Saturday, September 24, 2016


I have written around this concept so many times, but now I want to just get it out there and have it fully established.  When I first started training, I believed that it was an infinitely complex process, with millions of variables to consider in order to be successful.  Everything needed to be finely tuned and optimized in order to have any chance of being bigger and stronger.  Meals had to be timed perfectly with the exact right ratio of protein to carbs from the purest of sources, volume of training had to be exactly correct, along with the golden amount of frequency, absolute perfect form, the most ideal movements scientifically proven to release the optimal amount of natural testosterone and GH, etc.  Hell, I even scrapped the sides of my blender to make sure I wasn’t losing out on any of the protein in my shake, for I was SURE that doing so would lead to my downfall.  The further along I got in my training, the less any of that stuff mattered, and the more I tried to experiment to find out if it was even possible to really train wrong, and fundamentally I realized that, as long as 3 principles were met, success was a given.  Those 3 principles are effort, consistency and time.

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Honorable mention goes to being crazy

To start, I pick the word effort because lifting nerds have ruined “intensity”, and now I can’t say that without someone telling me that intensity only refers to percentage of 1rm and can in no way mean effort of intensity applied in a workout.  But now that we are done talking about, it really is about intensity.  It’s about applying yourself to the workout with reckless abandon, pushing WELL out of your comfort zone and basically trying to make the entire training session suck as much as possible.  This is a massive missing variable in a lot of trainees’ protocols, and the reason is that it’s not really something that can be taught.  There is an alarming amount of adults that went through their entire childhood without ever needing to physically exert themselves in any capacity, as they never played any sort of sport or engaged in any sort of serious recreational physical activity.  As such, when undertaking a physical training program, these individuals only know how to exert themselves to levels that are unproductive for facilitating change, but meanwhile, because it is a level of exertion higher than 0, they assume they ARE pushing themselves.  It’s painful as an outside observer, for you can clearly pinpoint the issue, but can’t possibly explain how to fix it in a way that is useful.  It’s like trying to describe the color blue to a race of blind aliens.
Those that get it understand; suffering must occur in order to experience growth.  Training isn’t fun, otherwise more people would do it.  One must constantly apply skull splitting effort and intensity to their training to see the results they want.  No, I’m not saying you need to find a 1rm on face pulls or try to max deadlifts everytime you pull; I’m saying that you need to be breathing hard, leaving sweat on the equipment, getting red in the face, feeling uncomfortable, and fighting with your innerself on if you really want to continue or not.  20 Rep Squats breaks all the “rules” of the internet; the rep range is too high, the volume is too low, there are too few movements, and it ignores science.  And amazingly, it has been working for decades, because despite all its “flaws”, it’s one of the biggest crash courses in effort and intensity one could ever experience.  6 weeks of it transforms you in ways that go way beyond the physical, and by the time you’re done, you finally “get” effort.  However, the sad part is that the people who start it and don’t get it never will.  They’ll quit at rep 11 and then wonder what all the fuss was about.  It sadly can’t be taught.

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People might be able to read the book, that might be able to comprehend the book, but few will actually understand it

After effort, we arrive at consistency.  I’ll be honest; I cannot actually understand lacking this quality, but through observation I understand that it is necessary.  When I talk about consistency, I’m talking about the consistent application of the above mentioned effort along with consistently training in general.  Too often, trainees will engage in training binges; they’ll watch a Rocky movie, get “inspired”, and go off on a hardcore 2 week training bender.  0400 wake up times, 3 hour training sessions, living, eating and breathing training.  Then, one day, they hit the snooze alarm…and the next day they do the same…and then the next…and pretty soon it’s been 4 months since they trained, before they watch another movie and start the cycle again.  This trainee lack’s consistency, and it’s the downfall of their success.  They might be able to train superharcore, and they may spend years doing this, but you can’t undo 4 months of not training with 2 weeks of hardcore training.  One needs to show up constantly and consistently if they wish to make progress.
Tying into consistency is time, and though they may appear like the same concept, they differ enough to be different principles.  Whereas consistency is about showing up constantly to train, time is about applying this consistency over a long period of time.  How long?  Years.  Any trainee that bemoans being on a program for 3 whole months and not seeing progress just plain doesn’t get it.  Try going through a 3 year rut before finally seeing some light.  It happens to everyone, and only those with the mental wherewithal to withstand the badtimes are the ones who make it big.  The best part about the time variable is that it requires NO talent whatsoever; you just gotta stick it out longer than everyone else.  I’ve been training long enough now that I’ve seen internet superstars come completely out of the woodwork, blow way past my best numbers in a matter of years only to completely burn out and regress back behind me while I kept chugging along.  Whoever doesn’t quit first tends to win this game.

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The key here is that all 3 variables need to be present.  We’ve all witnessed someone trying to leverage only have 2 out of the 3, and we know how it ends.  Those with effort and time but no consistency are the aforementioned living Rocky montages that go hardcore for 2 weeks and then rest for 4 months.  They believe that sustaining this cycle of self-destruction for a decade allows them to say they’ve been “training for 10 years and have nothing to show for it”, despite the fact that, adding it up, it’s more like they’ve trained for 40 weeks over a 10 year span.  Only time spent training is actually time spent training.  Those with consistency and time but no effort are the clock punchers at your commercial gym that have been doing the same thing day in and day out for decades and still look exactly the same.  It’s sad to watch, because they clearly have the time and patience to make this work, but they’re squandering it all due to a lack of effort.  And finally, those with effort and consistency but no time are simply the impatient ones wondering why they don’t have it NOW.  These folks are honestly in purgatory, and it could go either way.  If they just wait it out, they’ll get the results they want, but if they try to compensate for a lack of time with a surplus of effort and consistency, they tend to be the ones that burn out before they really reach their potential.
Get all 3 squared away, and no matter what else you do, you will succeed at this.  Let 1-3 of them fall away, and no matter what else you do, you will fail.


  1. Great article. Really enjoy your writing. Do you plan these out in advance or just write when you feel inspired?

    1. Thanks for reading dude.

      The ideas bounce around in my head, but it's very rare that I actually plan them out. I actually find that it makes the process inorganic. I endeavor to update weekly because I like the time crunch it puts me under to come up with something. I usually end up sitting down, vomiting out my thoughts for about 30 minutes, saving it to the blog, and then at the end of the week I'll throw in the photos and dumb captions. It's why there tends to be such a disconnect between the writing and the photos, as it's basically 2 different people, haha.

  2. Regarding the unteachability of real effort - I'm reminded of Yoda's line from Empire, about "do or do not, there is no try". For a long time that line seemed like half-baked mysticism to me.

    Years after I saw the movie, it was pointed out to me that Luke turns right around and "tries". When he achieves visible progress but not complete success within ten seconds, he gives up and declares the task impossible: he puts forth the absolute bare minimum amount of effort that allows him to _say_ he tried.

    If he were really making a desperate effort - say, if Yoda weren't there and his only hope of escape was to do it himself - then he might say "hold on, let me catch my breath and take another shot". Or get a full night's sleep to make sure he's at his best. Or we'd see a setting and rising sun while he struggles. But nope, the hero of the galaxy wimps out after ten seconds. And at first, I didn't even notice!

    I'm not sure it's totally unteachable, but you have to get people to realize fake effort exists at all before they can recognize it in themselves.

    1. That's a brilliantly stated point, and something I didn't even really think to consider. "Fake effort" is a plague among a lot of trainees these days. They are so used to expending zero effort that the presence of any degree of effort is interpreted as giving their all. The Star Wars analogy is on point. Amazing the little things we pick up as we go. Great post!

  3. Nice one. Thanks for articulating this.

    Funny how lots of these things you discuss about training also apply to personal life and / or professional career.

    1. The parallels are really uncanny. I try to keep the blog oriented toward lifting, but honestly most of it is just about being successful in whatever it is you want to pursue. You could take most of these and apply it to being a musician, baseball player, scriptwriter, actor, CEO, etc etc. Most people that aren't succeeding in lifting are most likely simply unsuccessful people.