Good General Exercises
For today's post, I decided to do something different and create a graphic. The purpose of this graphic is to show the exercises that are good for anyone looking to be proficient with a barbell, dumbbell, and/or kettlebell. In my opinion, this is a great starting point for someone who is just starting to work with a certain type of equipment, and ideally, I think it is important to be comfortable using all three. One thing that is not included in this graphic is bodyweight exercises - those are just as important to be comfortable with. If you know how to perform all of these exercises, I think you'll find that your workouts have enough variety that you'll be excited to enter the gym and you should exit feeling exhausted from a great workout if you have a good mixture of compound lifts (squat, deadlift, or press for example) and isolation lifts (curl, row, or lateral side raise for example).
Here are some quality resources you can use to find out how to perform these lifts correctly:
Scott Herman Fitness - YouTube Channel
Mind Pump TV - YouTube Channel
Becoming a Supple Leopard by Dr. Kelly Starrett
Bigger Leaner Stronger by Mike Matthews
StrongerbyScience.com - Greg Nuckols' Definitive Guide for the Squat, Deadlift, and Bench Press
There are several other great resources, these are just a few that I like to reference.
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Help Me Title My Book
Book release planned for January 2021!!!
I just finished writing a book and just have to make the finishing touches (final edits, book cover design, formatting, etc.) and could use your help! The book will be a series of biographies on experts in the field of health and fitness, from strength & conditioning to nutrition to physical therapy. All of the experts, their backgrounds, and the research I've done can be seen on my About Twelve Paths Page. These biographies don't just go over their backgrounds and how they built their platform as experts in the field but also shares all of the tips that I found helpful after reading their books and articles as well as listening to hundreds of hours of podcast interviews done by each of them.
Let me know your thoughts for a book title you see most fit - that you would see in a book store and think it is worth reading. Please give me your honest opinion. Even if you select "None of the Above" I sincerely appreciate your input. If you like one but it could use some work, please let me know that in the comment box at the bottom!
While I am going through these final phases of the publishing process, I will likely have a post like this pinned to the top of my blog so I can get as much help from you guys as possible.
Note: To clarify, my plan is to have twelve experts total, hence the name "Twelve Paths." This book will only have six or seven experts so it will be Volume 1 of 2 since it took roughly 2 years and I don't want the information getting any more dated before publication.
Common Cues for Your Main Lifts
From researching experts in strength and conditioning, it is interesting that they seem to have very similar go-to cues for the main lifts (the barbell bench press, squat, and deadlift), even though they have very different coaching styles. Some experts put a lot of care into perfecting form and others put more consideration into getting as high of numbers as possible. This is extremely controversial in the health and fitness community because there’s no direct evidence spelling out the “safest” forms and some argue that you can be more apt to get injured if you’re constantly worried about getting hurt and always concerned about perfect form.
Featured in this post are Kelly Starrett (physical therapist, coach at his gym (San Francisco Crossfit), and virtual coach through TheReadyState.com), Mike Matthews (author and virtual coach through LegionAthletics.com), and Greg Nuckols (researcher and coach through StrongerByScience.com). All of these individuals have coached thousands of individuals so I trust that these cues will be helpful for you to know.
Barbell Bench Press
“Once you’ve got your grip set, squeeze the ever loving shit out of the bar.” This is a quote from Greg Nuckols’, “How to Bench Press: The Definitive Guide” and he also mentioned it in his interview on the E3 Rehab Podcast. Mike Matthews suggests doing this in his books, Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger as well. It is not clear on why this works, whether it is activating certain muscles more or whatnot, but - they aren't just confident - they know that it does in fact work.
Barbell Back Squat
“Screw your feet into the floor.” Here is another quote from Greg Nuckols, from his article called, “How to Squat: The Definitive Guide”, which he advises using as you are dropping down in the squat. Make sure to screw your feet away from your body, not towards. This is also taught by Kelly Starrett in his wildly popular book, Becoming a Supple Leopard (p. 64-65). This cue works to help stabilize and create tension in your hips. It also prevents your knees from falling inward (or ‘valgus knees’) as you squat.
Greg Nuckols states to focus on “ripping the floor in half,” at least until the bar is above your knees in his article "How to Deadlift: the Definitive Guide." This is a similar cue to the squat but an important one. Kelly Starrett also emphasizes this in Becoming a Supple Leopard, stating, “screw your feet into the ground and hands into the bar [away from your body] (p. 198-199).”
Another common cue worth mentioning that could be applied to all of these lifts is to tense up your core during your set up. These are emphasized by all three experts mentioned in this post.
I decided to post on this topic because it seems to be a popular question among the fitness community. I've seen it asked multiple times in Facebook Groups I am in and it is a common topic in books and podcasts as well. If you have worked with a personal trainer before, you likely know all of these cues already but if you are a beginner, these cues should help you as they did me. If you plan on starting to train with a barbell on your own, I highly advise educating yourself beforehand or getting yourself a personal trainer until you are comfortable with each lift. All of the articles and books referenced in this post are great resources for this purpose. If you would like a suggestion on which resource is best for you, you can either comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be happy to make a suggestion based on your experience and your goals.
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Media Review: Eric Thomas's Success Series - School Vs. The Real World by Sabrina Lloyd
Media (Books, Podcasts, etc.)
If you start wondering, "wait this is health/fitness blog, why are we learning about motivation," know that you're wrong. This is a blog to assist you on your self-improvement journey. A large focus on what I currently research is health and fitness related but this presentation made such a large impact on me that I felt it was important to share with you.
If you need a kickstart to get inspired or if you just want to get some golden nuggets on how to be successful, you need to check out this presentation given by Sabrina Lloyd, CEO of Lloyd Agencies and hosted by Eric Thomas. Eric Thomas is a motivational speaker who has an incredible amount of inspirational content and I think this presentation left the biggest mark on me out of all of it.
Sabrina brings the same energy as ET and provides extremely powerful tips on what to do to be successful. I first heard this when I was pretty close to graduating college and the audience she is presenting to is college students at Michigan State University. That being said, this information is helpful for anyone who feels they are willing to put in the work to be successful but have yet to make the right moves.
Ever since I listened to this 2-3 years ago, I remember quotes from this presentation and, at times, they push me to continue working hard. In case you don’t want to listen to the hour-long presentation, here is a breakdown of the material…
Before Sabrina comes out, ET is preparing them for her. Something powerful that he says is, “degrees don’t necessarily make you successful. Its knowledge and skills and the application of those skills.” This is a great point – in order to do well outside of college and to stay employed, you need to prove that you’re worth the company’s investment of time and money. A common quote from ET is reiterated in this portion of the track as well - stating, “speed kills,” and suggesting that being 15 minutes early really means you are on time.
To begin, Sabrina states, “anything that you want it is absolutely possible if you follow the blue print to get there,” and that she is about to share that blueprint with you. By successful, she means that:
1. You control money. You don’t let money control you/your decisions.
2. You are able to buy nice things, morally and ethically. When you see a red Ferrari pull up next to you, you shouldn’t assume that person was handed it or that they are greedy or that they are a drug dealer. That individual likely worked hard for what they have and you should want to learn from those people.
Then, she goes on to share a ton of solid tips, including:
1. Quit getting offended when someone says something to you. “When you get offended… you will get smacked around the rest of your life.” Instead, get inspired.
2. We are not all equal. The only time we are all equal is in the beginning. “We unequalize ourselves every day by the decisions that we make. If I make harder decisions than you, if I make tougher decisions than you, how can you say that I am equal to you... We are not the same anymore!” Start looking at how you can step up your game.
3. Pay back your school/country by wearing it on your back. People are what brings value to a country. Make yourself a resource.
4. “Everyone wants to be successful until they see what it actually takes.” You may have to put your relationships on hold, even family members, if you want to be successful.
5. Not until everything is stripped away do you know what you really want. For example:
6. Wealth is a state of mind. Get in different environments to get out of the “lack”/poverty mindset and into the wealth mindset. You attract money by being mentally wealthy.
7. “Always do more than you are currently paid to do. That’s how to make an investment in your future.” Work to make impact and raise the standard.
8. Be a warrior. Warriors have options, they create favorable conditions, and they exist to service others. Work hard and never surrender.
I understand that this is a ton of information thrown in a short post so I encourage you to listen to the track so that a stronger impression is made on you. At the end of the day, ambition comes from you but I can tell you that Sabrina’s words have really pushed me to do the best job I can to make an impact in and out of the workplace.
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Where Do I Start?
Food/Nutrition, Motivation, Workout/Exercise
I see this question all the time and it’s really the main purposes of this blog site: to help you find resources for nutrition and fitness, whether you are a beginner or looking to learn more on top of what you already know. If you’ve asked this question that means you’ve already started. Something sparked the thought that you want to find a plan that works for you - for nutrition, exercise, or both. Maybe this was a motivational speaker you heard or your weight hit a number that you never want to see again or you had your first kid and realize you want to be around for as long as possible. No matter the reason, you need to find the resources to get you headed in the right direction.
I suggest taking the following 4 steps...
1. Figure Out Your Goals
First off, what are you trying to achieve? Nutrition and fitness are far too complex to try and understand everything at once. Are you trying to build muscle? Do you want to work on your form during certain lifts? Find new exercises?
Are you trying to lose weight? This is a bit more complicated because of how many diets there are out there. My advice is to research which diet sounds most practical for you. Personally, I find Paleo to be a great introduction to avoiding sugary and starchy junk foods. By simply avoiding processed foods, you’ll find that your daily carbohydrate and sugar count will go down and it will be easier not to overeat. If diet isn’t your issue, find an exercise plan that sounds most practical depending on what you enjoy doing and what you realistically have time for.
If you aren’t sure and would like to do a further assessment to figure out your goals, check out a popular post of mine - Setting Goals (Warren Buffet, Jordan Pederson).
2. Find an Expert
If you look at my Recommended Books Page or my About Page, you will find a number of experts with all different backgrounds and areas of expertise. Whether you want to build muscle, lose weight, or work on improving specific aspects of your current programming, there should be someone you can respect and would like to learn more from more. Check out their website, books they've written, interviews they've done, etc. to find out if you want to learn more of what they have to say.
Personally, the only form of media I trust for full nutrition or fitness plans are books. Most programs are simply too complex to explain in an article and you want to make sure it is a plan that you trust will work, especially if you are a beginner. Also, don’t just pick up one book. I find that self-help, fitness, nutrition, and cookbooks all go together. At a minimum, pick up or download 2-3 books from a mixture of those categories. For example, if you want to work on your diet, pick up 1 book from the expert you chose to learn from and then pick up 1 or 2 cookbooks related to the diet you would like to try. Many nutrition books introduce their own meal plans and provide recipes but I can tell you that cookbooks will give you a much better idea of all the options and should make you realize the diet won’t be too difficult to follow.
Take this step seriously. Keep a highlighter with you and really get to know the diet/training program they’re prescribing. When looking at cookbooks, cut out or mark the pages of recipes you want to try.
In the end, it is all on you. You can read all the self-help, fitness, and diet books you want, but if you don’t act on it, nothing will change and you will just waste your time and money. All while researching and reading, you should be doing something to get started. Pick up dumbbells or a kettlebell, or find a gym or a club that you like, or make an effort to limit sugars/carbohydrates. Find what you like best – you make tweaks to their program or combine aspects of different programs. Whatever you enjoy doing and can see yourself doing consistently for a long time is the program for you.
I hope this helps you. This is the method that I took once I had the motivation to get started. I had been working out consistently but wasn’t seeing any improvements so I decided to take it seriously and attempted to improve my nutrition and find a workout plan that works for me – and I did. There are experts out there who want nothing more than to assist you in reaching your goals who have huge followings raving about how well their programs work.
If you want advice on which expert to follow, comment below with what you are looking to accomplish and I’ll do my best to help. You can also email me at email@example.com.
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3 Things That Keep Me Motivated
Aside from this blog, there are many things I am doing behind the scenes related to the goals that I’ve put in place. Whenever I am not at my job, I am usually researching or writing. Health, fitness, and motivation are all topics I find extremely interesting and I find value in learning and sharing what I find. Over the past 3-4 years, I’ve been invested in educational podcasts and books on these topics and just can’t get enough.
If you’re wondering what keeps me motivated, I would say it boils down to three things:
1. Inspiring People
There is a reason there are so many people like Joe Rogan, Tim Ferriss, and Tony Robbins that have such a huge following. Not only do these people have inspiring backgrounds themselves, but they’ve also inspired thousands (if not millions) to start their own businesses or passion projects.
Twelve Paths revolves around researching experts, which opens my eyes to just how many people like this there are out there. Health and fitness experts like those that I have researched have worked extremely hard for the past 10+ years to get where they are and now many of them have 6 or even 8-figure companies. The fact that their inspiration comes from helping people and the amount of knowledge that they share keeps me wanting to learn more and to research more experts.
2. Learning New Things
When I was in elementary and middle school, I loved reading. Through high school and college, I dropped this hobby, likely because all of my time was focused on either school or my friends. Although, the amount of work I had in college reinforced my love for learning and I feel like I proved to myself that hard work does pay off. Towards the end of college, I got turned to motivational people like Eric Thomas and Jocko Willink. Both of these icons share an incredible amount of knowledge that revolves around working hard to achieve your goals. Then, Jocko turned me to a world I never researched deeply before but always found interesting, health and fitness, referencing experts featured on the Joe Rogan podcast like Peter Attia.
From there, I found a topic I could dig my heels into and I’ve rediscovered my love for reading. I mainly focus on health and fitness but I also educate myself on business, motivation, and writing so that I can develop new skills and achieve my goals. I also learn through podcasts and articles – the amount of resources you can find on any topic nowadays is endless. If you searched, you can find experts you enjoy learning from about topics that interest you in whatever form of media you prefer – my forms are books and podcasts but if you prefer documentaries and audiobooks, then all you have to do is search the topic that interests you and go from there.
3. Constantly Improving and Achieving Goals
I’ve learned that time spent watching TV and playing video games is mostly wasted. There are definitely times that we all need to just get away and de-stress. I love spending time with family, spending time outdoors, and playing video games but I also feel like I need to work hard while I’m young and I can say I feel like I’m making good use of my time overall. By setting goals and working towards them, I feel like every year for the past 4 years has been better than the last when it comes to feeling accomplished.
The health and fitness experts that I follow often share valuable information on creating new habits, setting goals, and other motivational tips but I also look to people like James Clear, Michael Hyatt, Eric Thomas, and Jocko WIllink for that information as well.
If you are inspired simply by reading this post, I highly suggest you do the following… Start. Find a topic that interests you and do your research. Find books, podcasts, documentaries, or whichever media you enjoy most and start digging in. You’ll come to find out there is an endless spiral. There will be experts you do not care for and experts that you respect and enjoy listening to. It could be music, art, business, writing, history… Whatever you enjoy or want to improve your knowledge in. You can tell yourself, “I don’t have the time for that,” but most media you can listen to while you are driving. I bet you will start to enjoy it and rather than spending time watching your favorite show or playing your favorite game, you’ll choose to educate yourself through reading or watching a documentary.
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What's in Your Pre-Workout?
I've used pre-workout supplements for a long time and regularly before each workout (4-5x per week) for the past year. The first pre-workouts that I tried were rather intense. When you take certain pre-workouts, you experience an itchy/bug-crawly feeling as you start to feel a big burst of energy. My gut feeling after taking these a handful of times was that these supplements can't be good for you to regularly take. After I started researching health/fitness experts, I learned that they may not be as harmful as I thought and that their main components are ingredients like caffeine, which is well-researched and generally known not to be harmful.
Just last week, I worked out at a gym that served me pre-workout - it was a brand that I never tried before and I was pleasantly surprised with it. The trainer also told me that this was a "healthier" option that would not give me the odd itchy feeling and still give me great energy throughout my workout. This got me intrigued to do a deep dive into different products and their ingredients. The 4 products shown in the picture above are the ingredients lists that I looked at and I evaluated their ingredients by using Examine.com, which is a well-known source for credible "science-based nutrition & supplement information."
The common ingredients each of these products had were:
By "common" I mean at least 2/4 of these products contained each of these ingredients. The first 3 were in all 4 products and creatine was in 2, but is typical when looking at other brands. Let's take a look at each of these ingredients...
Caffeine is wildly popular and known for its attributes as a stimulant and nootropic, allowing you to stay awake and alert. This is definitely the main component of a pre-workout, ranging from 150-350mg/serving. I will not go deep into the caffeine research, what health experts have to say, and the controversy of if it is detrimental to your health - I went over this in a previous post so if you'd like to learn more on that, you can check out that out here: All About the Caffeine.
Cellucor's C4 - 150 mg/serving
Beyond Raw's Lit - 250 mg/serving
Redcon1's Total War - 250 mg/serving
Legion's Pulse - 350 mg/serving
To put it into perspective, an average cup (8oz) of coffee has about 100mg of caffeine.
Beta-alanine appears to have a wide variety of benefits including:
Cellucor's C4 - 1.6 g/serving
Beyond Raw's Lit - 3.2 mg/serving
Redcon1's Total War - 3.2 mg/serving
Legion's Pulse - 3.6 mg/serving
L-Citrulline is an amino acid that turns into Arganine, and therefore is said to be more effective than Arganine. Some of these products contain L-Citrulline and some contain Arganine. Either way, these ingredients have very limited evidence for their believed benefits of increasing blood flow and reducing fatigue.
Cellucor's C4 - 1g Arganine/serving
Beyond Raw's Lit - 3g L-Citrulline, 1.5g Arganine/serving
Redcon1's Total War - 6g (L-Citrulline Mixture)/serving
Legion's Pulse - 8g (L-Citrulline Mixture)/serving
Creatine is another popular supplement that is well-researched and proven to have muscle-building benefits with no harmful effects except possible GI discomfort. If you do have GI discomfort, I suggest trying a different brand/type.
Some experts say that creatine is actually more beneficial to take after the workout, which goes against the first bullet. Either way, most people get their creatine from a separate supplement and have specific doses so I would not say it is essential to have in a pre-workout supplement.
Cellucor's C4 - 1g/serving
Beyond Raw's Lit - 1.5g/serving
Redcon1's Total War - 0g/serving
Legion's Pulse - 0g/serving
Overall, nothing in the ingredients lists for these products showed any sort of red flag when I researched them at Examine.com. They are also all very flavorful but extremely low in calories, carbohydrates, and sugars. I researched the full list of ingredients for all of these products.
Here is a look at the products overall...
To match the other products' creatine and beta-alanine, you may want two servings to get similar effects. Experiment with 1 serving first and if it doesn't feel like enough, don't worry about taking another half or full scoop.
The only ingredients outside of what was already talked about is mainly essential vitamins, specifically B and C. These vitamins are good for your general health. They also may improve your cardiovascular health, blood flow, and brain function but there isn't a whole lot of research backing those claims. N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine has some scary symptoms but only in doses that are at least 30x greater than what is in a serving of C4. This ingredient has been shown to reduce stress from acute stressors.
This costs $1/serving on Amazon.com and can be found at just about any place that sells pre-workouts including Walmart, GNC, and popular gyms.
Beyond Raw's Lit
Redcon1's Total War
This costs $1/serving on Amazon.com and is sold at most places that have pre-workout supplements including GNC and popular gyms.
It is pretty incredible how much variety you get with pre-workouts. Face-value, you would think all these brands are the same except for the flavors. Personally, I do not feel much of a difference when taking these products - they all do the job, getting me pumped up for my workout and keeping me energized as I get through it without crashing. I'm glad I took this deep dive, really got to know the ingredients, and saw that there were really no red flags in any of these products revealing them as harmful. I feel as long as I monitor my caffeine and limit myself to 1-2 coffees for the rest of the day after taking my pre-workout, I am not doing any harm to my body and I feel fantastic after taking pre-workout. Many times, I workout very early in the morning, around 5:00AM so I need that extra boost.
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I, personally, have no interest in using steroids to build muscle/strength but I do find the conversation interesting. Media has set such a negative eye on steroid use that any association with professional athletes and steroids completely ruins their public image. People immediately forget the amount of work that it took to get to where they are and that genetics play a significant role. Obviously, some people do abuse steroids, like with any drug, but media has made us forget what steroids really do, why people take them, and that athletes can use them responsibly.
I highly suggest watching the video above with Joe Rogan & Ronnie Coleman (professional bodybuilder, 8-time Mr. Olympia Champion) to learn a bit about what steroids do and why the decision to take steroids can be a respectable one.
Greg Nuckols' View & Research on Steroids
Greg is a record-breaking raw (meaning no "special equipment," which includes being drug-free) powerlifter who is pretty darn close to a 2000lb combined total in the big three (squat, deadlift, and bench press). That being said, he shows a lot of respect to those who take steroids, shares a lot of information on steroids in his books and on his website, StrongerByScience.com, and even talks (half-jokingly) about possibly taking steroids in the future just for the sake of getting even bigger and stronger.
To share some of Greg's insight on steroids, here is a summary of what I learned from reading one of his articles, How Much More Muscle Can You Build With Steroids. This article looks at multiple scientific articles comparing non-users and users, which include competitive athletes with at least 6-7 years of lifting experience. What is obvious is that the users did indeed have an advantage, averaging about 35lb more of lean muscle mass and a significantly larger fat-free mass index (which factors in lean muscle mass and height) on average as well. "Over the course of a training career, it seems like steroids allow you to build about twice as much muscle as you'd be able to drug-free."
Another thing he makes clear is that steroid effects taper off. Just as gains are highest at the start of your lifting career and they decrease over time as a natural weightlifter, they also do when taking steroids if your dose remains the same. As you increase the dose, gains increase as well.
One interesting point that Greg makes is how steroids were likely being used by lifters in the 1950's and 60's but drug testing did not occur until 1968, so if drugs were a key component to muscle/strength gains, we would not expect to see records continuously being broken so quickly after.
As beneficial as steroids are in building muscle, we shouldn't forget what role genetics have to play and that they can be taken responsibly. Also, most bodybuilders/powerlifters simply love the competition and are not receiving much money for winning competitions. It is important to know there is a line to draw when it comes to steroids: who is abusing them or encouraging others to abuse them and who is simply taking them for the reason we are interested in sports, the competition. Let's respect regulations but also respect these athletes' decisions knowing the fact that they can be smart about it with continuous supervision by their doctors.
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There are 3 steps I use when I'm preparing to workout and you may be surprised to know that not one of them is stretching. From the experts I have studied that are prominent and well-respected in the weightlifting space, including Ben Greenfield, Mike Matthews, Greg Nuckols and more, static stretching does not seem to be beneficial to have in your warm up routine. You may argue that it is better than nothing, and maybe that is true, but there seem to be better ways to prepare for a workout. By no means are all 3 of these steps necessary but, for me personally, I find they help. I will go in consecutive order of what I do when I am preparing for a workout. Let's go through it...
Step 1: Use Pre-workout
If you are skeptical on if caffeine is good to supplement with for a workout or are just interested in the details, I suggest you check out a previous post - All About the Caffeine. Essentially, most of the experts I've researched suggest that caffeine benefits your workout and to not worry about getting too much caffeine unless you are consuming more than 400mg per day. It is also a good idea to take a break from caffeine now and then if you supplement with it often and to refrain from using it later on in the day so that it does not interrupt your sleep.
Bottom line, I find pre-workout helps me a ton and gives me the burst of energy I need to execute a workout, even if I'm working out at 4:00AM before work. Whether you are running or lifting, caffeine appears to be beneficial for performance and will give you the wake-me-up when you need it.
Step 2: Plan & Write Down Your Workout
The main reason logging your workout is so critical is so you can track your progress. It obviously helps you when you are working out so that your time between sets is consistent and you accomplish the amount of work you planned on going into the workout. Both Mike Matthews and Greg Nuckols strongly recommend doing this and, as coaches, say it increases results and adherence to a program.
Setting up your logbook for should only take a few minutes. Below, I will share an example of what my logbook looks like when I am preparing for a workout (laying out the exercises I plan on doing, number of sets, and the weight I plan to start with for each). Personally, I find writing things down on paper to be better than using any app on my phone. I'm just partial to pen and paper rather than using my phone.
Step 3: Warm Up
Forget what you think of first when you hear the term "warm up." Rather than static stretching, consider warming up with movements closely related with the major movements you plan on using in your workout, if not the same movement. The warm up I currently use is directly taken by Mike Matthews' Bigger Leaner Stronger. When my major lift for the day is a bench press, I also warm up with the bench press, just with lower weights. Mike suggests doing 3 warm up sets: 2 sets of 10 reps at 50% the weight you plan on lifting and 1 set of 3-4 reps at 70% the weight you plan on lifting.Keep in mind that the "weight you plan on lifting" is in the 4-6 rep range with 1-2 reps left in the tank, per BLS. In the image below, you can see a clear example of this.
Greg Nuckols, world record-breaking powerlifter and weightlifting coach, suggests using a similar method of slowly working your way up to the %one-rep-max you plan on lifting that day for major lifts. Ben Greenfield, Mike Matthews, and Greg Nuckols do not suggest static stretching when it comes to a warm up and have even written about a number of scientific articles that have tested if stretching helps performance or injury prevention and have reflected that stretching is either negative or neither helpful or hurtful for both categories when done before a workout. The same experts, with Kelly Starrett included as well, suggest that stretching after a workout or before going to bed can be beneficial for doing your own physical therapy and/or improving your movement capabilities. So, if you plan to stretch, it may be better to save it for later.
In the end, whatever keeps you going to the gym and executing the work is what matters. Step 2, I believe is the most crucial step, but all 3 of these steps help me personally, and maybe they can help you too. None of these things are taught in gym class, possibly because weight training is not focused on much at all. Most of this applies if you are a runner as well - I would still take pre-workout (maybe a little less, though), log the work I'm doing, and use movements like squats and butt-kicks rather than swinging my arms around before going for a run.
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Keep Calm and Strive On
In these crazy times, I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I've been a little stressed out. Between the fear of getting sick and being told to stay home while looting and rioting is happening all over the United States, it is tough to not be sucked into what is going on and stressed out by it. People have a right to be outraged but, personally, I feel the best thing I can do is focus on everything else I have going on. It's important to understand what is going on but there is no use in watching videos and reading articles that are solely generated for click-bait and to get your stress levels up.
I understand that this post is different than my other posts, but I feel it is important to share ways for you to de-stress and stay motivated to work on improving yourself. From studying successful entrepreneurs like those in the health and fitness space, a tool they seem to all have is to not get distracted and keep working hard on what they believe in. Almost all of them have gone through difficult times in their lives, where they had nearly nothing, and they just kept pushing towards their goals and still have not stopped.
Some great resources for staying motivated to reach your goals are:
The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation by Mike Matthews
The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday
and I will be referencing them throughout this post.
You Are What You Habitually Do
To quote Tyler Durden from the fantastic movie, Fight Club - "You are not your job. You are not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You're not the contents in your wallet." I believe people being forced to stay home has brought to light what is most important; I know it has for me. We should be showing the ones we love how much we care and spending time with them as much as possible. Life is meant to enjoy and be others, not to be stressed out and alone.
As Ryan Holiday says in The Daily Stoic, "The person you'd like to be, or the person you see yourself as - how closely do your actions actually correspond to him or her (p.147)?" Start thinking of goals you have in all areas of life and what habits you can start applying to get there.
Quit Complaining and Making Excuses
As Mike Matthews says in The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation, "There's probably very little we're actually incapable of; there's only our sense of urgency and willingness to act (p. 146)."
Most things are not as complex as people make them out to be. If your goal is to change your body composition, dieting and exercising work; it's just finding programs that you will adhere to. If your goal is to improve the relationships you have with your loved ones, pick up the phone and randomly call them more or go out of your way to visit them more. If your goal is start your own business, do your research, make a plan, and get the ball rolling.
Rather than getting sucked into social media or video games, use the time you have wisely and invest it in yourself. There is always room for improvement.
Rather than focusing on all the negativity, use that time to teach yourself something. If you want to educate yourself on topics related to what is going on today, study people like Martin Luther King or Frederick Douglass or study times of large protests or economic downfalls. If you want to focus on something else, find something your passionate in - pick up an old hobby or find a new one! Pick up a new instrument, start journaling, or find a topic you want to learn more about. We have more resources than ever at our fingertips - whether you prefer movies, articles, books, or podcasts you'll find something to peak your interest.
Make an Effort to Be Kind
It always helps to be kind to others, especially with everything going on nowadays. Make someone laugh or smile and let them forget about the stress in their lives for a minute. This is also something that successful people I have studied practice - selflessness. Make an effort to help out others when they ask or donate money to just causes if you can. Think of all the little things you take for granted and what little things you can do for those who do not have those things.
Many small business, those looted or shut down due to COVID-19 are hurting bad so, anything you can do to support local businesses is an especially kind gesture at this time. Keep your gym memberships even if you are not going and donate to these causes if you can. Also, reach out to friends who are stuck and living alone regularly.
I hope that this post sparks some ideas in how you can use this time wisely rather than stressing yourself out. We will persevere and get through this. In the meantime, work on yourself by setting goals or setting standards for yourself.
Another powerful quote from Ryan Holiday in The Daily Stoic is, "The work of living is to set standards and then not compromise them... Not, I want to do good - that's an excuse. But, I will do good in this particular instance, right now. Set a standard; hold fast to it. That's all there is (p. 302)." Something I plan on doing in the near future is establishing the standards I live by. I know a few off-hand but have never listed these as a practice. I hear a good resource for finding good life and business standards to live by is a book written in 2017, Principles by Ray Dalio.
To wrap up, I want to share my favorite quote from The Daily Stoic...
"Time is our most irreplaceable asset - we cannot buy more of it. We can only strive to waste as little as possible (p. 365)."
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Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.