How to make progress in the gym – with Rowin Alfons


This article is an interview with Rowin Alfons. We’ve been following each other on Instagram for a while now. He always posts super valuable captions so that’s why I really wanted to interview him for my blog. We talked about different subjects like personal training, making progress and mindset.

1. Can you tell us something more about yourself?

My name is Rowin Alfons. I am a Dutch guy. I am 24 years old and I am a personal trainer here in the northern part of Holland which is Groningen. I have been a personal trainer for 4 years and sports has always been a passion of mine. Another big passion of mine is music.

2. How did your own fitness journey start?

My father built his own personal training centre about 10 years ago.  I was not into fitness back then. I was more into music at the time but I think 5 or 6 years ago I started studying Sport Management in Groningen. I had to find an internship for six months and it was very convenient to do it at my father’s personal training centre. Then I found out fitness is something really special. I started doing going to the gym myself around 3 years ago but I have only been doing it seriously since 2 years. I wasn’t interested in fitness before I started my studies.

3. Why did you decide to become a personal trainer?

It kind of happened because I stayed the personal training centre after my internship and I started working there. I was good at talking to different kinds of people. I knew my fitness theoretical parts and I don’t know… It just happened. I didn’t really plan on becoming a personal trainer but after my internship, I just stuck around at the company. Within half a year I learned so much and I taught myself a lot of theoretical things we didn’t learn at school. I watched like a 1000 YouTube videos a week. I got really interested and that is how it happened.

4. Were you only interested in the knowledge or did you also really want to help people?

Exactly. That feeling of being able to help people is amazing. Sometimes people tell you personal things even though you’ve only known them for two weeks. People tend to have a lot of faith in you because you are there with them during their hard moments. They are having a hard time physically when they are performing the exercises and that is when you really get to know people on a mental level as well.

5. What is hypertrophy?

It is the increase in volume of your muscle cells. Whenever you’re working out, your cells tend to grow because of the tension your muscles are under and they need to adapt to the weights that you are putting onto your muscle. You have to be able to lift the weight you want to be lifting a week from now. Your muscles have to adapt and grow. In order for them to grow you need to eat and work out properly. Basically, that is how your muscle cells grow. Your total amount of muscle cells isn’t growing but the muscle cells itself grow.


6. You also need to add more intention to your training every week, right?

Exactly. Progressive overload is the key to build muscle. Either use more weight every week, do an extra set, do extra reps every set… It doesn’t really matter how you apply the progressive overload. It can be with weights, reps, maybe even more sets in one workout but yes, progressive overload is the key.

7. What is time under tension training?

This is a way to apply progressive overload. Let’s say that you would normally do the bench press like this: you go down for one second and then you push up for one second. If you are doing 12 reps, the time per rep will be around tree seconds. This means that your time under tension is 36 seconds. This is short. When you want to apply progressive overload you can for example go down for two seconds and go up for 1 second. This is already heavier because it takes longer for the muscle to contract. That way you can apply progressive overload by not even adding weight but just by taking more time to do the exercise.

I did a training once where I was only focussing on the time I was performing an exercise. E.g. I performed an exercise for 30 seconds and I wouldn’t count my reps, only maybe afterwards to keep track. I had the feeling it was way easier to focus on the exercise when I wasn’t counting.

I had a client and he said that when he counted with me, he didn’t have the opportunity to focus on the actual exercise. I told the client he shouldn’t worry about the reps. I counted for him and I said that he should focus on the contraction and on getting the bar up and not to focus on doing 12 reps. Otherwise, you are so focused on 12 and not so much on contraction. The contraction is way more important. If you can do 8 reps with complete focus and control, that is way better than 12 reps you are performing way too fast without any contraction.

8. What supplements would you recommend and why?

In general, it depends on your goal. If your goal is to build as much muscle as possible -which is the goal for most of all I think- I would actually start off without any supplements. I would first try to get your calories on point, then focus on your macros and if that is going well, you can look at whey, creatine or BCAA’s and amino’s. If you are not tracking your macros, I wouldn’t even look at supplements. What you are getting out of your food is way more important than any supplements.

I always say that first you need to watch your calories, then macros, then meal timing and then you can take a look at supplements.


9. What supplements wouldn’t you recommend at all?

It depends on your goal and on your level of experience. If you’re a beginner, I would only recommend whey and creatine. All the other supplements like BCAA’s, aminos or fish oils… I wouldn’t recommend. It is not necessary for you if you’re a beginner.

I think fat loss pills are not that beneficial and not that healthy either. They are filled with caffeine and I don’t know what other crap is in there.

It all depends on your goal. If you’re a very experienced lifter and you have some experience with macros and supplements like whey and creatine and you are getting show ready or absolutely shredded -a body fat percentage of four or five percent- then the pills can be slightly beneficial. If you are a beginner, those pills will not make a difference.

10. Do you think mindset is important to reach your training goals?

Yes. If you don’t know why you are doing something, why you are going to the gym, why you want to lift the heaviest weight possible… you will not succeed. Even if you have a goal like ‘I want to lose five kilograms’ but you don’t even know why you are doing it, you will not succeed. If you reach your goal you will be like: ‘I reached it so now I don’t have to do anything anymore’. If you know why you are in the gym, for example because you want to have a healthy lifestyle and because you want to have a lower bodyfat percentage to be healthier, then it is a lifestyle. Then you are doing it for the right reasons and you are not just doing it to lose five kilograms just because someone said you should.

11. So you think you should really think about the deeper meaning of why you are doing something?

Yes absolutely. I think that is always the case with anything you do. Why would you go to college if you are not interested in the topic? Why would you go to the gym if you don’t want to become healthier? You shouldn’t go to the gym if you don’t want to.

12. Do you think it’s necessary to eat ‘clean’ all the time to reach your goals?

I always say to people you should eat as much ‘clean’ foods as possible. I would say eat 80% ‘clean’ foods and 20% processed foods. That is ok. As long as you reach your macronutrient goals, that 20% is fine.

You would say that ‘clean’ food is food that is not processed?

Yes exactly. Sticking to the 80-20 rule is pretty difficult to be honest. If you get to 80-20, you are doing a great job already. There are so many processed foods.

I feel like too many people are restricting themselves. They are bingeing because they aren’t allowed to eat certain foods.

Mindset is a very important thing. If you are starting out and going to the gym and have a good workout but I can’t eat this and I can’t do that and I can’t go out… If you’re looking at the things you can’t do, you are basically f*cked. If you look at the things you CAN do, there are so many options. For example you can go to the gym, you can do so many workouts, you can have so many healthy meals… If you are constantly thinking about the things you are not allowed to do, it is going to be hard.

I think if you’re constantly thinking about the things you can’t do, you will want them even more.

Exactly. You are only constantly thinking about the things you are not supposed to have. If you’re thinking for example ‘I cannot have peanut butter today’ you are only thinking about having peanut butter later on.


13. What is your favourite quote and why?

I’m always about positivity and smiling all the time. Last week it was raining here in Groningen and my uncle said ‘most of the rain will not touch you’. That stuck with me.

14. What are your best tips for students to find a good balance between studying, free time and health?

I think it’s all about priorities. If school is your priority then you should spend most of your time doing that. If you enjoy learning the profession that you are studying for it is not really a task or a hard thing to do because it is supposed to be fun, right? I am going to the personal training centre in half an hour and I am not even thinking about ‘f*ck, I need to work until 9 in the evening, right?’. It’s about having priorities and doing something that you love doing. I would really prioritize the thing that is most important to you. If that is school, then you should tell your friends ‘school is my number one thing so I can’t hang out every night’. Then they also know what you are doing and what’s important to you. If they are good friends, they will support you in doing that. I told my friends I couldn’t go out 3 times a week anymore because I am at the gym from 9 in the morning until 9 in the evening and the next day again… I am going to be tired if I go out all the time. They respected that because they saw it was the thing I enjoy most so they said I should go ahead and do that. If you can prioritize things in your mind for yourself and explain it to your friends and the people around you, they will not only respect it but they will support you as well. They will help you with whatever you need help with.

I think some students say they don’t have time to work out but then I see them going out or meeting friends all the time. I think working out can really help you to concentrate better and to be less tired and I think some people are not realizing that it is a question of priorities. They are saying they don’t have time but actually, it’s just not a priority to them.

That is exactly what I tried to say. We have a lot of clients at the gym that are entrepreneurs, they work 40 hours a week… They are coming in and they say they don’t have time but they want to work out. We always ask them why they want to work out. They usually say they want to lose weight or they want to stay in shape. It really comes down to you really wanting it or thinking you want it. If you don’t really know why you want something, then you are not making time for it. If you really wanted to go to the gym, you would already be there. You wouldn’t be thinking about not having time. You would make the time to do that. Suppose you are making a lot of time for your friends and going out. If you really wanted to go to the gym, you would be in the gym instead of drinking beers in the city all day.

I think some people just want to lose weight but they don’t have a real goal. They just want a quick fix and afterwards, they just want to go back to their normal lifestyle.

If you can make it a lifestyle and go easy with your progress and not go all in and all out after two months, then you are building something that can be really valuable to you.

I think this was a super interesting interview and I learned a lot. If you want to see more of Rowin’s valuable content, you can follow him on Instagram if you click here. Are you interested in Rowin’s personal training? Click here to go to his website. In the future, he will also be offering online personal training.



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