“More and more I believe in the fact that you have two hands and two legs, and the thing is how to make good use of yourself – and that’s about it.”
– Bruce Lee
Improving your physical well-being is one of the most important things you can do.
It improves your mental well-being.
The mind and body are one, and improving one will improve the other in every case. An outlet for aggression is needed. Connecting to our primal selves is necessary.
You feel better.
Your body was meant to be physical, without physical activity you are shackled in a limited state of stagnancy. Without movement you will clog up, and things will not flow.
You look better.
Physical activity improves appearance, which in turn will boost self-esteem and self-image.
You age better.
Your body will better be able to deal with stress, it will be stronger, and it will be better optimized to fight off disease and damage from aging.
You have more energy.
Energy is created on an as-needed basis. The more you need, the more that will be created and be able to be used for physical activity and living.
You perform better in everyday and not so everyday tasks.
Everyday tasks will become easier as you will be stronger, healthier, and more efficient. If you sign up for an event, you’ll have a great base of fitness to help you kill it.
You will be prepared for the worst.
If you ever have a physical confrontation, you will know that you can handle it.
You’re at less risk for injury.
Your muscles, bones, and joints will be stronger. Your balance will be better. You will be less likely to suffer form age-related conditions and diseases.
You’re healthier and can live longer.
Your body will be much more efficient and resilient to everything thrown at it. Hard physical activity breeds a strong body able to handle more stress while taking less damage and being able to deal with that damage better.
Improving Our Base
A philosophy, as it were, is an important aspect of any self improvement project.
Think of the philosophy as the base, foundation, or the actual ground of your structure.
Your training routine is the plan or blueprint.
The work you do (your training) is putting your philosophy and blueprint into action, this is the labor.
Your nutrition is the raw materials needed to build your fortress.
And your goals are the ideal way that it should look when you’re done.
Put them all together and you have an action plan for success.
Our philosophies, along with our training goals, nutrition plan, and training routine, will be one of the legs of our regimen of physical self improvement.
Let’s lay some groundwork.
1. The Basics Rule in Training and in The Kitchen
Don’t complicate things.
In your training and in the kitchen, the basics are best.
This means all you need to use are presses, pulls, squats, deadlifts, curls, and dips, for 4- 12 reps, for 2-4 sets, to get results.
It also means eating lean meats, some red meats, milk, eggs, vegetables, fruit, good grains, nuts and seeds for the majority of your diet.
90% of the time this is the way to go.
Whatever you do with your other 10% is fine, but stick mostly with the basics.
Take it from Arnold:
“I do the same exercises I did 50 years ago and they still work. I eat the same food I ate 50 years ago and it still works.”
– Arnold Schwarzenegger
What doesn’t work is all this new sh*t that comes out every year promising insane results in very little time, whether a piece of equipment or a dietary supplement.
I adhere to the idea that you need to always be progressive with your training which means lifting more weight, doing more reps, doing more sets, covering longer distances in shorter periods of time, and going for longer or harder than you did the previous week, and you will have become stronger, fitter, and healthier.
To fuel this process you need good, plain food devoid of sugar, salt, and artificial anything.
Eat like our ancestors did: plain, wholesome, real foods eaten slow and with gratitude.
Your 10% is the time to add in some razzle dazzle, some spice, and some variety, but keep it 10%.
This is the way, everything else is window dressing.
2. Consistency is Key
You don’t make any gains by routinely skipping the weight room, and you don’t torch bodyfat by skipping your cardio and eating clean just whenever you feel like it.
The key word to being a success in weight training, and life in general, is consistency.
You need to consistently get to the gym, get on the road, get on the track, and smash the right foods to make consistent progress and hit your goals.
What you need to do is make it a habit, make it a ritual, and make it a part of your lifestyle.
Weight training, getting stronger, getting faster, and getting healthy and fit is a lifestyle choice, just like being a couch potato is.
If you want this to work for you, you need to make changes in your life and incorporate them into the place of something you are willing to let go.
You need to build a lifestyle conducive to being healthy and fit.
Instead of going out on Friday night and getting hammered, you need to go to the gym and destroy legs.
Instead of going out to lunch with co-workers, you use your lunch hour for a quick cardio session.
Instead of vegging out in front of the tube, you’re reading the best self development books looking for ways to improve yourself.
Get the picture?
If this sounds like a sacrifice, well that’s because it is.
Getting something normal people don’t have (i.e. an awesome physique, freedom, better mental health) means doing things normal people don’t do or wouldn’t even dream of doing.
Being a living rebel requires you to sacrifice things normal people do.
3. Always Be Progressive (Never Stand Still!)
When you try to improve any aspect of your physique, whether it be for aesthetic or performance reasons, you always want the direction you’re moving in to be forward.
Forward progress is the name of the game.
However slowly, it doesn’t matter.
All progress is good progress.
Don’t stay in the same spot for very long, and don’t get stuck – stay in motion!
This is also why it’s so important to follow a periodized training program where you can map out where you want to go, and have a mechanism for recording everything you do to make sure you are making the desired progress.
What we want is something we can measure, hard numbers that tell the truth to where you’re at.
Numbers don’t lie.
Frequently look back on your past workouts and see if the weight has gone up on your lifts, your 5K and mile time has gone down, your body composition has changed favorably, your heart rate has gone down, your blood pressure is in the optimal range… you get the idea.
With all this said, don’t just try to progress for progress sake.
Do it right, go slowly, and don’t rush.
Trying to do too much too soon will leave you injured and burnt out.
Progress should be slow and steady.
Slow and steady.
4. Practice Good Form to Do No Harm (Avoid Injuries)
You can’t make much progress in your pursuit of physical excellence if you’re too injured to train, right?
This is why you need to be smart to minimize your chance of injury.
You can do this by always practicing good form, learning correct techniques, and by not letting your ego get the best of you with no exceptions.
Let me tell you a little story.
Back when I was training to play college football (to which my career was very short lived), I was obsessed with the bench press (and who isn’t when they’re just starting out?).
All I ever wanted to do was get in the gym and bench.
And that’s what I did.
Week in and week out, I would throw more weight on the bar, trying to stay strong and beat my previous lift.
It even got to the point to when I had a week that I didn’t get the weight I wanted to get, I would get depressed and think down on myself for being a weak-ass.
Well, not only did all this bench pressing kill my ego, it also permanently messed up my right shoulder.
I attribute this to what I call the perfect injury storm: ego, too much weight, and bad form (and probably a lot of ignorance as well).
To this day, I can’t flat press anything, even dumbbells, without my shoulder feeling weird.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the bench press is a great exercise, when done with proper form and weight and you’ve checked your ego.
But for most trainees, it’s not a matter of if, but when they will get injured.
- Always, always, always use only as much weight as you can handle with good form.
- Always use a warm-up.
- Always use good technique.
- Rest (more on this below), stretch, and foam roll.
- Also, don’t be afraid to skip an exercise if it doesn’t feel right to you, it’s just not worth it.
Stay injury-free and keep your body fresh, your future self will thank you.
5. The Same Old Routine is The Enemy
Remember that 10% I mentioned earlier? Well this is where we get to shine with some experimentation and variety.
Routine can be boring and can get a little stale after a while.
Should you have a routine? Yes.
You absolutely need a solid base which is your routine, the basics, and the fundamentals.
Now should this routine be the same, week after week, month after month? Hell no!
It’s important that our routine doesn’t turn into a rut.
Your body adapts to stress really quick, and if you keep doing the same movements, in the same rep ranges, at the same pace, at the same time, your gains will grind to a halt.
It’s prudent to switch up what you do every so often, but not so often that you’re always starting over!
It’s a fine line, but it’s required to keep your motivation high, your body guessing, and your workouts engaging and fun.
Do a variety of work in a variety of modalities, but don’t get too carried away.
Run some 400’s on the track. Do 200 push-ups. Max out on the back squat. Try a bodybuilding style workout for your arms. Swim, bike, run. Try a new sport.
Don’t be afraid to get better at the things you suck at, because that’s what life is all about.
If done correctly, we will compliment our base of training nicely and keep boredom at bay.
6. Have Tunnel Vision and Be Selective With Your Attention
We can’t achieve much by being spread too thin, therefore to maximize progress we need to pick only a few things to excel at.
I’ve at times been guilty of this, and I’ve burnt out at certain points trying to do too much at the same time.
There is no way you’re going to be able to be a powerlifter-bodybuilder-marathon runner-cyclist-yogi without sucking at every one of them.
Now if you want to focus on bodybuilding style training to maximize hypertrophy while getting stronger and do some running, biking, and swimming to build up your cardiovascular system, that works.
The point here is that you don’t want to try to do too many things at once, as this will stress your body beyond it’s means and burn you out.
It’s also important to note that it’s not prudent to pick just one thing, either, as you’ll inevitably get bored, accumulate overuse injuries, and/or have no back up plan when you can’t do it anymore.
Pick a couple complimentary things based on your goals and work tirelessly to improve them.
- Hypertrophy training (bodybuilding) goes well with Powerlifting, and also with some endurance training such as cardio.
- Powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting can be good together, but long endurance cardio bouts will interfere with strength and power development. HIIT style conditioning would be recommended here.
- Strength training seems to have no effect on endurance training, and may be beneficial by developing power output. At the highest levels of competition any excess muscle or fat will interfere with endurance performance.
7. Focus on The Task at Hand and Shut Out Distractions
In this day and age of technology, it’s very easy to get distracted.
It seems that people’s attention spans get shorter by the year, and everyone’s faces always seem to be buried in their phones.
In the gym, on the track, or on the road, there should be no distractions.
The gym (or your choice of workout environment) is a place where you can get away from all the stress in life and take out some aggression.
These are places to focus, to block out any distractions, and get the job done.
These are places where you give everything you got, and leave it all there.
Instead of crying to a quack, this is how we get our therapy.
Be different and leave your phone at home, shut everything out, and just be in the moment.
You’ll be surprised by how at peace you are without being so plugged in.
8. Rest Hard and Avoid Overuse Injuries
When you rest, rest hard, and don’t feel guilty about it, because you’ve earned it.
Rest is crucial for recovery, and without it you will accumulate overuse injuries, burn out quickly, and eventually quit.
- Get plenty of sleep. Make it a priority to get 7-9 hours a night.
- Find time to relax throughout the day. Take little breaks throughout the day where you just let everything go.
- Take some time off from physical activity, or try new modalities. Physical activity can be hard on your body, so give it a break every once in a while.
- Prehab and Rehab as needed. Warmup and get some dynamic stretching in before physical activity. Stretch, foam roll, and use heat/cold on joints and muscles after.
You’ll probably find that once you get into the health and fitness lifestyle that rest is actually one of the hardest things to stay consistent with!
We often get so into it and fired up that we think more is better, and to a certain extent this is true, but there is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to training.
When do we hit this point? That’s highly individual and will take some experimenting, but if you feel lethargic, weak, too tired, too sore, sick, and/or are dreading your workouts, it’s probably time for a little break.
9. Have a Little Patience
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your body resemble that of a Greek god in a short period of time.
Not even a week.
Not even a month.
It takes years.
If it didn’t take years, everyone would walk around looking like Schwarzenegger.
How many people do you know that look like half of what Arnold was?
This is why you need the patience to realize long term goals.
Most people will give up before they are about to actually make some progress.
They want it now.
They want it fast.
They want instant gratification.
If you want to build muscle and strength naturally and you don’t have the patience, look elsewhere.
Take up hopscotch or tiddlywinks.
We need to be in this for the long haul to reach our full potential, after all, it is a lifestyle, remember?
10. Learning and Education Are Key!
Before you can earn, you must learn, and before you can grow, you must know.
Take the time to read every book you can on health and fitness.
Not only will this save you tons of time and keep you from hitting dead ends, but it will insulate you from falling for bro-science and just bad advice.
“Learning is the beginning of wealth. Learning is the beginning of health. Learning is the beginning of spirituality. Searching and learning is where the miracle process all begins.”
– Jim Rohn
Start your miracle process and get the body you’ve always wanted by filling up your brain with relevant, useful, actionable knowledge.
This is a philosophy from my years of experience, study, and observation.
I really hope it gets you thinking of how you will reach your goals and live the life with the physique you’ve always wanted.
If you remember one thing from this post, let it be this:
We’re building everyday.
Every day we need to be getting better, trending up.
Moving forward in every endeavor is the key to happiness.
Better Every Day
See you at the gym.