In case you just started following, here’s a quick link to the first four parts of this series.
As you can see, I’ve covered nutrition, strength, behaviour and little things. To wrap up the list, here’s what you really came for – how to get sw0le!
- Strength. Unless you’re already moving significant poundages, forget about hypertrophy. The easiest way to look like you bench 140 is to bench 140.
- Finding and following a simple full body program with linear progression until you’ve stalled and reset around three to four times.
- Clean up the diet and gradually add a little. Counting calories is not for me, but if you do add 500kcal a day.
- Use medium reps (3-6ish) for main lifts, and higher (8-12) for assistance exercises. High rep squats is a classic for a reason though – try it once a week for a month or two. Start out with 20 reps at 50% 1RM and add weight each week.
- Forced reps build ego, not muscle.
- Weightgainers contain protein powder and shit. I’d rather grab a shake and eat cake any day of the week. Simple refined sugars are simple refined sugars – even if they come in a shiny tub that says “mass gain 5000”.
- Patience. I’ve been around this before, but it bears repeating. Busting your ass 3+ times a week over a period of 2-3 years is a surefire way to get jacked.
- Volume. A little more volume can be applied here, just don’t go overboard. we’re not trying to get 3-day DOMS here – we’re trying to build muscle. 5×10@50-60% should do the trick.
- You don’t have weakpoints if you’re not benching bodyweight and squatting around 1.5x bodyweight. Then you’re just weak. Get stronger.
- Worry about building muscle and/or losing fat – there’s no such thing as “toning”, “shaping”, “sculpting” or “defining” muscle. There’s muscle and there’s fat, how you look depends on those two factors.
As you can see there’s nothing new under the sun here. Focusing on big lifts and the long term is key here. I’ll get back to weakpoint training in a later post, as I’ve got my own hypothesis on how weakpoint training and social psychology interrelates. I’m really looking forward to writing that one myself.
Everywhere you go, people are looking for a shortcut to success. The only shortcut really is to learn to embrace the grind. That said there are obviously some possible detours along the road. The fourth part of this series is a road map, that’ll help you navigate the wondrous world of weights as easily as possibly.
- Warming up properly. This gets more important the older you get – especially if you didn’t do it when you were young. Light cardio, stretching, SMR, dynamic mobility and some jumps/throws would be a great way to prepare for lifting.
- Meditation and visualization are extremely powerful tools. As I’m pretty big on this, I’ll go more in depth with the reasons for doing it and the results you can expect from it. If you’re not already doing it in some form, get started ASAP.
- See a massage therapist regularly. If funds are low, I’d recommend 1- months of regular treatments to loosen up. Maintain with foam roller. Ideally I’d shoot for 1-2×60 mins a month. Personally I prefer 60 min sessions, but 30 might work for you.
- Cut out all stimulants (coffee is the only one I use/recommend) around late afternoon and get to bed at 10 PM. You might not have trouble falling asleep, but trust me – your sleep will be much better.
- Play recreational sports. You’re never too old to learn a new sport and doing something reactional (as opposed to exercise where every movement is planned) is a great way to keep you fresh and agile. You might even have some fun in process too.
- Grow a beard. It looks awesome and I’ve recently seen a study that concluded that beards keep you “young, healthy and handsome”. WIN!
- Do mobility work as part of your warmup and if possible dedicate 20-30 minutes to it once a week. Also stretching/SMR in front of the TV is a great way to get some extra mobility work in.
- Set long term goals and train for them. “6-week biceps blast” type programs are shit. With a few exceptions, (sheiko, smolov) great programs are 3+ month commitments. Even that is just a blink of an eye in the larger context. I know plenty of people that get stronger way into their 40ies and even 50ies. At my first powerlifting meet, my class was won by 50-year old badass John Lukassen, who hit 220kg in the squat, 142,5kg in the bench press and finished off with a 260kg deadlift for a 622,5kg total at 96kg bodyweight. If that’s not inspirational, I don’t know what is.
- Overeating is the single best way to get stronger (apart from AAS obviously), but keep your fat in check. GOMAD is pure idiocy.
- Undereating is the single best way to fuck up your training. Shooting for visible abs 365 will negatively affect your strength, recovery and the amount of cake you can eat.
- If you don’t have a powerlifting or weightlifting club nearby, investing in a competent personal trainer to get your primary lifts up to scratch is a great investment in an injury free future.
- Worry about how many workouts you get in over a 1, 2 or 5-year period instead of worrying about whether or not you missed a meal or a session last week.
- Keep a decent baseline level of conditioning. It’ll increase recovery and make you feel better on a day-to-day basis.
I just got back in from an energizing hill sprint session with a buddy. After three forced rest days, I really needed a good sweat. The rest of the day is family time – can’t wait.
Slow sundays ❤
Having covered two major areas for training success in the first posts on the blog, it’s time to take a look at something more indirect. For most people, some of the points in this post will actually lead them directly to crossing some of the earlier points off their training bucket list.
Physical education does not have to be a long lonely road and though you have to actually put in the time and effort yourself – having likeminded people around you is a huge boost.
Don’t worry about the little things, worry about this instead:
- Find a training partner. Motivation, competition and support all in one what’s not to like?
- Train at a smaller local gym. Most often you’ll get better gear as well as more dedicated people. The social aspect of this is huge, as you’ll pretty much always have competent spotters and pleasant conversation around you. If you start talking to people at most commercial gyms (or God forbid – actually train) people will stare at you like you’re some kind of freak. While that may be fun once or twice, it’ll get boring fast.
- Be a good spotter. Pay attention and make sure to ask the right questions beforehand (how many reps? Is this a max lift? Do you wanted forced reps if you fail? etc etc)
- Be a good training partner. Know the people around you and what cues work for them. Good training partners give cues, bad training partners turn into cheerleaders. Of course there’s a time for just screaming at people but nine times out of ten the right cue is much better.
- Be a good friend/person at the gym. Thank people that help you out. Help steer your juniors in the right direction (this blog) and give good positive feedback on lifts. BUT!!! (this is very important): don’t give feedback unless asked for it, don’t pester people with your “insights” on training unless they share your interest and don’t correct random people.
- Compete. Sign up for some kind of competition. Anything really. Powerlifting, weightlifting, crossfit, bodybuilding or a local run. Having a goal in your training is extremely valuable.
- Wish your friends luck when they compete. It only takes a minute and it means the world to them. Put a smile on their faces and let them know you care.
- Clean up after you. Why this is even an issue is beyond me, but it is. Grow the hell up.
- Limit your workouts to 45-60 minutes for a set period of time (two weeks maybe). This will force you to: focus on the important lifts, cut down on rest and chatter and just get shit done. Brief intense workouts leave you with an amazing endorphine rush combined with a feeling of efficiency. Capitalize on this and be more productive for the rest of the day.
- Train at a different gym with different people every so often. Getting out of the comfort zone is good and you might even make a few friends along the way.
On that note, have a great weekend.
Here’s a quick picture of my view right now. Copenhagen love ❤
Strength is the foundation of every physical activity. Strength is a prerequisite for speed, body control and the ability to move the body (and other bodies with it) through space. Also getting stronger strengthens bones and ligaments and will make you live longer (Lascek/Kilgore/Hartmen “Fit” – there’s actually a real reference to some science, but who cares? Rip once said “stronger people are harder to kill and more useful in general” that works for me).
Here are nine strength related things to worry about:
- Get your lifts up. Unless you’re totaling around 5x BW in the squat, deadlift and press on a bad day – I’d really just focus on adding weight to the bar.
- Simple linear progression will get you there so stick to that.
- Failing lifts in the 1-3 repetition range. Just don’t. Particularly not deadlifts.
- Executing all reps (except warmups) as explosively as possible. Trying to accelerate a weight will increase fast twitch muscle fiber activation even if it doesn’t change bar speed.
- Performing identical reps through all of your sets. If you squat a triple and all three reps look different – you need to practice more.
- Patience. Patience to let strength develop. It doesn’t come overnight. Keep at it!
- Getting your back as strong as possible. Especially the upper back. Having to have your shirts tailormade to fit your traps/neck is great but vanity aside – a strong upper back will help pretty much all your lifts progress. Recently Ive found my benchpress has increased without being trained seriously just from better upper back activation.
- Improving grip strength. Big forearms look great and a crushing handshake is the best way to welcome your daughters new boyfriend to the family. It’ll help pretty much any pulling exercise. Just don’t be the guy who refuses to use straps when you train your back. I’ll touch more on this subject later.
- Jump, sprint and throw – preferably once a week. This will keep you somewhat athletic and should translate nicely to your lifts.
I’d actually go as far as saying I wouldn’t recommend doing any kind of isolation exercise until you’ve got this list nailed. Except for re-/prehab obviously. If you really have to – do 5×10 reverse curls with a fatbar twice a week – that’ll double as grip and biceps training.
By the way thanks for all the views – I was expecting somewhere in the 50-100 range but we broke 500 yesterday. That’s just great.
I’ve had a couple of requests for future posts but I’d love to have more, so let me know if you have anything.
Don’t forget the love people.
A couple of years ago I made a forum post listing 50 things you should worry about, before worrying about whether the incline bench was set at 35 or 45 degrees. Every time you worry about something silly consult this list. If you’ve got everything on the list nailed you’ve earned the right to worry about silly stuff. Its’ that simple.
- Focus on high quality local food and avoid anything that has a trademarked name. Eat like an adult – it’s really that easy.
- Vegetables. Eat as much as you can. No less than 500g a day.
- Avoiding refined sugar. This includes most weightgainers.
- Gluten. Bread is delicious and easy to make. Gluten will not kill you. Don’t eat white bread regularly though.
- Getting a decent amount of protein in you. It’s really not that hard – 500g of meat, 1L of milk are you’re pretty close to home without even supplementing.
- Drink water. Lots of it.
- Don’t smoke.
- Cutting down on supplements. If you take more than a handful different supps you’d probably be better off spending your money elsewhere.
- Put full fat cream in your coffee. Just a little bit. Why? Because it tastes great. Obviously we’re talking really strong good coffee. Get yourself a stovetop and a grinder if you can’t afford a real espresso machine. It makes great coffee.
So there you have it. Nine things to worry about before thinking about “nutritional timing”, “low, medium or cyclic carbs”, “micronutrients”, “superfoods” or any of the bazillion buzzwords.
Now before you shave your head, sell all your belongings and start practicing The Famous Way, I’d recommend that you live a little. These are guidelines (except for the smoking bit – just don’t) and shouldn’t be followed religiously. 80/20, 6/1 or whatever you want to call it. Don’t be the guy who can’t enjoy a good meal and a glass of wine at your inlaws. If you can’t take a day or even a week off every now and then, you’re probably worrying about the wrong things. Training should be complementing your life, not limiting it – at least not for regular meatheads.
Stay tuned for the next parts.