up after maxing weight the previous day, and my mind would start saying things such as, “How am I going to squat 500 pounds. My legs hurt. My everything hurts. Is injury a possibility? What if it’s out of my control? . The popular approach says I can’t do this. Could they be right?” As my physical broke down and my mind started questioning my spirit would have to step in and make a declaration to take control of my body-mind partnership and override those negative thoughts. It was my spirit that had to get my body to the gym and give 100% effort every day to get 1% better when everything broke down. Sometimes, I could barely lift the bar. What I found is my spirit (I’ll also refer to this as will-power) had to grow in balance with my mind and body. They all elevated raising my balanced self confidence and belief in achieving what was said to be impossible. Your spirit/will power must have the character to know what’s right and what is an excuse. This allowed me to control my mind and the thoughts coming in. When you have both of these working together the body easily follows.