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Within a year of losing weight, 80% of people put it back on. That is a crazy statistic.
All that hard work for nothing.
Yet most people go about losing weight completely the wrong way – treadmill, 10k runs, and hour upon hour of constant cardio with a punishing, restrictive diet.
This is a huge mistake for many reasons, but the one I’m going to focus on today is the fact that there is no strength training (aka lifting weights)
All the clients I’ve had who lost weight and kept it off started with a structured weight training programme which they have stuck to TO THIS DAY! (0:50 for the reference)
Let me say it here – lifting weights is VITAL to to losing fat and, most importantly, keeping it off!
You will not look great on the beach or in a t-shirt without some form of lifting, because like they say, ”a skinny guy with abs don’t count’!
There are a whole number of ways pumping iron helps to guard against fat loss, but improving your metabolism and increasing sensitivity to insulin are two of the major ones.
In short, lifting fine-tunes your body to become a walking fat burning machine.
When you see two people who’ve lost weight, you can usually tell the difference between those who merely do cardio and those who lift AND do cardio.
The latter usually look much healthier and stronger, and yes, don’t have to work as hard to maintain the fat loss.
They’re less liekly to have to adhere to punishing diets, meal replacement powders or pointless detoxes.
Lifting turns on specific genes and that change that person’s physiology – they are a different organism now.
So now that we’ve established that, let’s talk about lifting weights.
Some people love lifting. These guys are gym junkies, always in the gym, can’t wait for the next session.
These people usually see progress quickly (chicken and egg situation – did their love for lifting cause the quick progress, or did the quick progress make them love the gym?)
On the flip side, some people HATE lifting weights and find it extremely boring. These people tend to be cardio addicts, and love anything that makes them sweat and their muscles burn.
These people tend to not have an idea what they’re doing in the gym and usually see little to no progress.
Then you have the people in the middle who neither love nor hate weight training, and can fluctuate either way depending on their mood.
People in this camp usually prefer the thrill of playing and competing in dynamic sports over the somewhat static nature of the gym.
I’m firmly in the last camp. I am not in love with lifting for sure, but I know the very the very powerful benefits it has on mood, physique, and athleticism.
Without lifting, I’d shrink into Flat Stanley and have the physique of Paula Radcliffe. It also makes me much better at any sport I play.
So what do you do if weights are boring?
You definitely don’t want to axe them completely.
Here are some tips for you that I use with myself and my clients.
You absolutely need consistency when it comes to lifting, but at the same time, variety is important in keeping your muscles reacting to training and your enthusiasm high.
You can do this in a subtle way i.e. keeping your main lifts the same (deadlift, bench press, military press etc) and changing the supporting exercises, i.e. instead of split squats, do Zercher lunges (see below).
Or you could go even more extreme, changing the routine and split completely (again while keeping some consistency in terms of main lifts).
For example, if you usually do a body part split 5x a week, change to a full-body split 3x a week.
This is where I come in, so contact here if you want a bespoke online programme or if you are looking for a personal trainer in Acton.
Cut the amount of time you’re spending lifting to the bare minimum (2-3 times a week).
Try another sport completely for a while – i.e. sprinting, jiu jitsu, football, boxing (all stuff I do).
If my clients get bored, I cut their lifting time in half and do more bodyweight, boxing or cardio type work with them.
This will give you time to develop some new skills while still maintaining the benefits of lifting weight.
Again – you don’t want to drop weights completely. Strength is quite easy to maintain, so 2-3 times a week will usually stop you losing too much strength and muscle.
You’ll be surprised how adding in some new athletic exercises can rejuvenate your workout.
Including some medicine ball throws, sprints, farmers carries, and light plyometric exercises into your routine can get you out of the ‘3 sets of 10’ rut.
Plus it’ll make you a better athlete and challenge your brain.
Having someone with you can make the world of difference.
The right person can help you enjoy something that can be a downright slog otherwise (just make sure you’re not working out with an annoying wanker!).
Someone to help load equipment, change plates, and spot you will make your lifting session shorter and safer too.
Plus it’s another opportunity to socialise (something that will lift your mood in and of itself).
Sometimes, just training somewhere different is enough to make you want to lift again.
If you’re working out in a different gym with cool equipment, decent people, and great music, you may just want to try out some new weights or machines that day.
This is a game changer.
Hope that helps!
Until next time
Nothing makes sense in fitness.
Everybody you speak to will tell you something different.
One ‘guru’ promotes one method, while another ‘guru’ is in diametric opposition to it.
We hear 100 different messages every single day, leading to nothing but confusion.
The truth is…. most things in fitness ‘work’.
Low reps work.
High reps work.
Bodyweight exercises work.
Dumbbell exercises work.
Full body splits work.
Body part splits work.
Back squats work.
Goblet squats work.
Low carb works.
Low fat works.
Slow cardio works.
High intensity cardio works.
Here’s the thing, depending on the context, all of it works.
Stop chasing the golden rabbit.
Everybody suffers from information overload.Get advice from ONE person you trust and commit to ONE strategy.
Do it consistently for a minimum of 3 months, preferably 6 months.
If it works, great.
If it doesn’t, at least you learned that it’s not right for you.
But here’s the thing – methods can differ, but principles always remain.
There are some immutable laws of training that will never change.
Following these laws will result in losing fat and building a body that you’re proud of.
The immutable laws of training:
Follow these rules and regardless of your training, you will never go wrong!
I write online training programmes for men who are looking to lose fat and tone up. If you’re interested, click here –> Online training application
I recently ran a poll on Instagram asking people for the top 3 reasons they train. I got some interesting answers and decided to turn in to this blog post.. here we go!
Famous psychotherapist Sigmund Freud believed that most of the things we do are ultimately motivated by sex.
According to Freud, the desire to look attractive, make money, be successful, attain status – we desire these things because we want to attract a mate and reproduce. I have to agree with him… this is one of the main reasons we train!
I once asked a new client why he wanted to start training with me. He told me that due to his weight gain, he hadn’t been with a woman for 2-3 years. No girlfriend, nothing.
To this man, his weight ruined his confidence so much he didn’t even try to get to know a woman, let alone get intimate with one. He completely stopped taking care of his appearance.
This is an extreme case, but it is very common in men, just in more subtle ways. Some guys are afraid to take their shirts off around the opposite sex because of ‘man-boobs’. Some guys stay fully dressed on the beach because they are embarrassed of their physique.
For the most part, these issues are SOLVABLE. If something can be done about it, something should be done about it.
The above situations also hold true for women. I’ve had female clients whose motivation to train was because they wanted to find a partner.
Looks are definitely not everything, but you need to look like you care about yourself. This will make everything that much easier. You don’t have to be a ripped model or hench athlete. Just be in shape. Have a little muscle definition. Have good posture. Fit well in your clothes. Don’t have a gut spilling out of your t-shirt.
Women judge men they don’t know firstly by their appearance. They will disqualify you if you don’t meet some sort of acceptable standard. So why let yourself get DQ’d before they even get to see your personality? The same is true in the reverse situation too.
I don’t care if anyone thinks this is shallow, sexist or whatever the nonsense PC term being bandied around these days is.. you can’t argue with human nature.
The biggest mistake I see men make is to only train their upper body and eat like a pig in an effort to ‘bulk’. They just end up fat with a belly instead. Having a belly is a sign of poor health and is not attractive to the opposite sex.
My advice for men is to at least make sure you don’t have a gut. Train more than just your chest. Train your upper back, glutes, hamstrings and posterior chain just as much as you train your chest, abs, and quads. Otherwise you will look imbalanced and your posture will suck.
Strength was another one high on the list. Strength gives you a sense of confidence that transfers to other areas of your life.
It also helps in real life situations – having to defend yourself in an altercation, having to lift furniture, having to carry stuff for long distances.
Strength is built in the 3-6 rep range, so choose a few big lifts and just get stronger at them over time. Deadlift, squat, and bench press are good places to start, as well as a farmers carry.
Nothing like knowing you can choke someone to death in a self defense situation after all x.
Lots of people described the gym as a fun hobby. The gym is an escape from the humdrum routine of work. You improve your body, improve your health, and even meet new people at the gym.
It’s actually very exciting when you start a new programme or try a new exercise because you start imagining the positive improvements that are going to come from it.
Not everybody sees the gym as fun though – some people are results driven and only care about the outcome (these people usually do 5×5 for their whole lives!).
Some people need more variety to keep their training interesting (I am definitely in this camp).
Try to introduce a new movement every 4 weeks or so – this is enough time for your body to adapt and improve in response to a certain exercise while still giving your muscles and nervous system a chance to practice and respond to the exercise.
The effects of resistance training on sporting performance are very well documented.
Weight training makes you faster, more powerful, and most importantly in my opinion, far more resistant to injury. Everybody who plays a sport should follow a structured weight training programme – not only will you be more durable and capable of training your sport harder, but it will probably improve your performance too.
Athletes should try to do more movement based training (i.e. bodyweight movements like lunges etc), incorporate different directions in their training, as well as include a variety of rep ranges for strength, hypertrophy, and muscular endurance.
This was another one that came up often. The gym can provides a sense of structure to your life. You know that on Monday you are training upper body, on Tuesday you’re doing legs etc. Habits and routines like exercise are very important as they spill over into other areas of your life.
When people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives, often unknowingly. Typically, people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. It’s not completely clear why. But for many people, exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change. “Exercise spills over,” said James Prochaska, a University of Rhode Island researcher. “There’s something about it that makes other good habits easier.”
Follow a STRUCTURED training programme. If you don’t know what to do, get a coach to write you one (hit me up for online training and I will write you a brilliant plan!).
This was a surprisingly common answer.
Working in pharmacy for a long time, the amount of people I saw on antidepressants was truly shocking. Often times, these people were also very out of shape and had many other health conditions along with the depression. Maybe exercise and a better diet would have helped? Instead, the doctors simply prescribed them pills.
The pharmaceutical companies and medical industry are quick to push antidepressants on people as soon as they feel a little bit down, instead of exploring the root causes and other more natural methods of alleviating the problem. Resistance training is the wonder drug, not fluoxetine.
I am definitely prone to depression. After a few days without training I start to feel moody and low, and this is when I must do something physical. Our bodies were made to move. Our brains respond to movement by producing feel good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
Exercise is God’s medicine. So many diseases that afflict us in the West are caused by a sedentary lifestyle.
I know guys my age (31) with high blood pressure and lifestyle-related diabetes. That is not normal. Of course, sometimes genetic factors are responsible, but the numbers don’t lie – diabetes is on the rise in young people.
You don’t even need a gym membership to train – bodyweight works too. You can look more attractive, feel more energetic, and have better health just by dedicating half an hour to physical movement every day. That is a beautiful thing!
I’d much rather suffer the ‘inconvenience’ of having to train every day than to take pills and injections for the rest of my my life. Some of those pills cause side effects that require other pills to manage them, and it becomes a complete cluster-fuck of medicines, side effects, and doctors visits. So use what God and nature gave you. I feel more like a hippy every day when I say this, but it’s so true.
Ok, that about does it.. don’t forget to sign up for my free ebook ‘Staying Lean At 30‘, specifically aimed at men 30 and above.. get it here! Hit me up with any comments you have.
I’m quite nerdy deep down. I’ve always had the mindset of wanting to be ‘perfect’ at everything. As a result, I end up procrastinating and not doing shit! I’ve definitely changed my mindset in this regard, and it’s a much better way to live. Perfectionism is almost always a ‘cop-out’ of doing something difficult. It leads to paralysis by analysis.
This applies for everything, all the way from personal development to fitness.
Let’s take a classic example people battle with all the time.
Let’s say you work 9-6pm. You have family stuff to do after work and you know that getting to the gym will be difficult today. The easy option is to write off training altogether. What’s the point? If you don’t have one whole hour for the gym, you might as well do nothing.. right? Well, no.
Here’s the deal – you don’t have to do 60 minute sessions to get results. Nor is there any rule stopping you from splitting your workout into smaller parts throughout the day. The whole ‘I don’t have time’ excuse can no longer be a valid one.
This is a common way of thinking among perfectionists. By choosing this ‘all or nothing’ approach, you end up doing nothing if the conditions aren’t ‘exactly right’.
Instead of not training altogether, do what you can, when you can. Progress, not perfection.
For the above example, you could bang out a 10 minute circuit of kettlebell swings, press-ups, planks, and squats before leaving for work. 10 minutes!
Most people spend at least 10 minutes watching Snapchat videos while taking a dump in the morning 😳 – why not use the time more productively? (Not to mention, exercise is one of those keystone habits that has been proven to spill over into other areas of life in a positive way – and in my opinion, doing it in the morning is a great way to start your day. Read the books Switch and The Power Of Habit if you want to know more).
Once you get home from work, you can bang out another 10 or 15 minutes. Over the course of the day, that’s 20-25 minutes. Believe it or not, that can be very effective for burning fat and maintaining muscle mass.
I’ve been doing the same for stretching. My flexibility has long been something I’ve avoided taking seriously because I never wanted to sit there for an hour stretching. Now I just break it up into small 10 minute chunks. Maybe an hour is better, but 10 minutes once or twice a day is better than nothing at all.
By breaking up your workout into small chunks, you not only make it more feasible to actually do, but you start to relish small victories and progress over ‘perfection’ (i.e. a 60 minute workout).
The same can be applied to any area of fitness. Most people’s idea of a perfect diet is eating 100% clean, every single day apart from one cheat meal per week. How about just eating healthily every day but allowing yourself a few chocolate bars over the course of the week? You will still make progress, without the inevitable rebellion that comes after a ‘perfect’ super-strict diet.
Small actions done consistently are the key to long term results.
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Guys, I’m excited to write up this athlete profile for professional Muay Thai fighter and former world champion Greg Wootton.
I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Greg over the last couple of months, as we have been doing strength and conditioning work together during a break from competition. He’s an excellent athlete with vast experience, interesting insight, and a very nice guy. I hope you’ll enjoy the lessons you can learn from what he has to say.
I’ve added my own comments in the blue writing.
Stats & Honours
Professional Muay Thai fighter
Light welterweight (63.5kg-65kg)
35 fights (31 wins, 4 losses, including a victory over Thailand’s most decorated champion Petboonchu FA group).
2 world titles
U.K. Ranked No.1, represented and medalled for England at world and European amateur championships.
I trained at KO Gym my whole fighting career, but I’m now head coach at Stars Gym and UCL university club, and also coach fighters out of Bloodline gym. I have a 1st in Sport and Exercise Science from Roehampton University.
During your competitive years, what did a typical week in the gym look like?
A typical week in the gym consisted of two sessions a day, six days a week with Sundays off.
Training session were a mixture of:
Active recovery on my rest day was Bikram yoga.
Looking back, I definitely used to overtrain sometimes. ‘The more the better’ is the pervading culture in Thailand and in many martial arts gyms. This now seems to be shifting to a smarter training approach.
The training Greg describes above is extremely taxing on the body. That volume and intensity of training can only be sustained for a couple of months at most (usually in the run up to a fight).
Trying to train like that all the time will result in injuries and burn out. A huge part of training is RECOVERY!
Did you do any strength and conditioning (as we now know it, strength work, etc)? Why do you think it has taken so long to catch on in fighting sports?
In nearly every session there were calisthenics of some sort (burpees, squats, press-ups, etc). We also used to do hard Tabata sprint work and circuit training.
Depending on how far we were from a fight, we’d also include things like:
I didn’t do any traditional heavy lifting such as squats or deadlifts though. I was afraid of gaining muscle mass and struggling to make weight for fights.
In hindsight, I perhaps should have moved up in weight at some point and trained to get stronger at that weight.
S&C is now a part of fight sports thanks to the influence of top UFC competitors working with dedicated coaches. I think the reason this didn’t happen earlier is due to a lack of education about the benefits a proper S&C programme can bring, along with an ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’ mentality.
Plus, the lack of money in Muay Thai makes it difficult for athletes to actually train with an S&C coach.
Pretty much all athletes at the top levels of sport are now doing some form of structured strength and conditioning. Skill alone is not enough anymore; it’s all about being stronger, faster, and more agile too.
A properly designed strength and conditioning programme can turn good fighters into formidable, menacing ones.As a weight class athlete who needed to maintain a specific weight, how much of a problem was this for you?
From my experience as a fighter, coach, and generally being around gyms, I’ve seen a lot of disordered eating habits.
By disordered eating, I mean binge eating, food deprivation, water loading, dehydration and all manner of crazy diets.
In any weight category sport, there is intense pressure to make weight. Under that pressure, and without proper education and care, athletes will push their bodies right to the limit.
What many people don’t realise is that the more we force our body in to a lower weight class, the more we damage it’s natural state of homeostasis. Our metabolism, electrolyte balance, digestive health, hydration levels etc, all get messed up.
After the ‘successful’ weight cut, the athlete has his fight and then ‘rewards’ himself by binge eating. With his metabolism in such a dire state, he regains weight quickly and easily. It now becomes a vicious cycle of diet, fight, binge, repeat.
A lot of psychological damage also occurs during this cycle. It creates a very unhealthy relationship with food.
Average gym clients do the same, but usually on on a smaller scale. Train hard for a few weeks, go on holiday, fall off the wagon, come back, berate and punish themselves in the gym, fall off again, etc. It’s not a recipe for happiness.
I’m thinking of writing a few articles about this issue in sports and training, and have lots of suggestions of how to fix the problem.
Greg raises an excellent point with regards to ‘normal’ clients. Yo-yo diets and drastic weight loss rarely ever lead to good, long-lasting results. In fact, these diets can make you more likely to gain fat in the long run as they damage your metabolism.
You are a big believer in psychology – did you have any specific rituals/routines that you credit for helping your success as a fighter?
100%. I believe psychology is important in all sports, and even more so in fight sports. Over the years I have picked up a lot of knowledge about how to train the mind. This started out to help me become a better fighter, but later became more about being a better person.
Here was my daily routine in training camp before fights:
I’d start the day with 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation shortly after waking up in the morning (check the ‘Headspace’ app for an introduction to meditation). I’d focus upon bodily sensations and breathing. This really set up my day, and I’d notice when I didn’t do it.
It brought me clarity, awareness, and made me more present, better equipped to deal with whatever was thrown at me (in the gym and in life!)
I’d then train, eat and read a bit. Reading something inspiring or educational is massively important. If you aren’t growing and improving, you get stale.
(‘Bounce’ by Matthew Syed is a good book, dispelling the myth of talent, inspiring you to work hard and put the hours in. Malcom Gladwell’s ‘David and Goliath’ is another inspiring book that changes the way you look at challenges and adversity, something sport is full of. Eckhart Tolle’s the ‘Power of Now’ also helps with staying present in life and at competition time.)
After that, I would often go to a lunchtime meditation class at the Buddhist centre near the gym. This was priceless for resting and recharging. It helped me deal with the anxiety and stress of competing.
Afterwards, it was back to the gym for more training. During the more monotonous parts, like long runs, I’d visualise scenes I wanted to come true. I’d talk to myself and repeat positive mantras about success to build my self belief, especially close to fights. That’s when doubts creep in and your spirit gets tested. (Read ‘The Power Of Your Subconscious Mind’ by Dr. Josef Murphy to learn about mantras and building belief.)
Often, I’d catch myself doing this this mental training and think I was nuts. It didn’t matter though. It worked.
This psychological training helps beyond fighting – with anxiety, fear, and the everyday stress of life. It gives you the tools to dig yourself out of depression and have better relationships (which is mostly what life is about). It can help you become a better, happier person.
What were some of the greatest lessons you learned during your career?
What drove you as an athlete?
This is a deep one.
I used to think that I was driven to be the best as a personal challenge, to see what I was capable of achieving. This is still true to some extent. Honestly though, after some time away from the sport, I realise I was striving for recognition and appreciation.
In my mind, if I achieved great things, my friends and family would praise and value me. Maybe I lacked this growing up. Maybe I simply didn’t like or accept myself without accomplishing great things like winning fights and world titles. It’s a mad one to admit to, and quite sad.
I’m now quite sceptical when I see other athletes pushing themselves to their limits. If they truly loved and accepted themselves, would they push themselves and their bodies to breaking point to win a fight or a race or match? I doubt it.
As humans, we all have work to do on ourselves, but athletes are more than likely broken in some way. Sport is sometimes a way to focus on something else and avoid trying to fix the real issue.
Look at how many fighters and athletes end successful careers and then suffer from depression. Without training to distract them, they can no longer seal over the cracks of the real problem.
I don’t mean to imply that sport isn’t healthy, but from my experiences, taking something to such an extreme could have a darker motivation than can be seen from the surface.
If you could do it all over again, what would you do different?
Short answer is nothing. No regrets. Every experience is a learning curve, and experiences shape us into the people we become.
However, I would have liked to have invested in myself more (if I could have afforded to). I would have paid a S&C coach for sessions and a program. I would have seen a nutritionist a lot earlier to help make weight for fights in a healthy way. I would have gone on more training camps abroad and gone to more seminars and talks.
Knowledge is power, and investing in yourself is never a waste if what you do is your passion.
Big up Mustafa for taking me up a level with his fresh, innovative practical training and for taking the time to do this article.
Check out my website : www.gregwootton.co.uk
Follow me on Instagram: @greg_wootton
Or check my Facebook athlete page: https://www.facebook.com/GregWoottonMT/
Get in touch for seminar info, personal training or advice at firstname.lastname@example.org
No matter what year it is, men will always be men. Despite attempts by the media to convince us otherwise, ultimately, we are cavemen. No amount of gadgets or expensive clothing can replace the simple, ‘primitive’ things in life like running, exploring, playing sports, and for some guys, fighting.
However, modern life usually presents us the exact opposite situation. Many of us work in an office, where we are stuck in a chair all day, staring at a screen, eating biscuits and pasta from our local Tesco Express.
As a result, our hormones are shot (in fact, the average testosterone levels of men has declined over the last two decades.
Put simply, we have low libido, we’re tired, and we’re fat. Not good.
Deep down, every man likes to think of himself as a warrior. But being a warrior starts with taking care of your body and LOOKING like one.
Training is one of the catalysts to doing that (but not the only one). It’s no exaggeration that it can change lives.
If some of that rings true for you, please read on for some ways in which to regain your strength, libido, and energy.
Get some sleep
“I never sleep, ‘cos sleep is the cousin of death”. I love Nas, but he got this one wrong.
Good sleep is one of the easiest ways to feel more energetic and powerful. Without it, things go downhill fast.
For one, people who sleep less generally have higher levels of stress hormones, which can lead to fat gain (especially around the belly).
Not only that, but poor sleep is associated with a drop in testosterone levels (the ‘man hormone’). Testosterone is associated with your libido, so once it drops, guess what happens to your sex drive… yes, you become a eunuch.
Apart from fat gain and libido, a good night’s sleep has huge effects on mood and energy. For me, the difference in confidence and overall vitality is very noticeable after a proper night’s sleep (compared to a poor night). The quality of your workouts will obviously improve when you’ve slept well too.
Unfortunately, ever since my teens I’ve been a terrible sleeper. I used to sleep late, wake up throughout the night, and sometimes, I just did not sleep at all.
For the last couple of years, however, I’ve become an early riser. I can fall asleep quicker and actually stay asleep. This is due to many deliberate lifestyle changes I’ve made over the course of two years, and while I don’t particularly enjoy waking up early, it’s now at least bearable.
One easy change I made was to train earlier in the day – training too close to bedtime would keep me awake until the early hours.
By far the biggest change I made, though, was creating a night time routine and sticking to it. The key to this routine is to do it at the same time every night so your body expects it.
Here’s how it goes:
Prepare breakfast for next morning,
Prepare clothes and anything that needs to be done for the morning (I get it out the way at night so it doesn’t subconsciously play on my mind while sleeping).
Have a quick shower (warm, not too hot).
Move phone away so I don’t see any flashing lights or notifications during the night (silent mode is a given).
Get into bed and read a book (Kindle or physical book, no tablet, because the back light messes with sleep). I usually nod off within 10-20 minutes.
Once you do this routine several times, your brain will come to associate it with sleep. You will automatically feel tired by the time you get in to bed.
If you still have trouble getting to sleep, a Zinc-Magnesium product (such as ZMA) before bed may help (this is recommended by Precision Nutrition, an excellent and trustworthy nutritional resource).
I recently started taking 500 mg Magnesium Biglycinate before sleeping and I feel a definite improvement in sleep quality.
Find your tribe.
A good honest workout will make you feel alive, especially when you’re doing it as a team. The most intense, enjoyable workouts I’ve ever had have come when I’ve been with other people.
Back in the day Arnold Schwarzenegger and his friends (plus the WAGs) used to take a barbell deep into the woods and squat until their their legs couldn’t support them anymore. Once they were done, they’d throw some juicy steaks onto the barbecue and party late into the night.
Some workouts can be brutal, but in the company of like-minded friends, they can become memorable life experiences. Find yourself a team to push you.
BTW – the above squat story is from Arnold Schwarzeneggers ‘Education Of A Bodybuilder‘, a great read.
While I’m no bodybuilder, Arnold’s immense drive and determination should be respected and learnt from. You can apply these lessons to any goal in your life – not necessarily just the training aspect.
The fact that many of us work sedentary jobs is bad enough, but add in the processed garbage we eat, and it’s no surprise that we’re fat and feel like shit most of the time.
Here’s the starting prescription for improving your diet:
Eat more protein
Eat more vegetables
Drink more water
These changes alone can have powerful results.
There are of course specific things you may need to do, but if you simply implemented the above consistently, you’d see yourself change before your eyes.
Lifting weights has numerous health benefits, and for stressed out men, it’s a key to feeling better.
Deadlifts, squats, sled pushes, farmers walks, overhead presses. Brutal exercises, but the reward is you feeling relaxed, confident, and alive.
Lifting is also how you will develop the granite muscle of an athlete. It certainly doesn’t come from an hour’s cardio (although cardio is very important).
Take the right supplements
When we look at an expensive, high performance car, the first thing we notice is the flashy exterior. But if the engine doesn’t work, that car ain’t going anywhere any time soon.
We need to look after our own engines.
Health is the most important outcome of training. The look comes as a byproduct.
You don’t need to take dangerous drugs to look and feel good. In addition to sleeping, training smart, and eating the right things, we may need to supplement to be in the best of health.
Here are some baseline supplements I recommend (even before the usual suspects of protein, BCAAs etc).
Let’s be honest, England has about two weeks of proper sun per year.
The rest of the time, it’s pretty gloomy. Many of us are getting diagnosed with low Vitamin D.
Vitamin D has numerous positive effects throughout the body and is important for testosterone.
Getting it directly from the sun or via a supplement are the most practical ways to ensure good levels; it is very difficult to get sufficient amounts from food.
Take around 1000-2000 IU of Vitamin D3 / day (as per Precision Nutrition recommendations).
The modern day Western diet is not very rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are found in in fish oil, and are very important for:
Immune, cardiovascular, and nervous system health
Prevention of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s
Unless you are eating oily fish quite often (which could actually be a problem, as much of it contains environmental pollutants), it’s a good idea to top up with Omega 3 in supplement form.
Look to consume 2-3 g fish oil per day (choose a supplement with high Omega 3 content, at least 30% EPA and DHA).
For it’s effects on sleep alone, this supplement is money. It also plays an important role in the cycle of muscle contraction and relaxation, and can raise testosterone levels. Get it here.
Working out, when we break it down, is a way of becoming better version of ourselves. It not only releases feel-good chemicals in the moment, but over the long haul, it makes us better looking, more energetic, and more effective men.
If you have read this and are fed up of making false promises to yourself, apply here. How many times are you going to tell people that this is the year you ‘kill it’? Most New Years resolutioners are chumps.. don’t be that guy.
If you’re a woman reading this, pass it on to a man you might think will benefit (husband, boyfriend, brother).
Here’s a discussion I had with a friend about why we enjoy training to be athletic. Hope you enjoy it.
Also, I just want to clarify something that I didn’t in the video:
Lifting heavy does not make you tight or stiff! Heavy lifting is an extremely important part of being an effective athlete for a number of reasons (if done in the right way).
Doing strictly bodybuilding, on the other hand, is not conducive to being a great athlete (although some bodybuilding methods can be useful).
Further to the above, here are some specific strategies you can use to stay athletic.
So I just got back from Cuba.
It’s been on my bucket list for a long time. Old cars, Cohibas, salsa, playas, La Revolucion – it’s a country with an exotic mystique about it.
Part of Cuba’s allure probably also comes from it’s stormy place in world history. Pretty much cut off from the western world, the country has suffered at the hands of a trade embargo for decades.
As a result, Cuba seems to be stuck in a time capsule. While pretty much every country on Planet Earth now looks identical (Mcdonalds, Starbucks, and H&M on every high street), Cuba is different. They don’t even have wifi.
But Cuban people are no different to anyone else. They love all the same things we love, including sports.
Along with baseball, boxing is a national passion. It seemed that every other guy we met was a national champion (shout out to Elvis, who wanted a prizefight with me in Old Havana, but ducked my friend because he thought he was too heavy for him!!).
For decades, Cuba has produced some of the finest technicians in the world, dominating Olympics and world championships. Despite competition from larger, better equipped, richer nations, the Cubans have managed to reign supreme on the world stage. Most modern boxing fans will know the names Rigondeaux, Casamayor, Lara, and Gamboa, to name a few.
One of the main things I wanted to do in Havana was visit a boxing gym – a real, old school, shrine to boxing. We found the famous Rafael Trejo gym.
On the day we visited, it was raining, and because the gym is outside, none of the boxers turned up to train.
Disappointing, but what can you do?
Instead we simply walked around taking pics and vids.
The facilities were completely threadbare. There was no air conditioning, no carpet, nothing swanky at all. The ring apron itself was made of wood with floorboards sticking out of it.
How anybody actually sparred in there is beyond me.
About 20 minutes into our visit, a boxer finally walked in. It was Emilio Correa.
Correa was 2007 Pan American champion, and middleweight silver medallist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics (out-pointed by Britain’s own James Degale.)
He was the only one who showed up that morning.
He warmed up and made his way to the back, where he proceeded to train in the most grimy weightlifting gym I’ve ever seen.
As you can see, the gym is rustic as f*ck. But there he was, getting it in.
From a ‘scientific standpoint’, the training he was doing was probably not ‘ideal’ (he was doing ‘chest and arms’).
Sometimes, however, science doesn’t mean jack.
Even when the circumstances and environment were barely decent, he did what he had to do without excuses.
Correa is not alone though. The other Cuban champions have been without luxuries too.
There’s a lesson there for every time we give ourselves stupid excuses. These guys have reached such a high level because of their commitment and consistency. They succeed in spite of their handicaps.
The below is not my footage, but just look at how long Correa takes doing footwork and co-ordination drills. These are small details most people don’t pay attention to, but he does it with real purpose.
These guys are dedicated to their craft, and that’s why they wipe the floor with the rest of the world when it comes to championships.
So it’s a week after I ran the Spartan Sprint in Windsor. I’ve never been a fan of running unless it’s on a football pitch or a 100m track, plus I was worried I’d lose too much weight.
In the end, it was an absolute blast and I learned a lot about training in the process.
Read on for more.
1) Train with a team
Out of everything I’ve learned, this stands out as the most important – the importance of a team (just make sure it’s the right one.)
Training with a group of strong-willed individuals will take the energy and intensity of your own work to the next level.
I always used to train solo, partly because I like doing things on my own, and partly because I rarely meet others with a similar training philosophy.
In the past year however, I’ve been lucky enough to find a good number of people who share that philosophy, who love to train hard, and are great guys too. Whether it’s sprinting, lifting, or ‘Spartan’ style training, the sessions are always a blast,
For the Spartan Race, I had three very motivated guys alongside me. Every session was fiyah! Fun, enjoyable, but gritty, hard work. Nobody wanted to give up or wuss out. I gave everything I had to keep up with the others in certain areas, and vice versa. Our last training session before the race was one of the most intense I’ve done in a long time.
Be very selective about who you align yourself with. Only train with people with whom who you can go to war.
2) Get comfortable being uncomfortable
The Spartan Race is not ‘comfortable’. It was rainy, cold, and we had to wade through mud, slime, and ravines full of stinging nettles. Near the end of the race, some kind of wooden branch stabbed the sole of my foot, and it still seems to be embedded there (I must get it removed).
I tried to ensure our training sessions were as hard or harder than anything we would encounter on race day. We took all comforts away.
– An air-conditioned, carpeted gym is comfortable. Being outdoors is not. So we ran outdoors.
– Using chalk is comfortable. So we stopped using chalk (chalk improves grip).
– Taking long rests in between sets of big compound lifts is comfortable. So we started doing other exercises in between.
– Lifting heavy weights at the beginning of a session is comfortable. Lifting them at the end is not. So we did hard fartlek style sprints first, and did the heavy lifting later.
– Carrying a nice soft sandbag in the gym is comfortable. Carrying a huge log with sharp and awkward edges all over is not. So we carried mothaf*cking logs!
– Using a treadmill to run is comfortable. Running up a hill is not. So we got out and ran up hills.
You get the picture.
Spartan Race or not, do things that shake you up. (Please note, the aim is not to puke or be ‘hardcore’. All the above were done while ensuring good technique.)
3) You can always do more
No matter how tired you are or how bad it burns, you can always do one more. Just that little bit more.
One more rep, one more burpee, one more minute of holding those kettlebells.
Your brain is the most powerful muscle in your body. Talk to yourself positively and never give up.
(Again, the exception is if your technique is poor or has completely broken down, putting you at risk of injury. If that’s the case, STOP.)
4) Carry, carry, carry
Loaded carries are one of the most primal, brutally effective ways of training. Excellent for building a strong, cut Spartan physique.
Depending on what variation you do, they develop a crushing grip, plus strength and endurance in the arms, shoulders, upper and lower back, glutes, and hamstrings.
On the rare occasion you see people doing them in commercial gyms, they’re using weights that are far too light. Either up the weight, or up the distance.
If you go for distance, you’ll develop more endurance in the muscles and lungs. If you go for weight, you’ll build up more strength and muscle.
In the race itself, we had to carry logs, buckets, and sandbags for up to a one kilometre at a time. My arms and lower back were absolutely screaming (got a nice pump though :)).
I very often use some type of farmer’s carry as a finisher to my strength training sessions.
Here are some variations for you guys to use:
Sandbag zercher carry[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoerYK7HY-8[/embedyt]
Sandbag fireman carry[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvpZrQSsWnk[/embedyt]
Sandbag Bearhug carry[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_N1e0pP4sJo[/embedyt]
Farmer’s walk[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiR7VlnoSI0[/embedyt]
Trap bar walk[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3Ftk7Q6zp8[/embedyt]
5) Have a focus
Train for an event. I’ve said this before, but having a goal makes your training way more powerful.
Writing this a week after the race, my training sessions have definitely calmed down. The focus and intensity just isn’t there. Until I figure out a new goal, I’ll probably be coasting a little bit, because there isn’t a ‘why’ to my training.
6) Do more endurance training!
Cross training and being an all-round athlete is a great feeling. Knowing that you can run long, sprint hard, lift heavy, and do it for two hours a pop is cool.
I train for life. Life isn’t just a short sprint or a max effort squat. It’s being able to handle yourself in different situations. There’s nothing worse than playing football or climbing a hill and breathing like Big Pun (rip). It sucks. It makes you feel weak.
Unless you’re competing or trying to conquer a specific performance goal, we should all be doing more conditioning and ‘endurance’ type work.
To improve my base level of endurance, I did an easy ‘aerobic capacity’ session every other day. I wore a monitor and kept my heart rate between 120-150 bpm. I used the sled, bodyweight exercises (such as press-ups, squats, lunges, inverted rows), and various ‘cardio’ machines for about 30 minutes.
I had no problem running the race, and in retrospect, I should have sprinted harder in between obstacles. Because I had no concept of what a 5k felt like, I was conservative with how hard I ran.
7) You won’t lose all your muscle
One of the reasons I was initially reluctant to do the race was because I was scared of losing muscle. I already have to fight for the muscle I have, so I was reluctant to lose 10 kg again (like I did when I was boxing).
I ended up losing about 1 kg, and it was probably fat anyway. My upper back seems bigger (from so much pulling and carrying presumably). The other guys reported their arms, legs and glutes growing, while stomach fat disappeared.
We were lifting heavy and eating healthy. We ran, crawled, carried, lifted, and pulled heavy things. All of us were happy with our results. If you want to lose weight, Spartan style training is perfect for you.
If you don’t want that, just keep the calories up and add a very small amount of traditional lifting to maintain muscle size (although I didn’t).
8) Burpees suck.. but they’re good for you
We all have exercises we despise – zercher squats and burpees immediately spring to mind.
Burpees are the penalty for failing an obstacle in the Spartan Race, so it made sense to start practicing them in case (I had to do them for two obstacles).
I have never liked burpees and I never will, but I respect them.
Throughout training, myself and the Spartan boys committed to doing 30 every day (whether we had trained that day or not).
Imagine you did 30 burpees everyday? How would that change your body?
It’s not just because of burpees, but one of our team members, Pete, achieved great results in just 6 weeks while training for the race.
Stay strong Spartans. Aroo! Aroo! Aroo!
If you want to carve a Spartan physique and have the will to succeed, please fill in the following:
P.S. Here’s a little video of Spartan sprint highlights (from the perspective of Pete). Unfortunately the video cut out half way through so we didn’t get some of the coolest parts of the race, but there’s still some good stuff here anyway.
Definition of spartan – “showing or characterized by austerity or a lack of comfort or luxury”
As many of you who follow me on Instagram may know, I’m training for a Spartan race. I always said I’d never do it (mostly because I was scared of losing weight), but here I am.
As it turns out, I’m having the most fun training ever.
I’m doing the race with two of my clients (who are now friends), as well as another close friend of mine.
The group aspect of training is extremely motivating and competitive, and has extracted another level of beast out of me. The sessions are very tough, but mentally, I feel stronger than ever, because I’m working with a team for a common cause.
In a Spartan race, you have to run, jump, crawl, pick up & carry heavy objects, climb up a rope, pull yourself over a wall etc. I’m a big proponent of being strong and being able to use that strength (‘functional’ as some refer to it). That’s why it appeals to me so much.
What use are powder puff muscles if you can’t climb up a rope or run more than a mile?
We are not cavemen anymore, but we still have cavemen instincts. We must nurture these instincts to stay human.
I was discussing training with a friend the other day, and we both boiled our training down to wanting one thing – we want to feel like warriors.
Why do people sign up for dangerous obstacle course races or for white collar boxing matches, knowing they could get knocked out cold?
Because they want to feel like warriors.
With that said, today I want to talk about spartan training. How to achieve simplicity in your workouts.
During my prep for the race, I’ve switched up my training a little.
Gone are many of the smaller, ‘luxury’ exercises – curls, rear delt flyes etc (they are definitely still important, but not right this moment).
I’ve replaced them with basic, primal exercises. Basic, primal exercises work. They burn fat. They build muscle. They hurt. They’ve been around forever because they work.
Below is a list of basic, spartan exercises you can re-introduce to your regime and really kick your workouts up a notch.
I hate shrugs (although I do like incline shrugs). I just don’t feel them and have never really noticed much growth from the standing version. Why bother when I can just do a heavy farmer’s walk with it’s whole plethora of benefits?
They forge a crushing grip
They fix your posture (making you look taller and opening up your chest)
They build up your traps, abs, lower back, quads, and glutes. I attribute some very good upper back growth to these.
They can be used for conditioning (aka to get lean).
They are raw in every sense!
There is a time and a place for lat pulldowns (it’s not in a Spartan race). Every healthy adult male should be able to bust out at least five dead hang pull-ups (females should try to get at least one). The ability to pull yourself up over a bar is an excellent indicator of your pound-for-pound, relative strength.
Don’t get it twisted, pull-ups are hard (especially well-executed ones). This is why you don’t see many people bothering with them.
Stick with this basic, classic exercise which builds cobra lats and strong biceps. They’re known as the ‘upper body squat’ for a reason.
Crawls are used by martial artists (such as Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practitioners) for many reasons, one being that they improve ability to get into different positions that we usually find difficult (because of tight muscles etc). They also build shoulder and core strength, and really work the legs.
So dispense with the 100s of situps a day (which is probably just giving you a hunchback) and start crawling.
Pulling and pushing a heavy sled is one of the weapons of the spartan. There are so many ways to use it (as you can see below), but it’s guaranteed to lift your heart rate into the stratosphere (potential fat loss), as well as building quad and glute strength.
Any exercise that builds strength and burns fat simultaneously is a winner in my book. It’s primal as hell – no fancy machine or elaborate technique needed (you don’t even need a sled – you can use a tyre, sandbags etc).
Keep it old school and do the work.