More On Maxing-Out

Yesterday I wrote a post about working up to your 1-rep max. I had some more thoughts and suggestions to add to the procedure, so I recorded a podcast on the subject.

Look for Eat-Nap-Lift on all major podcasting platforms. Subscribe on your favorite podcast app so you never miss an episode!

 Listen to “Thoughts on Maxing-Out”

Listen to “Thoughts on Maxing-Out”

Testing Your 1-Rep Max

When it comes to weight training, nothing is more exhilarating than maxing out.

And although the basis of maxing out is simple, there is more to it than just loading up with a bunch of weight and going at it. There is some strategy that should go into a max-out session.

The purpose of testing your 1-rep max (1RM) is to determine the maximum amount of weight that you can lift for one repetition of a given exercise.

Below is the typical protocol I like to follow for working up to a 1RM…

  1. Ideally, you should begin with a 5-10 minute light-paced general warm-up.

    Then you should start to drill the lift you are testing, beginning at a light intensity, and gradually ramping up to a higher intensity.

  2. Start with 1-3 sets of 5 (using a weight you could actually do 20+ times).

    The purpose of these sets is only to groove the movement and to get some blood flowing through the system. You don’t want to be expending much energy on any of these sets.

  3. Then move on to 1-3 sets of 3 (using a weight you could actually do 10-15 times).

    You should start to feel the weight, just a little bit, on these sets. At no point should you have to grind out reps. Each 3 reps of every set should feel crisp and relatively easy.

  4. Finally, start taking singles the rest of the way up.

    Your first couple of single attempts should still feel pretty smooth. If I must choose a number, you should actually be able to do 5(ish) reps with your first single. If you’re barely making your first attempt(s), you have over-estimated an appropriate first attempt, or you have wasted too much energy on your work-up sets (or even a combination of both).

  5. Once you start taking singles, it is pretty straightforward from there. If you successfully lift the weight, add weight, repeat, and continue to do this until you cannot add any more weight. Whatever the heaviest weight you have lifted one time is, is your 1-rep max.

This is only general layout for how to go about maxing out. I have more detailed suggestions that I would share if anyone is interested. Let me know in the comments!

Distractions

Those who eliminate distractions will make the most progress.

Impatience is a distraction. No one is patient enough.

Everyone thinks they should be seeing progress week to week.

It just doesn’t happen that way.

It’s great when you do make progress, but know that steady progress is rare (more likely, impossible).

You will make some progress.

Then you will have a setback.

Then you will stay the same for a while.

Then you will have another setback.

Then you will stay the same for a longgggg time.

Then you will make progress again.

And a cycle similar to this will continue.

Whatever you want to happen, expect it to take twice as long as you’re hoping for.

If you want to lose 20 pounds, and you think you can do it in 3 months, It’s probably going to take you 6.

Getting frustrated that you’re not losing enough of those 20 pounds faster is a distraction.

Soon that distraction will lead you to quitting.

Don’t get distracted with how you think things should be happening.

Follow a simple formula: do mostly the right things, on as many days of the week as you can, for as long of time as possible.

Follow it and forget about the rest.

Whatever you want to happen, will happen, if you do enough of the right stuff for long enough.

But no one can do that. They have to get distracted instead.

Everyone would rather attempt to interpret why they aren’t seeing the progress they want.

They get fixated on what the scale says, on how their clothes fit, or how they look in the mirror.

When will you lose those 20 pounds?

Probably a couple months later than you think you’ll lose it by.

But few actually get that far, to those 2 extra months.

They got distracted and quit too early.

She Inspires Me

My daughter is not quite two years old.

I am proud of her in so many ways.

Just recently, I began to realize how much she inspires me each day as well.

Actually, many things about her are inspirational, but I want to highlight just one of them here.

She loves to eat healthy food.

So much so, that this past weekend she wanted nothing to do with the pizza, cookies and ice cream I offered to her. She truly did not want any of that stuff, and stuck with her peas, blueberries, and cottage cheese instead.

During the week when I am very strict with my eating (and would rather be sinking my teeth into a burger and fries), I think of her.

If she can find enjoyment in eating her healthy food, I can tolerate eating it as well.

You Have What Other People Don't Have

There’s only one You.

A quick way to kill your drive and happiness is to compare yourself to others. With today’s internet and social apps, we are so connected to people both near and far. We are naturally inclined to compare ourselves to others from time to time.

Someone seems to have more ability than you have…

Someone seems to have more free time than you do…

Someone seems to be better looking than you are…

Someone seems to be more accepted than you are…

Someone seems to be living with more luxuries than you have…

Someone seems to be more advanced in their career than you are…

Any time these kinds of thoughts and comparisons to others creep into my mind, I have to remind myself that I have more special things than anyone else.

No one else has a Madden Murphy. No one else has my wife. No one else has my great parents, siblings and family.

And you have things that are even more special than the things I have!

The things I have aren’t special to you and they shouldn’t be. Nothing that other people have, and nothing that other people do should be special to you.

We all have our own strengths, advantages, and precious parts to our lives.

Identify and appreciate what you have, not what other people have.

You Won't Get Big On Accident

In my experience as a personal trainer, it has always been difficult to convince some people to train with weights.

Many people have come to me over the years believing that lifting weights is dangerous and that it is sure to make them look like The Incredible Hulk within 2-weeks time.

Actually, it’s far more dangerous to go through life not lifting weights than it is to lift weights.

And it is extraordinarily difficult to look anything like The Incredible Hulk.

The fact is that most people that ARE TRYING to get big, can’t even get big.

It’s very audacious of anyone to think that they might start to look “too bulky” by accident.

***It takes years and years of frequent, consistent, and sufficiently intense weight training to build muscle***

The majority of people who are concerned with getting too bulky will never train for enough years, will never train frequently or consistently enough, and because of their misinformed belief that they’ll probably get too big from this stuff, will never train at high enough intensities to risk getting anywhere near the dysmorphic size they fear they’ll become. So there’s one more reason not to worry.

I don’t encourage weight training to firmly impose my training style and goals onto others. It really doesn’t matter what your goal is. I already know you should train with weights.

Properly utilizing the weights will support any training goal.

If you want to slim down, you should lift weights.

The weights won’t make you bigger, it’s other things you’re doing that may.

By the way, not all exercise that includes weights is “weight training”. If you’re using a weight for a set of 8 that you could really do 15 times, you aren’t lifting weights, you are quite literally wasting your time (go back and find the ***).

It Takes Too Much Time

Today I had a realization. From this realization, there isn’t even anything for me to be critical of. Just something that came to mind.

I think a lot of people are resistant to exercising because it takes too much time.

Not even that it takes too much time to develop a workout routine, or to see results, or anything like that.

It’s that it literally takes time to exercise.

To exercise, you have to set aside time during your day to put your body through motion.

It’s the only way.

Other aspects of health and fitness do not eat up time like working out does.

Compare it to eating healthier, for instance.

That doesn’t have to take up any of your time.

You can eat something healthy at a time you could otherwise eat something unhealthy and not lose any time at all.

It takes no longer to eat something good for you than it does to eat something bad for you, but it does take longer to work out than it does to not work out.

Interesting.

Don't Think

We are all guilty of overthinking things from time to time.

When it comes to working toward goals in the gym, its best to condition yourself to quit thinking so much.

Quit thinking about how you feel.

Quit thinking about where you want to go.

Quit thinking about what you should have, or should not have done in the past.

All you need to think about is the task at hand.

It’s really all that matters.

It doesn’t matter that you’re feeling sluggish today.

It doesn’t matter that your last set felt harder than you expected.

It doesn’t matter that you regret what you ate last night.

Achieving your goal(s) requires adherence to a very simple formula.

Before reaching your goal, there is a certain amount of work that must get done.

You must chip away at that work.

It doesn’t matter that you aren’t 100% today.

It doesn’t matter that your mind isn’t all the way in it today.

Wake up!

The work still has to get done.

More Frequency

I think one of the best ways to force an adaptation in the body is to use higher frequency. 

Want to get better at running long distances? Run a mile every day.

Want to get your legs stronger? Squat every day.

Want your chest to get bigger? Do push-ups every day.

The only way your body will change (whether it be performance-based or aesthetic-based) is to do enough work to elicit the necessary training response. You might as well be accumulating work as often as you can.

If the typical recommendation to never train a muscle two days in a row comes to mind, know that your body is highly resilient. It will figure out how to function under whatever environment you put it into.

More isn't always better, but sometimes more is better! 

It's Hard Being Healthy

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” -Theodore Roosevelt

It's pretty easy to be unhealthy. Anyone can spend their days eating whatever they want while doing no physical activity.

No one wants to be unhealthy, but not everyone is willing to do what is required to become and remain healthy.

There is effort, pain, and difficulty involved with being healthy.

The same goes for reaching any fitness goal.

If you want to lose weight, it will take a lot of effort and it will be very difficult. It's easy to start your diet on day 1 when your motivation is at its highest, but on day 3 is when the real struggle sets in. 

It takes a lot of effort to get stronger in the gym. You must train yourself to push through a lot of pain. It's easy to become inspired to get stronger when you're watching youtube videos of people throwing around twice as much weight as you can lift, but it's a different story when you're only halfway through a grueling set of 8 (and you know you have 3 more sets to go). 

Everyone gets caught believing that the goals they are going for shouldn't be this hard. Yes, it should.

If you are not yet where you want to be, you don't deserve to be comfortable. The only way to get there is with a lot of effort, pain, and difficulty.

 

Who You Lift With Matters

Yesterday during my workout I just didn't have it. I wasn't focused and felt myself getting distracted by other things. It led to it being a sub-par session.

A couple of hours later during my group class, I began working in amongst the class and quickly started to feel in the zone. It ended up being a great workout!

The only thing different from two hours earlier was the people I was with.

It reminded me how important your training environment is.

It is difficult to motivate yourself day after day when you are the only one who is there to push. 

When you are surrounded by people who are there with you to get after it you feed off of each other.

Thank you to everyone who let me lift with them last night - I needed it!

Who Is On Your Team?

It's hard to not be affected by criticism.

It's natural to feel bad when someone crushes your dreams or puts you down.

People that do this are not on your team.

On the other hand, there will always be people who truly have your back.

These people are on your team.

People not on your team judge you and offer you no productive solutions.

People on your team care about you and your goals.

If they are going to criticize, it will be constructive in nature.

The people not on your team are jealous and want to see you fail.

The people on your team are supportive and want to see you succeed.

There should be no room for negative people on your team.

Don't let them feel like they are a part of your team.

Don't give them importance. 

Don't let them bother you.

Ignore them.

The people not on your team don't matter.

The ones that are on your team are the only ones that matter.

 

 

Back To The Gym After A Hiatus

We have all had long breaks from the gym. For some, a long break is a week or two, but plenty of people have skipped the gym for several months or several years in a row. No matter what length of time it has been, it is very difficult to re-motivate yourself to get back into working out.

Lots of things go through your mind at this point...

"People will judge me."

"I won't fit in anymore."

"I won't be able to do what I used to."

"I have so far to go to get back on track."

You know that you should start working out again, and you know that if you did you would for sure feel better. However, the anxiety associated with even thinking about stepping inside a gym is always enough for you to extend your hiatus. 

To be honest, going back to the gym after a long break will not be easy at all. It will feel daunting to open those gym doors and see what you think are hardcore fitness people. If you are courageous enough to step inside, you will feel like everyone is watching you.

I guarantee that going to the gym for the first time, or after taking a long amount of time off is going to be uncomfortable. 

But I also guarantee that this discomfort actually has no substance to it at all. The fears you have created inside your head should not hold you back, because while it feels like everyone is watching you, not many people actually are. 

The really fit people (the ones you think are judging you the most), are actually judging you the least. They are either too self-consumed to even notice you, or (if you can believe this) are actually rooting you on.

Sure, you will get a few looks from people, but don't assume they are nitpicking you. You are in fact a new face and most people are excited to see new faces (at the very least, curious about them.)

A gym is a great community. Once you get past the mental barrier you put up yourself, you will find the gym to be filled with plenty of supportive people who want you to be there to feel better, to look better, to get stronger, etc alongside of them.

If You Fail to Prepare, You Prepare to Fail

When it comes to health and fitness, preparation is huge.

It takes a lot of discipline and consistency to close in on your goals.

If you don't take the time to properly prepare for certain scenarios you are sure to find yourself in, it will be difficult to stay on track to achieving these goals. 

This was true for me today.

For me to have a successful week, I need to get certain things done over the weekend. Yesterday I was particularly lazy and didn't get all of my food prepped for the week. This meant I needed to prep that food this morning.

I did complete this task, but it was at the expense of some of the other things I already needed to do today. Everything I had to do today was done with lower quality than normal, just because I started the week behind schedule. 

My Monday was a failure because I failed to properly prepare for Monday. 

 

Punish Yourself (Controversial Post)

On most nights, I call and talk to my wife on my way home from the gym. 

While talking last night, she asked me what I was going to eat for supper and I told her - chicken. I told her that I needed to punish myself.

Yes, eating that bland chicken breast was pretty much a punishment.

Initially, I said I needed to punish myself just to be funny. It wasn't until she confusedly asked why I needed to punish myself that I decided I actually do think it's good to "punish yourself" from time to time. Even when it is not deserved. 

Everyone wants to experience comfort and satisfaction, and some people think they should have it all the time.

That's just not realistic.

In fact, in order to experience the highest levels of comfort and satisfaction, you must have times of discomfort and dissatisfaction. 

The more I interact with people day to day, the more I conclude that everything is truly about balance.

The most important example of balance may be our very own home. Earth resides in the "goldilocks zone". If we were any further away from the sun, we would freeze up. If we were any closer, we would boil. We are able to exist because we are just the right distance from the sun.

Everything in existence needs to have balance, even your actions.

You cannot take take take take take. You have to give just as much as you take. If you don't replace your takes with gives, your life will be out of balance.

A person who only talks about themself is a taker, and they will sap the life right out of you. A person who is conversational with you is both a taker and a giver, and offers you a balanced interaction. 

A person who is overly negative is out of balance.

A person out for their own self interests only does not have balance.

A person who complains more than they compliment is out of balance.

A person who only bench presses, nothing else, does not have balance.

A person unwilling to get outside of their comfort zone (as it relates to this post, punish themself) is out of balance.

Not every day of your life will be enjoyable. Some of your days will be miserable. Every meal you eat will not be satisfying. Sometimes you need to visit Drew's kitchen for a flavorless chicken breast.

If you apply some discomfort to your own life, the times of comfort have the potential to be so much greater.

To be clear, I'm not saying to go out of your way to make yourself significantly suffer, or to mistreat yourself in a way that will deteriorate you mentally or physically. 

I am saying that giving yourself a dose of controlled displeasure every now and again will condition you to better deal with inconveniences that come your way. 

 

 

 

 

 

Focus On The Mirror Not The Scale

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote this post in an attempt to convince you not to rely on mirrors so heavily when working out.

In the gym, mirrors are (most of the time) better off not being used, but when it comes to your overall appearance, the mirror is the best tool to have at your disposal. 

Unfortunately, many people let what the scale reads dictate whether they like or don't like what they see in the mirror.

Why do you care what the scale reads if you don't even like what you see in the mirror, to begin with?

If you do like what you see when you look in the mirror, why does a number on the scale even matter to you?

This is very similar to what I preach for eating - eat quality foods, don't get wrapped up in counting calories. 

Look at what you see in the mirror, don't get wrapped up in what the scale reads. 

Collapsed

I knew it was going to be a hard week to get through. 

I knew this 7 seconds after biting into the dusty chicken breast I had over-cooked on Monday night. My meal was not enjoyable, and I was supposed to eat the same thing for the next 3 nights.

On Wednesday night I collapsed. 

IMG_4024-1.jpeg

On my way home from the gym, I decided I was too hungry to gag down chicken and vegetables for the third night in a row.

I went to Pancheros instead.

I actually don't view Pancheros as that bad of a place to eat out - the ingredients are pretty fresh, and you can pack a lot of quality nutrients into a burrito. But on a normal week, I consider Pancheros to be off limits.

The next time you fall a little off track with your diet (like I did last night), remember that one meal isn't going to make much of a difference long-term to throw you off schedule in reaching your goals. 

Eating right should be a lifestyle habit. Look at the big picture of it. Heck, we all can even afford to go through a week or two straight of gluttony each year. 

Just don't let bingeing on bad foods become your regular way of eating.

 

One-Ingredient Foods

As a general rule of thumb when it comes to eating, try to eat foods that don't have a lot of ingredients in them.

Better yet, eat as many one-ingredient foods as possible. 

Blueberries have only one ingredient: blueberries. Carrots have only one ingredient: carrots.

Kraft macaroni and cheese has 3 million ingredients in it. Even your typical 150-calorie "healthy" protein bar, that has 20 grams of protein and zero grams of sugar, is made from at least a dozen different ingredients (and some of them are probably things that you have no idea what they even are).

The more "pure" a food is, let's just say here, the less processed it is, the more nutrients the food will offer your body. Your body will have an easier time metabolizing a purer food as well.

Make sure most of the food you buy at the grocery store doesn't have any packaging at all (fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean cuts of protein).

And for the food you buy that does have packaging, take a look at the label. Look at the label not to see how many calories are in a serving, but to see what ingredients comprise this food item.

Don't Rely on Mirrors

There are certainly times when it's acceptable to use a mirror while you work out, but for the most part, I recommend not relying on a mirror during training. 

Without the visual feedback a mirror provides, you are forced to develop better kinesthetic awareness. Kinesthetic awareness is your ability to detect changes in your body's position without relying on your senses. 

I believe that having at least decent kinesthetic awareness is something every person should strive to develop. 

Having an understanding of how your body should be arranged, how it should move, and how it should interact with other objects in space is something that has carryover to training as well as everyday life.

When it comes to training, the better your kinesthetic sense, the stronger your mind to muscle connection will be, and you will be less likely to sustain an injury.

As extreme as this may sound, a person who has great spatial awareness, is less clumsy, practices sound body positions, and utilizes safe movements is better equipped for long-term survival. 

Again, I am not saying that you should never use a mirror while you are working out.

I am only saying that you should train yourself to not depend on one every time you step into the gym.

Pull Up Tip: Pull The Bar Down

A pull up is an exercise that many people strive to be able to do. 

Make the task of pulling yourself up seem less daunting by thinking about pulling the bar down, rather than pulling your body up.

Much like this bench press tip, doing this gives you a psychological edge and can help you recruit the lats and other target muscles more effectively.

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 2.01.25 PM.png