Monthly Archives: April 2017

Why Building Your Body Might Be The Best Thing You Do All Year | Part Two

We already know from Part One that building your body might just be the best thing you do all year. In Part Two I’m going to really push that point home with 11 more reasons ranging from the silly to the super serious.

If you can’t find a reason in here, then just start anyway. I know, I know. It can seem like the benefits of fitness are a really long way off – but the only way you will get there is by starting.

So on that note, let’s kick off again with point 5:

5. Men and women will respect you more.

“All right big fella”.

Not something I’d ever heard before I started lifting – especially not from a bouncer.

And now I’m much lighter and leaner probably not something I’ll hear again for a very long time. But it was nice.

Generally I don’t care too much for the respect of most men, but every now and then it’s kind of cool. There are definite advantages to people assuming you can handle yourself – whether or not that’s actually true.

Women have a different time of it, but if you ever get stick from a guy for being manly because you lift well, what does that say about him?

6. You will learn where your limits are and how to push past them

You don’t know what your limits are till you’ve tested them.

Some “limits” are soft, and training will take you far beyond them.

These limits are simply mental barriers – training isn’t just practicing movements, it’s also practicing training itself.

People new to exercise think they’re working hard. But working hard is a learned skill, just as any other. You’ll look back on those “brutal” workouts you pushed through at the beginning and laugh.

But there is a true hard limit for all of us. I don’t recommend it, but pushing yourself to breaking point at least once in your life is a lesson you’ll never forget.

I’ve been to the void; the place where you can no longer push any harder. I overtrained (yes it’s a real thing) and I suffered; I lost my libido, slept 16 hours a day, was sick constantly, and my strength crashed.

It took me a little while to pull myself out of that, but now I know where it is, and how to avoid it.

I still like to push my limits, but I also strive to remember longevity.

After all, it’s not much good being strong in your twenties if the process makes walking harder in your fifties (see points 1 & 2!).

7. You’ll sleep better

The harder you work, the better you sleep. Not just because you’re (truly) exhausted, not just because you have quieted your busy mind; there are actual, physiological benefits too.

Improved blood flow, lung capacity and reduced bodyfat will all help you sleep better.

However if you develop your body past natural size limits or carry too much fat, you will likely have difficulty breathing properly while sleeping: something a lot of top bodybuilders and powerlifters don’t talk about are the CPAP machines they need just to get any sleep.

Size at all cost, well for me, it’s only worth pursuing if you can make a lot of money from it. And even then it seems like the costs are pretty sever. Otherwise, I find it’s better to be “agile, hostile & mobile”, and to sleep better too.

8. You’ll be better in bed.

I asked this question – “What is one benefit you’ve found from building your body?” – and the first response I got back related to sex.

Now, you might say we guys have it on the brain, but I’m not surprised it was so high up the list.

Build your body, get fitter, and you’ll feel like a god when you’re between the sheets. Or a goddess.

You’ll look better so your inhibitions will be greatly reduced.

You will have improved blood flow, which for men means better and longer lasting erections and for women greater sensitivity and stronger orgasms.

And you will last longer. You’ll be able to hold yourself up on your arms longer. Your legs won’t turn to jelly quite so quickly.

Plus, there are many women (and some men!) who love being picked up and thrown around during sex by someone he or she finds insanely attractive.

9. You’ll be able to work harder and longer

I mean all kinds of work, both physical and mental.

Working out when done right can be like a mental reset. It recharges, renews, refreshes and reinvigorates your brain.

After all, your nervous system is involved in everything you do. Ramp it up in a killer workout and feel your brain work better too. In fact, if you ever feel sleepy in the day, try something like this for three to five rounds:

3 box jumps – stepping down
3 clapping pushups

I guarantee you’ll feel better – in fact, the chess genius Josh Waitzkin used to do something like this during his chess matches. If his brain was feeling sluggish, he’d go and do 30 seconds of sprints outside.

Plus, box jumps are just fun:

Feeling beaten up, worn down, just missing that usual fizz? Coach Christian @thibarmy has talked about his "neural charge" methods which are essentially high quality, explosive, low rep exercises, performed till you feel good then stop! 4 or 5 sets of 2 to 4 reps is plenty. You do need a good foundation of movement quality and muscle activation, but in my experience even beginners can benefit from modified versions of these techniques with care and proper guidance. Unlike many workouts where you can feel beaten up afterwards, these leave you wanting more, and ready to face the day. #SmashWeights #youcandomore #thibarmy #gains #neuralcharge #thepump #aware #boxjump #drugfree #fit #natural #bodybuilder #instafitness #strength #muscle #shredded #training #workout #instagood #cardio #health #trainhard #workhard #fitlife

A post shared by Strength and Conditioning (@smashweights) on

On top of these quick fixes, the cumulative benefits of working out will greatly increase your stamina and ability to function in life, business, and play.

When all around you people are flagging or complaining that their bodies are tired, you’ll be sailing right on through.

Indeed, you’ll begin to notice just how much the people around you whinge and complain.

Another benefit then, of being able to work harder and longer, is you’ll be able to keep up a bit with people better than you. And that’s where some real magic happens.

10. You’ll probably make some excellent friends

People often compare CrossFit to a cult.

But you know the great thing about cults? You make friends.

Why do people join cults if not to feel like, for once, they finally belong to something?

I don’t feel like I “belong” to CrossFit, but I did make some amazing friends when I spent a year training at a local CrossFit box.

Friends that are friends way beyond the boundaries of the box.

I also met my wife in a different gym – after all, a girl who lifts has at least one thing going for her and so that’s potentially a sign she might be worth getting to know. 😉

11. You will have achieved at least one great thing this year

Greatness is personal.

If you’ve never benched 60kg or 100kg, then the first time you do it… That’s a milestone. That’s personal greatness. And it’s something that nothing can ever take from you.

Once you have done something, you’ve done it.

Even if everything else is falling apart, this can be the ballast that you cling to. This can be your anchor while you figure out everything else.

Even in the midst of my worst depressions and my darkest days, I found some peace in going to the gym.

12. You will have more confidence

Liberating your body is truly confidence building – where once you were weak, you now are strong. Where once you were helpless, you are now capable.

You move better, look better, feel better and all of that is intoxicating.

Though you may decry the “fitness freaks” who constantly evangelise, they may well be on to something.

This is a confidence born of achievement. It is not arrogance. It is earned, and those savings pay real interest.

13. You might learn to cook

I have always loved food.

But I really learned to cook once I started bulking.

I had to get creative in order to make enough food, that was tasty enough that I’d actually eat all of it.

Yeah, I enjoy eating, but bulking for me was no fun. Being constantly in pain from being full is not fun. So I got creative with my recipes.

I was also forced to cook on a very tight budget – but I still managed to eat steak regularly, while only spending about £20 a week on food.

Don’t listen to the morons who will tell you that “healthy eating is expensive”.

Bulk buy some rice, some chicken breast and some frozen veggies – how expensive is that? Then get a few good spices and start coming up with interesting recipes.

Herbs and spices I like:

Salt
Cayenne Pepper
Garlic
Rosemary
Cumin
Cinnamon

Here’s another tip; stop being a baby about food. Just eat your fucking vegetables already.

14. You might FEEL LIKE A GOD

Truly dominating a work out is a peak moment.

Feeling like a beast unleashed, as though you are unstoppable – it is a sublime moment of perfect existence, and for many people it will only ever be felt in the gym.

We no longer have enemies to fell by the sword and most of us don’t hunt the food we eat. But we do have the iron. And on those days where the stars align and the weights feel light, we get closer to our warrior ancestry – but for a moment.

And nobody has to die in the process.

But, a warning; when you feel like this, it is a sure sign you need to take a step back. Injuries tend to come just after we feel our very best.

15. You will learn a lot about yourself.

Are you a wimp, or a fighter?

When the workout starts to suck do you cower or come alive?

Or perhaps there are some days where you come alive, and some days where you shrink from the weights as though they meant you real harm.

Whatever the case, you will know.

You can lie to yourself, tell yourself all kinds of stories, but you will know.

“Know Thyself”.

How can you possibly truly know yourself without entering the physical realm?

“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” – Socrates

16. You discover the happiness in never being complete.

Just like a puppy, working out is for life, and not just for Christmas – or January/February.

You’ll probably never be content – and that’s a good thing.

You see, at least for me, happiness is a product of constant growth and movement.

But I know that stagnation is no fun for anyone. Working out is a realm in which “the journey is more important than the destination” is really true.

Keep your workouts fun and interesting – enjoy yourself. Love the journey, and experience the wonderful growth that comes with it.

After all, your body is yours to keep for life – do yourself a favour and look after it.

If someone takes their car to the garage and the oil is low, the water low, the interior dirty… They’re going to suggest you look after it better. You’re neglecting your car. You spent thousands on it, and you’re just letting it fall apart!

Some people are even weirder – they’ll spend hours and thousands maintaining their car, but do nothing whatsoever about the one vehicle that carries them all the way to the grave.

Your body is yours. It is a treasure, and a marvel and can be so much more.

I don’t care what you do, just start today.

Go and do 10 squats right now. Or even just one.

One pushup.

If you can’t do that, do some pushups against the wall.

Stop making excuses; there is some form of exercise that you can do, so just go do it. Cut this meal down to the smallest piece and then just chew it.

What will you achieve this year? What do you love about working out?

1

Why Building Your Body Might Be The Best Thing You Do All Year | Part One

Fitness has become fashionable.

It would be easy to view this trend through square hipster lenses, and scoff at people jumping on the bandwagon.
But fitness is one of the most beneficial things anyone can pursue in life.

Men (and women), let me tell you this:

You are limiting your life in fundamental ways if you do not develop your body.

This truth was brought home to me very recently; I performed a consultation for a gentleman in his mid 70s looking for some personal training.

His doctors had told him that he was fit and healthy – and indeed the guy is still able to row 10k in 50 minutes. That’s pretty good going for any age; not least because sitting on a rower for that long is just indescribably boring and truly an exercise in masochism.

However he was unable to stand up by himself from the ground.

And he had difficulty getting up out of chairs.

He also had difficulty reaching or sitting down for everything.

His mobility was extremely poor, and this was causing him great distress – it was massively impacting his quality of life.

What good is “fitness” if you can’t move in very basic ways?

We tend often to notice things only when they make things worse. We recognise a cold by how bad we feel, but we very rarely notice the point at which we are well again.

So too with fitness; you don’t even know you have it till it’s gone.

That’s for fit people though. People who are already unfit think that they are normal. They think that struggling for breath while bending over to tie their shoe-laces is just a fact of life.

They’re trapped by their bodies and they don’t even know it.

As in all things, you must strive to raise your standards – and building your body is no exception.

Building your body won’t just make you look better.

It will free you.

But in order to free yourself physically, you really need some goals.

All men and women ought to reach some minimum physical standards for their physical capacity to not strongly negatively effect their life.

20/10 Pushups
10/5 Pullups
Run 1 Mile in less than 9/8 minutes
Squat bodyweight
Press 50% bodyweight

The next set of standards are roughly the point at which your physical capacity can augment and improve your life significantly.

20/10 handstand pushups
10/4 ring muscleups
Run 1 mile in less than 7/6 minutes
Snatch Bodyweight/0.6x bodyweight

Now people can debate these all day, but here are my reasons for choosing them – and implicit in those standards is what it takes to reach them.

For example, to snatch bodyweight, it is likely that you can squat at least 1.5x bodyweight, and more likely 2x bodyweight – unless you are an exceptional mover.

Also implicit in these more complex movements is a host of extra information; a bodyweight snatch means that person is mobile and fast enough to throw and then catch a heavy weight in a stable overhead position at the bottom of a squat. They are proficient and skilled.

Compared to professional athletes in gymnastics, running, or weightlifting, these standards are incredibly low.

But compared to the couch potatoes that surround us – or your current level – they might seem impossibly high.

If you look at them and are daunted, fear not. Just focus on the next step.

I remember when squatting 100kg seemed unimaginable.

I remember thinking that to achieve just one muscleup was a real show of athletic ability.

I remember when it seemed like only incredibly jacked monsters could bench press 60kg.

All of those feats are now almost effortless for me and can be done without a warmup – and so I moved on to the next target.

I can do other fun stuff now too:

Andrew Miles performing a back lever - needs to be more horizontal though!

Andrew Miles performing a back lever – needs to be more horizontal though!

Standards beyond those are subject to the law of returns, and how far you want to push it is entirely personal – but I know firsthand that training 3 hours a day does not necessarily improve your life.

If you look at those standards and they seem trivial, or they seem not to describe a great physique to you – that’s great. This post isn’t for you; you already know how to free your body – but you may need to learn how to enjoy it.

What about aesthetics?

Most importantly, the ideal body is your body, just better. Stronger, faster, leaner, bigger. But still you. You’re never going to look the same as a fitness magazine cover model – even if you are just as big and lean.

But… You can be you, only better.

So without further ado, here are a whole bunch of reasons why building your body might just be the best thing you do all year:

1. You’ll Age Better

The neurosurgeon and anti-aging physician Dr. Brett Osborn believes that building your body is one of the best preventative measures you can take to age well:

Perform preventive maintenance and you will thwart age-related disease. Start early. Even in your 20s.

1. Strength training, in particular rigorous strength training is critical. Amass as much muscle as possible while the hormonal milieu is favorable. Also, strength training unto itself maintains one’s hormonal profile in a youthful state. The best natural way to boost your testosterone and growth hormone levels is to lift weights.

I lay out my full training program in Get Serious. In general, you should stick to five basic movements in a 5×5 scheme: squats, overhead press, deadlift, bench press, pull/chin-up. Make gradual progression. And remember, safety first, injury prevention second. – How To Age Well at Danger & Play

His workout recommendations resemble my own, as well as that of just about any no-bullshit strength and conditioning coach throughout history.

People overcomplicate this stuff till the cows come home, but when it comes to building some muscle and getting stronger there’s really not all that much to it.

2. You Might Actually Live Longer

A tiny amount of research has shown that strength training doesn’t just prevent ageing, but can even reverse it.

Doug McGuff of Body By Science noted the following:

On May 23, 2007 a major stride in the quest for life extension occurred.  Researchers Simon Melov et al announced a treatment that successfully reversed aging. (www.plosone.org/article/fetchArticle.action?articleURI=info:doi/10.371/journal.pone.0000465).   This reversal occurred not in worms, fish, or rats; but actually occurred in human subjects.  More importantly, this reversal was not simply a marker of aging, but an actual reversal toward normal youthful function at the genetic level. … The study definitively identified 179 genes that were reversed by the intervention, and  as the study stated “the transcriptional signature of aging was markedly reversed back to that of younger levels for most genes that were affected by both age and exercise”.

So what was this miracle treatment?  The answer is STRENGTH TRAINING.  Strength training performed twice a week for a period of 26 weeks. … The researchers had subjects perform leg press, chest press, leg extension, leg flexion, shoulder press, lat pull-down, calf raise, abdominal crunch and back extension for 3 sets of 10 reps, and arm flexion and arm extension for 1 set of 10 reps.  …  Resistance was based on 50% of a 1 rep max and progressed to 80% of a 1 rep max.  Over the study period the subjects increased their strength by 50% which made them only 38% weaker than 25 year old cohorts.

Basic strength training, not even to a particularly high level, apparently yielded a reversal in signs of ageing in the participants.

If true, this is one of the coolest things ever – I just hope that more research looks at this issue at some point.

3. You won’t have to say “no” any more.

Saying no is a useful skill – but only when you want to.

When you have to say no, but you’d rather say yes, well that sucks.

Especially if it’s something physical – things like surfing, scuba diving, mountain biking or trekking. Those are the kinds of exciting things that really do enhance a life worth living, and which create life-long memories.

Building your body up to the minimum standards means you can do all of these things and enjoy them.

Whenever your friends invite you to do something cool or interesting that happens to be physical, you’ll just be able to say YES without any significant worries about whether or not you’ll be able to keep up.

4. You will actually have an easier time attracting women/men.

When I started going to the gym I made my intentions to get bigger clear to my flatmates. They were all women.

They said, “don’t get too big” and, “don’t become a square shape”.

(I still don’t know what that last one means.)

Anyway, despite their desire to keep me from the iron, I get a lot more positive attention from women now than I used to.

It seems that very often women will tell you one thing and think another (e.g. “I’m fine”). We know this. But it’s easy to believe it too sometimes. Your family and friends too will say all kinds of dumb shit – “are you on steroids?!”. Ignore it all.

On a different occasion, I was at a party with one of my best friends. This guy happens to be insanely ripped, with skin like rich mahogany – I feel entirely comfortable in saying that he is a beautiful man.

When someone is in that kind of shape, they get attention constantly – honestly it seems quite annoying. He had almost everyone at the party clamouring for him to show them his abs every five minutes.

At one point he was persuaded – as he lifted his shirt a girl standing next to him loudly said “yuck, gross”.

Despite being beautiful, my friend is not terribly confident. I knew this would upset him, and it did.

Later, in private, I asked the girl, “did you really find him that gross?”

She said, “no, he’s incredible, I just don’t want his ego getting too big”.

Ouch.

Point being, don’t worry when people say they don’t like it – even if they’re not lying, enough people like it that you’ll never notice the ones who don’t.

And women? Men love a girl that’s in shape. Men love women of all shapes and sizes, truth be told.

But the thing I enjoy the most about seeing Tahlia get fitter and stronger is seeing her confidence grow with her performance levels. Seeing her achieve things that used to seem impossible is truly priceless.

Stay tuned for part 2

In part two we’ll look at eleven (11!) more reasons why building your body might be the best thing you do all year.

Meal Prep – Tender and Juicy Pulled Chicken!

This really couldn’t be simpler to make and will feed you nicely for 6 meals!

You will need:

  • 1kg skinless boneless chicken thighs
  • 2 onions
  • 6 cloves of garlic (or more if you love it like I do!)
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • white wine vinegar
  • Jasmine rice (however much you want to have with it really!)
  • Mushrooms
  • Sweetcorn

The process looks something like this:

Method

The key is to cook the chicken on a really slow heat over a couple of hours.

This gives the white wine vinegar, onions and garlic, time to break down the proteins in the chicken and leave it nice and tender for pulling.

I prefer skinless boneless chicken thighs as they’re a bit juicier and a bit tastier than chicken breast – but go with whatever you feel, just remember to adjust your macros accordingly!

You can do essentially the same recipe with pork – just use apple cider vinegar instead.

Add any seasonings you like! I Love Frank’s Red Hot with this.

Macros

Want macros? We got macros! A two hundred gram serving off the pulled chicken works out close to this:

Protein: 36.9g
Carbs: 7.1g
Fat: 4.7g
Calories: 215

One cup of cooked white rice (or roughly 210g) comes to 242 calories and 53.2g carbs.

That brings us to a grand total of 467 calories.

Boom, easy.

So this is an ideal meal for any time of day, but especially a couple of hours before, or just after a workout!

Let me know how you get on with this, and feel free to change up the veg to anything you like! Cabbage, broccoli, carrots, green beans, it’s all good!