Replicate

What have you done before that you wish to do again?

Demonstrate somethings possibility, and it will always be there for you to go back to.

If you have lost 15lb before, you can lose 15lb again.

If you have lifted 300lb before, you can do it again.

If you have pulled yourself up from tough circumstances before, you can do it again.

Maybe it will require a different path.

Or maybe all you will need is to replicate your process.

What You Think Is Long-Term, Is Actually Short-Term

The calendar year is already halfway over, and most of you reading could agree that 2019 is going by pretty fast.

Back in January, June seemed far away.

Some of us may have set a goal to lose a certain amount of weight.

Some of us may have set a goal to add pounds to the weight we can lift.

Setting out to lose 20lb. or to add 20lb. to your squat in 6 months is more difficult than it looks on your calendar.

Failing to reach these types of goals is frustrating, but do remember that half-a-year’s time is actually a short amount of time - it’s already June 2019, remember?

There is nothing wrong with chasing short-term goals, and really, most of the goals you will have will be short-term. Just don’t confuse long and short, and expect to see long-term results in a timeframe that is surprisingly short-term.

If you didn’t lose the 20lb. you hoped to by June, maybe you lost 12.

If you didn’t add 20lb. to your squat, maybe you added 12.

That’s on pace to make a 24lb. difference in a year…

still a short-lived amount of time.

Done With It

I kept with my experiment for almost the time I said I would.

But I am abandoning it a couple of days short. I know this is lame, but I took it to the point that it pissed me off and I don’t really care that I’m giving up.

I have discovered that getting my carbs from fruit and vegetable sources alone is not an efficient way for me to train.

Over the last several weeks, my strength didn’t go up - it actually went down in some areas. My body composition has worsened.

I just didn’t feel like myself either.

I felt like something was lacking.

As I said in a recent post, when I worked out the weights felt heavier.

My bones felt hollow under weight. I could feel my strength leaking away with each rep.

For the most part, I could keep pretty close to the weights I was able to hit a few weeks back, but doing that was a huge challenge. And staying close to where I was is not the goal. I want to keep moving forward.

Each session felt like I was dragging my feet through mud - barely making a set, then needing to recover for several minutes before I could take my next set. I definitely did not see any progress, but did notice a drop in some lifts - especially the squat.

It wasn’t until deadlifting yesterday, when I couldn’t even budge a weight off the ground (a weight that had become routine for me over the last few months), that I knew this was doing me no good. I decided right then that I was done with my low starch diet.

I would have loved to have found that this way of eating could support training the same way a diet containing starchy sources does, but that is certainly not the case for me.

I DO NOT recommend eating this way for anyone with the goal of building muscle, and especially anyone prioritizing gaining strength.

For me, it’s back to lots of rice and oats!

"Control"

If we are talking about lifting, the word “control” is a word that I have come to dislike.

Many people tend to interpret controlled lifting as being synonymous with slow lifting. That is a problem because in order to demonstrate supreme control, you actually need to be able to lift a weight fast.

There is more to lifting than just moving a weight. We need to train our muscles to contract against resistance. One connection that needs to be made is for that muscular contraction to happen quickly, not to just happen.

Really, I am a huge proponent of lifting in a controlled fashion.

But just because you are doing an exercise slowly, does not necessarily mean you are the one who is in control.

Doing slow and (seemingly controlled) squats, but with wobbly feet - allowing your weight to shift from the front to the back part of your feet - is not controlled.

Bench pressing the bar up for a 3-count (and down for the same) is practicing little control if your back is relaxed and the bar flops around like a leaf in the wind, spanning from over the top of your forehead to over the top of your chest.

Control comes back to your body.

Can you produce enough tension throughout your body to handle and support the weight you are about to take? Have you established the proper body positions, positions that are necessary to safely begin the set? From the positions you create, are you able to generate enough force to move the weight without crumbling out of position?

Over the past couple of years, I have fallen in love with the word “deliberately”.

Deliberately means to do something consciously and intentionally; on purpose.

It is hard to not be controlled if you are doing things deliberately.

Approach your sets deliberately, don’t just go through the motions.

Once you have begun each set, move the weight deliberately, not casually.

Work on putting some speed on the bar.

This is where you really begin to understand what control is.

A Few Days In

On Monday, I began avoiding starchy foods (M-Th). I’m planning on going with this for a few weeks and then assess things from there.

I was nervous to begin this way of eating, not because I thought I might not be able to do it, but because I feared eating this way would not fuel my workouts.

Monday was difficult. Definitely the toughest workout of the week for me. I initially thought it was due to less glucose in the system and that my concern was confirmed. Looking back now, it was probably due to the fact that it was a Monday coming off eating quite a bit of junk over the weekend.

My Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday workouts went better than Monday.

It is only one week in, but so far I have been able to keep performance to the level I want it to be.

However, It is a struggle to do this. I do notice that I need more recovery time between sets and even though I’m making the weights I want to make, the weight feels heavier.

I’ll get back to this eating regimen again on Tuesday (since Monday is Memorial Day). On Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, (and this week, Monday) I’ll eat whatever I want.

I would hate to gross any of you out, but comment if you want me to document the things I eat this weekend…

What I Am Eating For (At Least) The Next Few Weeks

Black coffee for breakfast (no picture)

Lunch:

Shredded chicken, carrots, red peppers, cucumbers.

Shredded chicken, carrots, red peppers, cucumbers.

Frozen blueberries and raspberries, watermelon.

Frozen blueberries and raspberries, watermelon.

Chocolate Milk and a Banana Post Workout (no picture)

Dinner:

Shredded chicken + a few drops of Frank’s Red Hot sauce, cherry tomatoes, red peppers, cucumbers.

Shredded chicken + a few drops of Frank’s Red Hot sauce, cherry tomatoes, red peppers, cucumbers.

Watermelon.

Watermelon.

Shake containing chocolate whey protein, 1 banana, flaxseed meal, milk, peanut butter.

Shake containing chocolate whey protein, 1 banana, flaxseed meal, milk, peanut butter.

Next Week: No Starch

It’s time for me to experiment again.

This is how I learn.

This is how I form my own fitness beliefs.

Findings from my own experiments are what I use to contribute to the people I train.

Starting next week (and for at least 3 weeks) I am eliminating starchy foods from my diet - Monday-Thursday, that is.

Over the past several months, I have been eating a lot of rice and oats, but next week they will be off limits.

My training has been going great as of late, and I am curious to know if I should attribute that to the starchy foods I’ve been eating, or if carbs from fruit alone can support the same training intensity.

I’m hoping to continue training at the same level, but we will see if it starts to drop off any.

Comment below if you’re interested in doing this along with me.

If there is enough interest I will share my eating plan moving forward.

Getting Toned

A goal that many trainees have is to “get more toned”.

They want their arms and legs to have better shape.

They want a flatter stomach.

They want to look lean and athletic, but they don’t want to look too bulky.

While there is nothing wrong with having this type of goal, most people who desire this kind of physique do not understand what it takes to get there.

They think they do.

They read online and in numerous fitness magazines that “higher reps with lighter weight will make you more toned, and lower weight with heavier weight will make you bigger”.

Both of these claims sound sensible, but neither of them are true.

“Toning up” is simply the building of muscle tissue combined with simultaneous body fat reduction.

In order to satisfy your goal of toning up, you need to have both of these things, not just one or neither of them.

Tricep pressdowns done with light weight for sets of 30 reps will do neither of them for you. They won’t build muscle and they will do nothing to help you lose body fat.

“But Drew, I see all kinds of in-shape people (people who look how I want to look) doing tricep pressdowns with light weight for sets of 30 reps!”

If a person is already in shape, they can train this way. They are already lean enough and built in a way that showcases their toned features. They could even make you believe that doing tricep pressdowns with light weight for sets of 30 reps is what is responsible for their appearance. It’s not.

If you want to look more toned, you really must understand energy expenditure.

If you aren’t as toned as you want to be, you have more body fat than you want to have. You have a surplus of energy. That’s all body fat really is.

In order to get rid of some of that body fat, you need to create a deficit of energy.

To do this, you will probably want to eat less (fewer calories in), and you most definitely need to expend more energy during your workouts (more calories used).

Tricep pressdowns done with light weight for sets of 30 reps isn’t going to increase your energy expenditure.

Squats, presses, and deadlifts done for 6-12 reps will.

Tricep pressdowns done with light weight for sets of 30 reps will keep you stagnant and free of results.

Squats, presses, and deadlifts done for 6-12 reps will get you the toned body you crave.

An Uncommon, Yet Effective Way To PR

I recently wrote about three ways you can set new PRs: 1RM, Rep PRs, and Volume PRs.

It is important to PR.

It is indicative of progress.

If you are never reaching higher weights, not pushing to do the same weights for more reps, or never adding more sets to accumulate more total poundage, you’re not making progress.

A good mentality is to try to PR (in some way) every single session.

For a while you will be able to do this, but you will notice that the longer you lift for, the harder PRs are to come by.

An experienced lifter won’t see PRs as frequently as a novice lifter.

Some days you won’t be able to hit higher weights. Some days you won’t be able to do more reps. Some days you will be too beat up to crank out more volume.

Pre-Exhausted PRs

Pre-exhaustion is a method that is most commonly used in bodybuilding to induce more muscle growth. This is where we intentionally fatigue smaller muscle groups first, which will then require the bigger and stronger muscle groups to work harder during compound exercises.

An example of this is to do bicep curls before doing pull-ups. The biceps would fatigue to the point they could not contribute to the pull-up as much as if the curls were done after the pull-ups. The pre-exhaustion of the biceps forces the lats to work harder to perform the exercise.

PR attempts are conventionally taken when a lifter is fresh, but we can utilize pre-exhaustion to push the body in a different way, and to boost PR numbers when we return to a fresh state.

Don’t be afraid to push your numbers later in your workout when you are fatigued.

The fatigue makes you work at a disadvantage. When a disadvantage is introduced, there becomes more room to build up.

Then, when you take that disadvantage away, you be left stronger.

Push to lift heavier and heavier weight in a state of fatigue.

Push to do more reps of a certain weight in a state of fatigue.

If you can hit a 600x1 deadlift at the end of your deadlift workout, how easy will it be to hit 600+ at the beginning of it?

Types of PR

When lifting weights, there are 3 main ways to PR.*

“PR” means to set a new personal record.

1RM

For the majority of lifters, the most sought after PR is the 1RM (1 Rep-Max). This is the maximum amount of weight that can be lifted a single time for a given exercise. If you take your max bench press from 80lb to 95lb - your PR bench used to be 80, but is now 95.

Repetition

You don’t necessarily have to push a higher weight to PR. You can set new repetition, or rep PRs. This is the number of repetitions that can be completed at any given weight, for any given exercise. If during your last training cycle you could squat 275 for 8 reps, and your current cycle has you squatting 275 for 10, you have established a new rep PR (for 275lb). The convenient thing about rep PRs is that they can be set for every single weight. This gives you more opportunities to set new ones.

Volume

The type of PR that is most overlooked, yet the easiest to make is a volume PR.

Volume = Sets x Reps x Load (weight).

Calculating and tracking your volume can be complicated if you want it to be. Because of this, I typically only consider the total volume for the main lift of each training session.

Here is a very simple way to ramp up volume over a relatively short period of time…

Let’s say that today you deadlifted for 5 sets of 5 using 135lb for all five sets. That would put you at 3,375lb worth of volume. The next time you deadlift, you could increase your volume by doing everything the same, except for bumping up the weight to 145lb on only your fifth set. That would give you 3,425lb worth of volume. The next time you deadlift after that, you could boost your volume again by using 135 for your first three sets, then 145 for your remaining two. That would be 3,475lb worth of volume, and you would have volume PR’d three deadlift sessions in a row. Continuing to fill your working sets with heavier and heavier weights will get you stronger over time.

As you see in the above example, it is very feasible to set new volume PRs and it is something you can do pretty quickly and regularly.

*There is another “type” of PR that I use. It opens up your PR setting possibilities even further, and I will write about it in another post (once I can come up with a name for it, or figure out if there is already a name for it).

How Important Is Variety?

Not as important as many people think.

I rarely train a person who I think needs more variety in their training.

It is almost always the opposite.

I usually find myself stripping away the (mostly) pointless exercises a trainee thinks they need, and instead spend the majority of time building up the basics.

I understand that switching up and tweaking exercises keeps things fun and interesting, but nothing is more exciting than adding weight your lifts.

Many people wouldn’t believe or understand this because they have not stayed with an exercise long enough for this type of progression to take place.

I am not all the way against exercise variety, I just want you to get closer to reaching your limits on foundational exercises before you start getting too fancy.

Before you start doing the Side Step Squat Jumps and Spinny Kick Lunges you saw your favorite fitness model doing on Instagram, prioritize working toward squatting 2x bodyweight.

You're Doing The Right Things, You Just Need More Time

What are you trying to accomplish?

Are you trying to lose weight?

Are you trying to lift heavier weights?

Whatever it is, accomplishment is not difficult to understand.

You have to do the right things.

You know that in order to lose weight you will need to clean up your eating and you should probably exercise.

You know that in order to lift heavier weight you will need to lift heavy things, recover, then lift heavy things again.

Understanding the right things to do is only the first step.

It is the easiest step.

Everyone is willing to go this far, but few are willing to go further than this.

The hard part is doing the right things for long enough.

This is the part that is most time-consuming.

This is the most crucial part.

You don’t need me to tell you what you should be doing. You already know, and hopefully are already doing what you should be doing. You just need to give the things you need to do more time.

Preparation Is Most Important

For the three of you who read my stuff, you know that I have written a lot about preparation. It’s very key. Things like consistency and hard work are obviously extremely important when it comes to pursuing any goal, but in order to be consistent, you first have to be prepared to start, then stay consistent. In order to work hard, you have to prepare yourself (mentally and physically) for it.

Some of you know that I am giving up desserts for the month of April. I know that I will be successful in doing it because I am willing to think ahead and prepare myself for the moments that I will have cravings for desserts. Even though I only allow for these cravings to hit on the weekend, I will be ready with a pre-made protein/banana/peanut butter/oats shake (that tastes almost as good as many desserts) when they do.

It’s all about being prepared - to give yourself the opportunity to stay on track with where you are going.

Foundations

So you’ve been going to the gym a few times a week for the last couple of weeks. You’ve been eating better each day over that same course of time.

Why aren’t you seeing faster results?

Why aren’t you much stronger, and why do you not look much better when you take a look at the mirror?

The short and cliche answer is that “it takes time”, but what that really means is you haven’t built enough of a foundation yet.

The lifts you can or cannot make are a result of the time you spent or did not spend in the gym over the last several months and several years.

A person does not become obese by eating pizza and cake a few times a week for a couple of weeks. It takes years of poor eating habits and low activity levels to do that.

Most things you are doing today will not affect your health (whether that be positively or negatively) until months and years down the road.

It’s great that you’re getting to the gym a lot right now.

Keep doing that.

You’ll be stronger and look better in July.

A Daily Goal That Led To A Finding

At the start of February, I set a goal for myself to begin each of my workouts with at least a couple sets of dumbbell rows. I planned to do this for a month, and was hoping to strengthen my upper back to help boost my deadlift.

Also, I wasn’t planning on doing ordinary DB Rows - I was using a very heavy dumbbell (one that was so heavy that it required some body english to hoist around).

I started doing these rows at the beginning of each workout without much focus on the movement or much planning. Some days I would do sets of 5, some days sets of 8-10. Some days I would do a ton of sets of just one or two at a time. I didn’t really care about set and rep structure, I just wanted to pull some reps on a heavy weight.

For most of the month I was consistent and stayed true to my goal. Toward the end of the month though, I got lazy a couple of days and skipped the rows at the beginning of the day.

And on the days that I skipped my rows, I noticed a surprising correlation…my lifts were lousy on those same days and my workout in general was not good.

When I first devised the idea to start each session with heavy rows I figured that my performance would go down a little bit due to pre-exaustion from the rows. I never really noticed that to be true, but I certainly didn’t expect the rows to enhance my performance every session.

It wasn’t until I linked my bad workouts to the skipping of rows that I actually did believe they helped my lifts that same day.

Here is what I now believe…

Starting your lifting session with a few sets of heavy rows activates your upper back and helps familiarize a “set” shoulder position.

You need a strong upper back and “set shoulders” to support the weight you are trying to squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press, etc.

Any compound movement you can train will heavily involve the upper back.

Starting your workout with heavy rows warms you up in a hurry.

If you are using heavy enough weight, your whole body will be stimulated making the exercise a potent energizer.

My theory is that the weight you are rowing should be very heavy - nothing you can do in strict fashion - and done at relatively low volumes (I would say 25 or less total repetitions each side).

If you’re rowing a weight that doesn’t require use of straps, the weight isn’t heavy enough.

I do predict that if you performed rows at higher volumes to begin each workout, say 30-60+ reps per side, that a pre-exhaustive effect would set in and your performance would in fact suffer for that session.

That’s just a guess though. Maybe I’ll try that in the future.

As for now I’m going to keep doing my heavy rows at the beginning of each day. I like how they make me feel and I like what they do for my lifts.

Try them for yourself and let me know what you think…

Working Out: Similar To Bedtime

This post is inspired by a conversation my wife and I had this morning. Perhaps you can relate to what we talked about.

Bedtime is one of our favorite parts to our day.

But only the part that we are actually in bed and ready to go to sleep.

Getting ready for bed is one of our least favorite parts to our day.

Even though we can’t wait to go to sleep, the process of getting to that point (going upstairs, taking a shower, brushing teeth, etc.) always seems like a chore.

We usually find ourselves stalling to go to bed, and often end up making it to bed later than we should.

It is interesting how we let something we loathe delay something we love.

Working out can be the same way.

There’s not a person on earth who doesn’t feel great after a workout, yet it is easy to never make it to your workout because the things that must precede a workout can seem like a hassle.

Who wants to plan to go to the gym and pack the necessary gear the night before? Who wants to drive to the gym, when it’s just as far (or shorter) to just go home? Who wants to push them self during a workout, when they would be more comfortable not?

Give yourself the chance to feel great about working out.

Don’t let small obstacles prevent you from getting to the gym.

Strength Wins Again

Last night I had a conversation with someone who had been experiencing chronic low-back pain for years. After several injections to help relieve the pain, she was told that her only option moving forward would be to undergo several procedures involving nerve manipulation, if she wanted to resolve the issue.

Needless to say, she did not like the sound of having to resort to this course of action.

Instead of doing more of what she was already doing, she identified some lifestyle changes that could be made and started heading in a different direction.

She started eating better and she started doing some true strength training.

She didn’t start doing 5lb. dumbbell curls while standing on a BOSU ball.

She didn’t start doing karate kick burpees.

She didn’t start doing twirly-do-dah twisty planks.

She started training movements that build total body strength.

If you have ever experienced low-back pain, you may gasp when you read that she started doing deadlifts.

She started to squat.

She was bench pressing and pressing overhead.

She spent time building a stronger upper back and midsection.

She didn’t do what many do - avoid things that involved her lower back altogether.

She actually did quite the opposite. She directly attacked her lower back with movement, working to strengthen and mobilize local tissues.

She familiarized proper positions.

She spent more time on her feet, and less time sitting.

She pushed for heavier and heavier weights.

She pushed for more and more repetitions.

Over the course of the several months she has given a strength training program an honest chance to do its work, she has noticed vast improvements taking place.

During our discussion last night, she reported to me that she no longer expects to need to go under the knife, and hopefully will never have to get an injection again.

Now that is a real, meaningful result!

I have written about how important it is to build, and then to retain your strength.

When you get stronger, any goals you are after become more reachable. Strength should always be the foundation.

I am very proud of this person. She has worked so hard and has had 100% trust in the powerful process of getting stronger the whole way. It’s amazing what a strong body will do for you!

I'll Be There

A couple of weeks back, a local HS football player contacted me for help with getting on an eating regimen. After a few days of corresponding back and forth via email, I got to work on designing his meals and eating schedule. After finalizing it, I sent it over to him and also invited him to lift alongside me sometime if he was ever interested.

He did express interest, so we began to coordinate our schedules.

This was on Tuesday.

He told me that on Wednesdays, he is done with school around 2pm. I told him I would be lifting tomorrow from around 2:30-4:30pm and that he was welcome to join me.

To paraphrase his response, he said “I’ll be there.”

I was impressed.

He didn’t ask me what we would be doing. He didn’t remind me that he already does offseason lifting on M-W-F mornings. He didn’t tell me that he needed to check on a few things to make sure he could make that work. He didn’t tell me he’d think about it.

He accepted my invitation without making any stipulations.

Then it became Wednesday afternoon.

Even though he seemed serious the night before, I know from too many experiences that a person saying they’re going do something is not the same as a person actually doing what they say. I was optimistic that he would be joining me but I wasn’t going to count on it, so I carried out my day like I normally would as I kept an eye out for him.

At about 2:45pm, the door to the gym opened and in he walks.

I greeted him and we chatted for a couple minutes before getting to work.

He was a strong kid, and a respectful one, too. He did everything I asked of him without having any reservations about anything we did.

^This is the attitude we must have when working with a professional.

Forget what you think you know. Forget what you have heard. Forget what you did this morning, or what you’ll be doing tomorrow. Use the opportunity to fully trust and learn from the person you have sought out.

Before he left, I told him he could continue to lift with me for a while.

We’ll see if he shows up again.

My guess is that he will.

The Source of Your Goals

The goals you set out to achieve don’t just happen.

A process must be followed in order for you to reach them.

The process always trails back to your mentality.

You must stay positive.

Every single negative thought you have will affect your process in a bad way.

And a negative outlook on the process can develop quickly.

Much quicker than a positive one.

A positive outlook takes work to build.

Negative influence will come from yourself and it will come from others.

It will come daily.

You must be ready to kill it the very moment it tries to enter your mind.

First, do you believe in yourself that you can attain the goal?

You should.

You have to.

If you don’t, you will be pounded into the ground with self-doubt. You will let what others think and say about you hold you back. You’ll never even give yourself a chance from the start.

In addition to protecting yourself against your own self-destructive thoughts and from other people’s pessimism, you’ll have to train yourself to deal with day-to-day impulses and discouragements.

Are you going to be mentally disciplined enough to order the right thing from the menu, or will you succumb to ordering the burger basket?

Are you going to be mentally tough enough to push all the way through five reps (when the first three felt amazingly difficult), or will you quit and let the temporary discomfort win the battle?

If your visual body inspection doesn’t turn up the results you expected, will stay on track and order a salad from the menu, or will you give up on the process and go for the burger basket this time?

Will you be patient enough to keep drilling and fine-tuning your bench press (even though you’ve been stuck at the same weight for 6 months), or will you even begin to think to yourself that this will never get better?

Thinking to yourself that your bench press will never improve, or thinking to yourself that your body isn’t changing for the better is exactly what you need to avoid.

These thoughts are negativity.

These thoughts are going to happen.

There are going to be times that you feel you are making no progress.

There will be times that you question if you’re even going in the right direction.

This is when you find out where your mind is at.

This is your opportunity to improve your mindset.

It’s what you need to reach your goal.