"No matter what you're facing in life, you have two choices: you can put in the work or get put in your place." - p.37 of Michael Matthews' The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation
Obviously, an important part of getting anywhere is the first step: setting clear goals. Mike Matthews really influenced me to take a deeper dive into figuring out what my goals are - not only for health/fitness but in all areas of life.
In one of his podcast episodes on Muscle For Life with Mike Matthews (to be honest I have difficulty finding which one it was), he mentioned a goal setting strategy that I needed to try. This is taken from Warren Buffet's "5/25 Rule."
There are three steps to this process:
Some other tips that I obtained from Mike mentioned and/or I thought were good practice while doing this were:
I will share with you one of my main health and fitness goals that are in my Top 5: By July of 2021, I will weigh a lean 175lb.
I currently weigh around 155 with likely close to 15% body fat so I am looking to gain about 20-25lb of muscle. This goal is important to me for several reasons but I really want to pursue this goal so that I can be more confident and well-respected. My job as a Construction Manager requires me to earn respect from all parties involved in construction (the owner, my coworkers, and the contractors, especially). When they see a young person like me; it is tough to get that respect. Obviously, I work to earn it in other ways but image definitely does matter. Another reason why is because if I keep up with my health and fitness, it will affect the lives of my future children in a positive way.
In this same episode of Muscle For Life, Mike Matthews mentioned the Self Authoring program (selfauthoring.com), which is a program where you write about your past, present, and future to find your good qualities and set your goals that was created by 3 researchers and psychologists, including Jordan Pederson. Pederson is a very popular name nowadays when people talk about self-improvement and has been featured on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast multiple times. This program is proven to improve performance, improve relationships, and help you identify your life goals. I highly advise at least doing Warren Buffet's method, and if you do both, do Buffet's first - it makes the Self Authoring program go smoothly when you have your goals in mind. I am currently only about 60-70% done with this program so maybe I will do another post on this in the future if/when I have further insights on this.
To end this, I will repeat the most important part. EVERYTHING YOU DO, think about how it gets you closer to 1 of your top 5 goals. There is nothing to blame but yourself for not reaching your goals - not genetics, not being "too old" or "too busy"... anything is attainable if you put the work in so figure out where you want to be, what it will take to get there, and do it.
I'm currently reading Michael Matthews' book, Bigger Leaner Stronger which gives great insight on muscle building and gives a program for the nutrition and exercise plan that he recommends. I've learned a lot from this book; his main point is that building muscle really is not as complicated as people make it out to be if you know what you are doing and this book really gives you a great foundation on how to build muscle fast and also do it the right way. Some things I have a tough time with like the high-carb, low-fat approach that he has. I currently eat around 3,500 calories/day, with more even spread of fats, carbohydrates, and protein (averaging probably 150g of each every day). This is also a heavier calorie count than what he prescribes but from Counting my Macros, I believe this is the amount I need (at least) to build muscle. It also doesn't help that I take near 15,000 steps/day at work, which is said to be counterproductive for muscle building.
The biggest thing I have integrated from Mike Matthews' is his workout - and that will only increase. He introduced me to a workout where you focus on the 4-6 rep range for most exercises, especially the "Big 3" (Barbell Bench Press, Barbell Squat, and Barbell Deadlift) and getting at least 9 sets in per workout.
I have been sticking to alternating Upper Body/Lower Body each day, aiming for 5 workouts a week, but my workouts have gone from 4-5 sets per workout to 10-11 sets as of right now. I stop doing sets once my reps go down by around half of what I started at. If I start with 5-6 reps; I'll do as many sets that I can until I can only do 3 reps per set until I feel too weak to reach that the next set. That may sound confusing but I will share with you what my workout was today...
7/21 Upper Body Workout
Barbell Bench Press (140lb):
Reps per set: 4-4-4-3-3-3-4-3-3-3
Dumbbell Inclined Press (35lb Dumbbells):
Dumbbell Curls (45lb Dumbbell):
Total Sets: 4 workouts * 10ea = 40
Rest Between Sets: 2mins
I stopped after 10 sets because I felt maxed out for the Barbell Bench Press, Dips, and Dumbbell Curls. In other words, I felt I would be doing less than 3 reps for the Bench Press and Curls and less than 10 reps for the Dips.
Here is a description of the Double Progression Model that Mike's Bigger Leaner Stronger Program uses:
"In double progression, you work with a given weight in a given rep range, and once you hit the top of that rep range for a certain number of hard sets (one, two, or three, usually), you increase the weight.
Then, if you can at least come within a rep or two of the bottom of your rep range with your first hard set with the new, heavier weight, you work with that weight until you can hit the top of your rep range again." - p. 234 of Bigger Leaner Stronger
Following this system, since I was able to reach 6 reps for my Barbell Bench Press during my last Upper Body Workout, I added 10lb to the bar for this workout (going from 130lb to 140lb) and I will continue to use this weight-until I hit 6 reps again I'll add another 10lb. According to his program, I actually should have immediately switched to 140, rather than waiting until the next workout.
I'm really liking this new program so far (even though I'm really just starting); but it has gotten me to push harder, work with heavier weights, and track my progression which are all very important keys to building muscle.
Update - 7/27
There are a couple things that were misinterpreted or I had yet to figure out with this program when I originally posted this.
Today was my official first day with his program now that I am basically done with his book, Bigger Leaner Stronger (and got through the section that spells out the actual program). Once I get further into it, I will share my progress and more of what the program entails.
This changes things up quite a bit for me. I'll be doing less volume than what I am used to but I obviously am going to trust him because he has helped hundreds of thousands of beginners build muscle. After about 6 weeks on the program, I plan to do a deload/recovery week, and I'll evaluate then if I want to up the volume a bit.
I try my best to do my food prep on Sundays to save myself time in the mornings since I leave for work by 6am and I also get my workout in before I leave as well. Every week, a lot of things are typical. Here’s info on my typical breakfast/lunch.
I can’t wait to devour this week’s lunch I just prepped and I wanted to share it because it was simple to make and tacos are delicious. Who doesn’t love tacos. Just look at it..
2lb Grass-Fed Ground Beef (85% lean, 15% fat)
1 Red Onion
3 Jalapeño Peppers
8 servings Taco Seasoning (need two packets)
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1.25 cups White Basmati Rice
2 tbsp Butter
3 cups Black Beans (1 large can)
10 cups Spinach
1.25 cups Shredded Mexican Cheese
10 Soft Tortillas (6-inch)
1 Jar of Hot Salsa
This honestly took me about 1 hour but if done correctly, you can finish this in 30-45mins. Steps 1-3 can all be done simultaneously and that would be about 20 mins and Steps 4-9 are pretty simple and should be another 15-20mins.
I realize this this is a lot of food. I normally do not eat much of a breakfast so almost all of my calories are split between lunch, dinner, and the Nut Mix. Also, I strive for a heavy calorie count because I believe my metabolism calls for around 3,500 calories/day for muscle gain. You should be able to customize with different portions or just take the idea and figure out what meat, veggies, seasonings, etc. you like best. This was also fairly inexpensive to make, considering the amount of food! I believe it was around $20-30 for all 5 meals but it is tough to say exactly because of the amount of servings I used and some things were already in my fridge/cupboard.
I also prep the Nut Mix to make things easy on myself...
Sleep seems to be a reoccurring theme that almost all of the modern health experts I've researched make sure to cover in their books. Science has shown how sleep has a strong influence in both your mind and body's daily functions. In my Recommended Books' tab, you can find a great book on this topic - Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson. Sleep, food, and exercise are enormous factors on your hormones, which in turn dramatically affect your health.
"You likely need to prioritize sleep more than our overachieving, productivity-obsessed culture would have you believe." - Ben Greenfield's Beyond Training p. 224
"Research shows that even a single night of poor sleep can interfere with your performance in the gym, and two nights is enough to ruin it. Multiple studies have also clearly demonstrated that athletes who get enough sleep perform the best." - Michael Matthews' Bigger Leaner Stronger p. 108
For the past month or so, I have been recording my sleep cycles as much as possible with my Apple Watch. Below is a slideshow showing the data from the app I use, Pillow. I'll take a look at 10 days that were least interrupted and seemed to follow a typical pattern.
One important thing to note is how the Apple Watch creates this data - by taking your heart rate throughout the night. My typical heart range during sleep, according to the watch, ranges from 45-90bpm. Low heart rates are categorized as "Deep Sleep", higher heart rates are categorized as "Light Sleep" and "REM" is usually in between, and I'm assuming the watch assumes I am in REM based on the amount of time I have been asleep and when my heart rate is in a particular range.
Here is a part of Shawn Stevenson's book Sleep Smarter that describes your sleep cycles and gives tips on how to use this information to your advantage:
Here are some the takeaways I got from looking at this data:
Shawn's Sleep Hack
Something that I did not know before reading this book is what Shawn describes on the pages I posted above - the fact that you can feel groggy when you wake up, even if it is after a long period of sleep based on what cycle you wake up in. Waking up when you are at a low heart rate/deep sleep will make you feel like crap, while waking up during a closer to normal heart rate/light sleep is prime time.
I have used this hack before of setting my alarm clock for 6 hours on the dot and this really worked for me! I tested it multiple times and felt great waking up. I know not every sleep cycle is the same, they range from 60-90 minutes, but this is definitely one hack I like to use. Because sleep cycles are inconsistent, a better idea is using an app that wakes you up in your lightest sleep state during the wake up time-frame you establish. I have not tried this and am not sure if I will because I don't plan on sleeping with my watch on every night.
Conclusion/Other Sleep Tips and Tools
To be honest, I don't feel like I got too much valuable information from looking at this app besides that I like seeing how much deep sleep I get each night. But overall, the information is not consistent enough for me to get much else. I was hoping to establish cycles so I would know specific times I am in light sleep, REM, and deep sleep but this information will not help me gauge that.
From what I have heard, the Apple Watch is not very accurate when it comes to detecting heart rate but it is the only tool I have. Tech experts usually suggest either a chest strap like Polar's heart rate monitor or a Garmin watch.
The only thing that usually keeps me from falling asleep within minutes of hitting the pillow is heat. Something I've been doing recently is a cold bath that lasts for about 15 minutes, about 30 minutes before I head to bed. Body temperature is a huge factor related to sleep and heart rate. I have heard of several other benefits of cold thermogenesis but this is the most noticeable one for me so far - even if my room is warm, my body is nice and cool and I can get to sleep fast.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.