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! 

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.

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What Does It Mean To 'Reduce Stress'?

We have all heard that it is good for our health to reduce stress. But what actually makes our stress levels go down?

We are told to exercise and to get the right amount of sleep. These are accepted as being healthy practices to help keep stress under control.

Although healthy, and two things I highly recommend to anyone, finding time to work out as well as getting to bed on time aren't enticing enough to some people.

Even though it's not considered "healthy", sometimes catching up on a few DVR'd episodes of Dr. Phil with a slice of pizza in your left hand and an ice cream cone in your right is what it will take to feel better.

Your hormones play a big part in determining your stress levels, but honestly, I don't know enough about them to get into it.

So to not get into what physiologically needs to happen to get rid of stress, I think what helps us reduce stress is for us to experience some form of escapism from the frustrations in our lives.

This could just be forgetting about your day for an hour during your workout.

It could be going for a walk long enough that you forget what you were just fighting with your spouse about.

It could be the brief enjoyment of a burger and fries - so enjoyable that at the moment, you've stopped worrying about tomorrow's presentation. 

It could be anything that takes your mind off the turbulence in your head churning your stress.

Over time, hopefully, we train ourselves to deal with stress better.

Hopefully, we recognize which methods of dealing with stress work best for us.

Things in your life can certainly cause you to stress, but what is most powerful is how you react to those things in your life. If you have an arsenal of activities that you can use to get your mind on things other than your day to day annoyances, you will be better off. Who am I to judge what those activities are for you?

Figure out which activities make you feel good while doing them, and do those things more often to keep stress at bay.

Chase Strength, Good Things Will Follow

I am biased toward gaining strength. 

It's why I chose to name my business Drew Murphy Strength

Even though I prioritize building strength over everything else, I acknowledge that many others don't value strength as much as I do. In fact, I would say that for the majority of people who work out, the appeal of looking better outweighs the appeal of getting stronger. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Don’t get me wrong - I want to look good too. And the great news is that increasing strength will take care of that for us. Actually, building strength will improve just about everything in your life. The problem I see with just chasing aesthetics is that it does not necessarily improve other health markers.

Here is a sample roadmap of positive adaptations that can occur through strength prioritization...

You lift heavy weights. 

You lift heavy weights consistently. 

You begin to get stronger. 

You can now begin to do more things. 

You can work out harder. 

You can lift heavier and heavier weight. 

You begin to expend more energy as a result of working out harder and lifting heavier weights.

More energy expended equals an elevated base metabolic rate.

You begin to lose body fat as a result of your elevated metabolism.

As you lose body fat, your health improves.

You become better equipped to take on everyday tasks.

As a bonus, you begin to look better.

If you ask me, simply putting your head down to focus on getting your entire body stronger is the best way to achieve whatever fitness goal you desire. Strength brings everything along with it. 

Just being fixated on aesthetics does not guarantee the same improvements that getting stronger does.

There are plenty of ways to improve aesthetics at the expense of losing strength.

Provided you follow a healthy diet and sleep regimen, it will be difficult to not look better as you get stronger. 

Bench Press Tip: Push Away From The Weight

Today is Monday, so if you lift weights you probably bench pressed today. If you don't already use this cue, remember it for next time you are under the bar: concentrate on pushing your body away from the weight, rather than pushing the weight away from your body. Doing this gives you a slight psychological edge and more importantly, encourages you to tighten and dig your upper back into the bench. 

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Warming Up, Stretching, and Mobility

How much time do you spend warming up for your workout? How much time do you spend on stretching and mobility? Personally, I bet I spend 5 minutes or less on this kind of stuff most days.

Who really wants to spend a significant amount of their workout time preparing to work out?

I say just get on with it.

Of course, there are times when it is appropriate to prepare to work out by spending more time on warming up, stretching and mobility. But if on most days you need 10 minutes to do a general warm up and follow that up with another 10 minutes of soft tissue work or mobility work, I think you are probably wasting your time. Actually, I tend to believe that if you cannot have yourself ready to go in around 5 minutes, you may want to evaluate some things in your life, one of them being your training program.

This isn't to say that I am recommending that you jump into your workout completely cold either. For me, the absolute best way to warm up and prepare my body for a lifting session is to simply start doing the main movement of the session right away.

As an example, this is a typical protocol* I would follow for a squat-heavy workout...

  1. (A couple sets of) sitting in a very deep squat for 30-ish seconds, leaning and bouncing around to produce more stretch in different areas.
  2. (A couple sets of) 5-10 bodyweight squats
  3. (A set of)  sitting in a very deep squat for 30-ish seconds, leaning and bouncing around, this time with an empty bar.
  4. (A set or two of) 5-10 squats with the empty bar.

*I would likely do some ab work or different light intensity exercises amongst all of this. 

Then I would begin to work up to the weight I plan to use for my first working set. Do a set, add some weight, do a set, and continue this until I reach the weight for working set #1. "Working up" is something you should always do anyway. It allows you to practice and groove into the movement you are training while using very sub-maximal loads. By the time you get up to your working weight, you will be plenty warmed up and acclimated to safely handle heavier loads.

My overall recommendation is to get on with doing the movement(s) that are on the menu for the session right off the bat. Don't waste so much time doing pointless things you read you should be doing in a magazine.