Saturday, March 19, 2016


Today we’re talking about foundation building. However, as you’ve come to expect from reading my blog, I in no way intend to discuss what one conventionally considers as foundation building when it comes to training.  This isn’t about building a base of hypertrophy, or a strength foundation, or getting your macros in order: this is about building the foundation FOR that.  This isn’t about having solid concrete to build your home on, it’s about making sure you’re not trying to lay the concrete in the ocean.

Do you think they even bother to buy curtains?

Too often, trainees dive into lifting and dieting with no real actual foundation for success. It’s not about knowing the movements or how to weigh your food, it’s about knowing how to work hard, consistently, and in the face of adversity. It is those who lack these tools that inevitably fail, regardless of how sound their diet and programming is. They fixate on what they ASSUME are the keys to building a foundation, but have instead ended up wasting time and energy on finer details that are of no consequence to their success.

Case in point: Johnny teenager decides that they want to get big and strong. They go on the internet (already a tragic mistake) and are told that the program for them is the currently en vogue beginner program of the month (Starting Strength, Stronglifts, Ice Cream Fitness, etc etc). It is explained to them that, because of the combination of 1s and 0s, this program magically makes any trainee who uses it get bigger and stronger than any other program on earth.  Instantly Johnny is hooked, and hits the gym the next day…and flails his way through some sort of abomination of moves that are supposed to resemble squats, benches and deadlifts. He uses unchallenging weights, does not exert himself, focuses on what his body looks like rather than using his muscles to move the weight, and in general just wastes a session. But surely, with enough time, the program will eventually work and his foundation will be built so that he can start REALLY training, right?

Image result for dreamer bulk

And oh boy is that real training so tempting. But Johnny needs to know: can he add 3 sets of dips to his program, or would that be overtraining?  What about if he swapped the conventional deadlifts with sumo, since it’s easier on his back, surely that would be ok, right? And oh my, would 20 minutes of cardio on off days be pushing the limit?  The sheer possibilities are maddening, and even with a year of training under his belt, Johnny still doesn’t know the answers to these questions. Wasn’t that year of training supposed to be building a foundation?

Let us not forget about diet: the most important part, so sayeth the people on the internet.  Johnny is given the exact macro and caloric breakdown he needs for success: carved on stone tablets and passed down from on high. There is no questioning, only the truth as it is written. So Johnny sets out to get his 40/40/20 split of Carbs, Protein and fats…except, oh s**t, Johnny has no idea how to boil water. But that’s ok, because he can always just eat pop-tarts for carbs, beefy jerky for protein, and peanut butter for fats.  All is well in the world…as long as he never gets his bloodwork done, or try to use the bathroom, or go out to eat, or have any sort of human interaction whatsoever…whoops.

 Image result for Shopping cart full of hot pockets
If this is how you grocery shop, you f**ked up

I’m picking on Johnny here, but he represents so many new trainees who fixate so much on the METHOD for success that they miss out on the reality that success is less about committing to a plan and far more about developing the habits that enable one to BE successful.  Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player to ever live, but if he grew up in different circumstances and decided that his lifelong passion was to be a soldier, he would’ve been a 6’6 Navy SEAL with the highest confirmed kill rate in history and every medal ever awarded.  The angel of basketball didn’t come from the heavens and tell Michael Jordan exactly what he needed to do, step by step, in order to become the world’s greatest basketball player: it’s because he had the HABITS that lead to success, and he applied them to his passion.

For a trainee to be successful, they need to establish a foundation OF these habits for success before they embark on their journey: otherwise, they are doomed to failure.  Consistency, hard work (both in the gym AND out of the gym), learning new skills (like cooking say for example), tenacity, all these qualities that we take for granted in successful people and athletes are trainable qualities that need to be present for success. In turn, once one starts training and eating, before getting worked up in the details, they need to form the HABITS of training and eating.

Image result for Skeleton in computer chair
...did I skip breakfast again?

Rather than focusing on making sure one is performing the absolute best workout 3 times a week, see if you can even train at ALL 3 times a week for 3 months.  If, at the end of 3 months, you skipped 4 workouts, start over. You’re not ready yet. Rather than focusing on getting the absolute perfect macro ratio with every meal, see if you can eat a vegetable with every meal for 3 months.  If, after those 3 months, you decided to classify a potato as a veggie around month 1, you’re not ready yet.

A foundation of these successful habits is necessary, for once established, success just writes itself.  Once you know how to train hard with consistency, any program under the sun will work, and you can modify it any way you want to suit your needs.  If you don’t have those habits, you’re just shooting in the dark and hoping for the best, and when the magic of the program doesn’t work, you’re going to be stranded.  Once you have the discipline to cook and eat meals like a normal functional human, you can make any diet work, as you’ll understand that Fruity Pebbles don’t actually count as a serving of fruit, and you’ll be able to get necessary micronutrients without taking a pill.

Image result for flintstone vitamins
Why market a health product over a population that historically only lived to be 30?

Don’t be a slave t your habits: change them to be successful.


  1. Taking a page from the James Clear book today!


    1. I honestly had to look the name up, haha. Looks like he covered this pretty well already.

    2. He was one of Mark Watt's student-athletes (and maybe interns too?) so he's been featured on EliteFTS and stuff, thought you might've heard of him already. Solid guy, good website, IMO.

    3. Appreciate you turning me onto him. I mighta read some of his stuff before, but Elitefts got real big at one point and it was hard for me to follow, so I only ended up reading things from the original guys.

      It's crazy; when I first discovered the site in early 2008, I literally read EVERY article. I couldn't imagine trying to do that now.

    4. There was such a quality decline when they started posting more articles. I don't really know what happened to that site. Around the time of the redesign they just went quantity over quality, not to mention there are hardly any useful training logs there anymore. I was a daily reader as well from ~2010 to 2013

  2. totally true, my first 6 months at the gym were pretty much a waste of time, I only improved when I started going 5 times a week every week no matter what! Discipline is the key.

    1. Appreciate the comment dude. Good to hear about your experiences. A lot of folks won't ever develop that discipline, and will spend so much time overcoming that disadvantage.