OTSS: ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE
THE STORY BEHIND THE COLLECTION
Self-confidence is a superpower. Once you start to believe in yourself, the world becomes your playground. As a bodybuilder and powerlifter from Canada, Jeff Nippard knows a thing or two about pursuing dreams.
Like any other kid from the 90s who found themselves playing high school basketball, going to the NBA was the only thing Jeff wanted to do. Such burning desire kept him up at night. He often studied the play of legends, such as Vince Carter, Kobe, and Nate Robinson. But, above everyone else, Allen Iverson sat atop Jeff’s list as his greatest inspiration.
"He was flashy and explosive, and one of the shortest, smallest players in the NBA at the time, and yet he’s still considered one of the best of all time, which is pretty amazing."
Jeff’s admiration for Iverson meant studying everything about him. When he first noticed the tattoo on his shoulder that read, "Only The Strong Survive," the meaning behind the tattoo resonated with Jeff as a teenager. He saw Iverson as a player who had to overcome several physical limitations to succeed in his field. Inspired to do the same, Jeff found his next mission: he needed to significantly improve his vertical leap. This drove him to create a new, and rigorous routine.
"I would do thousands of skips a day, run every jump program I could find, and I just became totally obsessed with jump training."
THE BIRTH OF A NEW OBSESSION
As he was intensifying his training, Jeff also observed rapid progress in the gym. It was at this point he realized it was time to be more realistic about his personal strengths and limitations.
"My hand was dealt better for bodybuilding than basketball."
As his studying intensified, he realized there was a more scientific approach to bodybuilding and strength training. With that, a new obsession was born. All of the science-based coaches and athletes were doing powerlifting in their off-season from bodybuilding. Jeff came up with a different approach: focusing on strength and power first, more concerned with his functionality than his aesthetic appearance so his body accurately represented his inner strength.
"I don't want to just look like I have muscle; I want to be able to put that muscle to use. I want to actually be strong".
This new perspective allowed him to see his strength as the goal, and his physique as the outcome.
An exciting, yet nerve-wracking passion emerged from the challenge of standing over a heavy weight and attempting to figure out if he was strong enough to pick it up. Reminiscent of his love for basketball as a teenager, he became obsessed with the competitive spirit of strength training and began his journey towards excellence.
"I’m going to really go all in with the powerlifting style training and see what I can do on the international level."
At the time, Jeff was still a student whose classes finished around 5-6PM. After studying, Jeff would find free time to train late at night, choosing to sacrifice sleep for his new passion. He would take a bus at 11PM, heading to the nearest 24-hour gym, which was about a 30 minute drive from his residence. He usually trained for a few hours, stopped around 2AM, hopped on a night bus back home, and got set for classes that resumed at 8AM. Addicted, Jeff would do it all over again the next day despite minimal sleep.
Jeff eventually competed at the National level in powerlifting, and he proudly left the event with a silver medal around his neck. This feat qualified him for the Arnold. The Arnold may be the world's biggest international powerlifting competition attracting some of the best competitors from around the world. To compete in the big leagues, he realized he had to improve the performance of some of his programs, specifically the deadlift. As always, dedicated to his mission, Jeff held nothing back, and started deadlifting five days a week.
“That’s when everything came crashing down."
As you can imagine, there are extreme risks that come with pushing your body to the limit. While working through an intense deadlifting session, he felt his back tighten up until it became rock-hard, which led to Jeff collapsing on the gym floor, immobile. Unable to stand, he was taken out of the gym on a stretcher.
"That ended up, I guess, holding me back for quite a while. It ended up being a pretty serious injury.”
Throughout his recovery, Jeff began gaining popularity online. He suddenly had a community of athletes following his training programs. Some of his followers would go as far as pointing out flaws with his execution like, "hey, your squat isn’t that great," or "your deadlift is not that strong." To some, Jeff was nothing more than this “science oriented” bodybuilder who reads a lot of studies, but doesn’t actually train that hard himself.
THE NEXT LEVEL
It was also around this time that Rise approached Jeff with the idea of his own signature line. Not too long after, Jeff had already chosen colours, textures, and identified designs he genuinely connected with.
He preferred a minimalistic look paired with neutral tones. The colour red, to him, represents grit and strength, so he was delighted to add a pop of red to the pieces he designed. He felt very strongly about the idea of developing performance compression shorts. Deadset on the design of black outer shorts with the tight, white compression on the inside, he describes the final look as being “super, super cool.” That look was unlike anything he has seen before, so he was happy to bring something new to the table.
He also wanted:
- Shirts you can wear over a tank top, even on a cold day to make warm up sets more enjoyable.
- Tank tops that fit well around the chest without being too tight they, "They look kinda corny."
- Scoop necks to round off his collection with a more fashionable piece, and also because they compliment your physique and make you look, “really jacked.”
Next, he needed to choose a slogan to complement the brand.
This made him reflect back to that iconic Allen Iverson tattoo that meant so much to him as a teen, "Only The Strong Survive". To Jeff, this perfectly encapsulates what it means to overcome setbacks and continuously push towards the next level. In retrospect, Jeff recalls, "If I had seen that slogan on the signature line as a teenager, it would have motivated me to want to be the best basketball player that I could be."
Even today, seeing the slogan on his collection makes him question his own performance.
“Am I living up to my full potential? Am I training as hard and diligently as I should be?”
Ultimately, Jeff decided that, regardless of the time required, or effort it took, he was going to be strong, and fully committed to leaving his fear of re-injury behind him.