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Let’s Talk About Abs — Part 1 in a Series

I stopped reading Men’s Health magazine years ago once I realized they only seemed to report on nutrition, exercise and scientific studies that were either produced by or were at least supportive of the sponsor on the next page. They, like many other “fitness” lifestyle brands love to print page after page after page of routines and diets and supplements that are designed to get you jacked and hella lean with crazy endurance and perfect skin.

And to the consumer, it’s exactly what we’re looking for. Someone else has done the work for us — THIS magazine has cut through all the bullshit, translated the scientific lingo into dummy terms and distilled all the information into three pages (or one iconographic) that will tell me exactly what foods I need to eat (or NEVER eat), which exercises to do (or NEVER do), which supplements to take (or NEVER take) and each comes with a link to where you can buy the right $tuff.

Their diet claims are usually alarmist and are based entirely on clicks (just see how many Keto references are on Men’s Health’s website currently), their “celebrity” workout plans are highly inaccurate and often require equipment common gyms will never have, and their overall model is one that continuously sells the average Joe a highly unattainable reality … yet he just keeps buying it.

Why all this vitriol toward popular health magazines?

Because this popped up in my inbox over the weekend:

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This Brutal Ab Circuit Will Rock You to an 8-Pack

This prize-winning, ultra-secret, breakthrough ab circuit will absolutely blow your mind … when you learn that it’s merely three “rocking” variations of the hollow body hold. They appear to be a part of a larger program being sold in book form on the website (because of course it is). It’s written by a trainer who’s certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, so I have no doubt that the program overall is effective.

So the larger program is good but you run into problems when “journalists” who have no certifications to speak of and seem to just write for whoever will pay them (can’t blame them — also yes, I stalked this dude way more than I’d like to admit) start making claims like this shit will give you an 8-pack.

I can hear you, though — dude’s just doing his job. He’s writing for a bullshit men’s lifestyle magazine that pays its bills by making people click links to pages they’ve sold ads on. And you’re right; he is merely doing his job.

But think about this — there are people all over the world that have set New Year’s goals to get themselves in shape. There are tons of people that have recently been given a medical diagnosis that requires them to lose the fat or else. There are just so many people in the world that don’t know where to look for good information. And the fact that Men’s Health … and Women’s Health … and Men’s Journal … and Muscle and Fitness … and countless other publications have flashy websites, large social media followings and celebrities on their covers is enough to convince most people that the information they’re selling is legit.

Sometimes it is. Most of the time it’s not.

That program will not and never will give you an 8-pack.

I hate to break it to you guys but you can do thousands of crunches, sit-ups and planks and you will never get a four or a six or an eight or whatever other count of pack you think you’ve earned by laying on the ground flailing around for hours. Your midsection is going to be sore and yes, you will get much stronger … But defined abs simply will not emerge no matter how many of these weird hollow body holds you subject yourself to.

The result is tens … maybe hundreds … maybe thousands of dudes that get frustrated with their lack of progress so they quit. I mean, the magazine said it would give me an 8-pack — what am I doing wrong?

But it ain’t y’all’s fault (entirely).


At the end of class at TITLE Boxing Club, we finish things off with 7-15 minutes of core where I guide my members through a variety of moves to work all areas of their abdomens, hips, lower backs, glutes and balance. But I ain’t selling my members any bullshit. I’m often up front while we do core and I confess to them that this work won’t get them a six-pack. But it’s also not intended to. We do core workouts to make our cores stronger. This not only makes us better boxers but it will also make normal everyday life much easier. Stability will increase, range of motion will increase, posture will improve and you will be undeniably stronger as a result of the work we do during the last portion of class.

But nope. No six packs. I tell my people six packs are made in the kitchen and that’s exactly why I don’t have one.

It’s estimated that about 40% of adults over the age of 20 in the United States are obese (with a BMI of over 30) and another 30+% are considered overweight (BMIs between 25 and 30). According to an admittedly limited study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, between the years of 1999-2004, the average American male’s body fat percentage was 28.1% while the average female sat at 40%. These numbers mean nothing until you realize that healthy numbers for males and females are 18-24% and 25-31% respectfully. Anything greater is considered obese.

And if these numbers didn’t seem impossible enough … men typically don’t see their abs until they’re between 16-19% and they won’t have that defined look until they’re in the 11-12% range. For women, those abs start showing between 21-23% but won’t start looking defined until 15-17%!

Let’s be honest — that’s really fucking low.

Let’s be even more honest — that’s really not fucking worth it.

So what are your goals? For most of you, I’m willing to bet those goals are something like “feel better with my shirt off” or “be more confident” or “go down a shirt size” — hell, it may just be “BE HEALTHIER.” Defined abs are nice but they have nothing to do with either of these goals. They’re not a part of any attainable goal (as far as I’m concerned) unless your goal is to compete or get a modeling gig.

Love you guys but that ain’t y’all.


In the end, the only way to get defined abs is to reduce your body fat percentage heavily. You have to have your workouts on point and your nutrition in check. And by “in check” what I mean to say is it has to be perfect. Not damn-near, not mostly, but perfect.

Chris Hemsworth did it. So did Jason Momoa. So did Michael B. Jordan. Those are great goals to admire but those dudes get paid to do it. That’s full-time paid to get in shape for movie roles. They have trainers and assistants and chefs and nutritionists and quite literally all the time in the world while preparing for said roles. I’m guessing you don’t. CGI also isn’t available IRL yet so you’re not getting any help there, either, bruh.

This doesn’t mean we can’t get a move on in that direction! Any progress is good progress when it comes to your health and fitness. Fully defined abs may be way-way-way too far out of reach at this point, but decreasing your body fat percentage a little bit isn’t.

So let’s make a series out of it. Spend some time developing some attainable goals for your fitness / health / life and meet me back here next week when we talk about …

FAT

 

Attainable Goals vs. the World

It’s Friday, January 11. Chance are, you set a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get in shape (in 2018, roughly 45% of resolutions vowed to do this). Yet, statistically, the obesity rate in the United States continues to rise. It’s no secret that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail and merely 8% of those resolutions made are actually achieved.

That’s pretty grim, no?

According to the Independent, athletic social network Strava has determined that the second Friday of the year (that’s today) is unofficially “Quitter’s Day” — the day when motivation tends to falter and a large percentage of that 80% has already given up on their goals. I’m not okay with this and you shouldn’t be either. So what do we do about it?

Ultimately, we start by addressing the problem — your goals suck.

When we make New Year’s resolution, we usually set big-picture goals that are unattainable or we set goals that are too vague to achieve. “I want to get fit” is a great goal on paper but in practice it’s shit. It’s a big-picture goal that you can’t just go out and achieve.

I wear a ring on a necklace inspired by the Uncharted video game series. Main character Nathan Drake wears a ring he lifted from the Museo Maritimo in Colombia that once supposedly belonged to the late English explorer Sir Francis Drake. Engraved on the ring you’ll find 29 Januarie 1596 (the day after the reported death of the explorer), 9-32-79 indicating the coordinates of Drake’s empty coffin discovered off the coast of Panama and the phrase Sic Parvis Magna — a Latin phrase roughly translated as Greatness From Small Beginnings or Great Things come from Small Achievements.

Herein lies the magic secret to achieving your big-picture goals. It’s not attacking a beast of a goal, but instead going after the little devils that make up the beast.

Allow me to let one of my favorite characters illustrate this further:

What Can We Learn About Achieving Goals From Scott Pilgrim?

Scott is an unassuming 23-year-old musician in Toronto that, despite dating 17-year-old Knives Chau (SCANDAL!), falls in love with his (literal) dream girl Ramona Flowers. Scott immediately sets out to talk to Ramona more and start a relationship with her (our hero’s big-picture goal).

But much like we can’t achieve our big-picture beast without first attacking its many devils, Scott can’t have a happy life with Ramona unless he defeats her Seven Evil Exes.

Small Goal 1: Matthew Patel

Right out of the gate, we find one of the hardest things to deal with when pursuing a new goal. Scott has no idea about the League of Ramona’s Evil Exes, even after his first obstacle — Matthew Patel — repeatedly warns him of the upcoming fight. Matthew eventually confronts Scott before a Sex Bob-omb concert. Scott responds by using his existing battle skills (explained in the graphic novels, not so much in the movie) to defeat the first ex. After easily taking down Matthew, Scott is rewarded a measly $2.40 before he and Ramona decide to be a couple.

This was (and will continue to be) Scott’s easiest fight. He didn’t know the situation before him and was certainly not prepared for it. However, he used his existing skillset to knock out the simple hurdle that stood between him and getting closer to living forever with Ramona. You can easily draw a parallel with yourself here — taking that first step, the one that requires arguably the smallest amount of work and only requires skills you already have. If your goal is to get in shape, this step could be visiting a local gym you’re interested in. You know how to drive, you know how to speak, you know how to spend money, ask questions and sign your name (if it’s the right gym for you). Just like the $2.40 Scott received, however, this first step may not result in a big payoff (yet) but it’s a step in the right direction.

Goal 1: accomplished.

Small Goal 2: Lucas Lee

Scott’s next goal requires a little finesse. Pro skateboarder and actor Lucas Lee is in town shooting a movie and he just so happens to also be Ramona’s ex. High off the fumes of his previous win and with hearts in his eyes from Ramona, Scott meets Lucas on set where he proceeds to get his scrawny ass kicked. Lucas is a tough guy and, together with his many stunt doubles, has fighting skills that Scott simply can’t compete with. Realizing this, Scott takes a different approach and convinces Lucas to attempt an impossible and very dangerous skateboard stunt that proves fatal for the cocky actor. Scott learns that some of his foes are going to require brainpower in addition to fighting skills and he’s rewarded $14 in coins and a mithril skateboard he can’t use (because he isn’t proficient in that skill) as a result.

So Scott was feeling pretty good about defeating the first ex — much like you’re feeling good about joining that gym. So you ride high and take off toward your next goal, which could be accomplishing your first workout or losing your first five pounds. But what you may find out is that Keto is an impossible diet to follow or that running is literally the WORST. You can allow yourself to accept defeat or you can be like Scott and decide to go a different path — like Paleo or boxing (two of my personal favorites). If that doesn’t work, you find a different approach. And you keep stabbing away until you’ve accomplished your goal.

Goal 2 Deceived and Achieved

Small Goal 3: Todd Ingram

Todd Ingram is the bass player in the famous band Clash at Demonhead — a band that’s fronted by Scott’s ex-girlfriend Natalie V (Envy) Adams. Once Scott learns that Todd partially caused Envy’s disgusting new personality, Scott calls him a “cocky cock” and attempts to fight him. He’s largely unsuccessful in his endeavor because Todd possesses psychic vegan powers that make him a stronger fighter and better bass player. Envy at one point tells Scott “You can’t win this fight.” In the graphic novel, however, Todd is defeated after his powers are removed by the Vegan Police once they charge him with consuming gelato and chicken parmesan. In the movie, the Vegan Police arrive after Scott tricks Todd into consuming dairy creamer.

While the defeat of Todd happens in two different ways in the two adaptations of the Scott Pilgrim story, there’s a lot that can be learned from this battle. This is another example of how Scott stood up against odds that were heavily stacked against him. And although he was seemingly defeated several times in this struggle, he kept returning with a new approach each time (fighting, bass-battling and cunning). This goes right along with how we accomplished our second small goal above. But I think it’s also important to note that Envy told Scott he was going to lose. I explained in my previous post that sometimes you’re on your own if you want to accomplish something. You will likely be faced with negative people who will either refuse to support you or will try to drag you down every chance they get. Scott was yearning for closure with Envy but he didn’t let her get to him when she told him he was destined to lose the fight. Likewise, we can’t lose sight of our ultimate goal no matter how much those closest to us try to dissuade us.

Goal 3: Tricked into consuming dairy and finalized

Small Goal 4: Roxie Richter

Each time Scott refers to Ramona’s ex-boyfriends, she corrects him by saying “exes.” When he asks why she keeps saying this …

Roxie Richter was Ramona’s college roommate during her “sexy” bi-curious phase and while she still has a soft spot (literally) for Ramona, she is filled with rage when it comes to Scott, prompting her to attack him with reckless abandon. Refusing to fight a girl, Scott gets Knives’ dad to battle her in the graphic novel and Ramona to fight her in the movie. Roxie is then defeated after being touched on her secret erogenous zone behind her knee that Ramona knows and informs Scott about.

Scott certainly did not expect one of Ramona’s exes to be a girl but that was the situation he found himself in. We, too, often don’t expect a lot of the obstacles that are put in our way but it’s up to us to take them on regardless. The fight phrase is Stay ready so you never have to get ready and that certainly applies here. You will be thrown curveballs you won’t know how to deal with and it’s entirely up to you to decide how you handle it.

Roxie’s blind rage and inferiority complex both contribute to her demise but she would have never been defeated had Scott not gotten a bit of information from Ramona. We can often gain access to information that will help us succeed by researching, asking our peers and superiors, and from just flat-out experience! Don’t let the unknown prevent you from achieving your ultimate goal — or even your smaller goals!

Goal 4: Kicked in the balls

Small Goals 5 and 6: Kyle and Ken Katayanagi

In what is one of my favorite movie scenes of all time, evil exes 5 and 6 take the form of two handsome Japanese twins whose DJ act is up against Sex Bob-omb in an “amp vs. amp” semifinals match in the battle of the bands. The twins summon a Double Dragon character from their amp stack that promptly attacks Scott’s band, blowing them over and nearly destroying their equipment. The crowd is impressed and the venue’s roof is blown off. Unsatisfied with the outcome and enraged by the sight of Ramona hanging with Gideon, Scott rallies his band and stomps his Yeti distortion pedal, which summons an actual Yeti that obliterates the Double Dragon and, ultimately, the twins.

Sex Bob-omb lead man Stephen Stills is none-too-pleased to find out they’re facing the twins in this semi-final matchup, drawing up a diagram of them and proclaiming that they are “totally badass.” But Scott doesn’t care — he’s angry, he’s determined, he’s focused. This leads him to keep his head on straight despite the minor setback during the show. We, too, will suffer many setbacks while achieving our big-picture goal. Unintentional weight gain, a missed gym session, a failed diet … anything can derail us but with enough focus (and distortion) we can overcome any double-dragon that gives us grief on our journey.

Goals 5 and 6: Desecrated

Small Goal 7: Gideon Graves

In the film adaptation, Scott enters Gideon’s newly opened Chaos Theater where a Scott-less Sex Bob-omb is playing a show to celebrate their new record deal with G-Man (Scott’s bass-playing duties being assumed by Young Neil). When he makes his intentions to fight Gideon known, Scott confesses his true love for Ramona, earning him the Power of Love sword (he receives this earlier in the graphic novel). Gideon is able to take the sword from Scott and kills him with it, sending Scott to a dreamlike afterworld. Fortunately for Scott, he received an extra life after defeating the twins that he uses to return to the club for a do-over. This time, he has a new focus — he wants to fight Gideon for himself. This motivation leads Scott to slay Gideon who shatters into 7,777,777 coins that rain on the crowd.

Scott had good intentions when he entered the club on that fateful night but his focus was skewed. At this point, his motivation was to simply achieve the goal because it was what was expected of him –- it was just what was “next” — and he paid for it with his life. While dying as a result of turbulent focus is a little extreme, it’s safe to say that we often let the overall goal overshadow our reasoning for achieving it in the first place. In the weight-loss example, we can be motivated by the desire to lose weight or look good in a bikini, but in the end, our goal should focus more on what we can prove to ourselves than what we can prove to our peers. A desire to show yourself what you’re capable of or make yourself happy can often be stronger than the desire to impress others. This is illustrated when Scott respawns in the club and alerts Gideon that he’s there to fight for himself. The focus has shifted and the passion has renewed. Regrouping and approaching with a fresh mindset is totally allowed while going out to reach our final goal.

Goal 7: Achieved and reward collected

Bonus Level Goal: NegaScott

Jumping back to the graphic novel version of the story, NegaScott appears to remind Scott of all the mistakes he’s made in the past. In the final volume of the story, Scott wants to battle NegaScott, looking at him as another obstacle to overcome, but Kim encourages him to stop running and accept responsibility for his past. This decision causes Scott to merge with the Nega version of himself, thereby restoring his memory. In the film, NegaScott emerges as a final boss once Gideon is defeated. A battle is not shown, however, Scott and NegaScott are seen having a friendly conversation about a hip brunch spot, presumably having made plans to meet there.

More often than not, when we go on life-changing journeys it ends up being ourselves that act as our biggest obstacle. Just like Scott, we often remember our past failings — the opportunities we missed, the whole pizza we ate, the workout we missed, the money we wasted — and instead of accepting it and moving toward our greater goal, we choose to battle the memory. This causes us to stay in a constant battle with our past selves instead of putting our effort into our future selves. In doing so, you’ve made yourself your worst enemy.

But in reality, we could just as easily be our own best friend! In the story, Scott explains that he and NegaScott surprisingly have a lot in common and in choosing to befriend his past mistakes and work with them, he’s able to gain the confidence to press on with his mission of making Ramona his forever. We, too, are much better off when we accept our mistakes, learn from them and stop battling them. Maybe even offer to take them out for brunch.

Bonus Level Goal: Taken out for French Toast and Achieved

Though it may have required getting started with an existing toolset, trying something different after failing, ignoring naysayers, asking for help, staying focused in the face of the impossible, changing focus mid-goal and accepting his past screw-ups … in the end, Scott Pilgrim was able to hold Ramona’s hand as they gravitated toward their next door in subspace.

A life with Ramona Flowers is a difficult goal to achieve but one worth chipping away at and fighting for.

Just like your weight-loss goal.

Or creativity goal.

Or financial goal.

Or travel goal.

Or any other goal that’s worth setting.

If you want more geeky info on setting attainable goals, check out this article from Nerdfitness.

So what are YOU doing in 2019?

Happy New Year — You’re On Your Own

Alright, so December happened. In my last post I wore y’all out about Thanksgiving etiquette and how to not be a gym-bro douchebag during the holidays and then apparently took a hiatus from content. But lo and behold, here I am, blogging on January 1.

Classic personal trainer move, no? Perking up at the opportunity to make a buck. Salivating at the very thought of “New Year, New Me” people crashing through the doors of the gym looking to cut the fat and build the muscle and gain the confidence and shed the shame et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseam, ad infinitum, ad mortem.

you-said-new-87a9xp

But what if I told you that’s not what I’m here to do? I mean, don’t get me wrong — I L-O-V-E making money as a personal trainer. I’m blown away by this strange reality where I get paid to help people become better versions of themselves and the extra income has gone from well, this is nice to OMG I’m actually paying off debt!

But at the core, it’s not the financial incentives that drive me to do what I do for my clients and Club members. I love helping people find their path, I love being a coach, I love watching people’s transformations and I love the accountability it forces on me. The financial aspect is merely gravy.

In fact, I started this blog as a way of sharing some of my freaky coach knowledge with y’all, sans-gravy (that means free).

With that said, allow me to go into coach mode for a moment.

At the end of every class at TITLE Boxing Club Knoxville, we do a hands-in breakout that’s exactly what it sounds like — members bring their hands in, the trainer says a few words and then we do a cheesy 1-2-3 breakout.

When we first started doing these, I was WAY into it. I took that opportunity to uncontrollably spew the most hype and inspirational message I could muster after an hour-long class. I’m serious when I say I’d partially black out and just start talking — these speeches weren’t rehearsed and they came straight from the heart.

It sucks to admit but after a while, that fire in me died down and my hands-in experience was about as exciting as getting a root canal. Good job, y’all did great, let’s get outta here. BORESVILLE.

With the holiday season in full swing, there also comes a lot of family and travel and vacations and busier-than-usual schedules. This can wreak havoc on a gym whose primary function is group classes and, if you’re new to the training game, these empty classes can also wreak havoc on the confidence of a trainer.

Do my classes suck?

Do they hate me?

Would this have happened if another trainer had been scheduled?

I should probably quit; I’m not cut out for this.

I’ve been there. It happens.

This situation hit me last week. The last week of December, it was cold out, people were still on altered schedules, it was raining — quite literally the perfect storm for a low-attendance class. Not surprisingly, attendance was sparse.

It’s hard to keep the energy up in a class so small, but somehow inspiration struck. At the end of class I brought in the few people that showed up on that rainy evening and told them that at one point such a small class would’ve really bruised my ego but I would no longer let it. And I told them why.

Want to hear it here it goes.

When I started my weight-loss/fitness journey, I had a lot of erroneous fantasies dancing in my head that consisted of me being cheered on for doing what I was doing — that I would assemble a group of Avengers-level friends (or at least a Robin-like sidekick) to do it all with me — that once I started doing it, other people would understand it and be inspired to take part.

But 95% of that didn’t happen. In fact, one of the most influential moments of my journey was when I realized — and admitted to myself — that I was alone on this journey.

Sure, I had friends that would say “good job!” or tell me what an inspiration I was to them, but ultimately there was no one there to go on runs with, no one that would get up at 4am with me, no one that wanted to take a boxing class with me and no one that gave a shit when I told them I couldn’t go out for lunch or drinks that day/night because I was watching my macros or had an early morning workout planned.

Much like Lady Galadriel said to Frodo Baggins, I was in a way a Ring-bearer, and to bear Ring of Power is to be alone.

Once I accepted that burden, though, things started to happen. Once I shook the idea of having a team to go with or someone other than myself to be accountable to, that’s when I started making my progress. There were no more excuses. The burden was solely on me. And if this metaphoric Ring of Power would ever make it to the fires of Mordor, I would have to take it myself.

The Lord Of The Rings GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

When my small class brought their hands in that night, I gave them a shortened version of this story and told them that by them braving the elements to come work out that night — choosing to not go home despite the tiny class — choosing to put their effort into a potentially low-energy class — choosing to put in twice the work to make it worth their while — they, too, were taking that burden and accepting that it was theirs to carry.

And they’re going to experience true results and true progress as a result.

In this new year, I don’t want to fill you with false hope — that the “new you” is right around the corner and that I have the magic medicine to help you be that person. I’m not going to sell you a gym membership or a personal training package using smoke and mirrors that show you a fantastic, unattainable version of yourself.

No, in this new year, I want to encourage each and every one of you to look in the mirror and accept that it’s just you. You can have a support system (or, to keep the metaphor consistent, a Fellowship of the Ring) in place, and I really hope you have one … but know that ultimately YOU are the only one that can put in the work. YOU are the only one that can find the motivation for yourself. YOU are the only one that can achieve the results you want and that your weight-loss / fitness journey is YOUR burden to bear — no one else’s.

Taking responsibility for yourself isn’t easy but I can promise you that once you do, the rest will fall into place.

Alright, 2019 — let’s make it look good!

The Weekly Thing 11/26

Alright, so we made it through Thanksgiving. My holiday consisted of me helping my girlfriend’s family make mashed potatoes, tricking her dog into staying upstairs away from the guests and eating so much that I hated myself and spent the remainder of the afternoon piled up in a comfy chair holding my belly. I didn’t even eat dessert until the next day.

Maybe that’s doing Thanksgiving right. I was certainly zapped and ready for bed by early evening.

I was up bright and early on Black Friday but not to wrestle anyone for a TV or anything — I had an early morning client that was eager to be made sore so I took her through the hardest plan I’ve put together for her to-date. This particular person made the mistake of telling me “I wasn’t very sore,” after our first session so we’ve cranked the heat up a little ever since — ya know, just so she gets more bang for her buck and all.

So now that we’ve polished off all the Halloween candy and we’re putting away the last of the leftover turkey, it’s time to focus on the main event — the title card of the year — the festival of Yule. However you celebrate this time of year is none of my business and, frankly, I don’t give a rat’s ass.

Also, if you’re reading this and choose to focus on me being pagan over the fact that this is a FITNESS BLOG then plz just keep your comments to yourself. My readers aren’t interested and your perverted followers won’t be impressed.

But it’s a good time to go ahead and start re-evaluating your goals and current habits. Do you have a gym membership? Are you a regular? What do you want to look like when summer comes in 2019? These are all very important questions, so let’s talk about some stuff …

If you’re a gym rat…
You are probably already on a good program — chances are you’re on your winter bulk if you’re a meathead or you’re still running full-force in your weight-loss journey. You’re likely doing everything you need to be doing, but just like with Thanksgiving, don’t let your gym-rat state negatively affect your holiday celebrations. We get it — your arms are big, your abs are defined and your quads look fucking amazing … but if these features cause you to be a dick when surrounded by those you love and the amazing treats they make to help celebrate the holiday, your priorities are out of order and need to be sorted out. Don’t be a dink.

If you’re a casual gym-goer…
Mostly same as above but go ahead and understand that you’ll likely gain some weight with the holiday season. With people bringing in treats to the office, family inviting you over for celebrations, etc., it’s really hard to — as they say — out-exercise a bad diet. And this is perfectly acceptable. Keep doing the best you can, don’t stress about a few pounds gained or lost here and there, and brace yourself for the influx of newbies that will be invading your space at the first of the year.

If you have a gym membership but never go…
You might want to change that. There’s going to be hoards of people throwing elbows trying to get to your favorite treadmill come 2019 and you don’t want to be caught without a plan for when this happens. Get back in your gym, familiarize yourself with the equipment, the busy times and maybe chat with a trainer about other exercises you can do should equipment not be available for you. Not only will you get back in the gym where you’re supposed to be, but you’ll also be prepared for when the freaks show up next month AND you can have the satisfaction of saying you aren’t one of those New Year’s resolution weirdos.

If you’re waiting on January 1 to get started…
I mean, there’s nothing wrong with having New Year’s resolutions but there’s definitely something wrong with the number of people that set out with good intentions but fail miserably every time. The gym is going to be PACKED when you go in and try to find your footing if you wait until the first of the year. Just like with the above, it will benefit you to familiarize yourself with a gym’s equipment, class times, etc. so you aren’t caught off guard once the new year kicks in. Believe it or not, you DO have time to make a positive habit before the new year kicks in — what a killer way to start a new year, am I right? Get your ass in a gym pronto!

If you don’t know where to start…
I get it — gyms can oftentimes be intimidating. Even if you go to pizza-slinging Planet Fitness, just seeing the vast array of equipment that’s available, the numerous people walking around that seemingly know what they’re doing, the intimidating trainers who often have inflated egos and condescending looks about them … In addition to all of this, there will be a CRAZY amount of faux-science-based diets and workout programs and gurus that are going to hit the market like they do every year — it’s information overload! And most of it is bad! It’s no wonder you’re nervous or confused about how to start! If you feel this way, message me and I will gladly help talk you through making your decisions.

This actually really happens.

If you’re a trainer …
This is a big time of year for us, y’all. Sure, our gyms — and our personal businesses — stand to make a lot of money in the next two months but your primary focus should be on an incredible opportunity to help people. Do a quick reality check, lose your ego and remind yourself of why you got started in this business in the first place. Love on your existing clients / members while being a welcoming, loving face for newcomers. Your attitude can drastically affect how others feel about fitness. Don’t screw it up!

I guess you could say I fall into the gym rat category so I’ll be in there putting in work as usual. I’ll be starting the fifth week of my 10-week, fight-based, heavy-lifting program where the heavy lifts (incline bench press, front squat, shoulder press and deadlift) are complimented by accessory work and 15 minutes of fight. I’ll hopefully detail these workouts before I finish it. One big change this week is that I’ll be adding three short runs throughout the week, which is strange to say because I’m not really “adding” them … they were already a part of the program, I just wasn’t doing them.

Busted. Anyway.

Here’s what I look like this week:

  • Monday (that’s today): 5:30pm Boxing Technique Class at TITLE Boxing Club; 30 minutes road work
  • Tuesday: Incline Bench Press Day 3×5 style (including push-ups, barbell rows, dumbbell flies and 15 minutes of fight-based training)
  • Wednesday: 5:45am Boxing at TITLE Boxing Club; 30 minutes road work
  • Thursday: Front Squat Day 3×5 style (including power cleans, hamstring curls, hack squats and 15 minutes of fight-based training); 7:45pm Boxing at TITLE Boxing Club
  • Friday: 4:15pm Boxing at TITLE Boxing Club; 30 minutes road work; Shoulder Press Day 3×5 style (including push-ups, pull-ups, lateral raises and 15 minutes of fight-based training)
  • Saturday: Rest day — food, stretching, foam rolling
  • Sunday: Deadlift Day 3×5 style (including power cleans, kettlebell squat thrusters, RDLs and 15 minutes of fight-based training); 11:30am MMA at TITLE Boxing Club

Anything Else?

Always.

While we’re fast-approaching the finale in our holy trinity of junk-food-consumption holidays, it should go without saying that our habits during the holidays will not make or break your progress. Know what will?

Nothing.

You may be able to make strength gains or lose weight or maintain body fat or WHATEVER else your goals are — and if you can, that’s great. You may also completely screw up your nutrition or fitness and take a step (or two … or five) back but THAT’S OKAY. Wellness doesn’t have a beginning and an end — it merely has “Before” and “In progress.” Your wellness is ongoing and unless you’re training for a race or event of some kind, stay true to your goals while remaining kind to yourself, welcoming to your family and peaceful with your universe.

That’s #jtfstrong

The Weekly Thing 11/19

Holy cow. We haven’t done a Weekly Thing in what seems like forever. But just like I noted in my State of the Viking Freak Address, it’s time to go again. Or, in the words of a famous philosopher I once knew — We’re back just like we said we’d be back. You can leave now and beat the traffic …

If you can’t finish that line then either you’re too young, too old or too stuffy. Come off it. Bloody hell.

We’ve been watching The Great British Baking Show on Netflix and all it has really done is remind me of how unsteady my Viking hands are when it comes to decorating baked goods. Which then reminds me of how much I love baking. Which then reminds me that Thanksgiving is upon us. Which then reminds me that a bunch of y’all are freaking out.

I want to use the Weekly Thing this week to tell you guys to stop. Just stop it. If you look at your Thanksgiving Day spread and see carbs and starches and weight gain and water retention and cheat meals and “being bad” then just fucking stop it.

It’s one day. One day of overeating (probably). One day of pretending to like half (or more) of your family. One day where it’s not only acceptable, but encouraged to double or even triple up on pie. If you’re attempting to count calories or watch your macros, you’re doing it wrong so stop it. If your weight loss or fitness journey gets in the way of you enjoying a day off with your family and friends, then buzz off. You hate good things.

I’m not going to pump you full of lies about the Pilgrims and Native Americans or tell you it’s all about a god or a savior. I’m not going to ask you to post one thing you’re thankful for every day on Facebook and I’m not going to shove a cornucopia up your ass, though that would be extremely funny.

What I am going to do, however, is tell you to just be cool. Thanksgiving is a holiday unlike any other. It’s one of only a few holidays that only we know in the United States, and while I’m anti-patriotism and anti-nationalism, I still think it’s a cool thing and something worth celebrating. However you do it — with friends, family or — as I have done in the past — on a beach far away from family sipping Cabernet and munching on pizza bites. You don’t have to go overboard, just take a day to be still and appreciate something for christ’s sake.

And when the day is done, you go into a food coma, take a long nap, watch some football and then brace yourself for Black Friday bargains you can’t refuse. And if you absolutely must burn off some of that Turkey Day indulgence, you’ll have a couple of opportunities to do so with me!

Here’s what I look like this week:

  • Monday (that’s today): 5:30pm Boxing Technique Class at TITLE Boxing Club
  • Tuesday: Incline Bench Press Day, deload style
  • Wednesday: 5:45am Boxing at TITLE Boxing Club; Front Squat Day, deload style; 7:00pm Boxing at TITLE Boxing Club
  • Thursday: Turkey Day, y’all
  • Friday: Shoulder Press Day, deload style; 4:00pm MMA at TITLE Boxing Club
  • Saturday: REST (I think)
  • Sunday: Deadlift Day, deload style; 11:30am MMA at TITLE Boxing Club

Anytyhing Else?

Yes.

I nearly killed a guy last week with a boot-camp-inspired workout that I plan to share in this blog pretty soon. Related: the current program I’m on. It’s a doozy, it’s amazing, and I think y’all will dig it.

I’m also extremely thankful for the little freaks that have made this traveling side show possible. I never thought I’d be so into fitness or helping other people enjoy it. TITLE Boxing Club merely gives me the platform, you guys give me the motivation and I thank you all from the bottom of my very strange heart.

State of the Viking Freak Address

Happy November, weirdos. October went by like a flash and we’re now on the holiday road.

The weather is getting cooler, the leaves are changing colors, it’s (apparently) tornado season in East Tennessee and countless desks at the office have bowls of leftover Halloween candy on top of them. That All Hallow’s Eve remnants are an early indicator of what’s to come: fried turkeys, stuffing, pies, cookies and eggnog. The holidays, baby!

Also: Caloric surplus, baby!

There’s a reason meatheads use the winter time as bulking season. We’re adding weights to the bar, layers to the wardrobe and fat to the gut. It’s arguably the best time of the year and I am hyped.

And I figured since we’re so hype — let’s do a good old-fashioned State of the Viking Freak Address, y’all!

What’s Up at TITLE?

TITLE Promos

With that hype comes the excitement that we’re fast-approaching the busy season at the gym. This month we’re doing ZERO enrollment at TITLE Boxing Club Knoxville (a $99 value) and each membership will come with a Power Punch Card that will earn members $25 in merch! We’re saving you $100 just for signing up and offering to give you another $25 just for bringing your friends to us. The only thing you have to lose is fat and poundage. All you have to is come see us!

This is not how we do it …

Maybe News?

With an influx of first-timers there’s going to need to be an influx in help at the club and it appears there’s going to be plenty of it … in Viking form! Without going into a lot of details just yet (because it’s not officially official) my presence at the club is about to be increased in the near future. It’s been a long time coming, if you ask me, but I’m definitely humbled by this opportunity and am ready to help our local club see its potential.

I’ve already started working on some new material for us so keep an eye out on both mine and the Club’s social media presence below:

My PT Business

To say the least, business is booming. When I started this side gig I didn’t think I’d have more than one or two clients at a time but I’m currently at a point where I’m basically fully booked going into the holiday season. I have one client that started out as a pretty poor boxer whose boxing skills and coordination have increased significantly; another who came in with the goal of being able to lift 150 pounds assisted but is currently deadlifting 160 pounds unassisted and for reps; another first-timer whose balance and flexibility has improved considerably in the short time they’ve trained with me; And now I have a new client with a goal of performing three pull-ups. I’m always super excited to help my clients achieve their goals — they’re the ones putting in the work, I’m merely counting their reps.

What About TITLE Classes?

I recently celebrated my third year as a TITLE trainer! I never thought that would be something I’d be into, let alone any good at. My club is well-known for being a franchise that keeps their trainers the longest. But even though we don’t have a lot of turnover, we’ve certainly seen our share of trainers that have come and gone.

Trainers don’t make it for a variety of reasons that include availability and general microphone presence, but I think the biggest reason trainers don’t make it is because they’re unable to grow. We’ll either get established trainers with egos that don’t allow them to change their approach or green trainers that are too afraid to step outside of their comfort zone. Personally, I assess my approach and my overall class structure frequently so I can know what’s working and what’s not. For the longest time, I felt like my core sessions weren’t challenging enough so I spent a lot of time revisiting that. Ultimately, I ended up introducing the concept of circuits into core and several of our trainers are utilizing them now, too. It’s been an easy change up that has helped us improve our core sessions overall and it’s also challenged our members in a fun new way.

I’ve started changing up my Boxing and Kickboxing classes in that they’re more build-up based. I’m a firm believer that long, convoluted combos are not the way to go so I write out shorter, easier-to-follow combos for my classes so they can focus more on their intensity and technique rather than remembering what the next punch is or when to slip or when to roll. We’ll often start with two strikes, then build up from there until we get for a 5-6 strike combination that they can get the rhythm of. My members have responded really well to this approach so I’m going to continue to evolve it.

I was starting to think my MMA classes were getting a little stale because I was often just recycling old classes that we’d already done several times before. I’d change the round format frequently just to keep things interesting but ultimately it was the same moves over and over. With that in mind, I’ve spent a lot of time recently studying more Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu techniques and have started introducing rounds that are a little more drill-based. My last MMA class ended up being so intense that I gave us a half-speed warmup and we only stretched for core. There were no complaints!

What About Non-TITLE Stuff?

CEUs

I can’t believe I haven’t talked about it but lately when I’m not working out myself or other people at the gym … or, you know, working at my full-time job (that still exists) … I’ve been studying. My PT certification is set to expire at the end of January so I’ve started a program to get me a Fitness Nutrition certification through NASM. The program will give me 1.9 of my 2.0 required CEUs (the remaining 0.1 will be earned when I re-certify in CPR) and I thought this would be a good route to take. I’m a big fan of nutrition, making meal plans, etc. But damn … this shit is HARD. I was warned from the beginning that this content was dense but I had no idea how much I had bitten off. Nowadays I spend my entire lunch break reading about carbohydrates, proteins and lipids; digestion, oxidization and enrichment. I’m about halfway through the program and I can’t wait to be finished. Mercy.

New Workout

As I’ve already mentioned, it’s bulking season and I’ve already been putting away the holiday-friendly food. We’ve downed a month’s worth of pumpkin spice this and that — now I’ve got my eyes set on Thanksgiving and the weekend after when I can have my first shot of eggnog. With this in mind, it’s also time to lift HEAVY.

I’ve started a fight-centric program that encourages heavy lifting and explosive moves. I plan on detailing the program in the next couple of weeks but it’s a modification of a workout plan I found online that follows a 5/3/1 routine that hits front squats, deadlifts, incline bench press and shoulder press followed by explosive fight for cardio and flexibility work. So far I’m a pretty big fan and I’m seeing some satisfactory results.

What About This Site?

Okay, so I’ve all but abandoned this site but those days are hopefully over. I have a renewed interested in sharing the information that I’m learning and pairing it with the excitement of getting more into the marketing aspect of my club and a desire to tell my desk job and the yuppies that work there to shove it. With that said, I have plans to redesign this site, revamp the Weekly Thing series, re-launch the FFF series, share my 5/3/1 bulking program I’m currently on and throw in a bunch of other free shit, too, like meal prep how-tos, a holiday gift guide, a new year starter kit and some bomb-ass workout playlists.

Anything Else?

This is equally the best and worst time of year, guys. It all depends on your focus and your goals. If you’re starting your winter bulk, then bulk away and lift heavy. If you’re on a weight-loss journey but are intimidated by the upcoming holiday feasts, just be smart, don’t stress and don’t skip that Black Friday cardio. If you’re doing either — or neither — the main focus is family, friends and enjoying your life. Don’t let your diet or exercise program change that.

Ever onward, Heathen Army!

-JTF

FFF: August 3 — AKA “Just Order Your Damn Burger”

Quick Note Made After Drafting This Post…

Friday is burger day in the Food Network Kitchen at my office. Today’s burger special was Greek style. Going “all the way” on said burger includes grilled red onions, feta cheese, tzatzki, and for a dollar more, bacon. The Burger Day bar line is set up assembly line style so guests are allowed to customize their burgers however they want, no questions asked — it’s beautiful. Excited about a big-ass burger with tzatziki sauce, I headed on down around lunch time. The guy ahead of me wanted to customize his burger because he has self-imposed dietary limitations, presumably he’s “low carbin’ it”.

He made a big deal about the bun the burger was on. When the cook asked him if he wanted a bun, the guy replied “Yeah, I’ll take the bun BUT I’M ONLY EATING HALF OF IT!” He then proceeded to “go all the way” with toppings. The cook asked him if he wanted fries and the gentleman barked “No! No fries and I’m not eating rice either!”

There was no rice, just FYI.

Big fucking deal, dude. Get over yourself. In the words of James Smith, dude was being a fucking nob. If you you follow a Paleo diet, Keto diet, low-carb diet, vegetarian diet or no diet at all — just order your damn burger and move on. Don’t be a nob.

Now we’re getting on with what I originally wanted to tell you guys …


Whaddup, Summer?

I left you guys back in May for a while. The last thing I did was share a series of workouts so I’ll assume you’ve been spending the last couple of months getting all ripped and shit. It’s good to see you again – You look awesome 🙂

To be completely honest, I’ve not been getting all ripped and shit. I’ve been working my ass off both at my day job and at the gym to the point that I’ve driven myself to exhaustion. I’ve been stress eating like a mad freak, I haven’t lifted weights in two weeks and I’ve lost about six pounds.

I don’t like it. Nope, no I don’t.

I’ll be going out of town this weekend and I’m hoping to come back with a new motivation, a new focus and a brand new workout program. I’m not-so-secretly also wishing to be visited by the gods while I’m gone. I’m in need of some clarity, y’all.

One thing I know for sure is that I’ve saved up quite a few links for you guys. Let’s get to ’em.

  • The Reason Victims Never Win by Brendan Beaulieu via Norse Fitness
    This has been open in a tab on my computer for weeks. I’ve read it more times than I can count. It’s a reminder that I need regularly yet something I still haven’t been able to fully apply. Your life may be tough but I can guarantee you one thing — humanity has been through far worse than what you’re experiencing. Once you accept that the road of human progression is and always will be full of obstacles you’ll finally be able to focus your energy on destroying not just the evil festering inside you but also the evil that is so pervasive in this world. That’s A+ wisdom right there, y’all. We can all benefit from ridding our lives of the victim mentality and the evil that resides inside us all.

  • Easy Meals I Make at Home in Under 30 Minutes by Juli Bauer via PaleOMG
    Cooking is awesome. And contrary to seemingly popular belief, cooking healthy meals doesn’t have to break the bank or take all day to accomplish. Before you look at these entrees that includes “fried” plantains, jalapeno bratwurst, roasted Brussels sprouts and “fried” cod, please know that these aren’t full recipes but merely photos of finished entrees with brief descriptions of what’s in the photos. It’s also admittedly a big commercial for ButcherBox, Thrive Market, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. If you’re distracted by this, however, you’re focusing on the wrong part of the story. This is great inspiration for Paleo-friendly meals that can be made in half an hour.

  • Chocolate Fudge Protein Brownies by Anna Sward of Protein Pow via Bodybuilding.com
    Here we have a super sexy brownie recipe. I haven’t made these but I hope to very soon. We’re looking at super-chocolatey brownies made with some of my favorite ingredients — almond butter, pure pumpkin and protein powder. The macros don’t come out to being super protein heavy like you’d imagine, but these are relatively light in comparison to other brownie recipes.

  • Buffalo Chicken Crust Pizza from Ruled.me
    This is a Keto recipe that’s way easier than it should be — also way tastier. It’s just a buffalo chicken pizza where the crust is made of chicken but when you look at the macros for the dish, you’ll see what makes it so special. I used this as part of my meal plan a couple of weeks ago, only where this recipe makes one pie with 8 theoretical servings, I made 3 pies and made them two servings each. The macros broke down thusly: 688 Calories, 51g fat, 4g carbs, 55g protein.

  • Stop Trying to Change Yourself by Mark Manson

    This may get a little too deep for some of y’all. It’s downright philosophical with a heavy dose of hard love. We’ve all heard it (or said it ourselves): people declaring their desire to change something about themselves. This can be anything — their general attitude about life, their exercise habits, their diets, their routines, etc. And while wanting to do something new or different with a goal in mind isn’t wrong, we can start running into problems when we break this down and think about why we’re doing it. So many times we declare change because we’re unhappy with the person we are, but in reality the “person that we are” is bullshit. I get this a lot especially when I tell people about my 5:45 am class. “I’m not a morning person,” they say but that’s shit. It’s not that they’re not morning people, they’re merely people who choose to not get up early. And that’s okay! It has nothing to do with the “kind” of person they are. The kind of person we are is an abstract concept we merely project onto ourselves, and are therefore limited by. As Mark says, …the quickest way to change yourself is to realize that there’s no real self to change. No self; just self-created limits.

  • Great Talks Most People Have Never Heard by James Clear

    Everybody likes a good motivational speech. Some of us, however, grow tired of the same ol’ speeches with the same ol’ format and same ol’ lessons learned. We’ve heard all the popular ones before and have seen bits of them ripped off and put onto memes all over social media. They start to mean nothing after a while. What James has done here is collect an actively growing list of speeches and talks that aren’t as well known but pack just as much motivational-inspirational heat. These will hit on everything from physical well being to spiritual and career building. Speakers include Neil Gaiman, Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling and more.

  • Hogweights: House Collection by Flex Comics
    Y’all, these were released today and I’m seriously considering buying one of each. While I closely align with the ideals and attitudes of the Slythergains house, it’s hard to beat Hufflebuff — I mean for real, that’s brilliant.


Music to Get Motivated By

Lately I’ve been keeping an eye on DyingScene.com to catch up on the punk and ska scenes that I’ve fallen away from since falling so far down the black/doom metal rabbit holes over the last year or two. One of the things I’ve noticed is that modern punk SUCKS. It’s really bumming me out. It’s generic, it’s safe and it’s boring. We’re living in a time when even bands that once had balls (I’m looking at you, NOFX) are suddenly apologizing for being offensive (I’m still looking at you, NOFX). I used to get mad when people would say “punk is dead” but due to the current state of the scene, I’m inclined to believe it. I hate being the old guy that spouts off “Back in my day!” every time a shitty modern punk band fails at their job but that’s who I’ve become.

And then I heard Runny.

Runny is a punk band from Brooklyn with two albums under their belt — 2011’s We’ve Come for Your Women (And Some of Your Men) and 2013’s California Uber Phallus. The band has a new album coming out in October called Back on Gack and they’re promoting the upcoming release with this music video for their short scorcher entitled I Don’t Wanna Listen to Trump — an almost direct cover of Mighty High’s song I Don’t Wanna Listen to Yes. It harkens back to a simpler time when it was okay for punk songs to be made of 2-3 lines repeated over and over again for effect.

And it’s glorious. Dig it and proceed to defy the morbidly obese Cheeto living in the White House.

[Free Workout] JTF “Stronger Things” Arms Day

Are you up to date? Cool. If not, check out …

Alright, so we’ve hit everything. All the things. We’ve pushed, we’ve pulled, we’ve stretched, we’ve fueled and I’m sure we’ve griped about DOMS.

Well, correction — we’ve hit everything but arms.

Since I’ve become a gymrat, I’ve noticed a couple of common themes. Number 1: A lot of guys skip leg day. Number 2: Nobody skips arms day. In fact, I know a lot of guys that hit arms every day.

Every. Day.

I mean, that’s cool and everything, but that’s also kind of … undisciplined? I get it, arms are fun to work out and they look great in a fitted t-shirt but ignoring your larger muscle groups in favor of your “beach muscles” is ill-advised at best. Arms day is necessary but one mustn’t forget the rest of their bodies, and by extension, their overall physique and overall fitness.

And that is precisely why I leave arms day for last. It’s a reward. If I stick with my program through the week, then when I hit the gym on the weekend, I can tear my sleeves off and get my pump on just in time for a weekend date night, arguably the most important reason to pump arms in the first place.

So let’s reward ourselves with an arm-blaster, shall we?

Warm-Up

I don’t warm up on arms day. Not saying you can’t or shouldn’t, but I choose not to because the first workout in this program is a warm up in itself. It’s light weight, high rep and a bit of a burn so your arms will be warm and your hinges will be greased. Let’s jump right on!

Big-Ass Set: EZ Bar Curl(z)

5 sets; 20-30-40-30-20 reps; Rest as needed
Primary:
Biceps

Pur your ego aside for this first crazy set because you’re not going to load the bar with very much weight at all. If any bro comes in and smirks or comments on your light weight exercise, you can (politely) invite them to do it with you. They aren’t going to care much for it, I promise.

This is the only exercise in the entire series where I’m going to specify a weight. If for some reason this is too difficult, you can drop the weight.

You’ll start by loading the EZ-Curl bar with 20 pounds. Our bar weighs 10 so that means I’ll add a 5 to each side and perform a total of 20 full-range curls. After the 20th rep, I’ll set the bar down and exchange the plates for the next set — this is the only rest I take between sets.

Set two will be at 15 pounds (bar + 2.5 pound plates on either side) for 30 reps. Again, set the bar down and remove the plates for the third set.

Set three is 10 pounds (just the bar) and will be 40 reps. This is where it gets freaky because you’re just curling the bar, but this will put you at 90 reps and your arms will be burning pretty bad. You’re not quite finished yet, though.

After your 40th rep, put those 2.5s back on and again perform 30 reps at 15 pounds. You’ll finish this superset by taking the 2.5s off, adding the 5s and finishing another 20 reps back at 20 pounds. You’ve now done 140 curls and we’re just getting started!

Tri-Set (1/3 and 2/3): Reverse-Grip Tricep Pulldowns and Tricep Pushdowns

1 Set; 12 reps; Rest as needed
Primary:
Triceps

Add a straight bar to the upper pulley of a machine and pick a weight you can push/pull down for a total of 24 reps. This WON’T be easy! Fortunately you’re only doing one set here so you can rip through it pretty quickly — relatively speaking, of course.

You’ll begin by positioning your hands under the straight bar with your palms facing up. Bend your arms at the elbows, grip the bar tightly and using your triceps, pull the bar down until your arms are straight. Once you’re in the “down” position, the weight will want to jump out of your hands and pull the bar back up but you must stay in control and slowly return the bar to the starting position. That’s your pulldown.

After your twelfth pulldown, you’ll reverse your hands so your palms are facing down and repeat the same range of motion for another 12 reps. This is your push-down. Get it? Your triceps are probably already burning but you have one more thing to do …

Tri-Set (3/3): Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Extension

1 Set; 12 reps; Rest as needed
Primary:
Triceps — Secondary: Abs

Start by carefully raising a dumbbell high over your head and positioning it so that it is slightly behind you. You’ll want to cup your hands around the head of the dumbbell like you’re choking it. Now, very similarly to what we did on the machine, you’ll bend at the elbows and slowly lower the weight down behind your head until your arms are fully bent. You’ll finish the rep by extending the arms back out until they’re straight and the weight is directly overhead again. This will burn quickly if you have a challenging weight but only in the best way possible.

Once you finish the twelfth rep here, you can take a short rest and get ready for the next tri-set.

Tri-Set (1/3): Preacher Curls

3 Sets; 8 reps
Primary:
Biceps

Dom said it best in his Most Alpha Bicep Exercises video:

These are harder to do than regular curls … because you can’t really cheat. And as we know, staying faithful is the hardest thing you can do, which is why they’re called Preacher Curls … Because it takes the strength of god not to cheat.

We’ve all done it. We put too much weight on the curl bar and then we rep it out by using our backs, swinging our hips and using momentum. But these are Preacher Curls and you can’t do any of that shit. It’s just you and the weight.

You’ll want to go pretty heavy for this lift as you’re only looking to complete 8 reps per set. Not a lot of technique to speak of here, either. It’s really just a bicep curl at a Preacher Curl station. Once you finish the 8th rep, move on to the next exercise in the tri-set.

Tri-Set (2/3): Tricep Dips

3 Sets; 10 reps
Primary:
Triceps — Secondary: Shoulders

Bodyweight exercise, y’all! As we all know, I love the idea of bodyweight exercises but when they come up in my program, I curse under my breath because they’re always harder than you think they’re going to be. At this point in the program, your arms are already going to be toast and the last thing you’ll want to do with them is support your own bodyweight but here we are.

Find a bench or a chair that’s a couple of feet off the ground and sit on it with your hands over the edge, your hands gripping the edge of the seat. Slowly pull your butt forward until it’s off the seat and extend your legs ahead of you so you’re balancing on your heels, supporting most of your weight with your arms. Here, you’ll simply “dip” your self down until you nearly touch the ground and use your triceps to push you back up into position.

For this exercise, we’re looking to complete 10 reps before moving on to the final exercise in the tri-set.

Tri-Set (3/3): Cable Rope Curl

3 Sets; 12 reps; Rest 60 seconds
Primary:
Biceps — Secondary: Forearms

For this exercise, you’ll want to find the rope attachment near a machine with a low pulley and pick a weight you can complete 12 clean reps with. The range of motion here is almost identical to your basic bicep curl but due to the slack in the rope, your forearms are going to have to get involved for stability. And since you’re using a machine, it’s very important to note that you should be in control of the weight at all times. Since the weight is on a pulley, you’ll feel the weight pulling against you in a different way and it’s up to you to make sure you have control of it all the way down. No slamming, y’all!

You’re going for 12 reps of this exercise. After your final rep, take a minute to breathe and head back to the Preacher Curl station because you’re ripping through this circuit three times total.

Superset (1/2): Skullcrushers

3 Sets; 12 reps
Primary:
Triceps

This is one of my favorite moves on arms day.

You’ll bust out the EZ-Curl bar once again and load it with a weight that’s challenging but will allow you to do 12 clean reps. Lay back on a bench with the weight held out like you’re about to bench press it. Instead of using your shoulders and chest to lower the weight like a bench press, however, keep your upper arms stretched out and only bend at the elbows until the bar is just above your skull. You’ll want the movement to be slow and controlled lest you drop the weight and make the Skullcrusher live up to its name.

Slowly extend the arms again until the weight is back out in front of you and call it a rep. You’ll do 12 of these before moving on to the next exercise.

Superset (2/2): Decline Bench Press

3 Sets; 12 reps; Rest 60 seconds
Primary:
Triceps — Secondary: Chest; Shoulders

For your final exercise in the program, you’ll find either a decline bench station or make your own. You can see in my gif that I’m using the trusty Smith machine and I can’t recommend it enough for this move. Personally, I feel like your arms are going to be shot enough at this point that worrying about stabilization is too burdensome so if you have access to a smith, do it. The decline press is identical to the flat or the incline press in that you’re going to slowly lower the bar down to your chest and press it back up only the angle you’re at forces the triceps to do most of the work and … ya know, it’s arm day.

Not going to lie — this is going to suck. At this point, your arms will be toast and this move isn’t easy. But you can do it, and you will. Just 12 reps and you’ll get a full minute to rest before you repeat the superset for a total of 3 circuits.

Cool Down

You’re going to feel cocky after this workout is finished because you will have obliterated your arms. The proper cooldown here is flexing in the mirror a time or two and maybe tweeting something about the pump you just got. You definitely want to hit that protein shake today because you don’t want to lose any of the gains you just forced. Feel free to stretch your arms out any way you choose to and just be prepared because in the next 20 minutes or so, you’ll lose nearly all use of your upper limbs.


So last week’s back day program wasn’t super exciting but this one definitely is. It’s enough to make the rest of the week worth it and if you aren’t steady seeing the person you’re taking out later after this workout, they’re going to want something long term after seeing the way your arms look in your t-shirt. You can thank me later.

Until then, check out the printable version of this workout I’ve put together for you, and as always, let me know what you like/don’t like.

JTF Strong’s Stronger Things Arms Workout

[Free Workout] JTF “Stronger Things” Back Day

Continuing the Stronger Things series with a bad ass back workout this week. y’all! If you haven’t been keeping up, you can go back and check out Leg Day, Chest Day and Shoulder Day but there’s no real order requirement. Just pick up heavy stuff!

If we’re being honest, back day is one of my least favorite training days. Maybe my full-on least favorite. Ironically, my back is the one part of my body I’m not super thrilled with and have been working on defining over the last few months. I’ve seen quite a bit of progress on this plan, though, so stick with it for a while and I bet you will, too!

Just be aware that I’m not super creative on back day. Which is to say, brace yourself for row and pull-up city. Now, put something loud and heavy in your headphones and get ready to get buff.

Warm-Up

You guys know by now that warm-ups are weird for me. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t and it’s no different here. If you just want to get the blood pumping a little, I’d suggest a short run or 3-5 minutes of skipping rope. If you want to go ahead and start getting your back muscles riled up, maybe superset some push-ups with some bodyweight rows under a barbell. You can also do a little stretching, which I’m always a big fan of. Now, let’s pick something up.

Pull-Ups, Set 1

1 set; x reps; No rest
Primary:
Lats — Secondary: Abs; Biceps; Shoulders; Upper Back

Bet you didn’t see that shit coming right out the gate. We normally “go heavy” on the first exercise and I guess we still are because guess what? Your body is heavier than you realize. One could even argue that true strength can be determined based on how efficiently one can move their own bodyweight around. Also, it’s back day and in my opinion, there aren’t many other moves that work your back like this.

I’ll also openly admit that I’m not great at them. In fact, I’ve only been able to do them for the last year or two. There are so many resources out there about how to start doing pull-ups, how to progress them, etc. While I won’t get into a lot of that in this post, I’ll pass you the progression I used and the program I’m currently using.

First of all, if you can’t do pull-ups, don’t stress out. If you stress out, that’s when you start doing dumb shit and dumb shit isn’t allowed.

  • If you can’t do a pull-up, do Band-Assisted Pull-Ups.
  • If you can’t do band-assisted pull-ups, do Negative Pull-Ups.
  • If you can’t do negative pull-ups, do Inverted Rows.
  • If you can’t do inverted rows, do Dumbbell Rows.
  • If you can’t do dumbbell rows, try a lighter weight.
  • If you can’t do the lighter weight, you’re lying.

I hope to detail the above flow in a post all its own eventually but for now, just know that there’s no reason to skip anything. If you can’t do something, modify it, regress it if necessary, knock that shit out and move on.

Now, you’ll notice above I have listed 1 set of x reps. That’s important and here’s why: I’ve been using a freaky program I found online made by TwentyPullUps.com that’s damn-near infinitely scalable. I follow the program three days a week doing exactly as it asks. If I can’t do it, I repeat the week until I can finish it and move on. The proper program has six weeks of programming with three levels of ability listed. There’s also weeks negative 1 and negative 2, each also having three levels of ability. If you start at absolute zero like I did, that means this program could last you as many as 24 weeks.

I’m currently using Week 2, Level 2 so I’ll illustrate how these pull-up sets fit into the workout with those numbers. You’ll be completing FIVE sets of pull-ups total, just thrown in between exercises. Since this is the first set, according to the sheet for week 2, level 2, you’ll simply perform 5 pull-ups. I take 30-45 seconds to rest and then move on to my first exercise.

Go Heavy: Barbell Rows

4 sets; 8 reps; Rest 90 seconds
Primary:
Upper back — Secondary: abs; biceps; lats; lower back; shoulders

Like all heavy lifts, I start out lifting the bar only then do a set at 50% weight. I use a short Olympic barbell for this (about 35 pounds) but you can use a standard bar. You could even get by using a Smith machine if that’s all you have available to you. For your warm-up sets, go with 10 reps total then load the bar with 50% of your intended working weight for the day and do 10 more reps.

For this lift, you’ll want to start off with your knees slightly bent, your hips back without curling or arching your back. I prefer a reverse grip on the barbell here but you can go overhand if you’d prefer. Starting with the bar just above the knees, contract the muscles in your back as you slowly lift the weight up your quads until it rests against your gut. Your elbows will be back and your shoulder blades will be drawn together. Slowly lower the weight and exhale. That’s one rep.

You’re going to do 8 reps before setting the weight down and taking a 90 second breather. After your 4th working set, we move on. You’ve done 52 rows and you’re just getting started.

Pull-Ups, Set 2

1 set; x reps; No rest

Back to these guys again. If you’re following along on the plan I linked to, set 2 = 4 reps.

Lat Pulls

3 sets; 10 reps; Rest 60 seconds
Primary:
Lats — Secondary: Abs; Biceps; shoulders; upper back

This will require a special machine but chances are your gym will have it. A lot of times you’ll have a bunch of fancy pants attachments you’ll put on a pulley system so you can push and pull in a variety of ways both sitting and standing for desired effect. This bar will look kinda like an EZ Curl Bar.

Ultimately what you’re going to be doing here is a pull-up only instead of pulling your weight up, you’re pulling a different weight down to you. The range of motion in the arms, shoulders and back are almost identical only you’re sitting down for this exercise. Take a wide grip and slowly pull the weight down toward your chest. Due to your arm positioning, the only way to do this non-awkwardly is to let your elbows flare out to the sides and contract the muscles in your back as your shoulder blades once again come together. Then, slowly reverse the motion until the weights on the machine rest. NEVER JUST DROP THE WEIGHTS ON A MACHINE, OTHERWISE YOU’LL RISK DAMAGING THE EQUIPMENT AND BE VIEWED AS A GYM ASSHOLE.

For this exercise, you’ll want to pick a weight you can successfully — though with a bit of effort — complete 10 reps. We’re going for 3 sets total and resting for a minute between each. Once you’re complete, find your way back to the pull-up bar because …

Pull-Ups, Set 3

1 set; x reps; No rest

On the sheet, set 3 = 3 reps.

Dumbbell Rows

3 sets; 10 reps; Rest 60 seconds
Primary:
Upper back — Secondary: Abs; Biceps; Lats; Lower back; Shoulders

That’s right — more rows! Told you creativity was going right out the door with this workout.

Either way, you can’t deny the importance of the trusty single-arm dumbbell row. It’s always a challenge and it’s always good for you.

Find a bench somewhere and bring over a single dumbbell of whatever working weight you’ve chosen. I usually start with my right side, so I put my left knee on the back of the bench, my left hand flat on the head of the bench, thereby making my back parallel with the floor as my right foot is flat on the ground and the dumbbell hands in my dangling right arm.

From this position, you’ll slowly “row” the weight up, basically until the weight grazes your boob. Your elbow will go straight back, your back muscles will contract and your right shoulder blade will move in toward your spine. Knock out 10 reps, then switch everything to the other side for 10 more reps.

A couple of notes on this exercise:

  1. You can definitely do this bilaterally and standing if you want, just be sure to use dumbbells.
  2. I sometimes superset this move with my lat pulls but be sure to get your extra set of pull-ups in before you leave the gym for the day.

Just like the lat pulls, you’re looking for 3 sets, 10 reps with 60 seconds of rest between sets. After your third set, guess where you’re going?

Pull-Ups, Set 4

1 set; x reps; No rest

On the sheet, set 4 = 4 reps.

TRX Rows, 2 Ways

2 sets; 15 reps; Rest 45 seconds
Primary:
Upper back — Secondary: Biceps; Lats

Good god, even more rows. These are kind-of fun, though. I think so, at least.

If your gym doesn’t have TRX bands, I’m certain they have something similar where you can do some kind of suspension exercise. If not, I’d suggest doing simple inverted rows since you’re only using bodyweight for those as well.

The TRX system is awesome because it allows you to do bodyweight exercises on a plane you can’t necessarily get to naturally with the added benefit of balance support. This doesn’t mean the TRX bands are going to take away the need for you to balance — in fact, balance can sometimes be a bitch with them, but that’s why they’re great!

I do these 2 ways just to shake it up and hit my back in a unique way. I start off leaning myself back until my arms are fully stretched out ahead of me, I’d say I’m about 45 degrees from the floor (or try to be, at least). You’ll start your first rep by pulling yourself up with your elbows shooting out at shoulder level, constricting your back muscles and drawing your shoulder blades together. Slowly reverse the motion until you’re back at your starting position. That’s 1 rep.

For the next rep, you’ll keep your elbows tucked in close to your sides and pull yourself up in a motion very similar to the one you used when you were rowing the dumbbell earlier only now it’s billateral and you’re the weight being pulled up. Slowly reverse the motion until you’re back at the starting position. That’s rep 2.

Continue doing every other rep this way until you get to 15. Rest for 30-45 seconds before starting again. In order to get an even number of each of the row variations, don’t start your second set with the same row you started your first set with. This way you can make sure you completed 15 of each row. We don’t want to show anybody any favoritism. Once you’re finished with your last rep…

Pull-Ups, Set 5

1 set; x reps; No rest

On the sheet, set 5 = 5 reps.

When you drop down from that 5th rep, whisper a dirty word under your breath and breathe a sigh of relief because you’re DONE.

Cool Down

I don’t have a proper cool-down to illustrate but I definitely recommend plenty of stretching here. Anything that hits your upper and lower back as well as your shoulders will benefit you. I sometimes supplement my back day with a few core exercises like sit-ups, plants and dragonflags before I leave for the day but since I do about an hour of pure core work every week during my boxing classes, I’ve been leaving it out.

No matter what you do for a cool-down, I know for certain that it works best if you’re sipping on a tasty protein shake while you do it.


I’m sure you’ll agree that back day isn’t the most exciting and I just about guarantee that you have a bigger, better program and a bigger, sexier back than me. And that’s okay. I’m working on it. We’re all working on it. Don’t be a dick, man.

If you think you may be interested in giving this a shot, though, I’ve gone through the trouble of making a one sheet for you guys like I have all the others up until this point:

JTF Strong’s Stronger Things Back Workout

You know the deal. Give it a go and let me know what you think. If you have questions, need modifications, need to be coached, want a pep talk or someone to go shopping with, I’m your man. Just say hey!

[Free Workout] JTF “Stronger Things” Shoulder Day

Alright, guys. We’ve done legs. We’ve done chest. Now we hit shoulders. I used to combine chest and shoulders in the split but then quickly realized that was a horrible idea. Not because it’s a bad idea in general, but because the program I’ve made for myself is … well …

It’s hard.

I’m not playing. Shoulder day is probably my favorite training day, but it’s also the one workout of the week that I’m always unsure if I can finish. For real. It’s hard.

Think you have what it takes? Let’s go!

Warm-Up

By now you all know how I am with warm-ups. If you haven’t been following along, just know that I don’t usually do them. However … On shoulder day, I’ve been known to do a short warm-up just to get the shoulders moving. I usually start with a few arm circles and then a few assisted hand stands with wall walks and push-ups. As usual, it’s optional.

Go Heavy: Barbell Shoulder Press

4 sets; 8 reps; Rest 90 seconds
Primary:
Shoulders — Secondary: Abs; Traps; Triceps

Always starting heavy, you know the deal. Here, I’m using a squat rack with a barbell. If you’re just getting started with these workouts, you can go with dumbbells if you’d like. I’m merely going with barbell just for weight reasons so modify as you see fit.

As with all the other heavy exercises, we’re going to start with a couple of warm-up sets beginning with lifting just the bar. Lift the bar off the rack and hold it at shoulder level, just under the chin. Your feet are going to go about shoulder-width and you’re simply going to press the weight overhead until your arms are straight and your elbows lock. Slowly lower the weight back down. That’s one. Don’t celebrate yet, though. You have a lot more to do. You’re going for 10 reps with the bar.

Rack the bar and add enough weight to equal 50% your working weight for the day keeping in mind the Olympic barbell is 45 pounds. With the 50% weight loaded, you’re looking to knock out 10 more reps. All done? Now we’re working.

If you have a good working weight, this is going to get hard QUICKLY. Lucky for you, you just have to knock out 8 reps. I mean, you still have to do it 4 times, but for real …

After you finish up that last set, rack the weight and take a long break. In a few minutes, we’re hitting a pretty tough superset…

(1/2) Superset: Landmine Single-Arm Shoulder Press

3 sets; 10 reps each arm
Primary:
Shoulders — Secondary: Abs; Traps; Triceps

In the last few months, I’ve grown rather fond of landmine work. I’ve only recently added this move to my shoulder routine and I’m a big fan. You’ll load the bar with a good working weight and raise the bar up to about shoulder level. Start off in a sort-of lunge position with your right leg back and load the entirety of the weight into your right hand. Now you’ll press that weight up until your arm is fully extended and slowly lower it back down to your shoulder. Once you finish the 10th rep on the right side, switch your feet, switch hands and knock out 10 more reps.

Once you finish up the 10th rep on the left side, slowly lower the weight to the ground and immediately switch to the next move in this superset.

(2/2) Superset: Side2Front Raise

3 sets; 10 reps; Rest 60 seconds
Primary:
Shoulders — Secondary: Traps; Upper Back

Lateral raises are cool. Front raises are great. But what if we just do them both? Side2Front Raises are exactly that. You’ll start off with two dumbbells held down to your side. You’re going to start with lateral raises on both sides until your arms are straight out at shoulder level. That’s one raise. From the “up” position, you’ll rotate your shoulders so that the weights are directly in front of you, then slowly lower the weights to the front. That’s a half rep.

To complete the rep, simply reverse the motion starting with a front raise, rotation to lateral position and slowly lowering the weight back to the starting position. Now you’re 1/10th of the way through this killer. After your 10 rep, give yourself 60 seconds and then head back over to the landmine station.

Smith Machine Shrugs

2 sets; 15 reps; Rest 45 seconds
Primary:
Traps — Secondary: Shoulders; Upper Back

Depending on whose program you’re looking at, trap shrugs could fall on either back or shoulder day. Since traps are secondary muscles throughout most of this program, I thought it fit just fine. Here I’m using a Smith but you can use a free barbell, trap bar, dumbbells or even kettlebells.

There’s not a lot to talk about here. You’ll start holding the weight with your arms fully extended down and then … I dunno … You just shrug. Very much like you’re saying “I dunno … You just shrug.”

Two sets and 15 reps later, you’re ready to finish. But let’s be honest. You’re not ready for this.

Finisher: Circlez and Push-Ups

200 Circlez/ 40 Push-Ups
Primary:
shoulders — Secondary: Upper Back; Chest; Abs; Shoulders; Triceps

I like doing shoulder burnouts with my clients. There’s not much that’s as satisfying as handing your client a 2.5 pound plate, seeing them smirk and telling them “Bruh, don’t smile. In 90 seconds you’re going to wish I hadn’t given you that much.” This is one of those exercises.

Start by holding the plates out at arm’s length in front-raise position. You’ll start by doing 50 baby rotations toward the inside, meaning your right side rotates to the left, your left arm rotates to the right. After 50 rotations, drop the plates, hit the ground and immediately do 10 push-ups. After the 10, there are no breaks. You’re back up, arms back out front, this time 50 rotations in the opposite direction. Drop and go 10 more push-ups.

That’s half.

To finish, you’re back on your feet, weights out to your sides in lateral-raise position. 50 rotations toward the front, 10 push-ups. Finally, 50 rotations to the back and 10 more push-ups.

I’m not going to lie. You’re going to have a hard time finishing that. Good luck.

Cool Down

If we’re being honest, the first thing you’re going to want to do after you finish that last exercise is lay down for a long time. If you want to get in just a liiiiiiittle bit more out of those shoulders, sometimes I like to go get in 2-3 minutes on our speed bag. Other times, it’s protein shake and about 15 minutes of stretching with a focus on my shoulders.


If you think you’re tough enough to give this shoulder workout a try, you can use this handy dandy work sheet I made.

JTF Strong’s Stronger Things Shoulder Workout

As always, let me know if you have questions or if you try it out … or if you have a different shoulder day you’d like to share — I’d be way into checking it out!