Category Archives for "Beginner"

You Are Never Too Good For The Basics

So you’ve been training for a few months, your squat looks much improved, and you’re beginning to lift some pretty heavy weight. What now?

Strip it back and get better.

The basics are both timeless and essential. They are infinitely refine-able. They are the Pareto-distributed minority that gives you the majority of your results.

You’ve got better at your squat, no doubt. But there are probably some things you’re doing that aren’t ideal, and you should take the time to go back to bodyweight and rebuild from the ground up.

Thought you’d moved on?

The truth is that you are never too good for the basics. Don’t believe me? Just watch the best athletes in any sport. They drill their skills till they kill their opposition. They drill the basics.

Every great weightlifter or powerlifter spends time working with the empty bar. Sometimes more, sometimes less. But they treat the light weights the same as they treat the heavy weights because it’s all practice.

Strength is a skill and the more you practice a skill the better you become. Mastery when viewed this way is simply unbelievable dedication – and resultant competency – to the basics.

The basics begin before you even get to the bar. American baseball coach John Wooden would begin by teaching his new recruits how to put their socks on. Think that’s a bit silly? Well not wearing your socks properly means blisters, and blisters affect performance. Think it’s overkill? His team won the championship for 10 years out of 12 and it started by paying big attention to small details.

Small things become big things, and the basics are the small things.

Viewed a certain way, the squat is the simplest thing imaginable; sit your bum between your heels. Begin analysing it, and the complexities can seem endless; knees out, chest up, elbows down, back tight, screw the floor, drive with your hips, drive with your chest, brace your lats, and on and on.

Get someone who knows what they’re doing to watch you squat and give you one to three things to focus on at a time. If your really suck, just focusing on one thing at a time is fine. If you’re pretty good already you may be able to handle three things.

I am obviously not just talking about the squat. This applies to every lift you ever perform. Some lifts are the basic lifts. Some lifts are not basic, but they have their own basics. Put another way; what are the one to three things you should be focusing on when you are doing what you are doing, in order to do it well?

You can apply this to doing the dishes as much to strength training.

And whenever you feel like you’re getting pretty good – like you’ve got this thing figured out – then that is exactly when you should strip things back and refocus on the basics.

In programming terminology you might call this planned regression. In minimalism you would call it simplification.

It is really the natural ebb and flow of life. You accumulate stuff. Experience. Things. Skills. Then you whittle and discard them down to the bare bones and begin again with something more refined. In this way you daisy chain your way up the ladder of mastery and in twenty years time you are really pretty damn good.

Take the time to go backwards. One step back, two steps forward.

You are never to good for the basics.

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?