Before we get into the nuts and bolts of success, here is a video regarding where I stand with the application of the ‘cheat day’. As far as I am aware, I have been experimenting with it for far longer than most out there and here I break down the application in addition to some of the science behind it. Enjoy!
This past weekend I had the pleasure of going to two different seminars which meant a weekend of traveling but it was well worth it. On Friday, I was up at DeFranco’s Gym in Wyckoff, NJ to learn more about the business side of training from Joe Defranco, Paul Reddick, Vince Gabriele and Jim ‘Smitty’ Smith.
All four of these guys run super successful businesses and they are people I look up to. In fact, I have been a part of Paul’s mastermind in the past and Vince is currently my business coach. Just like in other areas of my life, I feel that its important to have a Coach in anything you want to get better in. But that is a different article for a different time. Following that seminar, I went up to Rhode Island to another Charles Poliquin seminar and it was good, the highlight being the presentation by the New England Patriots strength coach staff.
Paul Reddick, one of the smart business guys I know also possesses a street smart knowledge which makes for a very rare combination. Every time I get to hear him present, I walk away scratching my head but also having a whole bunch of new ideas to implement. One of the things that Paul always talks about is progress, not perfection. He is fond of saying ,’Move the chains’ and it is a great point for nearly anyone. Sometimes, I find myself getting or thinking too far ahead and I need to stop and realize that I just need to get better each day, that’s all. The second thing I was reminded of by going up to the Poliquin seminar was something he said a few months ago when I went to the BioSignature course and that is: “Their easy is your hard….”. This makes so much sense and it is something that I have forgotten at times.
Not every one has the mindset that you can create the life you want at will (although it is true), in fact, most people have the mindset that life is a struggle and that to accomplish anything, it will require a lot of hard work (also true). The mindset that you can accomplish anything you want is known as ‘open architecture’ and it is something worthy to pursue, but in the mean time, I’d like to make a few other salient points.
If you remember what Paul said, just keep moving the chains, you can win the hour and thus win the day. All you have to do is to make it through to the next day and build some momentum. However, most people want instant gratification and that will get you nowhere but frustrated. If we look at how addicts have to approach their daily struggle, they just need to win each day. Do you think any addict would be successful if they thought too far ahead? If all they thought about what the mountainous challenge that faced them head on? Hell no, it would be too intimidating. Well, it’s the same thing with success in anything. The people that do manage to have success have just failed far more than anyone else in those failures, they have learned how to succeed and they have expanded their comfort zones. I find it amusing when clients want me to start them right up on a full fledged nutrition plan right away and I used to do this for people, until I realized: ‘my easy is their hard’. The normal person is not going to spend an hour on Sundays, heck, make it two hours, grilling up chicken and putting it in tupperware. At least not initially. When I give someone one thing to work on, there is an 85% success rate, when I bump it up to 2 things, the success rate drops down to 30%. Again, win the week in terms of your nutrition or workout and then build upon it the next week. Everything comes down to behavioral psychology. When I used to go the Villanova basketball camp with Coach Steve Lappas back in high school, he used to say the same thing every summer: “Each time you touch the basketball, you get a fraction of a percent better, even if its just 1/100th of 1 percent.” Again, this applies to everything. In 100 days, you would be 1% better and by the end of the year, 3% better.
It’s the same principle as compounding interest. How bad do you want to be great or how much do you want to succeed? Just remember to move the chains one yard at a time, don’t worry about getting in the end zone because it will eventually sneak up on you and you will look back one day realizing it was the inch by inch mindset that go you to where you then stand. And o yeah, never stop learning!
I am setting out on this blog with a lot on my mind that I’d like to share with you. It may not seem to fit together but I will tie it all in at the end.
I went to the FMS this past weekend, which stands for Functional Movement Systems. It was very enlightening and something we will rely on at Newell Strength for screening movement, preventing injuries and assessment. I had the pleasure of listening to Gray Cook, the founder of FMS and even got to talk with him privately, which I will get to in a little bit.
Gray said a few things in the seminar that really hit home with me. He told us that when he wanted to learn kettle bells inside and out, he went to learn from Pavel, a master Russian strength coach. He said he was uncomfortable as hell because it was new to him. I felt the same way at the FMS. My head was spinning and I felt overwhelmed but I knew and know that once I put it to use, study it some more and use it, it will become second nature. You cannot let discomfort dissuade you from growing. Most people simply give up upon being uncomfortable, no matter whether it is mental, emotional, spiritual or physical discomfort, humans just can’t stand to be uncomfortable.
And many of you I am sure, no matter what your endeavor, are not confident in your value and worth. I address this more in a recent youtube video (seen below). I suffer from this from time to time, but something I picked up from Charles Poliquin helped me out a lot. Whenever you have doubts, repeat to yourself 50X, “I honor my value and time.” Its that simple. When I had self-doubts about whether I would ever meet the right partner, it began with a mantra of self-belief and months later Devon showed up in my life. Think what you want, but we get what we believe we can get and what we focus on expands.
If you focus on what you are doing rather than who you are being, you will live a shallow life. That is one reason why attempting to diet is a failing proposition. Ask yourself each day instead if you are being your best self, are you being a champion in your undertakings? Self-reflection is hard but essential.
I think what many people really need is clarity and for this, I want to recommend a book to you. I am not done with it yet, but after taking the first few tests in it, I can strongly recommend the Passion Test. It will help you get clear on what is important to you. But if you are going to do this, don’t go half way, actually do it, don’t just go through the motions. This was another Poliquin recommendation. You see, when I go to this places to learn from people far smarter than me, I pay attention to every single thing they say. If they say to read a book, I order it that night, I don’t hesitate and wonder because that will not get me to where I want to be.
Investing in yourself is better than any stock you can invest in. And I can tell you it is the only way you will ever live the life of your dreams. You know that an investment in yourself will pay off 100X if you want it to, the hard part is realizing it falls on your shoulders, no one else’s. But the thing is, once you follow your passion, it is pure fun, something you can do 24 hours per day. Notice I didn’t say you should de-value yourself and do it for free, but you will find yourself jumping out of bed in the morning to learn more about it, to get the essence of it.
If you hate your life and what you do, you are currently pathetic. Not to insult you, but to awake you. I am happy that people often comment that they get more out of my philosophical videos than they do from the science videos. And don’t try to be someone else, because someone else already has that job. Be yourself and be the best self you can be. When you realize you create your world, things get a lot more fun. Enjoy the book and the video.
I had quite a few people ask about more information on sleep after one of my articles mentioned benefits I had from getting more sleep during that 2 month stretch. Sleep is a topic that has fascinated me since I first started competing in bodybuilding shows. As the contest prep went on and I got leaner, it would seem that I needed less and less sleep and I was able to ‘pop’ out of bed in the mornings like someone shot adrenaline into my arm. This went on throughout the time period of 5 different contest preps and mind you, by the end of prep, I was getting up at 3:30 AM to enjoy a pot of coffee and listen to some music. The same thing happened last year when I played around with a cycle diet and took my body fat level down to 7%. There seemed to be something about being lean or maybe deprived that made it so I needed less sleep or couldn’t sleep as much. Anyhow, the curiosity switch was flipped and sleep still seems to be a wide open frontier. (There was also I believe a NY Times article this year about the Sleepless Elite, in which certain people, supposedly including Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison and others that only need about 2 hours of sleep per night. Scientists are actually studying the gene that allows this to happen. This is without detriment to performance either. Imagine!)
First, let’s get one thing straight, I am one of the biggest hypocrites when it comes to sleeping enough. I went for a two-month stretch last year in which I got 8 hours per night and I felt wonderful (I wrote about this in past articles). I normally average around 6 per night, the thinking being that I need to outwork others during those other two hours. Funny thing is, I have found that I get just as much done during the periods in which I am able to sleep eight hours a night for a few days straight.
Given the fact that I used to get ripped and maintain muscle, while getting stronger during my contest prep told me that sleep needs to be for more than just tissue repair. Doing contest prep is one of the most grueling physical things that you can put your body through and it should have required more sleep, not less sleep. (However, part of my prep plan was sleeping with 3 layers of sweats on to raise body temperature and to stay awake longer to make sure my metabolism would stay higher for longer, rather than slowing down during sleep. Maybe bogus, but you can’t blame me for experimenting.) Tim Ferriss talks about how there needs to be more of a reason than tissue regeneration for sleep. According the Sapolsky (2004), many scientists and doctors believe that the reason for sleep is for the brain to replenish its energy supplies. The brain weighs only about 3% of total body weight, yet it consumes 25% of the total body energy expenditure! Deep wave sleep is when energy restoration occurs (stages 3 and 4-REM). It cannot be overlooked that although the brain the main component that is restoring energy, this is still a very important point for student-athletes and athletes in general: for academic reasons as well as decision making during the game. You do not want your starting quarterback playing in the conference championship while working on 5 hours of sleep.
I remember to those days when I was competing and reading and listening to some Poliquin stuff about how your room should be like a bat cave, completely dark. He cited studies in which a light shined on the bottom of your foot could actually disturb the hormonal output during sleep. I also recall reading about how he mentioned something about wearing spandex and sleeping quality and recovery, so I went through a phase in which I wore my spandex pants and shirts to bed (kind of like a kid and his onesie).
It is very important that you do not watch television or do things right before bed that stimulate the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS). Once in a while, you might stay up for a late game, but you will have no shot at entering deep wave sleep while the SNS is cranking. I always have my athletes either stretch, meditate, go for a light walk or listen to some soothing music before bed. These types of activities help to activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). In order for recovery to take place, you must be in PNS dominance. (Note, you do not want to constantly be in a PNS state. Don’t read this and go over board). I remember hearing Buddy Morris say that the Russians used to have their athletes go to the beach and walk barefoot for 4 hours when they thought they might be getting over trained to stimulate the PNS and decrease the activity of the SNS. Before I turn this into two different articles, be sure to get into a PNS state before bed. To further show this point, one study took people to altitude without letting them acclimate, and of course, this put them into a SNS dominant state, which made it literally impossible for them to go to sleep. Imagine trying to sleep with your heart rate through the roof.
If you or your athletes are depriving themselves of sleep, then a decrease in stress hormones doesn’t occur, instead, they increase. And to make matters worse, a lack of sleep will cause both growth hormone and sex hormones to decrease! The worst kind of sleep to get is too little sleep that is unpredictably fragmented. The best kind of sleep to get is in a dark room, 67-70° and to wake up naturally, without an alarm clock. Waking up without an alarm clock is not practical for most people, so you can look into something called a Natural Clock, which gradually produces more light as the morning nears. Another interesting thing to note is that whether you are waking up naturally or you have to get up earlier than you would like, about an hour before you rise, your body somehow knows it and stress hormones will begin to rise. A magnesium deficiency can also cause poor sleep. It is good practice to supplement with magnesium as most people are deficient and it will improve performance in the gym.
I know I put a lot of information in here, but you can pick and choose what interests you and what you can put to practice. You and your athletes should aim for 8-10 hours per night of quality sleep (this means not leaving the tv on or getting hammered and passing out). Do yourself the favor and stop reading this, get to sleep!
I’m fat….not fat by average standards but fat for myself. I have many reasons to get going with my nutrition, including:
- my wedding
- my new facility opening
- my basketball league starts soon
- I need more energy to get things done
As I said on Friday, Coach Poliquin says if you are above 8% and male, you are too fat, I checked mine yesterday and it was 10.5%. So with the background information out there, I wanted to outline how I am going to start. Based on work from Coach Poliquin and Dr. Mauro Dipasquale, I am having meats and/or eggs and nuts for my healthy fat. I am not going for peanut butter or peanuts since they are a legume and can contain mold and fungus. I will slowly adopt the Metabolic Diet/Paleo Diet with so many big life events coming up for me. And no, being lean is the motivating factor, although it will be nice. I want to feel good and have more energy. I will keep you posted on the progress, but I do recommend this type of breakfast to anyone. I have been doing it for a few days and my energy has been great and steady throughout the morning. Stay tuned!
One of the most overlooked factors in training is the cadence or speed of the bar. One of my specialties is the training of basketball players as I have been at it with myself for 12 years now, working out before school during my senior year so games and practices wouldn’t be impacted. As the basketball season comes to an end, the first thing I will do with my players is give them a few weeks off. After that time, I will take at least four weeks to really focus on putting some size back on the players and finding some new size. Charles Poliquin, one of the top strength coaches in the world, has worked with over 600 professional and Olympic athletes says the key is time under tension. Now, I do not advocate isometric holds, which could be considered time under tension, but rather a dynamic and constant movement. The longer a muscle is stressed under a load, the more hypertrophy we will get. I am not saying that all sets and reps should be slow, but it must be taken into consideration. For hypertrophy, we generally will train in the 6-12 RM range. We will focus on explosive strength (power) and absolute strength as we move into a conjugated system, but even then, we will still focus on getting bigger. This is the beauty of the conjugate system. But that is a different topic. If you are trying to get bigger, vary your reps from week to week in the 6-12 range and vary the tempo as well. I would recommend keeping the sets between 20-70 seconds. There will be more to come on this topic. Stay tuned!