Top 3 Fears of the Beginner

The other day we uploaded a close to 2 hour podcast where Nick and I spoke of the fears of a beginner. I will now attempt to narrow all this down to the 3 main fears and their solutions. Wish me luck!   Fear 1 Weight lifting will make me heavier; I want to lose the belly so I’ll do cardio (or many many plays on this). The truth is that if your goal is fat loss based, which these days is 95% of you, then you need to lift weights. The more muscle you can develop then the greater the calories you’re burning -all the time! For fat loss the truth is you need to lift weights in a manner which will increase muscle. Ignore the scale and take body measurements; some should increase while other measurements decrease, this shows muscle gain and fat loss, which is exactly what you want.   Fear 2 I don’t want to get too big! You won’t! Muscle increase doesn’t happen by accident; it takes a lot of hard work, repeated several times a week for a year to make what for many would be a noticeable difference. The truth is that if your goal is to increase muscle by 10lbs then you need to act as if you want to put on 50lbs; this will put you in the right frame of mind and 10lbs will happen in 3 months. If you’re scared of putting on too much muscle then it may never happen.   Fear 3 Dumb exercise selection   He won’t get big doing this!   Beginners do dumb...

Allons Travailler

When, in his excellent autobiography “Hitch 22”, Christopher Hitchens completed the “Proust Questionnaire” he replied to the question What is your motto? with Allons Travailler. Which was the same answer given by the great French writer Emile Zola. It loosely means Get on with it! Hitchens also mentions E M Forster’s extension, which I like more than Hitch did,  which was to “get on with your own work, and behave as if you were immortal!”   Great man, great writer, great book You might be wondering Dear Reader, if this is going to be more of a philosophical piece? It’s not; although what I’m about to say could be used in other areas of life; indeed as was the case with Hitchens. I am going to stick with how one is to act in a gym environment. Now I’m not expecting everyone I come across to behave in the gym like Chuck Vogelpohl, who is the most intense lifter I have ever come across, but there are certain standards I expect. Come prepared to lift / work. I remember one old friend of mine who came to visit upon seeing the gym said that there was nothing easy that could be done here; the whole environment screamed WORK, HARD WORK! If you’re not prepared to train hard then you’re merely exercising. Mind your language. I really don’t want to hear about your shitty job, problems with your partner, or especially how your joints or injuries feel, now is not the time for such talk. Now is the time to lift. If you do feel chronically tired, or are carrying injuries then these issues...

More Than Just a Pull

The Deadlift is often referred to as “The Pull” by lifters and fans of lifting and strength sports in particular. This is rather unfortunate because the Deadlift is much more than just a pull.   The great Dan Green displaying “thickness” you could say!   Indeed, you might pull the bar off the floor but I would contend that one of the best coaching cues one can give is to “push the floor away”. That makes the Deadlift a pull and a push at the same time.   When I see beginners attempting to Deadlift I usually see two things: They have no business Deadlifting from the floor; they lack the flexibility and they need to start with Rack Pulls from an appropriate height before progressing onto full Deadlifts. While it is hard to say for sure that these misguided trainees are opening themselves up to injury, it scares the hell out of me, and I don’t like horror shows. . Their hips rise as soon as they initiate the movement, which means that the lifter is pulling on the bar using their lower back, glutes, and hamstrings, among other muscles but not their quads.   The fix for number 2 is, as you initiate the movement think about pushing the floor away from you, then as the bar breaks from the floor think about pulling your head back. Yes, just like with the Squat “head back” is a great cue.   Another useful, and rather unusual cue I use, as in I haven’t heard it put like this before, is “contact”. Contact refers to the lifter keeping “contact” with the upper edge...

Your Own Relativity

I’m not sure that Einstein had this in mind when he came up with his “Special Theory of Relativity” in 1905. In fact to coin a current popular phrase I doubt he even lifted. He Didn’t Even Lift! The relativity I’m speaking of is your own reality as far as training is concerned. We are pack animals, when we enter any environment for the first time we observe to see where in the pack we are. If you’re an experienced trainer then you might look at the biggest, strongest guy and move down stream from there. If you’re a beginner then you might look for the skinniest kid first and move up from him. This is human nature, neither good nor bad, it’s just the way it is. You might well ask if this is the case then what concern is it of mine? Well Dear Reader, the concern is this; the environment you train in can have a huge impact on your progress. Where would YOU make the best progress? The local “Fitness First” where there’s a guy who can half Squat 200kg, but that one time he almost hit depth he barely got 120kg! Or my own little dungeon “Darkside Barbell of London” where even the beginners are Squatting 120kg for reps. The message here is that if you have access, any sort of access at all to a lifters gym then take advantage of it. When you train you will continue to compare yourself to others and move up or down the ranks accordingly. If you settle for the middle of the pack (just assuming) then the...

Reacting to Setbacks

There are many reasons why individuals achieve a goal; great planning, action, and reacting to feedback and some of the biggies, but perhaps the biggest reason is how you react to setbacks, which in training terms usually means injuries.   From my observations most “normal” people get injured and react badly. Their reaction is often denial, they try to run through the pain, or they take some painkillers before each session rather than seeking professional advice and resting. Oftentimes the body will heal itself despite this less than optimal behaviour, but as many of you will know the injury can also worsen. With bad or persistent injuries there comes a time when you need to stop doing what’s hurting you and start recovering.    I bet he’d make a great physio – my Mrs is so going to kill me for this!   By the way recovering doesn’t mean sitting on the couch eating pizza and drinking beer while feeling sorry for yourself. YOU NEED TO BE ACTIVE IN YOUR OWN RECOVERY, not one of these tender-headed types who helplessly lays there saying “fix me please”.   If at this point you’re wonder which professional advice you should be seeking; I will now refer you to a passage in my book “The Mighty Method” which is available on this site.   Where to Get Rehab Advice From? I realise that I’m going off on a bit off a tangent here, but understanding who to go to for advice in this area could make or break you. In the UK it’s fairly simple; we have Physiotherapists who work in our National...

Examining My Bias – The Squat

We are all biased in some way, maybe it’s political, historical, or as is the case here, being bias for a certain exercise.   And Still the King…. As regards getting stronger, more muscular, and thus losing body fat, or even improving a sport I believe that the Squat is one of the most useful movements you can perform. The question is why do I believe this? Why am I so biased towards the Squat?   I am somewhat ashamed to say that although I am aware of quite a few studies supporting the awesomeness of the Squat, the main reason for my bias is my personal experience, both in my own training and even more convincingly, with the training of others.   Ashamed, you may ask? Yes, because personal experience is a very weak level of evidence. If a chap from a remote village tells you he’s seen Big Foot would you believe him? Chances are probably not. If Big Foot is standing next to him you might be a little more inclined to listen. I am 5’6 and 106kg (233lbs) and almost as wide as I am tall. My training partner Muscle Russell is a kilo heavier and has visible Abs, and both of us are drug free.   OK, that’s only N=2, but there are many more I could mention, although you’ll be pleased to hear I won’t. What I will speak of is the evolution of the Squat. The Squat or Deep Knee Bend has been around forever but it wasn’t until the popularisation of Squat stands in the 20s and 30s that the Squat really took off;...