Friday, January 8, 2021



I’m once again pulling my “I’ve trained for 21 years” old man card to write out some of the things I’ve encountered during my time and my observations on which of them mattered and which of them didn’t.  Keep in mind, like ALL of my writing, this only applies to me.  If, for some reason, something I’ve found to be unimportant to me is super important to you, that doesn’t somehow invalidate your experience.  Allow a little more solipsism in your life: it makes everything else make so much more sense.




Like attention to detail

* Sleep.  This is originally what kicked off this post, as suggested by timmanser2 on reddit.  It also tends to upset a lot of people whenever I say this, because it’s currently en vogue to say things like “not sleeping enough is like smoking”, which is also what people say about sitting down too much.  My go to quote is “Sleep is awesome, get as much as you can, but you can still get big and strong without much of it”, and I hold firm on that.  Purely on the discussion of getting bigger and stronger, sleep is nice, but not required.  If it was, there’d be no jacked parents.  And if you’ve never experienced the joy of being a parent, it IS awesome, but those first few years are ROUGH on sleep.  It’s a somewhat similar experience if you’ve ever brought home a new puppy, or been a shift/on call worker, or any other situation where sleep is compromised.  Kroc was notorious for sleeping 4 hours a night for YEARS.  Sleep is simply an agent of recovery, and there are OTHER ones available to you if sleep isn’t quite up to snuff: like food and rest.  Because we understand that “rest” can mean simply not being physically active while not actually being unconscious.  In any case, when I was a teenager, I’d regularly sleep 10-12 hours a day in the summer, and I wasn’t terribly jacked.  I’m in my 30s and haven’t gotten 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep since 2010, and I’m much bigger and stronger now than I was then.  From my own observations, sleep isn’t nearly as important as some of the other factors.


* Mobility and flexibility work.  People act like this is mandatory, and will spend substantial amounts on books, foam rollers, massagers, etc etc.  I hadn’t done dedicated stretching or mobility work for 20 years, minus single leg stuff when I was rehabbing my new ACL post-surgical reconstruction.  When COVID hit and I found myself with an abundance of downtime, I started getting back into martial arts and decided to start doing some dedicated stretching so I could kick above my waist again.  After 4 months of dedicated daily stretching and mobility work, doing at least 30 minutes a day, I saw zero improvement in getting bigger and stronger, but I DID manage to tear my hamstring on a partial deadlift and then tear something in my left abductor on a set of squats.


Not as epic as the Kroc video, but still amazing


Did the stretching and mobility contribute to that?  I’ll piss off a lot of people if I say it did, so how about I just note that there is definitely a correlation between the two activities if nothing else.  The same reason I don’t do direct oblique work, as every time I did, the very same week I started it I’d tweak something in my back doing something else.  I got plenty big and strong WITHOUT stretching or mobility work, it did nothing to improve my lifting once I started doing it, and now that I’ve stopped again, I’m still getting big and strong.


* Counting calorie and macros.  Yup: I still don’t do this.  I, quite frankly, find it obsessive.  And given the already obsessive nature of this hobby, we don’t need to stack onto it.  I also think it’s super goofy that people think they can determine their body’s metabolic needs to the 100 calorie point such that they can manipulate bodycomp by adding or subtracting 100 calories.  That’s like A cookie, or a slice of bread. 


* Pre/post/peri workout nutrition.  This is honestly something I have to tell myself as well, because I still catch myself buying into supplement company hype, but I’ve tried all sorts of different nutritional protocols around workouts, and the truth is, I’ve never seen any significant difference.  Like all things in life, it’s not the stuff you do 10% of the time that matters: it’s the 90% that does.  When 90% of your nutrition is dialed in, you’re going to get great results irrespective of what you do during that 10% window of time surrounding your training.  Right now, the most carbs I take in around training is 19g of carbs from oatmeal once a week pre-squat workout, and otherwise it’s moderate fats before training and high protein with minimal carbs and no fats post training, and I’m still seeing solid results.  I’ve also had several fasted workouts this training cycle and they worked just fine.  The big thing to remember is that training ISN’T testing.  Trainees get too concerned about staging themselves to be able to produce their best possible output in EVERY training session, but you don’t need to perform at your max to get maximal results: you need to perform at your max AT THAT TIME for maximal results.  Which is a great seque into what IS important.



Go ahead and count the macros on that

* Effort.  I prefer to call this “intensity”, but that unfortunately gets misunderstood to mean “percentage of 1rm”, so let’s go with effort.  When I was younger in my training, I was very fixated on making sure I ALWAYS lifted more weight, or did more reps or more sets on an exercise compared to last time.  Those are great goals when you can control all the OTHER variables, but if you hit your last workout late in the afternoon with a few meals in your belly and this workout is done first thing in the morning fasted with little sleep, numbers aren’t going to match up.  The thing is: that’s fine, as long as we exert maximal effort into THIS workout.  The body isn’t a calibrated scale: it can’t tell what a thing weighs, it just knows that it’s “heavy”, and as long as we train the body to exert against the heavy load, it will improve in its ability to do so.  If the demand we subject it to is significant enough, it will build muscle in order to get better at this task.  I smashed an overhead press PR in competition by 20lbs over what I had managed in training, because I was training first thing in the morning off little food and sleep and got to show up to the competition well rested and well fed.  It was a weight I had never lifted before but it went up easy, because it didn’t matter how much load I was moving in training: just that I was straining and exerting as much as I could.  Trainees will get so fixated on trying to beat the log book that they forget the effort piece, and when they fail to beat their previous work, they just quit the workout entirely and go home.  THIS is an opportunity to exert MORE effort and force growth.  This also leads me to the next thing that is important.


* Consistency.  It’s weird for me to write this out, because I’ve legit never had a period of downtime from training unless it was forced by circumstances, and even then, I trained 6 days after rupturing my ACL and always find a way to do push ups or some bodyweight work when I’m taken away from the gym.  But I guess that’s my point: some dudes out there think “off and on training” is a valid way to go about things, and it just simply ain’t.  Taking a little bit of time off after a big competition or PR is ok, but ramping up training for 3 months because summer is coming around and you look like melted ice cream and then quitting training for 3 months because now it’s fall and it’s getting too chilly to go the gym is not how you build size or strength.  The people that succeed at this are the folks that have YEARS of unbroken training.  It’s no different than learning to play a music instrument or speak a foreign language or any other skill out there: consistent practice and repetition builds results, and “off and on” approaches maintain mediocrity. 

* Time: This is the dirty secret no one likes talking about.  All the hype from supplement companies, all the super secret training plans, all the nutritional hacks, the testosterone boosters, etc etc, they’re all trying to say that they found a way to circumvent the most important variable of all: time.  You have to do all of this for a LONG time to get good results.  And the thing is, the longer you spent NOT training, the more time you need to spend training before you even START to see results.  What do I mean by that?  If you spent your entire childhood playing video games and doing no sports whatsoever, and then you get a desk job and let yourself fall into physical decline until you’re 36 and then decide you’re going to turn your life around, that means you spent 36 years NOT training.  Inevitably, these dudes train for 3 months and then go online and ask “How come I’m not seeing results after 3 MONTHS of solid eating and training?”  Really?  You spent 36 years NOT training: it’s going to take a significant amount of time to UNDO all that damage, let alone actually get to the point where you start seeing IMPROVEMENT.  You have to dig yourself out of physical debt first and THEN you can start making profits.  The best way to get back into shape is to never get out of it in the first place, but if that’s not an option, buckle down and settle in for the long haul.


Let's go ahead and say "not training" is the new smoking instead

* Good training gear.  This doesn’t need to be over the top, but I noticed a HUGE difference when I switched from squatting and deadlifting in running shoes to using Chuck Taylors.  And that’s all I needed, so it’s not that you need EXPENSIVE gear: just the right gear for the right job.  And for the love of god, if I hear one more kid complaining about having to change shoes at the gym for different activities I’m going to blow out another blood vessel in my eye.  Yes: you have to wear the right clothes for your activity.  For a belt, it was a bit different: I’ve used cheap belts, and once I got an Inzer 13mm Forever lever belt I could never go back.  That belt is awesome and makes me feel bulletproof, and whenever I use any other belt it feels like I’m not even wearing one.  For knee and elbow sleeves, I’ve been using the same Elitefts HD sleeves for about a decade with no issue.  Never felt a need to get sleeves that are built for performance enhancement: that just seemed goofy.  I just like having warm connective tissues.  For straps, it’s worth spending the money to get the Ironmind ones so that you know your straps won’t break. 


* Books from established authors I know everyone likes information to be free, but you get what you pay for.  People love themselves some youtube too, but when you factor in that videos have to be a certain length in order for the channel creator to get paid, you get a LOT of wasted time trying to get to a nugget of useful information.  It’s worth spending the money to get a decent book on training and using your youtube time to read and digest it.  I’ve done a ton of book reviews already, but if you need help on where to go, get Powerlifting Basics Texas Style, The Complete Keys to Progress, Super Squats, 5/3/1 Forever, Purposeful Primitive, Think Big, and a Thoughtful Pursuit of Strength Training.   


  1. I pretty much agree with all of this, especially the time factor... If you plan on doing this for a long time, non of the bullshit that merketers trying to sell you matters. Great post!