Eat How You Feel

imagesI’ve read a fair amount of articles over the last bit that have expounded how people should eat based on how they feel.  This has to be one of the stupidest things I’ve ever read.  Especially when people are telling others to eat how they feel when they probably don’t actually work with anyone and are gearing their articles at beginners.

I will actually use some research in this article, which I haven’t done in the past little while because of various reasons.  The idea for this article came from one of my best buds, who was cracking a joke about how if he ate based on how he felt, he’d be obese.  I’m of the same ilk.  If I could choose to eat whatever I wanted based on how I feel, I’d eat cheesecake, candy, cinnamon buns, chocolate, and wash that down with pop everyday.  Sometimes, I do crave actual food, but I’m not sure that’s just my conscience telling me to eat like an adult human being, and not a child.

Oreos and Cocaine

Recently the Huffington Post published an asinine article about how Oreos are as addictive if not more so than cocaine.  The article used rats as it’s subjects, which is one of the major issues I have with it.  The biggest problem I have is that there are numerous neurotransmitters, which are released in the pleasure centre of the brain in response to a number of things.  Things including: drugs, sex, alchohol, any high-fat/high-sugar foods and many other things.

The point of mentioning that article is that the brain does indeed enjoy the “feeling” of taking in high-fat/high-sugar snacks.  I implore you to name one high-fat/high-sugar snack that even the most brazen IIFYM (if it fits your macros) follower, would condone (ok they could find a couple, but you get my point).

So if we are to allow our emotions to guide our eating, would we not want to make ourselves happy, and activate the pleasure centre in the brain?

Uhh, yea, we would dummy.

Reasons For Snacking

There are many reasons for “snacking.”  I’m not even sure what the definition of a snack is anymore.  I suppose it’s eating/drinking a calorie-containing food or beverage between the “regular” meal times of breakfast, lunch and dinner.


According to one study, the reasons for snacking vary:

  • 79% (of snacks) were high in either fat or sugar.
  • Hunger and tempations (external motives) were reported as reasons for eating junk in 49% and 55% of all episodes
  • Eating because the subjects were bored as shit, fed up over something, or had some form of life stressor was given as a reason for 26% of episodes.

These statistics are somewhat disconcerting, considering most people are firm on their belief that snacking or “grazing” on food throughout the day is the way to be healthy and/or lose weight (anecdotal evidence). From consulting with many males and females, I have noticed trends towards emotional eating being more rampant in females.  Blame it on hormones, genes, gene-environment interactions, whatever, but females do seem to get more emotionally out of food compared to men.

According to this research (on men and women with binge eating disorder, like myself [kidding… sort of]), “Women were more likely to report eating in response to negative emotions, particularly anxiety, anger and frustration, and depression.”

So if we allow our emotions, or feelings dictate what we consume, are we supposed to assume that only robots who have no emotions are able to consume lower-energy dense, and high-nutrient dense foods?


Maybe some individuals are able to handle stress better, or have different stress responses, or have inhibited activation of their pleasure centres.  Or… Maybe they have to actually educate themselves on what they should be eating on a regular basis to attain the goals they are looking to meet? Maybe they need to take steps to living a lifestyle that is conducive to their goals?

Ponder me that…

Social Support

Next up is social support.  I have talked extensively on this subject recently on this here article.  I think this tends to be the elephant in the room when it comes to many peoples dietary woes.  Sure they can be told ad nauseam by the best nutritionist in the world to eat this and that, but if they don’t have the support they need around them on a daily basis, shit just won’t change.

I stumbled upon an interesting article that goes over something alone the lines of this subject.  A group of young females were offered high-energy dense foods and low-energy dense foods at a buffet for lunch.  In the presence of a partner who ate more high-energy dense foods or more low-energy dense foods, the participants chose foods, which mirrored their partners. This makes sense.  If you have a significant other who eat vegetables and meat all the time, you will probably have an easier time giving up your KD and hot dogs than if they consumed spaghetti and butter on a regular basis.

In fact, just today (Tuesday), I basically had a cheat day with my friends because we all decided to do it together (even though I usually do it on Sunday, but hey, you only live once).   Seeing as we makes decisions that seemingly come out of left-field, maybe educating ourselves a bit on what contains what, (in terms of macronutrients and calories) might be helpful to simply be aware.  If we choose to ignore what we are eating on a regular basis, that becomes a habit that compounds over time.  This will most likely result in an increased waistline, which none of us want.

Stress and Gainz

As a side note, some individuals have difficulty with cramming down food when trying to gain weight.  In some individuals, stress may make someone consume less food than usual or less food than they need in order to gain weight.  The easy solution to this is to tell them to try and control their stress, which is highly individualized.

Since controlling stress is probably one of the hardest things for most people to do, other triggers might be in order to help them eat.  Having a good social support network, or having a friend or family member to check-in with on a regular basis could be helpful.  Being in the presence of like-minded people (while eating) is also another decent option.  Telling people what your goals are and being accountable to those people can be helpful as well.

I’d love to know if you eat on a regular basis, based on how you feel?  Have you reached your goals using this method?  Or do you sometimes force yourself to eat foods that aren’t necessarily as desirable as a cheesecake?  Let me know in the comments section below.

A Novice Hypertrophy Program

1325011474_2456-e1338499207767I’ve been getting a fair amount of questions about programs for a novices that will put some weight on them. First thing first, you need to eat. I talk about this in nearly everyone of my blog posts lately, but that can’t be understated.

If you are eating the same food day in and day out then get on  a new program, not much will change. You are placing a stressor on your body when you go into the gym. In order for it to adapt metabolically, you will need to fuel your body to put on muscle. This means whatever you are eating now, isn’t enough.

Use a calorie tracker. Google calorie tracker and you’ll have numerous choices. It doesn’t matter which one you choose as long as it can track your calories. You will need to start tracking, at least for the first few months, until you develop a routine.

Let’s get into training. When you are new, putting on muscle is incredibly easy. However, with no direction it can get pretty confusing. Here is something nice and simple that a novice trainer can do for their first month of training. This will be a 3 day program.


The Program

Day 1
Romanian Deadlift
A1. Split Squats
A2. Curl (I know you want to do these, so pick one kind and hammer at it)

Day 2
A1. Bench Press
A2. Chin-up (Or assisted chin-up/band assisted chin-up)
B1. Low Incline Dumbbell Press
B2. Barbell Row

Day 3
A1. Military Press
A2. Dumbbell Row
Front Squats **

The letters followed by numbers denote paired sets. For instance on day 3, you start with doing just deadlifts. Do only deadlifts until you finished all sets. Then you will move on to military press, rest for 60 seconds, then do dumbbell row. Then rest up and do this exercise pair again.

**Perform 3 sets of 6, but shouldn’t be close to failure.  You should have 2 reps in the tank for each set.

Reps and Sets

The four main exercise of pretty much any of my programs are squats (high-bar or low-bar), deadlifts (sumo or conventional), bench press, and military press.  You will notice all four of these are in the program.  For these four exercises, I want you to do 4 sets of 6 reps.  I want you to ramp up on each set to a heavy set of 6.

Let’s go over ramping.

Example: Deadlift: 135×6, 165×6, 195×6, 225×6.

I chose 30lb increments as an arbitrary number.  It doesn’t have to be that much.  It might be 10lb increments or whatever.  You will experiment and figure it out.  Just make sure that your third set isn’t going to fatigue the hell out of your for your fourth set.  For your fourth set, you can also go for AMRAP (as many reps as possible).  So maybe you do 225×8 instead of 6.  If you are feeling good on your ramp up sets, then you might consider this a possibility.

For every other exercise  do 3 sets of 10-15.  This will make it so you are getting a good amount of reps in with a decent load.  This will improve your ability to perform the lift correctly as well as give you the desired training effect of hypertrophy (muscle growth).  You can use the ramping strategy I talked about above, or use straight sets.

Straight sets example: Barbell Rows.  135×15,13,10.  Obviously you are just using the same amount of weight for all three sets.  Since I have a rep range, you may find you are freshest on the first set, then as fatigue sets in you will no longer be able to keep up at a high level.  That’s why in the example the reps decrease.  If you are having a shitty day, you can just choose a weight that you know you will be able to get three sets of the same reps for.  So it would look like 135×10,10,10.

Simple right?

Rest Periods

I’ve never been a stickler for rest periods.  They matter far less than you think.  For the main exercises, take as much as you need.  As you are new, you won’t need too long.  So let’s say 120 seconds max, between sets.

For the paired sets, you can use 60-90 seconds between sets.  It depends on your conditioning.  If you are better conditioned, use the lower number.  If you’re not very conditioned, use the upper number.


Other Shit

  • Try and keep 48 hours between all sessions.
  • Eat more food than you are eating right now.
  • Try and increase the weight each week.  You will probably be able to do this for the first few months.
  • Take your training seriously and get shit done.
  • Get sleep.
  • Eat more food than you are eating right now.
  • Be consistent.  3x/week isn’t asking too much.  You should be able to do this easily in under an hour.

Try that for a month and gain some muscle.




Q&A: Plateaus and Squat Help

I’ve been answering a lot of Q&A’s on e-mail but I want to start putting more on my blog.  This will cover a couple option for smashing through a fat loss plateau.  Then I’ll go over what you can do to help increase your squat (programming considerations, exercise selection and all that fun stuff)

Q: I’ve lost 66 pounds in the last 6 months.  For the last two week I have been stuck at 223 and I’m getting discouraged.  I run daily for ~30 minutes and do some core work.  What do I do to get out of this plateau?

A:  This can be a complicated question and I get something along these lines pretty often.  I’m talking complicated like solving a rubiks cube, drunk, while running away from a rabid attack dog.  Well, maybe not.

There are a few things to look at here.  If you have been on the same diet as when you first began your weight loss journey, you will reach a point where your dietary intake and energy expenditure begin to comes closer and closer to the same number.  Once you are eating as many calories as you are expending, you will no longer lose any weight and/or fat.

So the question is, how do I either increase my energy expenditure, or decrease my caloric intake to give this fat loss plateau a punch to the mug.  I’m not a fan of increasing energy expenditure, because there is only so much you can do for that.  You could begin by increasing your cardio from 30 minutes to 45 minutes.  You could begin lifting weights (if you aren’t doing that already).  Those are the only two that I’d really worry about implementing.

The more effective way however, would be to decrease your energy intake.  You do this by consuming less calories.  If you aren’t counting calories, then it would mean decreasing meal sizes, decreasing meal portions, adding in some fasting, or replacing calorie dense food with nutrient dense food.  If you are counting calories, then you simply need to decrease the amount of calories you are taking in on a daily basis.

The key to sustained weight loss is keeping consistent.  If you are eating on track 50% of the time, you probably won’t note much of a difference in body composition.  If you can follow the play 80-90% you will attain your goals.


Q: My squat has been stuck around 350 for the past few months and I can’t get it to increase.  I’m currently doing 5×5 training.  Deadlift is increasing as well, but I’m at a loss for the back squats.  I do a powerlifting style squat, and usually wear knee wraps and a belt for my heavier sets.

A: Anyone who has read my articles on training knows that I’m a man of simple tastes.  If you want to get better at something, do it more.  Now, I’m not saying you need to squat everyday to break out of your plateau.  Since you are doing some sort of 5×5, you could start by reprogramming your numbers.  Try starting with a lower “max” number.

Changing to a different program could also help.  Some programs will only last so long until you have to try something new to create a better training stimulus.  There are numerous programs out there: Cube Method, 5/3/1, Lift-Run-Bang, Juggernaut Method are just a few tried and proven programs that have gotten good results.

You might also think about ditching the gear, you gear whore.  Just fucking with you.  Try a training cycle with no wraps or a belt though.  You will be surprised at what that can do for you.  Or, don’t use a belt for the beginning of a cycle and add it as needed.  Then add the wraps closer to the end of the cycle when you are lifting weight closer to your RM.

Then comes supplementary exercises.  You didn’t say if you are doing any, so I will assume that you aren’t.  I have noticed that strengthening the quads, seems to help a ton with the low-bar back squat.  I never really did this before, but I am now, and my back squat is going up.  The best exercises for building the quads are high-bar squats and front squats.  You can mix in paused reps in the hole for these as well.

Another thing a lot of super strong guys such as Ed Coan used to do was use primarily high bar squats for a full cycle, or part of a cycle.  If your high bar squat goes up, your low-bar squat also should increase.

Front squats are great for building your quads as well as identifying weakness in your anterior core.  If the bar begins to roll forward as you come back up, your torso is bent too far forward and you need to work on some dedicated core work or lighten the load up.

For both high-bar squats and front squats you want to make sure to load the quads.  Dan Green has some great vids already on this subject.

You will notice one of his cues is to sit straight down, and not sit back (which you do in low-bar squats).  This will load the quads more.  In the high-bar squat you also want to sit down and allow the quads to get wasted (loaded, lol).


In this video Dan talks about where to position the knees.  This is very important, and can definitely add pounds immediately to your squat.  I was of the “knees out” school for quite a while.  Yet I noticed that pretty much all Oly lifters with a decent squat and pretty much all powerlifter with good squats allowed their knees to come in somewhat during max attempts.


This is a good vid of a squat session from Dan Green.  The guys has incredible form, and has perfected over many years of trial and error.  So take notes.


I didn’t mention that you could also increase your squat frequency.  I have already wrote about this at length here.

If anyone has any questions please feel free to e-mail me at



Actions and Outcomes

The spark of this article comes from a friend of mine Bojan Kostevski who wrote an excellent article on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s site called “Why You Need To Stop Setting Goals”. The part of the article that reverberated with me was this: What specific actions can I take to maximize the chances of ever reaching the body of my dream? This week? Today?

This did a great job of linking the action goal to the outcome goal.  The outcome goal is the end result “lose 10 pounds” or “put 100 pounds on my squat.” The action goal is what you need to do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis in order to achieve that goal.

So I started thinking about some of my clients, and some of my friends who train religiously.  I started examining the differences and similarities between us all.  I was looking for actions that some of took to reach our goals.  Actions that maybe we weren’t consciously aware of, but helped us achieve our desired outcome anyways.

Consuming this too often probably won't take you anywhere you want to go... I think you know that.
Consuming this too often probably won’t take you anywhere you want to go… I think you know that. 

The way I looked at you always have actions leading to a consequence.  Even if the consequence is unintended, your body will adapt to your actions.  If you are currently goal-less and are stuffing your face with pizza on a daily basis your actions will lead to a undesired outcome (most likely).

Fat gain.

Obviously we don’t have a conscious outcome goal of getting fat, but it can and does happen never the less. So I wanted to have a quick look-see at some of the actions that people take to reach their desired goal as well as look at actions that people do as part of their lifestyle to lead them to undesired goals.

Since I surround myself with people who like looking good while also being strong, and well muscled, I will go over some of these actions first (in no particular order).

1. They take protein supplements.

If you read my stuff, you know I don’t push supplements, I don’t make a dime from suggesting supps to anyone.  However, everyone I know who looks good as a product of hitting the gym uses protein supps.  I don’t really care much about what kind of protein it is, but they all use it. This shows you that protein intake is important.

If you can get your couple of hundred grams of protein in on a daily basis, then maybe you don’t need a protein supplement.  However, I have some friends who are some big-ass eaters, and they still take protein powder because it simplifies things: it’s quick, easy, and highly portable.

2. They aren’t weaklings.

Since I’ve coached clients and influenced many others I have seen how they’ve progressed.  I’m not going to pretend to say that I know how much their lifts have increased, but I will tell you that they have.

Their strength has not gone down, and it hasn’t stayed neutral. Sure, over the years I’ve seen some people who are maybe a little weaker than before (because of injuries) who are as big, if not bigger than when they were before.  This is because they’ve figured out how to push themselves in different ways and already have a good base of muscle to build from. I can guarantee you, at one point, these guys and gals were pushing themselves hard to approach their desired outcome.

3. They don’t eat foods with a low nutrient density on a regular basis.

I didn't eat the whole thing....
I didn’t eat the whole thing….

This is just a fancy way of saying that the bulk of their food, the majority of the time is coming from unprocessed food.  You know what these are, I’m not going to list them.  Check this out to learn more about how food quality can effect the amount of ‘work’ the body has to do to actually digest these foods based on how processed they are.

These people have discipline to stay the course and are able to look straight at their goal and knock that bitch out the park.  They find ways to limit negative situations where they know they will be put in conditions that aren’t conducive to their goal. What might some of these situations be you ask?

– Drinking heavily on a regular basis.

– Eating out on a regular basis.

– Associating with people who do not give a shit about their bodies.

That’s just a few to wet your appetite.

4. They have a dedicated cheat day.

This is simply a day where they eat whatever the hell they damn well please.  This helps in many ways.  It can cause changes in hormones which can kickstart fat loss.  It gives the person immense amount of pleasure to eat delicious foods.  It prevents fucking up nutritional adherence, by allowing you to know that you can eat something you really want rather than food that might be considered boring.

Now let’s take a look at some of the actions that people take that incur unintended consequences.  The consequences we would like to stay away from, such as knowing that Ben Affleck will be playing Batman.

1. They aren’t consistent in the gym.

If you do some other form of exercising, that could be put in there as well.  However, I think most of the people that read this here blog are slagging iron, not running marathons. Anyways, people who have come to for help usually aren’t in the gym consistently.  Sure they try their hand at training hard for a bit, maybe even getting some results, but then something happens in their motivation, or whatever it might be that gives them the right (in their heads) to stop training.

Once you stop, it can be a bitch to get back into it. The trick is not to stop training.  Do not find an excuse not to train.  The minute the thought enters your mind, get your ass to the gym and train anyways. Tweet that

You need to transform yourself into someone who makes the gym a part of your lifestyle.  It will take work, and it won’t happen overnight.  You might never really enjoy going to the gym, but you realize that it’s an integral part of what you want to achieve, and nothing will stop you from getting that goal.

2. They eat out a lot.

There really isn’t anything wrong with eating out on a regular basis… If you’re eating greens and lean meat whenever you do in fact eat out.  Which for the majority of people just doesn’t happen.  I have clients who go out probably 10+ times per week.  Many of those are work related.  So when they go out, they aren’t having the meal mentioned above.  They’re having alcohol, starters, dessert.

It adds up.

Some people who eat out a lot, who are in tune with how much they can eat, can get away with this.  The majority of people can’t.  If you are eating dessert on a daily basis, you probably aren’t very lean.  Sorry to say it, but it’s true.  Perhaps if you fast all day and go warrior style at night, you can afford to have small amounts of dessert on a daily basis.

3. They have poor social networks in relation to their goals.

Cheat day with my best bud, while watching football.  I only eat these kinds of food once a week, but on a regular basis.
Cheat day with my best bud, while watching football. I only eat these kinds of food once a week, but on a regular basis.

Let me ask you a question.  Lets say George is here on Earth.  His 5 best buds drink beer everyday, eat chips, and order pizza a couple times a week.  George wants to get ripped for the summer, so he decides to spend his spring leaning out.  The only thing is, George and his friends are huge hockey fans.  They watch hockey together 3-4 times per week.  When they do, they consume the above beverages and foods.

Now, in a parallel universe, George has the same goals.  His best buds are also huge hockey fans.  They have a tradition though, they go to Georges house and train in his awesome home gym as a group before every game.  Then they cook up ribs, or wings, or other meats using only herbs for flavour, also they only drink water or other kinds of zero calorie beverages.  They’re all into keeping their bodies in good shape.  George just allowed himself to gain a few but he’s trying to get back to Ripped City for the summer.

Which George has the best chance to succeed?  If you guessed the first one, congrats, you probably have an IQ equal to your body fat percentage.  Obviously, if you were  betting man, you’d put your money on George-two to reach his goal over George one. He would succeed because his social network would be much more in tune with his goals.

Your social network isn’t only your friends, it includes your family as well.  If your significant other is healthy as fuck, and you are trying to get into shape, you will have a much higher chance of succeeding than if he/she isn’t living the healthiest lifestyle.


There are obviously many, many actions that one can take that will lead them a positive or negative outcome.  The ones above are just a few of them that I have found are pretty prevalent.

So, what actions are you taking on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to help you reach your goal?  Which actions are you doing that are sabotaging you from reaching your goal?

24 Things You Don’t Know About Me

1. I used to piss my bed.  Don’t make fun of me, my mom said it’s normal to stop at 25.

2. I’m good friends with WWE wrestler Nick Rodgers.

The Mayor!
The Mayor!

3. I was originally a huge fan of Spider-man.  As I matured I’ve realized he’s just such a pussy compared to Bruce Wayne tho.

4. Predator and Terminator 2 are two my favourite movies. Ever.

5. I played hockey for 15 years, but haven’t played in the past 10 :(.

6. I love Starcraft.  I watch the shit out of it and play it more than I’d care to admit.

7. When I used to give a shit, I built my own computer.  It was an IBM.  After the operating system crashed literally 7 straight times I threw it in the garbage and bought a mac.  Haven’t looked back since.

8. I have an incredibly well trained dog named Hades.  He’s a Belgian Malinois and he’s a boss.  He’s a little ball of pure energy at only 2 years old.

9. I love me some Jack Daniels and Coca-Cola.

For those of you who don't know geography
For those of you who don’t know geography

10.  I’m half Burmese.

11.  I secretly enjoy watching golf… As long as it’s with my Dad or Uncle.

12.  I’ve never had a serious injury in my life. No broken bones, no serious hospital visits or extended stays in hospital. **Knocks on wood**

13. I’m a huge Cincinnati Bengals fan.  Pretty random considering I’ve never been there, don’t have any relatives from there, and don’t know anyone from there.  As a matter of fact, I’ve talked to 1 person in my entire life who was from Natti’. Corey Dhillon!

14. I used to despise Tim Duncan, Karl Malone, and John Stockton.  It was fun to hate on them because it made watching basketball fun. Now I got mad respect for them.

15. I had gigantic ears when I was a kid.  They are the same size now as when I was 4 or 5.

16. If I had to go with one ethnic cuisine for the rest of my life, I’d choose Thai.

17. I fucking Love Denzel Washington.  Training Day anyone?

18. I find neuroscience fascinating.

19. I’m a pretty decent cook.  Right now my go-to meal has to be thai curry soup (with ridiculous amounts of chicken thighs).  Easy to make, has tons of vegetables, and a ridonculous amount of protein.  I probably get 1500-2000 calories out of it by adding rice.

20. I got family on the sunshine coast and I love it there.

21. Small dogs piss me off.  A co-worker from a while back had her stupid little dog at work to visit one day.  I go up to pet it and it tries to tear my hand off.  If my dog did that the police would probably get called and he’d get a warning or be put down.  Double standards…

22. I despise this whole “nerd” movement going on.  Girls wearing floppy-ass toques, and fitted caps that literally say “Nerd” or “Geek” on them, along with coke bottle glasses. Listen, I have no problem with people who are nerds, or geeks, if you are one, you don’t need to advertise it to the world.  If you are advertising, you’re doing it because you didn’t get enough attention when you were a child.  Go live on a deserted island.  Thanks.


24. Favourite athletes of all-time: Mario Lemieux, Paul Kariya, Kobe Bryant, Chad Johnson (Ocho Cinco… LOL), AJ Green, Dan Green, and Ed Coan.



Why Am I Hurting?


A topic that is will inevitably come up with everyone that lifts hard is injuries.  Anyone who spends time in the gym for an extended period of time will incur injuries.

No matter what.

This article will go into the aspects of resistance training that are causing you injury.  I won’t be going into biomechanics or anything but will look at program design, training frequency, exercise selection, and manipulating variables that can cause injuries, as well as prevent and manage them.

I’ve been training clients and consulting for a few years now and to say that you will never get injured while training is foolish.  On the one extreme, look at any professional athletes career.  These men and women are pushing their bodies to the limits in the gym, and on their respective playing surface.  Despite the fact they’re using every performance enhancing drug known (and unknown) to man, they still get injured. Many pro athletes will say they took “this and that” in order to help them heal from injuries.  One could argue that’s probably the main reason that these athletes use them.  Obviously, being bigger, faster, stronger, and therefore more durable is a big bonus.  However, athletes will use gear to help them manage injuries or help rehab from bad ones.

On the other end of the spectrum are just the weekend warriors.  Younger people who want to look sexy as fuck to the opposite sex (or same sex if that is your preference).  Older people still want to look good, but probably place more of a premium on staying healthy and feeling good.
This article isn’t to tell someone that they’re automatically going to injure themselves as soon as they walk into a weight room.  I’m talking about smaller nags and strains as well as more sever injuries.

The point is, on both ends of the performance spectrum, people will get injuries.  The trick is figuring out ways to work around these injuries in order to keep performing at whatever level you are currently at.  A broken leg will severely cripple you, keeping you out of the gym for a while, unless you’re John Broz.  An annoying ache in your shoulder does not need to keep you out of the gym at all.


Let me talk about my injury history real quick.  I’ve never broken a bone in my body (that I know of).  I’ve been training with weights for 8 years.  Pretty hard through that whole time.  I used to play a lot of basketball and have sprained my ankles more times than I can remember.  So I have one ankle that has awful dorsi-flexion.  When I move my knee as far over my left ankle as possible, it begins to hurt and is asymmetrical when compared to my right foot. From training I’ve had only small aches and pains throughout my entire “career.”  I usually always have some sort of small pain in my shoulders or elbows.  Nothing severe though.  There are certain exercises I know I can no longer do as much as it pains me (dips… I will always love you).  These small aches and pains don’t affect me on a day to day basis.  Sometimes they do, but the little ones are usually only aggravated when I do something stupid that I know I should not have done.

This is why you should not do things that hurt.  I tell my clients this all the time.  Most of them listen, but some of them don’t, or they hide their pain.  It’s annoying, but they want to work hard.  Pain is not good muscle soreness is fine.  Try and understand the difference! Now, back to subject at hand.  Let’s go over a few variables in your training that can cause you pain.  Let’s also take a look at how we can change these things to help prevent and/or manage injuries.

Training Frequency

Anyone who follow me knows that I’m all about training frequently.

Is it for everyone?


The majority of people cannot train frequently because they simply don’t have time.  Others don’t really like training, but do it because it makes them feel better, they like how they look as a result of training, or thousands of other reasons.  Anyways, training frequency of a given lift can contribute to pain. For instance some people will find from experience, that they cannot perform a specific exercise or movement pattern multiple times per week.  I have a client with a pretty bum knee, as a matter of fact he doesn’t really have one.  He can’t squat, but can do a few other lower body exercises.  We usually only do knee dominant exercises once a week.  If we do too much work on his knee, they get annoyed.

In my case, I can’t bench more than 2 times per week.  I’ve experimented with increasing my frequency and it has been a huge fail every time I give it a shot.  My shoulders begin to get sore and tell me to fuck off and stop bugging them.  I listen.  For me, losing time in the gym means a lower total at my next meet.

I’m not about that.

So listen to your body, try and find patterns in specific exercises or movement patterns that annoy your joints.  It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to completely stop doing that particular exercises, it just means that you may need to limit the amount of exposure to that particular exercise. You may have some mobility and stability issues that would clear up pain for a given exercise as well.  If you are having chronic pains you might think about seeing a physiotherapist to help you figure that out.  If you have a good trainer, he should have screened you to make sure that you’re good to go on specific movement patterns.  He shouldn’t be taking you through movement patterns that are dysfunctional or in pain.

Program Design

This pretty much goes hand in hand with my babbling on movement screens.  It’s important to understand that at this point in time you may not be able to perform a specific movement because your body isn’t quite ready for it.  Through mobility or motor control training you might be able to improve your chances or adopting that movement pattern.  You might need some manual therapy to help.  You might not be able to perform a movement pattern for the rest of your life.  Shitty, I know, but that’s the case for some. Your program should address any aid you might have in mobility and stability.  Your program shouldn’t be telling you to do exercises that hurts the moment you start it.

You might get a program and realize that there are some changes that need to be made.  For instance, maybe you are trying to follow a specific program that calls for performing flat barbell bench press once a week.  You know that you can’t bench without your shoulders giving you the middle finger.  However, you know that you can do bench presses with a football bar.  The neutral grip makes all the difference in the world.  So you switch to football bench presses and you’re good to go.

You might have specific training sessions where you develop a new ache or pain.  When I was just starting to train I would’ve pushed through these little aches.  Now I realize that I need to either stop doing the movement and move on to something else, or just call it a day.  You aren’t a loser for calling it a day when you are feeling shitty.  The chances that you will make the ache worse by pushing through it makes you an idiot.

Don’t do it.

Realize that sometimes you need to punch the clock and get out early at some points.  In the long run it will allow you to train more and get the results you are seeking.  If you aren’t in the gym, or can’t walk, you aren’t going to be able to lose as much fat as you want, or get bigger.  It’s just not going to happen at a fast rate.  So do everything you can to try and keep yourself in the gym rather than out of it.  Sometimes that means you need to spend a little more time out of the gym in order to spend more time in the gym.

Got it?

Exercise Selection

This also goes hand in hand with program selection.  Some people don’t follow programs though.  Instead, they blindly do this and that because ‘Big Joe’ told them to.  You see Big Joe is a massive bodybuilder, and he know everything.  Forget the fact that he was completely jacked when he was 17 doing pushups and crunches, he obviously knows what he’s talking about…

Yea, sarcasm.

The point here isn’t that muscular guys are stupid, it’s that’s sometimes their advice on weight training is.  They don’t train clients, they know what works for them, and them alone.  They know that one exercise made their chest grow, and another exercise hurts their elbow.  Does this mean the same exercise will make your chest grow, and the same exercise will hurt your elbow?


It means that you need to experiment with exercises to see what works for you.  I can’t talk enough about this because some people continuously beat their joints up and keep aggravating injuries out of stupidity.  If an exercise hurts here is what you need to do:

  • Stop training that exercise
  • Stop training a given movement pattern
  • Switch to a different exercise
  • Make subtle changes to the movement pattern
  • Get a saw and hack off the limb 2-3″ above the painful joint (my personal preference)
This is where you are if you don't heed this here advice.
This is where you are if you don’t heed this here advice.

So, next time you get a bad ache, look at the list above, pick one of those options and make the necessary changes.  If you have had any aches and pains in the past I’d love to know specifically what you did to help alleviate them in the comments section below.



Outstanding Articles and Vids of The Week

I’ve been thinking of starting something like this for a while.  Not sure why I didn’t.  So here we go.


Omega-3s and Prostate Cancer: Is There a Downside? – By Kristen Wiens

I’m sure you have read/listened/heard about how omega-3 fatty acids have been linked with an increased risk of prostate cancer…  I could complain about how the media needs to maybe learn to read a bit of research, or ask someone who knows a thing or two, but I won’t.  So here is a pretty good and short read that does a pretty fine job of refuting these alarmist claims.


Of Mice and Men: Problems With Animal Studies Highlighted In A New Light – Posted by Gary Schwitzer

This is another research related article showing some new issues with animal studies.  Why does it matter?  The media loves to jump on bullshit, (see above) and sometimes they will make assumptions on ‘this or that,’ based on the results of animal studies.  New information is now coming up showing how biased some of these animal studies really are, therefore skewing the results towards the researchers hypothesis.


Lilly and Carter on Submaximal Training – By Juggernaut

This is the fifth part of a series that Brandon Lilly and Paul Carter did.  This instalment focuses on training whilst using submaximal loads.  They stress the importance of getting away from continuously training with weights at or near your 1RM and how it’s a highly effective method for increasing your strength in the short and long-term.


Submaximal training is important.  It’s not the only way to train, but the amount of strong dudes who have gone through submax cycles cannot be ignored.  If you enjoy getting stronger, do yourself a favour and learn a thing or two about submaximal training.



5 Reasons You Aren’t Jacked

  Summer is in full force.


Many guys who did things correctly are probably trying to shed some bodyfat so they can turn heads at the beach.

However, the majority are probably having the same problem year in, year out and can’t even get the “off-season” straightened out enough to elicit a shedding period. This article goes out to those of you who have issues increasing your muscle mass.

You will recall I did an article which called out people’s bullshit claims on being a hardgainer. You can read that article here.  That detailed with the nutritional aspect of things.  This quickie will delve mainly into the training aspect of obtaining the illusive “jacked” title, coveted by innumerable males.


1. You simply aren’t eating enough food.  

  I don’t feel like going over this again, just click on the link above and you should get a pretty good understanding of

whatI’m talking about.  Please, don’t be lazy, this is arguably the most important point, so click the damn link.  I’ll

even give you another one.



2. You’re spinning your wheels in the gym.

When I was just a wee lad, I was training at this 24-hour gym.  I had a gym friend, I can’t remember what his name was.  I remember discussing how my bench had finally jumped up to 245 for a rep.

“How’d you do it?” he asked me.

“I just started lifting with lower reps, and more weight,” I replied.  A look of utter confusion washed over him after that.

I told him instead of doing the same sets with the same reps, and the same weight (which he had been doing for literally over a year) maybe you should try using a higher weight to increase your max.  He nodded his head, but that vital piece of info went in one ear, and out the other.

Maybe I should’ve told him something along the lines of this “If you’re doing the same shit in the gym, over and over again, and aren’t seeing any results, why do you think doing another year of said “shit” will produce anything that hasn’t already happened?  It won’t…”

Don't spin this.
Don’t spin this.

Enough of story time though.

If you have been doing 3 sets of 10 for the past 3 years and still look like an emaciated teenage girl, then you could begin by inverting your rep scheme.  Do 10 sets of 3, 5 sets of 5, 4 sets of 6,  whatever. Just do something different and try to elicit some strength gains.  If you have been doing 5 sets of 5 and your numbers are stalled, go for some heavy doubles, or triples.  Start at 5 sets of 3, and work your way up to 5 sets of 5 with the same weight then increase the weight.

There are so many different ways to skin a cat, if you’ve been stuck on one for a long period of time make the necessary changes.  I’ve heard many very strong and jacked guys say that they’ve experimented with numerous training systems before settling on what they’re presently doing (myself included).



3. No structure.

We’ve all seen the young man in the gym who looks like he is attempting to solve a Rubik’s cube rather than just train.  He (or she) goes from one pointless exercise to another, pondering what new exercise will allow him to fit in that glorious size M shirt.  Perhaps, this gentleman needs a helping hand to tell him what he should and should not be doing…

This point really goes hand in hand with my previous one, but I feel it’s very important.  If you go in the gym and don’t really have a general structure to what you’re doing or even where you want to go,  your gym life will be harder.  You want to achieve a specific goal.  You may need some sort of structure in order to achieve that goal.

A program might be good for you to follow.  There are so many out there and if you are a newb, then pretty much all of them will work for you.  One thing I’ve been experimenting with lately is hitting a minimum in the gym.  This means if you aren’t feeling great, then you just hit your minimum.  If you are feeling great then you can do your minimum for reps or increase the weight.  Let’s go over a quick example.

Let’s say Jimmy is deadlifting this week.  He feels like crap because he had a work function on the weekend and it’s taken him a while to fully recover from it.  His program calls for 405 for 3 reps.  This is easy for him, he’s tripled 455 numerous times, but his program, which he believes in, is calling for 405 for 3 at a minimum.  He warms up and simply hits his 405 triple, does whatever accessory movements his program calls for and goes home.

Now let’s say in a parallel universe, Jimmy had a great weekend.  He had a great weekend kicking it and got a ton of rest and sleep.  Deadlift days rolls around and he simply scoffs at 405 for 3.  He tells himself he’s going to giv’er as hard as possible on his set of 405 and rep out.  He ends up getting 9 reps, a new PR.

Obviously we would love to set PR’s in the gym week in, week out, but that isn’t going to happen.  So sometimes, you need to just “punch the clock” as Jim Wendler likes to say and do the minimum that your program asks of you.  Some programs do not require you to ever go outside of the sets, reps, and weight that the program calls for.  You will need to use your discretion on whether or not to push more on a given program, or maybe ask someone?


4. Too much structure.

This seems pretty counter-intuitive after what I just said doesn’t it?  There are two ends of the spectrum though.  Some people will run a program into the ground, and follow everything to a ‘T’ for a long, long time.  It probably worked very well for them at first, then they hit a plateau and just kept going at it.

For these people they have a few options.  Adding, or substituting a day in which they do whatever they feel like is often very helpful.  Throw out the percentages, and any other contraints on that given day and just lift shit.  Do a set/rep scheme you haven’t done in a while.  Use training implements that you have wanted to use, but haven’t been able to because your program doesn’t call for it.  Do something that’s fun and will get you excited to train again.

Just having a week or two of using this format exclusively might be good.  It really depends on the kind of person you are, how fed up you are with your training, and many other variables.  So experiment.  Does one session a week of doing whatever the hell you want increase your motivation and drive to train?  No? Maybe you need more than one?

Let the gym be your lab, and be your own test subject.


5. Focus.

You’d think most people understand that the gym is a place to get work done.  Sure you can socialize here and there, but for the most part you are there to wreck shit, not discuss why your friends girlfriend looks like Grimace for 60 minutes straight.  You shouldn’t be distracted by the other things going on around you.

Yup, a Grimace reference.
Yup, a Grimace reference.

Everyone I know who is big and strong goes to the gym to do work.  If they want to socialize they do it after the gym.  I’ve known a few people who will approach me and talk my ear off for 15 minutes if I let them.  I’m not afraid to tell them that I need to get to my next set.  Wearing earphones is a surefire way to make sure that you aren’t bothered at the gym.  Looking un-approachable also works wonders, although not everyone can pull off that look.  Ask any decent looking female for advice on that topic, and I’m sure she’ll have a number of ideas for you.

Just realize that everyone who looks half decent put in time, dedication, and a shit load of effort to get where they are now.  They didn’t show up to the gym to watch The Blue Jays get torn apart for an hour straight then fucked off.  So when you are in the gym, remember why you are there, and don’t let anything stop you from doing what you need to do.



Hit me up in the comments section or send me an e-mail at if you have any questions relating to this article.


My Thoughts on Neck Packing

Theres been a bit of talk lately on packing the neck.  I will get to what neck packing is, but first the reason people say neck packing is important is to increase safety, by putting your entire posterior chain into a better position.  There are some very smart people who will only let clients do exercises with a packed neck.  Other coaches don’t care, other powerlifter and olympic lifters (to some degree) do pack the neck, and others don’t.  Anyways, let’s go on.


Neck packing is simply keeping the neck in a neutral position.  If you stand up straight, and extend your neck you are in the “traditional” heads up squat/deadlift powerlifting neck position.  Pretty much nobody has their neck completely flexed while lifting (which would be looking down with your head as much as possible.  A neutral neck, is sort of in the middle of these two positions.  I would say a neutral neck is a little be balanced towards the flexed side, but isn’t all the way flexed.  Here is a simple way to get your neck into a packed position: bring your chin (with teeth touching eachother) down to your chest and make a double chin, now keep that double chin and tilt your neck back.  That’s the packed position.


It’s been argued that this particular position has performance benefits.  It is said that lifting a load with an extended neck position causes neural inhibition to the core and all the way down to the glutes.  My observational opinion is that it does not matter at all.  I have gone through the motions of teaching it to my clients and have noticed no performance benefit.  I have even paid attention to it myself during my training and haven’t noticed any performance benefit.  I have looked at people who are much stronger than me, and although a select few do have a packed neck, many, many, many more do not have that position.  Let’s look at some examples.


I’m by far not the best deadlifter or squatter around though, so maybe my opinion matters not, but how about elite level weightlifters and powerlifters?  Let’s first look at the neck position in some of the strongest squatters in the world:

This is packed neck if I ever saw one by Stan Efferding.
This is packed neck if I ever saw one.
Sam Byrd with non-fully extended neck
Sam Byrd with non-fully extended neck
Here is Andrey Melanichev with his neck pretty much full extended.
Here is Andrey Melanichev with his neck pretty much full extended.

So for squatting you get the full gamut of neck position from world record holders at different weight classes using different supportive gear.  No one really has a flexed neck position. How about the deadlift?

The best deadlifter of all time with a slight extension of the neck.
The best deadlifter of all time with a slight extension of the neck.
Lamar Gant, the owner of the highest relative deadlift of all-time has a full extended neck during the entire exercise.
Lamar Gant, the owner of the highest relative deadlift of all-time has a full extended neck during the entire exercise.

I actually looked for anyone with a reasonable deadlift who lifts with a neutral neck and literally couldn’t find anything.  Sure I could put up a picture of some hack, deadlifting with 135 pounds while demonstrating a packed position, but when the shit hits the fan, they will extend their neck.  Guaranteed.


See for yourself if any of these ladies and gentleman have  a packed neck:


How about olympic lifters:

Dimas with a pretty extended neck during the Snatch.
Dimas with a pretty extended neck during the Snatch.
Klokov with a fully extended neck during the beginning of his clean.
Klokov with a fully extended neck during the beginning of his clean.

I will say that I have seen some pretty high level olympic lifters with neutral neck position for the first pull of both lifts.  When they get under the weight however, they pretty much always have an extended neck.


So to conclude I feel the whole neck-packing issue is just another minute detail that doesn’t really matter in the long run.  If having a neutral neck added 100 pounds to whatever important lift you needed to do, then everyone would be doing it.  If you feel comfortable with a packed neck, then by all means keep doing it.  If you are just looking out for your health, and using lifting to help get you there, then I would probably stay away from a fully extended neck, because peoples necks are extended as is.  A small amount of extension is ok, especially if your relaxed neck position is reasonably neutral.  Again I’m not ragging on the extended neck position if you own the ability to keep it neutral when relaxed.




Putting That Hardgainer Bull#%& To Rest

Flex Photos 001
Me @ 18, after a few months of hard training.


Quick disclaimer.  This is meant only for people looking to gain weight at all costs.  If that isn’t your goal, you won’t get much out of this.  Also, this is pretty much a rant. Enjoy.


I was thinking about this the other day and decided I’d may as well put my two cents into what I feel about ‘hardgainers.’  For those of you who don’t know what a hardgainer is, it’s an individual who apparently can’t gain weight even though they eat like a sumo wrestler.  It’s complete and utter nonsense propagated by skinny boys who need something to blame for the fact that their girlfriends are more jacked than they are despite the fact they’ve been busting their asses in the gym for the past three years.


That’s me on the left from 2004.  Looking incredibly small after a few months of hard training and pounding food.  I’d made a pretty good amount of progress, but I was still ridiculously small.  I was smaller than this to begin with, which is saying something… Mainly that I was your pretty typical “hardgainer.”  I looked like the small kid in your gym who can never seem to grow and only does bicep curls and bench press 3 times per week.

Me today.
Me today.

Fast forward to today, 9 years later and all my work has paid off.  Training is obviously a huge reason for my transformation, but this article will deal with the nutrition side of thing.  Believe me, if I still ate like I did before I started training, I would look nothing like I do now.


The old saying is true “you can’t out train a shitty diet.”  Which basically means you can have the most incredible training regime known to man, but if you are eating 1500 calories a day, you probably aren’t going to reap the benefits from the training.  Conversely, if you pounded back 4-5000 calories a day and had a sub-par training program you found in the latest Muscle & Fitness, you’d make some pretty decent progress.


Many self-proclaimed hardgainers are usually teenage boys and young guys.  I find it funny how they label themselves a hardgainer after a lack of results.  Here is a little known fact: everyone you see who is big, at some point had the same muscularity as you (some may have appeared larger, because they had some more bodyfat).  No one comes out of the womb looking like Ronnie Coleman.  EVERYONE is un-muscular at some point in their life.  Just because you added a scoop of protein to your diet of a sandwich and an apple 2x/day doesn’t mean you are going to turn a genetic anomaly.


My best friend and I were shopping the other day and this young man came up to us and asked us how we got so big.  We asked him about his diet and he said he has a scoop of protein everyday.  Guys, a scoop of protein is literally ~ 150 calories.  This won’t do anything to help you if you are 150 pounds.  I told him to take 2-3 scoops, with milk, olive oil, and peanut butter.  Depending on your serving size of each, you can easily make this shake over 1000 calories.  Hopefully I’ll see him down the line and he’ll be bigger and not claiming that suffers the dreaded hardgainer disease.


I honestly don’t consider myself by any means to be that big.  However, when you compare me to how I looked when I started lifting at 18, I have definitely put on some size.  I would say I looked like a hardgainer when I was 18.  I put in that work and gained a lot of weight.  I ate 6 meals per day religiously.  If you are 150 pounds now and think you are eating enough, you aren’t.  Plain and simple.  Try doubling what you currently eat and tell me that you can’t gain any weight.  It won’t happen.


If you really want to gain size and have had trouble in the past you need to do two things.  First, keep doing what you’re doing in the gym, because it’s not your training that is causing you to stay the same weight. Two, eat disgusting quantities of food.  You can do this in innumerable ways:


  •  Eat a cup or two of trail mix everyday
  • Get in 1-2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight everyday
  • Add a few table spoons of olive oil to every meal and shake you consume
  • Increase feeding frequency drastically
  • Eat a few tablespoons of peanut butter at every meal
  • Eat all you can eat and don’t leave until you could not put another piece of food in your mouth if your life depended on it


These are just a few things I’ve done to help me and other people I’ve helped gain weight.  Believe me when I say you are not a hardgainer.  You just need to eat more food.  Some people may appear to gain easier than you because they have their diet in check, and you’re still eating a cold cut sandwich and a pear for lunch and dinner everyday.