I want you

I’ve not posted here again for a while, but I’ve not been idle. Workouts are good, nutrition is on point, and I continue to make progress. I’ve been writing too, but mostly for my new Facebook group: Uncommon Sense Physique. With this post, for your reading pleasure, I am re-posting the Facebook note that started that venture.

Verbatim, from the inaugural Facebook post:

Many of you know me as that guy into fitness (actually, I’m not “fit”, but we’ll get to that), and you often see me posting things here on Facebook, as well as Instagram and Twitter. I even have blog (doesn’t everyone?) that has some interesting and relevant content at times. You’ll also probably know that just like the rest of you, I still have a full-time job, and that means everything health and fitness related for me is a combination of life-style and hobby.

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Weak-point training and how not to waste your time

Let’s face it, in terms of our physique, we’ve all got weak points. That one (haha!) lagging muscle group that just doesn’t seem to respond as well as the others. But before you jump on the specialization train, let’s make sure you earned that ticket.

First-up, weak point training — do you need it?

The [harsh] reality is that unless you’re at or approaching your genetic limit in terms of overall physical development, you really don’t need a specialization protocol. Or, said differently, any time spent working to improve a single body part is probably better spent focused on your big rocks, and improving your overall physique development.

So let’s say objectively, we often don’t need specialization. What about emotionally? What if you just can’t get past the fact your arms are too small? (Because they are, you know)

Here’s what you need to understand:

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Fundamentals: Focus on your big rocks

If your goal is hypertrophy–building muscle–there are a great many variables to consider. And on some level, they all matter.

Consider the Muscle and Strength Training Pyramid below. Putting aside nutrition–which has its own pyramid–this pyramid covers six (well, eight) variables that affect our training.

While the topics of sets, reps and how many days a week to train do get a lot of air time, a great many of you are still spending too much time worrying about the stuff at the top of the pyramid.

Stuff that frankly, unless you have your fundamentals in order, just don’t matter.

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Snacking is wrecking your progress

Are you a habitual snacker? Do you spend more time justifying your indulgences than considering how to better manage your treats? Well we’ve been talking about this over in my Facebook group, Uncommon Sense Physique. Here’s what I had to say on the topic.

When you pop that snack in your mouth, in almost all such situations, there is one simple reality.

That the individual–in this case my beautiful wife–wants/seeks the joy of eating the [insert favorite snack food] more than they want [insert desired outcome here].

Worse still, we’ve also found all sorts of ways to make this okay – to rationalize our decision.

  • “It’s just one chocolate.”
  • “Life’s too short to not have a treat.”
  • “It’s been a long day and I just don’t want to think about it.”
  • “I had a salad for lunch.”
  • “I worked out today, I can afford this.”
  • “I’ll work this off at the gym tomorrow.”

This is but a partial list, a list we could probably expand indefinitely. But you get the idea. Can you spot the theme?

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Lessons learned from a year of bulking

In 46 weeks, I managed to add 39 lbs of body weight, with over 21 lbs of that coming as muscle. And topping the scale at 209 lbs was a huge achievement for me. But what did I learn from almost a year of bulking?

First, a little context.

There’s nothing exceptional about my genetics. I’m an average 5’9” and my natural set-point is a soft welterweight. I’ve played sports casually over the years and spent my entire working-life sitting behind a desk. But I’m certainly no bodybuilding noob, and I definitely know my way around the gym with many years of training under my belt. I’m also in pretty good shape considering my forty-six years. In the realm of physique transformation, I’ve been as low as 148 lbs and single digit body fat, and previously topped the scale at 187 lbs.

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Progress on my cut: Master of straight lines?

Just a progress update and some observations as I push deeper into this cut. Between my hamstrings and body weight charting, I am proving to be the master of straight lines.

As progress on this cut continues, I hit a new low weigh-in this morning of 188.5 lbs.

At the the start of this cut, I was torn. Do I simply drop the chub or look to push deeper into lean this time around? However, I ended-up deferring that decision, opting instead to change the nature of the game and see how far I could get without any kind of food tracking or unnecessary restriction.

So far, so good, and a full account of the cut will be posted at the end – whenever that is. But for now, I wanted to share a few thoughts and observations from my progress so far, ten weeks and three days into my cut.

For reference, in terms of hard data, 5.5 lbs ago, I was 10.4% body fat at 194lbs. So my guess, assuming minimal loss of lean mass, is that I’m very roughly 8.5% body fat at 188.5 lbs.

  1. I am the master of straight lines.
    Joke. Kind of. I mean, beyond my weight-loss progress, my hamstrings, too, are the shortest distance between two points!
  2. Notice how body weight change moves in waves.
    Loss, loss, flat, increase, loss, loss, flat, increase. And even then, the magnitude of the tides vary greatly in the Scalar Sea.
  3. 8.5% body fat, and not an ab in sight.
    Seriously. There are people that can walk around at 10 or 11% body fat with a nicely defined midsection, but genetics have a huge roll to play here. This is in part why I have always wrestled with the commitment to getting lean enough to have a six-pack. I have to go really deep into my diet to see those kind of results.
  4. I’m going to keep pushing, for now.
    Despite the likelihood I will not be entirely happy with the visual results at the end, I am feeling more and more inclined to go deeper into this cut. Bottom line: We’ll see.
  5. Tracking schmacking.
    20lbs down from my bulking peak, and absolutely no food tracking at all. Just diligent monitoring of body weight and a common sense approach to hunger management.

There’s likely a lot more to discuss on some of these points, and a full account of the bulk and cut will eventually be posted. Just wanted to drop a short update and bring people along on the journey in something close to real time.

If you want to discuss my approach or ask questions about my diet or data, hit me up in the comments, or find me on Twitter or Facebook.

I want a six pack

I was chatting to colleague recently, who declared that I’d given a friend who wanted six-pack abs “bad advice” with regard to his diet and exercise. I was taken aback, and pushed to understand why they felt my advice was bad. Reason? Dogma.

I want a six-pack. Isn’t that always how it starts?

The holy grail of physique transformation where abdominal muscles stand proud, and ripple and glisten in response to your every movement. It matters not that this is invariably happening beneath your shirt, that few may ever know of your condition.

You know, and that’s all that matters.

But this post isn’t about the magic of ripped, lean abs. At least not directly.

It’s about the dogma surrounding diet and exercise which likely goes some way to
explaining why so many people fail to achieve their desired results.

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The gains monster is an attention-seeking child

The gains monster is everywhere, just waiting for you to slip-up. Make a mistake. Leave yourself vulnerable. And then, without warning, it’ll suck you dry of everything you’ve worked for.

Yesterday was absolutely manic from start to end.

Up at the crack of dawn, fighting with traffic to get to a four-hour training course. Dashing out ten minutes before the end to get a jump on traffic to race back home in time for another two hours of conference calls.

Breakfast was so-so, and only moderately nutritious.

Lunch was skipped in exchange for making it to my next meeting.

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Do you have a reference physique?

We all need something to motivate us. Push us to the next level. One way to do this is having a reference physique you aspire to. Who’s picture do you have pinned to your refrigerator?

Do you have a reference physique?

A photo or image of a body that encapsulates everything you admire and desire in a physique, but a physique that is also attainable for your height, build and genetics?

The latter is important, for no matter how much I love Arnold’s body, I don’t have his build or genetics. The bone structure, the deep insertion points and thick muscle bellies. I can literally never look like him.

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Why your goals are making you unhappy and how to change your approach

Setting goals is an important part of the planning process. However, I’ve learned that goals can be somewhat like a poisoned chalice; helpful and valuable at first, but also a source of angst and unhappiness.

Throughout my life, I’ve been an incredibly goal-oriented person and especially so in the gym. And without doubt, setting physique goals has been instrumental in my progress, dragging me forward when motivation inevitably wanes.

Over time, I’ve also learned to how to refine my goals by making them increasingly specific and aligning them to my core values.

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