Tag Archives: mental toughness

Who is Your Competition?

Ever since I founded Primal Strength Camp, and even more so since I opened the Primal Strength Gym, I get asked “Who is your competition?”

My answer probably isn’t what you expect from a typical businessman, but my honest and genuine feeling is that I have no outside competition.

That is not me being naive. The biggest gym in my town is a mile away from me. There is a Gold’s Gym less than 5 miles away. There are other gyms scattered around the town, all within a few miles of my location.

I could easily win a pissing contest about how I’m the gym in Charlottesville (and the region) with the biggest social media following; how I’m the only one with a kick ass blog that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors; how my training knowledge is light years above other trainers; how my gym is exclusive with some of the strongest lifters in the area, and actually institutes a waiting list; and how my gym has the best and most unique equipment.

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If you ask me or any of my clients and gym members, they will tell you hands down, I have the best gym in Charlottesville.

That all sounds great on the surface and sure, it’s awesome for marketing and potential sales purposes, but it does nothing for my personal growth as a business man, a coach, an athlete, or a human being.

All of the above accolades and praise, in a way, are meaningless.

Let me clarify that thought with three examples:

#1: Most Competition is Subjective

Aside from head to head competition in sport (who can lift the most weight under identical conditions, for example), most competitions are really just subjective comparisons.

Take my gym example. How would you rate the best gym in Charlottesville? The serious lifter and person wanting to sling some serious poundage would take my gym all day, but the typical housewife would much rather take group ex over at Gold’s.

What about the Monday morning office debates about who the best NFL quarterback is? We’ve all heard it and everyone has a different answer. (The classic debate about comparing quarterbacks based on Superbowl wins versus position statistics comes to mind.)

The point is, it’s all a matter of opinion.

Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one and everyone thinks everyone else’s stinks.

#2: Competition is Unrealistic

Competition is simply not realistic in most cases.

Say you wanted to be as strong as “The Mountain” Hafthor Bjornsson. Hate to burst your bubble, but you don’t have the genetics…

Just like I think it would be pretty cool to be a bassist in a rock band, I’m not going to surpass Flea from the Chili Peppers any time soon…

You need to compare apples to apples and 90% of the time, we are really just comparing apples to oranges…

#3: Competition Can Make You Drift From Your Identity

This is probably the most important reason of the three and something you must understand to achieve long-term growth as an individual.

You see, my outlook on the strength and coaching business is different than the norm.

If you ask me, I’m not in the business of making money. I’m in the business of making bad ass motherfuckers. That means I don’t take every person that walks through the door as a client or member, and I’m really focused on working with the right kind of people.

If I bring the wrong people in just to make some more cash like most gyms do, I’m letting competition pull me away from my identity and brand.

Don’t get distracted by what other people are doing. Nobody else should ever drive your progress and vision. Always stick to your values and know who you are as a person/coach/entrepreneur.

Everything else going on around you (“competition” included) is just noise…

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So Who Is Your Competition?

The above thoughts are not meant to portray competition as bad. We compete in the weight room everyday and it’s damn healthy for your mental and physical drive. You should attack the weight room (and life) with a take no prisoners attitude. If I’m training with a partner, I am out to crush him on every lift, even if he outweighs me by 50 pounds.

But competition is a slippery slope…

At the end of the day, the only competition you have is with yourself.

The minute you learn to stop comparing yourself to others (on a deeper level), and instead focus that energy to making yourself better each and every day, the more freedom and clarity you will have in your life.

Better than I was yesterday.

That should be your mantra.

Nothing else matters because at the end of the day, your personal growth is your only measuring stick.

If you plan on kicking everyone else’s ass in the gym and in life (as you should be), the path is always through self-improvement. Are you smarter than you were yesterday? Did you lift more weight than you did last week? Did you train more frequently than you did last year?

Those are equatable and measurable things.

Worrying about outside noise and comparing yourself to others is a waste of time and energy, that of which is far better spent investing in a stronger version of yourself.

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Forget about the competition. Just worry about what you see in the mirror…

— Tank

You Are Where You Train

Over my 16 years or so of lifting, I’ve trained in every sort of environment you can imagine.

No frills high-school weight rooms, flashy expensive health clubs, corporate commercial gyms like Golds, a rock-climbing gym, and even a makeshift gym built out of one of Saddam Hussein’s old palaces when I was deployed to Iraq.

Each of these places held their own merits, and all of them had their fair share of problems as well. A lot of what you find attractive in a gym may come down to personal taste, but one thing nobody can deny is that your gym environment has a direct impact on how much you increase your performance.

I put a lot of thought into this topic recently as I opened the Primal Strength Gym. Thinking back to where I have trained in the past and what is important to develop a results-oriented training center, I’ve been able to key in on three vital issues that you should look for when seeking out a place to train.

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#1: Culture

This is by far the primary problem I see with a vast majority of the gyms I’ve come across. Most gyms, like any other business, are so focused on their bottom line (profit) that they bring in whoever is willing to pay their price, despite what baggage the prospective client brings to the gym environment.

Commercial gyms, like Golds, make a fortune off people that pay for a membership but don’t ever show up. But, on the flip side, what happens when people with poor attitudes show up and kill the gym energy with their negativity? It contaminates the environment and it will have an effect on you whether or not you even realize it.

In the gym, and your personal life, you are a product of who you surround yourself with. Surround yourself with slackers, whiners, complainers, and fearful people and you start to become one of those people. Surround yourself with hard-chargers, ass kickers, and strong, bad ass mother f’ers and you become a bad ass mother f’er. That’s just the way it goes.

At the Primal Strength Gym, I only maintain 50 membership slots, most of whom are referrals. I make sure I bring the right people in because maintaining the right kind of people and preserving the culture of the gym is paramount.

#2: Equipment

I’m going to take the opposite approach you may think on this one. Bottom line, most gyms these days have too much shit in them. Typically, when I walk into a gym, the more equipment I see, the worse the gym is.

You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to get big and strong, and too much equipment just turns into a distraction and throws people off from the basics of hardcore fundamental lifting.

The Primal Strength Gym has 3 power racks, a number of specialty bars, bands, sleds, multiple pull-up stations, heavy dumbbells, and some strongman implements like a yoke, log press, kegs, and ropes. My training revolves around the basics. Most people, with the right programming, can make tons of gains without specialized equipment and training protocols. The basics work…

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#3: Environment

In large part, culture and environment are interchangeable. The environment you create will dictate the culture you bring in and you need the right culture to maximize your gains.

Swanky health clubs and corporate box gyms simply don’t breed the intensity and grittiness that you need to train like an animal. So when you’re looking for a place to train, you need to pick a place that breeds aggressiveness and intensity, not complacency and restraint.

Primal Strength Gym has no heat or air conditioning. The radio blares death metal and gangster rap. A normal person might be intimidated walking through the door for the first time, but a little bit of fear can take you a long way. In order to be at your best you need to rise to the occasion, not shrink to normalcy.

So think about where you’ve been training. Does it fit my 3 vital characteristics? Does it fit the mold of a place that will bring out the best in you? Or are you coasting and wasting your potential?

— Tank

Rewards Are Worth The Risk

Some of the most rewarding times of my life and times when I made the most personal growth are times when I took the biggest risks.

I’ve always been an adrenaline junkie so things like bungee jumping, sky diving, white water rafting, and rock climbing come natural to me. Other times, like my deployments to Iraq with the U.S. Government and volunteering to go outside the wire to some of the most dangerous places in the world were a bit more unnerving. Founding Primal Strength Camp was a minor risk financially, but a big risk to my ego if I failed. Opening the Primal Strength Gym was all of the above, a big financial risk and also opening up a big opportunity for embarrassment in the public eye if I had to close my doors.

But despite the inherent risk all of these situations carried, they all have one major thing in common.

They made me feel alive.

Isn’t that the key to life? To LIVE.

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Don’t misconstrue that with just “existing”.

On a daily basis, I’m surrounded by people who are just existing and trust me you don’t want to be one of those people. Going through the motions, treading water in their careers, staying comfortable instead of doing things with their life that they dream of. People who are not living up to their potential or are waiting for something better to come along. Doing the same shit at the gym every day because they are afraid of trying something difficult.

Existing is not living.

You will never achieve greatness or reach your full potential by just existing. The people that just exist are the ones you never hear of. It’s the guy in your office who will be sitting in the same desk 15 years from now with no legacy to show for it. It will be the dude in the gym who still looks the same 2 years from now and is lifting the same amount of weight. It will be your Uncle Rico talking about how back in the day he could’ve done this or that had it not been for <insert excuse here>.

To live requires action. It takes hard work. But more than anything, it requires you to go out on a limb, to put yourself at great risk for failure, and give yourself at least an opportunity to achieve something remarkable.

I’ve felt more alive in the last month prepping the Primal Strength Gym for its grand opening than I have in quite some time. It’s a risk, but one that 20 years from now I’ll be far happier I took, rather than just maintaining the status quo in my life.

riskI was reading this article on Forbes recently, and one of the top 5 things risk adverse people said was “What if it doesn’t work out?”

But people are looking at it all wrong. The far more important question you should be asking yourself is “What if it does?”

Think about that for a second. Think about your dreams, where you want to be in the future, and what you want out of your life. Then think about where you are now and if you’re truly happy with where you are.

I’d venture to guess that there is at least some degree of disparity there.

Now ask yourself…is it worth the risk to find out what it’s like if it does work out?

You’re fucking right…

Live. Don’t just exist.

You owe it to the world, but more importantly you owe it to yourself.

— Tank

Training Finishers for Fat Loss and Muscle Gain

Want to boost fat loss, improve your conditioning, build some extra muscle, and increase your mental toughness, all in less than 20 minutes?

Adding training finishers to the end of your workouts is an extremely effective way to do all of the above.

Most of the time Primal finishers take the form of either high-intensity cardio, a hard hitting bodyweight circuit, or a strength movement with a conditioning component built around improving mental toughness.

Since finishers are meant to be high-intensity, you only need to do them a few times a week and are not meant to be done after every training session. Doing finishers too often will jeopardize your recovery times and strain your central nervous system (CNS), and if you are working your ass off during the main components of your training sessions, they just aren’t necessary all of the time. Keep your finishers to 20 minutes in duration or less.

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High-Intensity Cardio Finishers

Primal conditioning philosophy centers around high-intensity cardio and using finishers in this fashion is a perfect opportunity to burn some extra fat. High-intensity cardio burns more fat calories in a shorter period of time than steady state cardio like jogging or the stair climber, and it will have a long lasting metabolic effect, boosting fat loss for up to 24 hours after you have left the gym.

Here are some examples of high-intensity cardio finishers:

  1. Battle Rope Finisher: 3-4 rounds of battle rope for intervals of 30 seconds to 90 seconds or more. Non-stop movement of the ropes switching between rope slams (single and double arm variations), rope jumping jacks, and shoulder rotations. Rest 1-2 minutes between rounds.
  2. Hill Sprints: This is the most classic and effective fat burning cardio you can do. 5 – 10 sprints with 1-2 minutes rest in between rounds will do the trick. Your rest period includes time spent walking back down the hill.
  3. Sled and Prowler Work: Weighted sled pulls and sprints, and loaded prowler pushes make for brutal conditioning finishers. Pulls/pushes for 50 feet or more with short breaks in between movements work best.

Bodyweight Circuits

Bodyweight circuits are one of my favorite finishers to not only boost fat loss, but also build muscle and throw in some extra volume to my training sessions. You can do circuits with light resistance as well, but if you worked hard enough during the core of your training session it probably isn’t necessary. Bodyweight yields a good training effect while minimizing wear and tear on your body that increases recovery times. Using a circuit that recruits the entire body will boost the effectiveness of the finisher.

An example would be:

1a) Pushups x 10
1b) Recline Rows x 10
1c) Jump Squats x 10

Perform each exercise consecutively without rest in between. Completing all 3 constitutes one round. Rest 30 seconds to 2 minutes after each round. Perform 3-5 rounds.

Strength and Mental Toughness Finishers

These are my favorite finishers to use. I like leaving the gym knowing I gave it everything I had and really testing yourself at the end of a training session is a sure-fire way to end on a high note. The strength component of this finisher should involve heavy weight but with a movement that has little risk for technical error or injury. With this in mind, I often turn to heavy farmers carries or carrying odd objects like kegs, sandbags, or stones.

You will get a strength, muscle building, conditioning, and mental toughness training effect with this kind of finisher. I also like combining this type of finisher with high-intensity cardio as a form of contrast training.

A couple examples of this type of finisher would look like:

  1. Kettlebell farmers carries for 150 feet.
  2. Heavy object carries for 150 feet in a variety of positions (zercher, shouldered, cleaned, overhead). Keep in mind risk for technical error and increasing the difficulty with different positions since you are already fatigued from your entire training session.
  3. Farmers carries for 50 – 150 feet followed immediately by a hill sprint.

farmers carry finishers

Wrapping Up

  • Finishers are a great way to boost fat loss, improve conditioning, increase muscle mass, and build mental toughness.
  • The best finishers can be high-intensity cardio, bodyweight circuits, and strength and mental toughness movements.
  • Do not perform finishers after every training session because they can jeopardize your recovery times and increase CNS fatigue.

— Tank

Standing Your Ground

I was at an art gallery a few weeks back.

Pretty cultured of me huh?

Anyhow, there were a lot of impressive photographs, paintings, and digital art prints in the exhibit.

But this one really caught my eye.

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I admired it at first glance and then strolled along to check out the rest of the gallery, but found myself coming back to this one in particular multiple times. It really spoke to me and I’ve thought about it almost daily ever since.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder one could say, but taking a deeper look at this picture I think it tells a really compelling story.

This city is teetering on a cliff in the middle of a harsh sea. Waves are crashing all around it, tearing at its base, threatening its very existence. But yet, showing a touch of aging and wear, it still stands tall in the face of precarious circumstances. It’s showing strength in a sea of adversity with no signs of backing down, despite its very foundation crumbling around it. It’s defiant in the face of overwhelming danger. It’s enduring.

Is this not a metaphor for life? Perhaps it’s a metaphor for YOUR life, right this very second?

As the old saying goes, “shit happens”.  We all live in harsh seas.  One minute you are riding high, the next minute your foundation is shaky and you are struggling to stay above the surface.

The question then becomes, will you stand up and fight defiantly like this city in the sea? Or will you drown?

I ask this question many times in my own life, and in relation to this very business.

You see, the strength and conditioning world is a competitive place. Primal Strength Camp is 2 years old now and I’m proud of how far it has come. But it’s easy to find myself in a sea of doubt when comparing myself to some of the bigger names in the business who have been at it much longer than I have. It’s easy to want to compromise and try to be like other huge fitness pages that don’t really post anything of value, just googled recycled memes. It’s tempting to try and come up with diet or training gimmicks with fancy marketing that insinuate an easy way out, rather than be honest with people and tell them that it takes brutally hard work. It would be easy to compromise my values and training philosophies to be “more appealing” to the masses and get more clients.

But I prefer to be on my cliff, defiant and uncompromising in the face of all odds.

I’m confident in my strength and I believe in what I do. That’s what allows me to stand my ground and press forward in what I believe is a positive direction.

So what about you? Is there something in your life that you need to stand up for, despite negative circumstances?

Do you have the fortitude to stand on your cliff and fight against wave after wave of adversity?

I know you do. I believe in you without even having to know you because I believe in the power of the mind.

But it doesn’t matter what I believe because ultimately it comes down to what you believe about yourself.

Find your strength. Use it to defy the odds, to overcome negative circumstances, to stand tall on that cliff when the rain and waves are crashing over you.  No matter how bleak the horizon looks, your willingness to fight through the storms will make the difference between your ultimate success and getting swept out to sea.

Sometimes it gets lonely being that city in the sea. But rising above it all, I bet it has a hell of a view.

You must endure Primal Nation. You must endure.

— Tank

Habits Are Hard to Break

I’ve been biting my fingernails since I was a little kid.  For probably about 25 years that I can recall, I haven’t been able to break the habit.

It has become so second nature that I don’t even realize I’m doing it.  For the most part, I have to be told that I am, and then I can stop myself.  But if I’m on my own, forget about it…

My hands look like hell and I’m sure I look like a weirdo when I’m doing it.

But habits are hard to break.

Most of the time, our attention is drawn to bad habits.

How many of you have hit the gym hard for a week, then missed a day, and boom!  It takes weeks for you to make it back.

Or, on the flip side, how many of you meatheads out there hit the gym religiously, but it becomes so second nature that you overlook simple mistakes you are making in technique or fall into some drab routine where you just keep doing the same ol’ sh*t over and over again.

We can all relate to this on some level, whether it even involves the gym or not.  Maybe you have habits that you’ve picked up and they are now entrenched in your lifestyle.

Habits can take over your life.  But just like developing the bad ones, we all have the opportunity to create good ones as well.

There is no reason you can’t reverse current trends or start a new habit that betters your life starting today.

aristotle habits

I’m 30 years old now and there is no damn reason why I shouldn’t be able to stop biting my finger nails.

Just like there is no reason why you can’t develop the habit of going to the gym.  Or develop the habit of paying close attention to all aspects of your gym routine and nailing your technique each and every rep.

Some of the most successful people I know are huge creatures of habit.  I was reading an article by author/trainer Craig Ballantyne where he talked about his morning routine.  Wakes up at the same time every day, writes his goals down for the day, has the same tasks every morning, and doesn’t stray much from it.  In return, his entire mindset is wired now to where he can’t help but be productive.  That dude gets more done by 11am than most of us do the entire day!

Being in the habit of working your ass off breeds success and productivity.  And there isn’t a single person I know that doesn’t want to be successful.

So make it your goal today to start forming good habits.  Studies have shown that if you stick with something for at least 2 weeks, you have far more of a chance to maintain that habit permanently.

This doesn’t mean that you have to be boring.  Maybe only 4 hours of your day are ritualized.  But I can guarantee you that you will get more done in those 4 hours of habit than you would just winging it.  Spend the rest of the day being a free spirit and enjoying life.  But for those 4 hours, be on lockdown.

I’ll make it my mission from this point forward to stop biting my fingernails.  You just get your ass to the gym or form whatever habits you need to in order to improve your quality of life.

Now is the time to take action.

Evolve!!

— Tank
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
Underground Strength Coach

Imperfection Training

Imperfection training is a big part of what Primal Strength Camp is all about.

I first read about the idea of this type of training in the book “Supertraining” by Yuri Verkhoshansky.  If you’ve never heard of this book and are serious about strength training and muscle building, you need to invest in it.

Consider this statement:

All-round sports training must include the capability of coping with unexpected and sub-optimal conditions. In certain sports where accidents or unexpected situations often occur, such as the martial arts, parachuting and motor racing, participants are taught how to cope with events that can have serious consequences. This type of preparation needs to be adopted far more extensively in all sports so that the athlete is able to anticipate threatening situations, react much more rapidly to unexpected circumstances, take action to avoid or minimise injury, and cope with sub-optimal conditions by practising with imperfectly executed movements.

When I first started training outside with odd-objects for fun as a way to break up the monotony of the gym, I immediately noticed that my gym strength didn’t translate to the real world.

The real world IS a “sub-optimal condition”.  Nothing is ever perfect.  But our bodies get so damn accustomed to moving so rigidly in the gym (almost always in a linear fashion) that we are ill-equipped to handle unexpected movements and uneven loads.  This is why I had trouble lifting kegs and sandbags when I first started.  I was already using imperfection training without even realizing it.

One thing I think we can all relate to is helping somebody move furniture.  You can bench 300 pounds and squat twice your bodyweight, but if you ever try to move some weird shaped couch or get a dresser up some stairs, I bet it kicks your ass.

Anyhow, if you are interested in possessing “real-world strength”, the concept of imperfection training and working it into your routines is a no-brainer.  This especially goes for athletes because nothing you ever do in a game situation is perfect.  Rarely are you moving in a linear fashion like most of your exercises in a gym (they may be dynamic like Olympic lifts or jumps, but are still not chaotic).

“Creating chaos” in an exercise form is not totally accomplishable.  There is only so much you can do and you will never be able to mimic the things you will encounter in real-life situations, but there are things you can do to help bridge the gap.

#1: Lifting Odd-Objects

Kegs, stones, slosh pipes, and sandbags are all good tools to use here.  Cleans, clean and presses, overhead presses, and sandbag shouldering are all examples of movements to perform.  None of these tools have evenly distributed weight, especially in the case of kegs (only partially filled) and sandbags.  The water and sand will continually shift making each and every rep of the movement different.

#2: Uneven Carries

Farmers carries are an awesome exercise, but rarely do you see variations in style.  Uneven carries require different sized loads to be carried in each arm.  For example, two different sized kettlebells.

At Primal, we like to take things a step further and carry two entirely different objects altogether.  In one hand we may have a 50 pound kettlebell, but we will have a 100 pound sandbag in a shouldered position in the other arm.  Or carrying the same sized object in two different carry positions; one at your side and one in a cleaned position is a good example.

Ever used a slosh pipe?  This is an uneven carry extreme and a Primal favorite.  A 10 foot pipe filled only partially with water, the water is constantly changing positions side to side, creating full body tension in an effort to keep the pipe upright and stabilized.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c93mGtzBhJs[/tube]


#3: Outside Sled Work

Most of the time you see sled work, trainers have their people pulling/pushing the sled on turf.  That’s good and all, but it certainly makes it a hell of a lot easier.

We train with our sleds outside in parks, often times in tall, dry grass or patchy fields at best.  It may go from fairly easy to impossible in a split second if you snag it on a dirt pile or high-patch of grass.  Doing it this way, you have to be very focused on keeping your legs churning and burning, similar to how you would see a running back trying to push the pile in a short yardage situation.

#4: Dynamic Throws

Heavy throws are a great way to build strength and total body power and explosiveness.  Aside from normal medicine ball work, kegs and sandbags and even stones are a great tool to use for these.

strength training
Keg tossing will develop some serious explosive power. This will help you off the ground with your other lifts too, like deadlifts and the clean and press.

If you are trying to build some “functionality” behind all of that gym muscle, imperfection training is something you need to consider for your training arsenal.  Use some of these ideas and run with them.  The beauty of this style is it allows you to be creative.  When you get so bogged down in traditional training, throwing a little chaos into your world can be a really rewarding and refreshing thing to do.  Training this way once or twice a week in addition to your normal routine should reap you some benefits.

Just do it responsibly and with some thought behind it, because just like sports, some of these movements can lead to injury.  You should be concentrating and focusing on moving efficiently during this training just like any other gym session.

Evolve!!

— Tank

5 Ways to Change Your Life Immediately

Changing your life for the better is typically a process.  It usually starts with a goal, then a plan, and then after some period of execution, boom!  You may end up where you want to be.

But it’s never an overnight process, nor is there an end destination.

You should always be striving to get better.  Every.  Single.  Day.  If you aren’t better than you were yesterday, you are wasting your potential.  Each and every one of us is capable of great things.  I truly believe that.  It’s just up to you to believe that about yourself.

Wall Builder

Now while there is no such thing as overnight success, there are things you can do right now that will change your life for the better.

#1: Drop Negative Influences Out of Your Life

This one is huge!

The key to being successful is being confident and having a positive attitude.  Negative people are your enemy.

I don’t care who they are either.  If they aren’t firmly entrenched in your corner, supporting you through thick and thin, or having a positive influence on you, get rid of them.  Unfortunately, I had to do this with my own mother.  She was/is battling substance abuse and just general bat sh*t craziness since I was a little boy, and after years and years of trying to help her, I realized I had to cut the cord.

Some of you may think that sounds harsh, but some people you just can’t change.  But you sure as hell better believe that you can change yourself and who you associate with.

#2: Simplify Your Lifestyle

This kind of goes with #1 up there.

The more sh*t you have in your life, the more complicated it is.  Bottom line.

I was reading a muscle building book a while ago and it had this awesome discussion on “free will”.  It talked about how so many convicts are jacked but yet a lot of people with fancy gym memberships and all of this freedom still were weak and average looking.

The author chalked it up to “free will” and how each decision we make takes a little bit of energy out of our tank.

Convicts really have no choices in their daily lives.  Life, as funny as it sounds, is simple for them because they don’t have to make many decisions.  The decisions they do make are how they pass time in their cell and how they spend their rec yard time.

But for “normal people” like us, all of our free will is eaten up by the thousands of decisions we have to make every day.  When do I go to bed?  What tv show should I watch now?  Should I buy this?  What am I going to wear?  Where should I go out to eat for lunch?  Do I fold laundry or wash the dishes?

Somewhere buried in all of those decisions is the one to exercise.  To spend that extra 15 minutes to stretch.  To do that extra set of good mornings.

Inmates are working with a much fuller tank than we are.  So you may need to even the playing field.

The more simple your life is, the more freedom you have.  And you could use that “free will” towards making yourself better.

It's Simple

#3: Stop Watching TV

This one is a biggie.

I’m just as guilty as anyone on this.  I do watch a lot of sports and some occasional trash tv when I’m trying to get my newborn to sleep, but turning off the tube can be one of the best things you could ever do to fuel your productivity.

I did a little experiment a while back where I stopped watching tv, and in one week, I had cleared out my reading queue of 3 eBooks and finished a book on Dan John that I had been trying to finish for several months.

Some of the most successful people I know don’t watch any tv at all.  They don’t have time for it because they are too busy hustling, kicking ass, and doing better for themselves.

#4: Clean Up Your Diet

There is a direct correlation between what you eat and how you feel.

So if you want to feel good, you need to eat clean.

Lay off the fats and heavy carbs.  Eat quality proteins, a diverse array of veggies, and never drink your calories.

For a good breakdown of macronutrients, click here and here.

The reality of it is, you could have the best muscle building program in the world, but if your diet is crap, you will see no results.  You will never be able to out-train a bad diet.

#5: Find a Passion

Passion

It doesn’t really matter what it is.  Just find something that you really care about and immerse yourself in it.

Passion breeds success and allows you to focus on something that you think is much bigger than yourself.  It just so happens that my passion is strength training and getting stronger.  And in training myself, it carries over to when I train others.  I do my best to motivate and help others reach their goals.

Showing your passion to the world is an inspiring thing.  It’s infectious!  And when you are doing things that you want to do, you feel better about yourself.  You have a sense of purpose.

So even if it’s only for an hour or less a day, live your passion.  You need it for yourself, and the world needs it from you.

Alright Primal nation, time to take action!  You have an opportunity to make a difference right now, this very second!

Don’t waste it…

Evolve!!

— Tank
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
Underground Strength Coach

4 Ways to Bust Through Strength Plateaus

If you’ve been lifting long enough, then you’ve probably hit strength plateaus before.  It’s inevitable.

While it’s an awesome feeling to be breaking personal records (PR’s) day in and day out, the reality is that it’s just not sustainable.  Enjoy it while it lasts because as soon as you hit a sticking point, the process of getting past it can be damn frustrating.

strength plateaus

But it’s okay.  I’m here to help.  Here are 4 surefire ways to help you eclipse those strength plateaus and get back on the fast track of smashing PR’s.

#1: Supramaximal Adaptation Training

I came across this technique in one of the bibles of strength training called “Supertraining” by Yuri Verkhoshansky.

The technique is fairly simple and the logic is sound.  The idea is that you get your body familiar with training loads that are much greater than your current 1 rep max just by supporting the weight or training with the weight in a limited range of motion.

If you have ever done drop sets, the logic is similar.  In a drop set, you take a load and do it for a specified number of reps, and then reduce the weight and do another set.  On the lighter set, the weight feels much lighter than it actually is because your body just trained with a heavier load and your body is able to pump out more reps (usually).  Drop sets are normally used in high-volume training and focused on hypertrophy, not 1 rep maxes.

Supramaximal adaptation training is built around a similar premise, but is treated in a much different way than you would a drop set since we are going for pure strength gains.

For one, the loads that you use will be considerably higher than your 1 rep max.  I used this type of training to get over a sticking point in my squat, and the loads I used to do it were over 100 pounds more than my 1 rep max.

Secondly, you will probably use this type of training for several weeks before you attempt a new 1 rep max.  For my squat, I trained with “supramaximal” loads for 2 weeks before going for a new PR.  Unlike a drop set, you don’t simply train one set with a higher load, and then immediately go for a new record.  Patience is key, and take the time to let your body adapt.

Third, this type of training is not meant to be done with a full range of motion.  For some, just supporting the weight may get you to where you need to be.  When I used this to train for a new squat PR, I regressed to box squats with the higher loads to get my body adapted to the much heavier weight.  Then when it came time for my new PR, I ditched the box and went for it.  I set a new PR by 10 pounds.

strength plateaus

#2: Set New 2 and 3 Rep Maxes

If you get stuck on a 1 rep max, it is natural for you to keep going after it until you break it.  I wouldn’t fault anyone for that as long as you are doing it smartly.  Take the time to tweak your technique, change the intensity of your warm-up sets, or even take some time off.

But sometimes, none of this will work and you are truly stuck.  No biggie.  Instead of focusing on a new 1 rep max, focus on 2 and 3 rep maxes instead.  Don’t even mess with your 1 rep max weights for a while.

If you can set new 3 rep maxes for instance, your body will be much better adapted to handling a new 1 rep max.  This sort of falls in line with the Principle of Progressive Overload, but sometimes this basic principle gets overlooked when you are trying to crush some new weight.

Like the first tip above, be patient with this.  Just because you set a new 2 rep max doesn’t mean you should attempt a new 1 rep max immediately after.  Strength is a journey and a process, not a race.

#3: Tweak Your Warm-Up

This is one of the biggest mistakes I see people make.

Don’t get me wrong, you need to be properly warmed up to be at optimal performance and reduce your chance of injury.  But there is a fine line between being warm and overdoing it.

You can approach your warm-up 2 different ways when you are trying for a new PR.  You can decrease the number of sets you do, but increase the intensity on each set.  This will require you to make much bigger jumps in weight on your warm-up sets.  Here is an example for bench press:

  1. 135 x 6
  2. 185 x 6
  3. 235 x 4
  4. 265 x 2
  5. 285 x 2
  6. 305 x 1 (new PR)

The second approach is to keep your warm-up sets the same, but decrease the number of reps each set and use lower increments of intensities.  A lot of guys I see will hit 8 reps or so a set, but if you are trying to set a new max, you may be expending too much energy leading up to it.  By decreasing the number of reps, you are leaving “some gas in the tank”.  Here is an example (bench press):

  1. 135 x 4
  2. 165 x 4
  3. 185 x 4
  4. 225 x 2
  5. 255 x 2
  6. 275 x 1
  7. 295 x 1
  8. 305 x 1 (new PR)

If you are a slow starter and it takes you a while to get warm, this may be your best bet.  As compared to the first approach, your body is making an adaptation to higher weights more gradually with 2 extra sets, but you are still doing less total reps (18 versus 20).  While 2 reps may not seem like a lot, if you are going for a new 1 rep max, those 2 reps may be your saving grace.

deadlift strength training

#4: Take Time Off From Heavy Lifting

There is not much to say about this one really.  The title speaks for itself.  After repeated failed attempts (over the course of weeks I mean), your best bet may be to just take some time off.

This is not a cop out or a wuss move.  Your ability to break through the barrier may just be your body’s way of telling you to take a break.  Any smart lifter always knows to listen to his body.

I had to resort to this strategy last winter with my deadlift.  I couldn’t beat my personal best. After 2 months of trying other strategies I decided to just step away.  After 3 months of not lifting heavy I came back with a vengeance and beat my personal best by 30 pounds within 2 weeks of lifting heavy again.

So, bottom line?  Listen to your body.  If other strategies don’t work, lose the ego and take some time off.  Time off should be a minimum of 2 weeks, but could span months depending on how long you have been lifting heavy.

Wrapping Up

Keep in mind also that these are just examples, and you can tweak what I’ve laid out here but still stick to the premise and logic that I’ve given you.

So give these a try when you reach strength plateaus.  I’ve personally tried all 3 of these, and they work.  The key is being patient and methodical.  Strength is a journey and lifelong pursuit.

You may spend weeks or months trying to hit a new PR, but you will get there!  Stay strong and never, ever quit…

Evolve!!

— Tank

I Used to Weigh 400 Pounds

Primal Nation,

Not everyday are you privileged to be a part of a story like this.  But a few weeks ago, my new friend Robert reached out to me on Primal’s Facebook page and brought my attention to his weight loss journey.  After seeing some of his before and after pictures, I asked him to put his story in writing because I thought his accomplishments were remarkable and needed to be shared with the world.

And boy, was I blown away.  These kind of stories are what I live for.  Seeing people fight against the odds, push through mental barriers, become stronger day by day, and persevere through great physical and emotional challenges.  Achieving the extraordinary…

Robert’s achievements are not related to Primal Strength Camp at all.  He is just a follower of the page and every now and then I hope I give him some useful information via Facebook posts and the Primal blog.  He achieved his transformation all on his own, but after meeting the man, you better believe I’m in his corner as his journey to reach 200 pounds continues.  He has a ton to offer the world with his weight loss story and we could all learn something from him.  So it is my pleasure to help him share his story here…

Start following his page here: https://www.facebook.com/OneGuysWeightLossJourney

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One Guy’s Weight Loss Story by Robert “Bear” Asche

I don’t even know where to begin or how to start this off. My weight loss journey has been one hell of a roller coaster ride filled with small victories and major fails – I could start this off with an opening cliché such as “Once upon a Time” or “It was a dark and stormy night” or one that seems more fitting for what I’ve been through, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” – But I won’t, I’ll merely start off with – I used to weigh 400 lbs.

On the left me in my mid 30’s – On the right me in my mid 40’s.
On the left me in my mid 30’s – On the right me in my mid 40’s.

Now that I’ve got your attention and curiosity let me attempt to consolidate my weight loss experience and journey from the beginning so you understand where I was, and how I got there. I was always skinny growing up and never had a weight issue. In my 20’s I was a construction worker, and never had to worry about being in shape. The job was physically demanding, I was ripped, and so strong I could carry 3 bundles on roofing shingles on my shoulder which is about 240lbs up a ladder on a 2 story house – I was an animal! Ahhh, to be young again – 🙂

In my 30’s I left construction and dove head first into the web design / development field. My environment changed but my diet didn’t, consuming everything in sight, smoking, and drinking beer like it was free. My waistline started getting bigger (a lot bigger), and the muscle was disappearing. But hey who cares!! – I’m a part of the internet boom making tons of money, right?! I knew I was getting big; and within a few years I blew up to a 48 waist, and a 3x shirt. The day came when I needed a new pair of jeans so I went to the big and tall clothing store (it was the only place I could shop for clothes) tried on a pair of 48 waist jeans and they didn’t fit – They were too tight. I walked out of the store refusing to buy 50 waist jeans. That’s when reality smacked me right in the face, and I knew it was time to make some major changes in my life. I was a disaster, tired, unmotivated, sick all the time, and I fucking hated looking at myself in the mirror – I was completely disgusted with how I looked.

On the left me and my baby girl – On the right me becoming a fucking warrior!
On the left me and my baby girl – On the right me becoming a fucking warrior!

I was dedicated to lose the weight, but I did it all wrong the first time. I went from 420lbs down to 245lbs in a year and a half. My eating habits and gym habits where horrible. Diet Pepsi and fat free pretzels where my main source of food, along with chronic cardio. I had NO clue about proper nutrition; all I knew is that the weight was coming off. At 245lbs I found myself back in the construction field (while still running my own web design business part time), working hard and eating anything I could get my hands on. I remember walking in the front door of my house after work one day, looking in the mirror and seeing my belly sticking out. I weighed myself and saw that I was up to 270lbs. I decided to get back on my “diet” plan. I managed to get myself down to 209lbs. But once again I did it all wrong. I was so hell bent on reaching 200lbs I would go days without eating, consuming ex-lax like it was candy, and popping stacker2’s all day. I plateaued at 209 lbs; I eventually (and completely) gave up trying, started eating and drinking again, and ended up shooting back up to 310lbs.

On the left, me at 310 lbs. A failed “diet plan” – On the right, finally doing it right!
On the left, me at 310 lbs. A failed “diet plan” – On the right, finally doing it right!

On January 1st of this year (2013) I decided once again to lose the weight, eat healthy, and do it the right way. This time I was eating chicken, fish, veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds. I joined a gym and by my third visit I was ready to quit. Walking on the treadmill was painful, my shins hurt so bad I was practically in tears. For weeks I pushed myself on the treadmill in agonizing pain 5 to 6 days a week, but I absolutely refused to fucking quit! I had to put my war face on when walking into the gym because I knew the next hour of my life was going to suck. I was hoping the pain would eventually subside, and lucky enough for me it went away. No more shin pain, foot pain, or leg pains. I went from barley walking a mile in 40 minutes to running a mile in under 7 minutes in just a few short months! Sitting here thinking back, this was probably one of the hardest things I had to overcome, and it made me a stronger person all around. This part of my story is an emotional experience for me, it’s a good thing you’re not reading a paper version of this because it would probably have tear drop stains on it. Hey, even warriors cry, and it doesn’t make me any less of a man because of it. Real men aren’t afraid to show their emotions.

From barely being able walking a mile in 40 minutes to running 5k charity races!
From barely being able walking a mile in 40 minutes to running 5k charity races!

I never thought of it this way but if you go back and do my weight numbers of losing and gaining, then losing, it’s mind boggling. My actual total weight loss would be 334 lbs. Most people complain about trying to lose just 20 lbs. I can’t help but laugh at myself sometimes about how naïve I was about proper eating and rest. I recommend the book “The Primal Blue Print” by Mark Sisson – I’ve followed it religiously for the last 6 months – It works, and it makes sense. I also want to thank my new friend Tank from Primal Strength Camp for answering my questions about weight lifting, and giving me a venue to share my story. Tank is a good dude, and is VERY willing to share his knowledge of strength training. As Tank would put it… EVOLVE!!

A lot of people ask me how I eat and how much time do I spend in the gym. I spend approx: 60 to 90 minutes in the gym, 5 to 6 days a week. 90% weights, 10% high intensity cardio. My food intake is: Breakfast = 2 or 3 hard boiled eggs or Greek Yogurt, and a few handfuls of berries. Lunch = 2 cans of tuna straight out of the can along with a piece of fruit, an apple, pear or plum. Dinner = A HUGE plate of veggies (you’d laugh at the how big of a dinner I eat, it’s almost comical sometimes – LOL!) along with a big piece of grilled chicken or salmon. I graze on nuts and seeds all day – Mostly almonds and pumpkin seeds, and I drink water like it’s my full time job. I’m almost NEVER hungry!

On the left me at my heaviest – On the right are those abs I’m getting?
On the left me at my heaviest – On the right are those abs I’m getting?

Now comes the part where I’m supposed to end this somehow – But the more I think about it, it’s really a never ending story. I’m 46 years old, and as of today, I am 211 lbs, I’ve lost 99 pounds in the last 6 months, and I’m only 11 lbs. away from my goal weight of 200 lbs. – Pretty exciting for me don’t ya think? I’m doing it the right way this time, eating a lot of healthy foods, sleeping/resting, and exercise. The day I get on that scale and see 200 lbs. is going to be very emotional for me. I’ve come along way, I finally like myself again, and I like what I see in the mirror. If I can do it, so can you. Stay focused, and you will see changes, it’ll happen! Become the warrior you’ve always wanted to be. I hit the weights as hard as I can, and run sprints like I’m being chased by a pack of lions knowing that I can say – I used to weigh 400 lbs.

Join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/OneGuysWeightLossJourney

— Robert “Bear” Asche