“Get the f*ck up, like, get your a*s UP, and be the f*cking man or woman you wanna f*cking be, instead of sitting around and not doing sh*t about your happiness and not living a full life– get the f*ck up and GO JIIIIIM”

When popular LA-based fitness YouTuber Lexx Little began posting videos of him sitting in his car and screaming these motivational messages off a “Rush pill and 2 scoops of pre-workout,” he was tapping into a history of #aesthetic fitness culture that has a digital legacy spanning over a decade prior. Built like a Grand Cherokee Jeep at just 21 years old, Lexx is almost the same age as his most iconic digital predecessor– a man YouTube comments call “the patron saint of ectomorphs,” and the “manifestation of God’s energy.” The late Aziz Shavershian, better known as Zyzz.

A divisive personality that has no dearth of think pieces and fond eulogies published in his name, Zyzz, for the indoctrinated, was a cult hero for fitness freaks on the internet. Known for his uber-ripped build and cocky digital persona, Zyzz grew to fame between 2008 and 2011 on internet Bodybuilding forums, baiting users with pictures of his jacked frame alongside a caption that read, “You ‘mirin brah?”

His meteoric rise to fame was unheard of in the pre-influencer era of the internet. At his peak, he boasted of over 60,000 Facebook followers and over 16 million views on his YouTube channel. His KnowYourMeme entry has over a million hits as of 2022, a page rife with image after image of his flexing form, superimposed with impact font taunts asking if you are “jelly” of his form. But he was a multi-facetted man who did more than just coke on Chatroulette while flexing his body for women.

A perpetual instigator and role model for many, Zyzz cemented his role in internet history by chronicling his meteoric shift from a “sad c*nt” scrawny teen to a “sick c*nt” rippling demi-god on YouTube, all the while encouraging scores of disenfranchised teens in Australia and beyond to follow his example. "It's just a f*cking act, there is no Zyzz,” he said in one infamous YouTube lecture, “Everyone has a little bit of Zyzz in them. You're a f*cking sick c*nt if you want to be brah! So stop being a f*cking sad c*nt, alright? Go out, get bitches and just be a f*cking sick c*nt."

The resemblance to Lexx Little’s car monologues is uncanny. Zyzz popularized the digital male motivational speaker format, and injected it with a testosterone riddled fever that has seeped into every popular male fitness influencer’s mannerisms. The idea that a solid gym routine and a buff body is the means to achieving peace and happiness functions lies at the core of many fitness influencer’s ideologies today. “We’re all gonna make it brah,” he said in a particularly somber YouTube upload. In a shocking turn of events, Zyzz died of a heart attack in a Thailand sauna in 2011, at just age 22. His legacy lives on.

“Jim makes pain go away” is a mantra coined by a newer generation of fitness influencers and repeated by teens and young adults across the world. Stifled by a lack of routine and bored by the monotony of Zoom classes, scores of teenage boys in 2020 took to bodybuilding to find purpose and meaning. Given that a majority of pandemic era social interactions took place on Instagram and TikTok, it didn’t hurt to look extra buff doing a lat spread.

Meme pages like @dark_iron_gains that started posting “you ‘mirin brah?” content in 2016 saw massive surges in popularity mid 2020, going from a few hundred likes per post to several thousand. A caption on a meme reads, “THE ROIDER FANDOM IS DYING (sadface).” Hardly true; the page boasts of over 150,000 devoted followers as of 2022.

The question of “roiders” does, however, raise the pressing issue at the heart of #aesthetic culture both now and a decade ago– Juicers. Gear heads. SARM Goblins. Different names for different generations of people that are all trying to pharmaceutically enhance their gainz in the gym. Zyzz insisted that he was a “natty” builder– gym speak for no steroids– but many suspect that his rapid physical growth was pharmaceutically aided, a practice that may have led to his fatal heart problems and tragically premature death-by-sauna. Are the new generation of bodybuilders inspired by his message doomed to suffer the same fate?

In 2022, a video of a burly man shoving past a gaggle of large teenage boys to get to the untouched bench press they were huddled around goes viral. The text overlay reads, “High school SARM goblins were hogging the bench so I stole it from them.” A debate rages in the comments– “Wow. You really showed those kids bro,” ''This brand of bozos are at my gym too,” ''Timbers=shivered big guy,” ''no way that kid in blue is natty.”

A scroll away, another video, this time set in a dimly lit gym bathroom. A soft faced boy with impossibly wide shoulders twists his body and curls his fists to show off his back, only to be cut off by the entrance of a pudgy middle aged man trying to wash his hands. The boy rolls his eyes and stops recording. All the comments seem to be tagging “Joey Swoll,” popular gym etiquette enforcer.

They are called “SARM Goblins”, a derisive phrase used to refer to insanely jacked young teens that could not have been lifting for longer than a few months but have amassed a build impossible to achieve the “natty” way. Pandemic born and bred, these teens have set off heated discussions in gyms and on bodybuilding forums across the internet.

From bad gym etiquette, to the constant preening, or other such symptoms of their home birth, long term bodybuilders seem to have no dearth of reasons to pan this new breed of lifters, many of whom engage in cycle after cycle of SARMs. SARMs, short for Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators, are performance enhancing drugs that are legal to sell online when classified as “research chemicals.” Untested and poorly regulated, SARMs are shockingly easy to acquire on websites like Instagram and Depop.

Their blue and white pill form appears innocuous to teens who would “never, like, shoot up actual T like some roid-head.” Instead, they choose to dose SARMs, alongside a hearty helping of “Gorilla Mode” protein powder. Scores of young teenage boys across America are on a quest to get buff in an increasingly image-centric world, and they don’t seem to care how they do it. They post video after video of themselves flexing in gym bathrooms, in their garage, and at school, painfully swole for 10th grade and wholeheartedly embracing the SARM Goblin title.

While the pre-TikTok era of bodybuilding had its digital counterpart in the various forums Zyzz and his followers frequented, it did not have the wide-spread online availability of performance enhancing drugs that teens can access today. Newbie lifters looking to get swole no longer have to tentatively approach the meanest mugging man at Gold’s Gym to ask about getting a sweet kick of testosterone. They can bypass gatekeepers entirely, acquiring unlicensed drugs without the wisdom provided by experienced juicers, a crucial mode of communal advice that researchers call “pastoral care”.

The outcome? It’s split— in 2017, the Journal of the American Medical Association actually bought some SARMs off the internet and tested them. Only half the batches even contained SARMs. The rest were steroids or other performance enhancers. 10% contained no nutritional value at all.

There’s no doubt that the fitness cultures of both eras offer possible solutions for problems so many men face: whether it’s trouble with women, issues with mental health, difficulties with body image or an urge to find community and purpose in life. But for many impatient young teens looking to find immediate satisfaction after ogling at images of bodybuilders on algorithmically optimized social media feeds, Zyzz’s “you ‘Mirin brah??” may come off less as a heartening challenge than a terrifying taunt, one that may push them down an irreversible path.