Tag Archives: success

Perception is Not Reality: Lifting Fact Versus Fiction

As a strength coach, I do a lot of reading, not only in published articles and blog posts, but especially the comments sections.

I do this for a number of reasons, the most important being education. Part of that education is being in tune with the fitness market and where people are going wrong, which helps me better educate you and shield you from all of the bullshit.

If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that bro scientists, self-anointed “experts”, and gimmick pushers have completely polluted a lot of people’s perceptions and cemented their minds with false realities. Once this happens, it’s really difficult to change someone’s mind because a perception from a “trusted source” quickly becomes unwavering “truth”.

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Let me be the first to tell you, perception is not reality.

Don’t believe everything you hear. Challenge perception and seek truth through personal experience.

With that being said, let me give you some truths I’ve learned through blood, sweat, and tears in the iron game. Time to play a little game of perception versus reality.

(There are a lot of embedded links in this post that explain some concepts in detail; be sure to check them out if you need more explanation.)

Perception: Do not train muscle groups more than once a week.
Reality: Of all the training parameters (rest times, intensity, exercise selection, volume, etc.)  I’ve played with over the years, training frequency has BY FAR been the most important to making gains. A recent personal example: Over the past 6 weeks, I’ve squatted, deadlifted, benched, and overhead pressed twice a week. Results? I’ve gained 20 pounds and added upwards of 20 pounds to some of my maxes.

Perception: Training for over an hour will wreck your hormones and make you catabolic.
Reality: If you want to get good at something, do you just practice for an hour? Didn’t think so. If you peruse my website, you will see me perpetuate this perception, but mostly that was a way of me trying to get people to eliminate too much time between sets and get people to focus. The reality is that you can train for several hours at a time (and will have to if you are making a lot of strength lifts that require more recovery time between sets) and be just fine.

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Perception: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Reality: Depends on your goals. If you are trying to maximize fat loss, it’s not. Our hormonal cycles actually promote fat burning in the morning, so eating breakfast completely halts that. (If you’re trying to gain weight, just eat more later in the day.)

Perception: Eating carbs at night will make you fat.
Reality: Eating carbs all day and eclipsing your daily totals will make you fat. I eat the majority of my carbs at night (but stay within my daily allotment) and maintain 10%-12% bodyfat without a lot of high-intensity cardio.

Perception: Steady state cardio (jogging for example) is the best way to burn fat.
Reality: While your body does burn a higher percentage of fat at lower intensities (50% of calories from fat) versus higher intensities (35% of calories from fat), at higher intensities you burn far more calories overall, ultimately leading to more fat calories (in a much shorter amount of time).

For example, if I walk on the treadmill for an hour and burn 250 calories, I may have burned about 125 calories from fat.  But let’s say I train Primal style and run several sets of hill sprints, followed by a high intensity finisher.  In about 20 minutes, I could burn 500-600 calories, with 210 calories from fat.  One-third of the time and far more fat burn…

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Perception
: You need to do a ton of cardio and ab work to get a six-pack.
Reality: Abs are made in the kitchen. Want to drop a few pounds? Eat below your maintenance levels. You can sit on your ass all day and lose weight by just cutting a few hundred calories off your daily intake. Use a few high-intensity cardio sessions a week to augment weight lifting and a muscle building diet.

Perception: After 4 weeks of intense training, you need a de-load week.
Reality: Your body will tell you when you need a de-load week, and that could not be for a couple of months. I’ve personally had hardcore training cycles last more than 2 months, making gains the whole time, before my performance dipped and I had to de-load.

Perception: You can’t train for hypertrophy and strength at the same time.
Reality: Yes you can. Training Primal style, we do it all the time. Supplement strength lifts with higher rep accessory work and you will make gains in both.

Perception: Body part splits are the most effective for building muscle.
Reality: Body part splits are great for making newbie gains, but are not as effective as full body or upper-lower split training. Remember what I said about frequency above? Training with a body part split completely eliminates that advantage. Don’t do it…train with an upper-lower split instead.

Perception: Females who lift weights will get huge.
Reality: Women lack the testosterone production to get big naturally. Want to get “toned”? What you are really saying is you want to lose body fat and gain muscle mass. How do you do that? Lift heavy weights.

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Per
ception: Bodyweight training is not effective at building muscle and strength.
Reality: Bodyweight training is very effective if you know how to program it. This means learning the progressions and not sticking with standard variations. Check this out: Top 10 Bodyweight Exercises.

Perception: Muscle isolation is key to hypertrophy.
Reality: If your training volume for each muscle group is on point, isolation is not all that important. My arms are one of the most developed muscles on my body, and I don’t do any direct bicep work, but I work them indirectly all the time through row variations, pull-ups, and pressing. Remember what I said about frequency?

Perception: You need a ton of volume to gain muscle.
Reality: I’ve put on plenty of muscle doing sets of 6. The key is to lift heavy enough weights with an appropriate portion of volume. This means lifting heavy weights (70-85% of your one rep max) for sets of 6-8 for muscle gain.  Lifting weights less than 70% of your 1-rep max (1RM) will not produce a significant training effect.

(There is a lot more to this and I’m admittedly oversimplifying the issue. Check out my “How To Series” for me details about which body parts respond well to higher volumes, etc.)

Perception:  Circuits/intervals are great for building muscle.
Reality: Depends on a number of factors, but the key here is lifting heavy enough weights for those circuits, which means keeping your volume on the lower side. Sets of more than 12 (per exercise), because they have to be done with relatively low weight (less than 70% of your 1RM), really only train endurance.

Several recent studies have exposed this perception recently.  A university study on the popular “Bodypump” class showed participants made no changes to their body composition (no fat loss and no muscle gain) over a 12-week period. Another American Council on Exercise (ACE) study showed P90X participants burned a lot of calories (similar to joggers actually) but had no muscle gain.

The old adage here is to train to your goals. If your main goal is to burn calories, increase endurance, and increase metabolic function/fat loss, circuits are certainly a good option. But if your main goal is to gain muscle, circuits should only be supplemental (short duration/high-intensity finishers) to traditional strength training. If you want to gain muscle, you have to get under the (heavy) bar. Period.

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— Tank

8 Things I Do Every Day — The Importance of Daily Rituals

By normal standards, a lot of people would say I’m a very busy guy.

In addition to running Primal Strength Camp and the Primal Strength Gym, I still work a full-time job for the US Department of Defense. I am also a family man with a 100 pound bruiser of a dog, a wife, and a 2 year old daughter.

There are times when I do feel stretched thin and my obligations can seem overwhelming, but at the same time, nothing in life comes easy. If you want to achieve great things, you have to put in the work and make the sacrifices necessary to do the extraordinary.

Contrary to what you hear from success gurus, I don’t believe in “work-life” balance. The cold hard truth is that if you want to excel in something, that success will come at the expense of other things in your life. That means that sometimes family life may take a backseat to your career for example. Other times your family may be the priority, and other times your health and training may trump everything.

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Priorities are cyclical so don’t stress yourself out by trying to achieve a balancing act. Instead, develop some daily rituals that allow you to progress (even if just a little) and maximize your productivity.

There are certain things I do everyday to ensure I maximize my time and align with my priorities. The time I devote to some of these things shifts depending on what needs to be done on that given day, but that’s the beauty of not getting fooled into an unsustainable balancing act.

The following list is not meant to account for mundane activities, like checking email or posting in social media for example. These are meant to be more broad, thought driven activities that advance my growth as a person, family man, or coach.

Maybe some of these don’t work for you, maybe some of them will. The important part is to take what you can use and make them part of your lifestyle.

#1: Brainstorm

Some people meditate, but when I sit and think in silence I think of it more as brainstorming. This time is crucial to think about what blog posts to write, ways to advance my business, training ideas I can use with clients, and things I can do to be a better family man.

It doesn’t necessarily matter what you think about, but it does need to be productive and conducive to the advancement of your life goals. Take at least 5 minutes a day where you can be alone and visualize a success plan for yourself.

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#2: Make a To-Do List

Every day I have a meaningful list of tasks to accomplish. Typically this list gets made at night before I go to sleep, so I have a clear and precise attack plan for the following day. Having a contract with yourself that you can accomplish every day is vital to productivity and is critical to eliminate time mismanagement.

#3: Learn Something New

This comes across as very cliche but how often do we really do it? A lot of people may say they just don’t have time to read/study/learn between their day jobs and family lives. My counter to that is they are just making excuses and aren’t maximizing their time.

I drive 30 minutes each way to work. I don’t listen to music. Instead I listen to podcasts from people I admire in the strength and business industry and soak up all the knowledge I can from my hour in the car each day. This is in addition to the time I make to read books, learn from others in the gym, and what I do for my day job with the government.

To clarify, learning something new needs to be something that you can take and apply to your life/career in a meaningful way. I’m not talking meaningless trivia here, but rather things that will advance your life in a positive way. It doesn’t have to be profound, but it has to be useful.

#4: Train

I’m not the same man without crushing my training. Being a gym owner, when I’m in the environment every day, it’s hard for me to take a step back and take days off. So even if I’m not training myself, I’m in the gym soaking up the intensity and hard work that my clients and members are exuding. Just being in the gym and observing is an awesome opportunity to accomplish #3 on this list. Always remember, strong body leads to strong mind, and vice versa.

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#5: Write

Keeping up this blog is no small task, but I enjoy writing and it’s therapeutic in a sense. It’s a great opportunity to share knowledge, clear my head, and reach the masses. Even if nobody else reads it, writing is a great opportunity to make sense of your thoughts and get them processed in an organized way. It doesn’t have to be a work of literature; maybe it’s just a journal of your thoughts and experiences. The important part is that you have a creative outlet.

#6: Spend Time With Family/Friends

After being gone all day, I look forward to going home and seeing my wife and kid. My daughter is two now and has me wrapped around her little finger. I can’t imagine not laying on the floor with her and reading books, giving her hugs, tending to her “boo-boos”, and chasing her around the house listening to her laugh.

Friends and family are important. Make time for them. At the end of the day, your health and family/friends are all you’ve got. Material possessions aren’t real…

 #7: Zone-Out

Zoning out to me is to totally let go of all of your thoughts and turn your mind off to the outside world. This is not a time to brainstorm or to think about all of your problems or your to-do list.

Turn off the switch in your head and just decompress. For you, maybe this is your time to meditate (not brainstorm).

For me, this means watching something on TV (even though success gurus would rip me on this) that can make me laugh and unwind.

Zoning out (especially if it involves TV as alluded to above) can become a bad habit too, so don’t let your apathy take away from all of the other important things you should be doing.

#8: Be Present

This one is a hard one for a lot of people to do, especially people with busy schedules. Do not confuse this with #7; it’s the complete opposite in fact.

It means to be totally immersed in your present environment. Not distracted by email, or texting, or TV. To be present means to be truly living in the moment. For me, a prime example is my time with my daughter. There are times where I want to be zoning out, or times where I’m trying to respond to an email or write a Facebook post, and my daughter will be competing for my attention.

Those are the times I need to drop everything and be there, focused on her. Those are the times I remember, relishing in the cute things she does, not some random post I make on social media.

Be present for the important things…it’s always worth it.

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— Tank

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

Is There Such Thing as a Perfect Training Program? Applying the 25% Rule

In my previous post, I talked about the four most important components to building a training program.

To recap, those components are:

  1. Your Goals
  2. Volume-Intensity Relationship
  3. Training Frequency
  4. Exercise Selection

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I finished that post remarking that there is no such thing as a perfect program and that all training programs are flawed to a certain degree. While a program might yield results for a period of time, inherently our bodies adapt and our progress stalls. This is where the 25% rule comes into play.

Athletes and lifters have a tendency to entirely scrap a program when their progress stalls, rather than taking a sensible step back to examine the current state of their training and identifying what to manipulate. In other words, 75% of what you’re doing may be adequate, but you need to tweak 25% of it to induce gains.

The key as a lifter is to identify that 25%, make an adjustment, and keep everything else the same. This will keep you from program hopping, which is one of the worst mistakes you can make in your training.

Your Goals

If your goals are the thing you decide to tweak, it is important to know you don’t need to change your overall goals.

Maybe your goal is to add 50 pounds to your squat and you’ve been unsuccessful. You don’t need to change that goal, but you should add in some mini-goals that will help you achieve the big one. Maybe you have weak hamstrings and glutes that are hindering your squat, so your immediate goals should be to strengthen those while keeping your overall squat goal the same.

Volume-Intensity Relationship

This is fairly straightforward to manipulate. Maybe you need more or less volume, more or less intensity, or more or less of both. This variable is also very goal dependent.

Training Frequency

Again, easy to manipulate. You either train more or your train less. If you need to train more, maybe you consider multiple small workouts a day instead of one marathon session. There are lots of options to tweak this variable.

Exercise Selection

This can take some specialization and a good diagnosis of your lack of progress. This will also be largely goal dependent variable.

If you are trying to gain mass in certain parts of your body, or strengthen certain parts of your body to improve some of your big compound lifts, you may need to perform more isolation movements. On the other end of the spectrum, if you are trying to become more explosive, you may need to do more compound lifts and plyometrics.

Closing Thoughts…

Most of the time, sweeping changes to your training program are not necessary to make the gains you are seeking.

Keep the adjustments subtle and apply the 25% rule. Manipulate one of the four critical training components at a time and continually monitor your progress. You will make far more progress using this approach than making major changes each training cycle.

Keep on keepin’ on…

— Tank

Building Lifting Programs: 4 Vital Characteristics

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll notice I don’t put a ton of lifting programs up on my site.

That will probably change in the near future but for now there are many reasons that I don’t. The overarching reason is because I pride myself on educating lifters so they can think for themselves, not just follow a program blindly. The fitness community is inundated with thousands of lifting programs that people can follow, but ask the average user to develop their own program and describe the inner workings of their training and they likely can’t.

“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime”

I’d much rather teach you how to do your own programming so you can sustain yourself over a lifetime, rather than trying to find the next greatest thing after the end of an 8-week cycle.

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So in designing your own lifting program, what are the major factors that you need to develop it around?

#1: Your Goals

Far too often when I talk to someone about lifting, they don’t have a clear definition of what their end game is. When embarking in lifting programs, you need to train to both your short-term and long-term goals.

Do you want to add on mass? Or do you want to gain total body strength? Maybe your goal is lift specific and you want to add 25 pounds to your bench press?

You need to have your end game in mind. If you want to add mass, doing programs meant for powerlifters may not add a lot of hypertrophy, and inversely, if you want to get stronger, high-volume bodybuilding style programs probably won’t get you there.

All of your training must be done with intention.

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#2: Volume-Intensity Relationship

To induce a training effect you have to stimulate your body with enough volume under heavy enough loads.

Training to your goals will take care of a lot of this dynamic. Strength seekers will favor less volume with more intensity and the mass seeker will probably favor more volume with lighter intensities.

Knowing the relationship between volume and intensity is paramount and may take some manipulating to make the gains you are looking for. Throughout the course of your training life, you will come across periods where your body needs more volume to induce growth, whereas other times you may need to add weight to the bar to boost your gains. Unfortunately there is no magic recipe for this. This comes down to your knowledge as a lifter, understanding what your body is telling you, and your ability to manipulate your programming to what your body needs.

For some general guidelines on volume and intensity check these out:

How to Add More Volume To Your Training

Crank Up the Intensity

What Rep Range Should You Use to Gain Mass?

#3: Training Frequency

This is how often you train, and more specifically, how often you are stimulating your various muscle groups.

Depending on how you break-down your training sessions, your training frequency may vary but typically you should be training at least 3 or 4 days a week.

Your training frequency will also be dictated by the volume-intensity relationship as higher-volume or intensity sessions may require more time in between training sessions. Rule of thumb for Primal lifters is that you allow for 48 hours rest in between muscle groups.

#4: Exercise Selection

This is a big one for me. I’m a firm believer in recruiting more muscle to build more muscle, so I favor a lot of compound lifts. However, you must be careful when using a lot of compound movements and ensure that you are getting proper recovery and not over-training your nervous system.

This is not to say isolation movements don’t have their merits, but you just have to know when and how to use them.

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In Summary…

There are four major components of program design:

  1. Your Goals
  2. Volume-Intensity Relationship
  3. Training Frequency
  4. Exercise Selection

These are the only things you need to think about when designing a lifting program.

Any time I write a program for Primal, I am building it around these components. So as you progress in your lifting career, these are the things you need to think of in order to give yourself the proper programming to make both short and long-term gains.

As a parting thought, I want to finish by saying that there is no such thing as a perfect program. It just doesn’t exist.

Something may work for a while, but your body will adapt and your gains will stall. This doesn’t mean the program is garbage, it just means that you need to manipulate a portion of the program to reach your desired end state. This is what I call the 25% rule. To read more about the 25% rule, stay tuned for my next post…

— Tank

Will Alcohol Ruin Your Gains? Common Sense Approach to Alcohol and Lifting

To live a fulfilling life, you need to be able to have a good time and relax.

Sometimes that means putting business and training aside, and letting loose out on the town. For a lot of us, letting loose means having a few drinks, sharing some laughs, and maybe even causing a little trouble.

I know when I go out, my “good time” usually involves my friends Mr. Makers Mark and Mr. Tequila Shot.

As someone who takes the fitness game seriously, what you shouldn’t do is swear off alcohol because you are afraid it ruins your gains or makes you fat. That’s a myth, a fear tactic, plain ol’ nonsense. However you want to put it. There is no reason to think alcohol and lifting can’t co-exist.

If you want to have a few drinks , especially after working your ass off for extended periods of time, by all means do it. Reward yourself. If you stay in the grind too long, you will burn out, which in my opinion leads to far more problems than nursing a hangover every now and then.

This doesn’t mean I’m advocating being a heavy drinker, nor am I saying that you need to drink to have a good time. My intention is to just shed some light that a little bit of debauchery a few nights a month will not wreck your progress if you are associating alcohol with negative effects on your strength gains and physique.

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With this in mind, there are two things to consider when drinking that will allow you to have a few guilt-free adult beverages.

#1: Do Not Cave to Drunken Munchies

Alcohol does not make you fat, but a night of drinking does push the boundaries of self-discipline in your diet.

How many of you have hit up a night at the bar, and then crushed the fast food drive-thru or pizza place on the way home for a night cap of binge eating? I know I have.

Nailing down your diet during the day, but then finishing the night off with a 1000 calorie munchie-impulse meal will surely put add some thickness to your midsection. That’s the kind of shit that makes you fat, not a few drinks at the bar.

If you know you’re going to be hungry at the end of the night, have some stuff on hand at home to either make yourself a healthy meal or have something prepped and ready to go that will cure the munchies and feed your physique in a responsible way.

#2: Lay Off the Girly Drinks

Much like I’m a minimalist in my training, being a minimalist as a drinker is important as well.

Complex drinks that are loaded with sugary mixers have a ton of excess calories, plus they will give you one hell of a hangover…

Stick to the basics. Alcohol + Zero/Low Calorie Mixer. Vodka Soda is a good example.

Fancy cocktails should set off warning signs in your mind that say “Don’t Drink Me”.

A rule I give to a lot of people is to “Never drink your calories” and this applies perfectly to this scenario. 800 calorie margaritas on top of your daily allotment of food calories will put you way over surplus amounts, an even bigger problem if you are trying to shed weight and need to be in a deficit.

#3: What About Beer?bud light chick

There have been a lot of studies highlighting the estrogenic effects, carb amounts, and inherent weight gain from drinking beer. While there is some truth to those studies, beer is one of those vices where “everything in moderation” applies.

Having a few beers here and there won’t hurt you. What will hurt you is when you are drinking 5+ a night trying to maintain a buzz (which is why I like taking shots, but that’s beside the point). Do that several times a month and boom, you’ve added a couple of unwanted pounds to your frame.

Moral of the Story

Don’t obsess over whether or not you have a drink or two.

Like going out and having a good time? Then do it. I can guarantee you that the memories you make causing trouble with your buddies will far outweigh the pound or two you see on the scale or that you add to the bar.

Don’t make it an unhealthy habit, but don’t restrict yourself to the point that it has unwanted side effects on your personal life and relationships. I was that guy once in college when training consumed my life, and looking back on it now, I regret not going out with my buddies as much and creating even more memories than I have now. Sometimes you just need to take a step back and let yourself live a little…

— 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

Establish Your Training Philosophy

One of the most important journeys you will make in your lifetime is on the path of self discovery.

Finding out who you are as a person, what fuels you, what discourages you, and how to use your strengths and weaknesses to your advantage is crucial if you want to reach your full potential.

Who is (fill in your name here)? Your entire outlook and path in life comes down to this question.

Living in the iron game is no different.

You need a training philosophy. It should fully encompass who you are and what your big picture goals are. No matter what, your philosophy is your guiding light in the gym. It dictates how you train, what you are training for, and how you help your peers.

Primal’s philosophy is simple. We train for real-world strength, performance, and mental toughness. We do not stray from this EVER.

Connor Farmers

Everything we do revolves around this philosophy. Not one movement in the course of a training session is wasted.  Every cycle over the course of years of training is devoted to getting stronger, both mentally and physically. Because we know who we are and what our training values are, we have a clear vision of how to train.

When you don’t have a training philosophy, I can see it from a mile away.

You will start program hopping.  You will start changing your goals every couple of weeks.  You will be painfully susceptible to the “next big thing”.  What happens is you become a jack of all trades but a master of none.  This is not a good place to be and will surely halt any measurable long-term progress.

“Therein lies the strength of water: it cannot be touched by a hammer or ripped to shreds by a knife. The strongest sword in the world cannot scar its surface. The river adapts itself to whatever route proves possible, but the river never forgets its one objective: the sea.  So fragile at its source, it gradually gathers the strength of other rivers it encounters. And after a certain point, its power is absolute.”

You are the river. Your training philosophy is the sea. You may borrow knowledge from all the other “rivers” out there, but you must learn how to align that knowledge with your philosophy.

Throughout my many years of training I’ve encountered a million different ways to do things. I’ve crossed and swam many “rivers” and picked up a lot of knowledge along the way. You will see many different styles of training in my programs and advice I give to you: bodybuilding, strongman, powerlifting, bodyweight, plyometrics, animal walks, sport specific drills, sprinting, the list goes on and on. But I know exactly how to take from all of those different styles and align them into the Primal philosophy of getting bigger, stronger, faster, and more efficient.

This is why it is so important that you develop your own philosophy. It allows you to see the big picture in your training life. It helps you understand how all of the different styles can play a part in furthering your cause, but it also helps you see how they don’t fit and what not to do.

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When you have a philosophy, you have a spiritual connection with your training. Your training will take on a whole new meaning and it will reach much deeper into your psych. It gives you a sense of purpose and allows your goals to define your training, and not your training to define your goals. You will have a much clearer vision of how to do things and why you do them.

So Primal Nation, take a look in the mirror today. Ask yourself, “Who am I? What am I training for?

Think hard and deep. Be honest with yourself and figure out what you stand for. Maybe you don’t have all of the answers now. After all, it took me years to develop my philosophy. But at least start down the path of self discovery.

— Tank