Monday, December 28, 2015

The Alpha Male or Female and the Egocentric, Darwinian Mindset


In popular culture, one commonly hears the term “alpha male or female,” in contrast to “beta male or female.” For the past several years, I have almost never used these terms but these popular, influential terms deserve critical examination. In this article, I examine the different definitions of alpha and beta, and explain how the terms presuppose the egocentric, Darwinian mindset, in contrast to the universal mindset. Ultimately, I argue that we should embrace the universal mindset and disassociate ourselves from the egocentric, Darwinian mindset (although doing so may prove very difficult) and thus we should minimize and eliminate our use of the terms “alpha” and “beta” with respect to humans.

The definitions of alpha and beta

Strictly speaking, an alpha male or female is the most dominant, powerful, assertive, or highest-ranking male or female in a particular group. A beta male or female is the second-most dominant, powerful, assertive, or highest-ranking male or female in the group. If the alpha dies or is overthrown, the beta becomes the alpha. [1]

However, these strict definitions differ from the colloquial definitions. Colloquially, a beta male or female is anyone who is not an alpha, which includes everyone from the second highest person to the bottom person of the hierarchy. And popular culture has its own representations. In popular culture, the stereotypical alpha male or female is dominant, strong, aggressive, highly confident, high in self-esteem, decisive, and fearless. He or she does not fear stepping on others, hurting their feelings, or throwing them under the bus. He or she does not follow but leads. In contrast, the stereotypical beta male or female is submissive, weak, passive, insecure, low in self-esteem, indecisive, fearful, and excessively nice. He or she does not lead but follows.

The egocentric/Darwinian mindset

According to the egocentric or Darwinian mindset, you are your own separate person with your own ego-self. You are separate from everyone else and everything else. You view life as a (ruthless) competition between you and others: survival of the fittest. At its most extreme, this ruthless competition can lead to a war of all against all: a war of every man for himself, in which “the life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” [2] Furthermore, you believe that you and the universe are fundamentally separate, and so you think the universe does not care whatsoever about you.

Alpha and beta in terms of the egocentric/Darwinian mindset

The terms “alpha male or female” and “beta male or female” presuppose the egocentric or Darwinian mindset: they presuppose that your ego-self exists and that you are separate from everyone else and everything else. Since we (i.e. our ego-selves) are separate from one another, our ego-selves clash and fight against one another. Thus, according to the Darwinian mindset, we all compete (perhaps ruthlessly or violently) for the alpha male or female title so that we can acquire more resources (money, material possessions, etc.) and mating opportunities. We want more resources and mating opportunities, so that we can fulfill our ultimate life goals: to survive and reproduce. Whoever lives the longest, has the most children (or sexual partners), and/or has the most resources, wins. According to the Darwinian mindset, this is the miserable game that we are playing, and there is no other game in town.

This Darwinian account is the basis for evolutionary psychology, which itself is the basis for the pick-up artist community. Evolutionary psychology and the pick-up artist community strongly emphasize this contrast between the alpha male and beta male. According to pick-up, in order to attract and date women, every straight male should strive relentlessly to become an alpha male. But this approach has a fundamental problem: in a given group, there can be only one alpha male (by the strict definition) and all other males are beta or worse. Thus, by the strict definition, not every male can be an alpha. In fact, the larger the group of males, the higher the percentage of non-alphas. In a group of 1000 men, only one (0.1%) will be alpha and 999 (99.9%) will be non-alphas. Since there can be only one alpha male, this will likely lead to fierce competition and possibly conflict and violent combat. If you put 20 extremely competitive, aggressive, straight men (who do not know one another) in a room and ask them, “Which one of you is the true alpha male? There can be only one. Now prove it,” you will likely see highly egotistical, dysfunctional behavior. Conflict will inevitably result.

To the extent that people strongly believe in and act according to the Darwinian mindset, they will act dysfunctionally and clash with one another. I believe that virtually all the world’s dysfunction results from the Darwinian mindset: terrorist attacks, mass shootings, (unjust) wars, genocide, assassination, murder, assault, rape, theft, infidelity, suicide, lying, etc. After all, the Darwinian mindset entails that we are all (ruthlessly) competing for status, resources, and mating opportunities. So it should come as no surprise when people act immorally, violently, or criminally in order to get ahead or dominate the competition. Similarly, it should come as no surprise when people who think they are losing the “game” in terms of status, resources, and mating opportunities, retaliate and commit violence. For example, consider the 2014 Isla Vista killings by Elliot Rodger. [3] In short, he couldn’t get any girls, he strongly resented guys who were getting girls, and so he decided to go on a killing spree and then commit suicide. He ended up killing seven people (including himself) and injuring 14 others. This is a perfect example of the extremely dysfunctional, violent behavior that can result from the Darwinian mindset.

The universal mindset

Unlike the egocentric, Darwinian mindset, the universal mindset holds that the ego-self truly does not exist. You are not separate from everyone else or everything else. At the transcendental level of consciousness, everything is one. You and the universe are one and the same. According to the universal mindset, we all come from the same source: the universe or totality. We manifest the universe, and the universe manifests us. We are the universe acting upon itself, and the universe is us acting upon ourselves. In particular, you are the universe acting upon itself, and the universe is you acting upon yourself. Since you and the universe are one and the same, the universe cares deeply about you, just as you care deeply about yourself, and you should care deeply about the universe.

The universal mindset finds strong support in every major religion: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Daoism. The fundamental principle of all major religions is the Golden Rule. The positive Golden Rule is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The negative Golden Rule is, “Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.” The Golden Rule holds precisely because everything is one, at the transcendental level of consciousness. Precisely because you and others are one and the same, you should (not) do unto others as you would (not) have them do unto you. Thus, at the transcendental level, if you harm someone else offensively (i.e. not in self-defense), you are also harming yourself, since you and all others are one and the same. For example, if you lie egregiously to others, you are lying egregiously to yourself. If you cheat ruthlessly on your spouse, you are cheating ruthlessly on yourself. If you violently assault another person who has done nothing to you, you are violently assaulting yourself.

Since everything is one and thus deeply interconnected, the universe will hold you accountable for your actions. To the extent that you harm others offensively, the universe will uphold justice in one way or another. This is the law of karma. Just consider the following historical examples.

1. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche glorified the “will to power” (i.e. the egocentric or Darwinian mindset) and championed the “master ethics” of the strong, dominant, powerful, noble, wealthy Ancient Greek and Roman aristocrats and leaders. In contrast, Nietzsche condemned the “slave ethics” of Judeo-Christian morality, which he thought represents the interests of the weak, submissive, disempowered, and poor. However, later in his life, Nietzsche once saw a horse being flogged, threw his arms around it, and ended up having a catastrophic mental breakdown. [4]

2. Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime were responsible for killing 11 million people (including 6 million Jews) in the Holocaust. [5] Overall, in World War II, they were responsible for killing roughly 19.3 million civilians and prisoners of war. Hitler ended up committing suicide in his bunker as the Allied forces were approaching Berlin.

3. Joseph Stalin and his communist regime were responsible for killing 10-20 million people (including famines). [6] Stalin ended up dying from a stroke and stomach hemorrhage. His political opponents likely poisoned and thus assassinated him.

4. Bernie Madoff created the biggest Ponzi scheme in US history and ended up stealing $18 billion from investors. [7] Most of his victims were charitable organizations, elderly people, and Jews. Ultimately, he was arrested, prosecuted, and sentenced to 150 years in prison. One of his sons hanged himself exactly two years after his father’s arrest.

Alpha and beta in terms of the universal mindset

With the universal mindset, the terms “alpha male or female” and “beta male or female” lose significance and fade away. Yes, some people are more talented, accomplished, stronger, aggressive, confident, decisive, or wealthy than others. Yes, some people lead and others follow. But this is all contingent and non-essential. It is mere happenstance. As Eckhart Tolle says:

“The most common ego identifications [i.e. based on the egocentric mindset] have to do with possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition, knowledge and education, physical appearance, special abilities, relationships, personal and family history, belief systems, and often also political, nationalistic, racial, religious, and other collective identifications. None of these is you.” [8]
None of these things is really you because, at the transcendental level of consciousness, the ego-self does not exist. At the transcendental level, everything is one. Thus, you, everyone else, everything else, and the entire universe are all one.

Indeed, the universal mindset has many advantages over the egocentric, Darwinian mindset. To the extent that you think in terms of the universal mindset, your relationships will improve and you will get along better with others, especially high-performers. You will not get upset or feel threatened if someone else performs better than you do. After all, your ego-self does not exist, and so your ego-self is not fighting against the ego-selves of other people.

To the extent that we all think in terms of the universal mindset and take it seriously, we avoid the ruthless, miserable, Darwinian competition and the Hobbesian war of all against all. We achieve (relative) peace, and we are much more likely to cooperate with one another. Indeed, the universal mindset lends itself to social cooperation to a much greater degree than the Darwinian mindset does. If everything is one, then cooperation seems natural. In comparison, if we are all individual ego-selves competing against one another for scarce status, resources, and mating opportunities, then cooperation seems unnatural and difficult, unless we form alliances for selfish reasons (i.e. to help us acquire status, resources, and mating opportunities). Overall, social cooperation seems much easier and more natural with the universal mindset. And social cooperation is critical because humankind has evolved and progressed intellectually, scientifically, and technologically largely through social cooperation.

Furthermore, the universal mindset lends itself to the abundance mentality, whereby you believe that status, resources, and mating opportunities are abundant. In contrast, the Darwinian mindset lends itself to the scarcity mentality, whereby you believe that status, resources, and mating opportunities are scarce. In general, the self-improvement industry (including even the pick-up artist community, which otherwise promotes the Darwinian mindset) champions the abundance mentality as a necessary condition for success. Well, it is much easier to think abundantly when you believe that, at the transcendental level, everything is one: that you, everyone else, everything else, and the entire universe are all one and the same. This is abundance to the maximal and infinite degree.

Now, even though the universal mindset has so many advantages over the Darwinian mindset, many of us are caught somewhere between the two mindsets, and understandably so. On the one hand, we must lead our practical lives, compete, earn a living, support and protect our families, and deal with other people’s egos, as well as crime, terrorism, etc. On the other hand, many of us recognize the transcendental values underlying the universal mindset. Just consider the popularity of the major religions, all of which point toward the universal mindset. So we are conflicted between the two mindsets. Indeed, the tension and conflict between the Darwinian mindset and universal mindset is arguably the deepest, hardest problem in human nature and human history. We have been dealing with this problem ever since we first evolved as a species. Every civilization (Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, European, American, etc.) has faced this problem. Jesus and the Buddha faced this problem. So it is a very tough nut to crack. [9] For laypeople (i.e. people who are not monks, nuns, priests, rabbis, etc.), it may even be impossible to think only in terms of the universal mindset and eliminate the Darwinian mindset. Perhaps this is one major reason that certain people join monasteries: to escape the Darwinian mindset that figures prominently in general society, and to embrace the universal mindset.

Nevertheless, even if it is impossible to think only in terms of the universal mindset and eliminate the Darwinian mindset, we should still minimize and eliminate our use of the terms “alpha male or female” and “beta male or female,” for these terms presuppose a worldview that is ultimately divisive, dysfunctional, and destructive. So, instead of calling someone an “alpha male or female” and thereby promoting the Darwinian mindset, we should use more precise, neutral language. For example:

“He is a strong, decisive leader. He leads from the front.”
“She is highly motivated and performs at the elite level.”
“He is the champion in sport X.”

These statements are direct, straightforward, and accurate, without appealing to a “survival of the fittest” mindset, which, at its most extreme, leads to terrorist attacks, mass shootings, (unjust) wars, genocide, etc.


The terms “alpha male or female” and “beta male or female,” which presuppose the egocentric, Darwinian mindset, have some explanatory value when describing animal or human behavior. However, insofar as we strongly believe in and act according to these terms and the egocentric, Darwinian mindset, we will (likely) act dysfunctionally and clash with others, for we will see life as a (ruthless) competition for status, resources, and mating opportunities. However, it is very difficult to overcome the egocentric, Darwinian mindset and fully embrace the universal mindset. Nevertheless, we can minimize and eliminate our use of the terms “alpha” and “beta” with respect to humans, and think less in terms of the egocentric, Darwinian mindset and more in terms of the universal mindset. In doing so, we would make the world a much better place—with fewer terrorist attacks, mass shootings, wars, genocide, violent crime, etc.



[1] Often, the alpha/beta distinction seems to promote and reinforce the fixed mindset, which holds that your identity, skills, talents, habits, etc. are fixed and you cannot change them. You are who you are, and you cannot improve, progress, or grow. You’re either an alpha or beta, and you cannot change it. However, if a beta can become an alpha and vice-versa, this means that alpha status is not fixed but dynamic. In this sense, the fixed mindset is false. I will address this further in a different article.

[2] Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. Ed. Edwin Curley. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1994. Print. p. 76.

[3] “2014 Isla Vista killings.” Wikipedia. 22 Dec. 2015. Web. Accessed 23 Dec. 2015.

[4] “Friedrich Nietzsche.” Wikipedia. 23 Dec. 2015. Web. Accessed 23 Dec. 2015.

[5] “The Holocaust.” Wikipedia. 16 April 2015. Web. Accessed 17 April 2015.

“Adolf Hitler.” Wikipedia. 17 April 2015. Web. Accessed 17 April 2015.

[6] “Joseph Stalin.” Wikipedia. 23 Dec. 2015. Web. Accessed 23 Dec. 2015.

[7] “Bernard Madoff.” Wikipedia. 22 Dec 2015. Web. Accessed 26 Dec 2015.

[8] Tolle, Eckhart. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2004. Print. p. 46.

[9] Perhaps we can best crack this “nut” through intensive, daily, lifelong meditation (e.g. zazen). Such meditation can help make the universal mindset more lucid and apparent, which will help us realize and internalize it.

Monday, November 9, 2015

How to Maximize Your Focus and Minimize Distractions

We live in a world that is trying to distract us to the maximum degree and minimize our focus and attention spans. In particular, we are largely distracted by modern technology: smartphones, tablets, television, computers, the Internet, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, videogames, etc.

Before modern technology was invented (e.g. 19th century America), life was simpler and more linear. You woke up and ate breakfast. You went to work (e.g. the farm, factory, or office), where you basically focused only on work. At work, you were not interrupted or distracted by a barrage of emails, text messages, Facebook updates, tweets, etc. Once you finished working, you went home, engaged in your hobbies, ate dinner, relaxed, and then went to bed. Once you left work, it was easier to forget about work since smartphones, emails, and text messages did not exist.

For better or for worse, modern technology has largely eliminated this simpler way of life. In many respects, life is easier and more convenient. For example, you can easily order virtually anything off the Internet, and you can easily learn about anything on the Internet, although not all sources of information are equally good. However, in terms of noise and distractions, life is more difficult and complicated. Historically, humans have never been as distracted as they are now.

For example, when riding public transportation, I often see virtually everyone around me using his or her smartphone. Several years ago, this happened occasionally but now it happens regularly. It is the new norm: I am surrounded by smartphone addicts. Few people want to just sit and stay present. Most people seek constant stimulation or gratification through their phone. (Yes, sometimes I use my phone while riding public transportation. Usually, I record notes or set reminders. There is a big difference between using your phone for practical purposes and using it for mere stimulation or gratification.)

Furthermore, I often see people driving on the streets or expressway while looking down at their smartphones, which is a great way to get into an accident and possibly injure or kill yourself and/or others. For that matter, I sometimes see people walking down the street while looking down at their smartphones. This is a great way to run into something, trip over something, or get hit by a vehicle. It would be highly absurd but tragic if a driver who was looking down at his phone hit a pedestrian who was also looking down at his phone. And this could actually happen in today’s society.

Overall, we are collectively suffering from many forms of technological addiction: Internet addiction, social media addiction, smartphone addiction, television addiction, etc. In terms of our brain chemistry, these forms of addiction are fundamentally the same as tobacco addiction, alcohol addiction, illicit drug addiction, and porn addiction.

Since we are addicted and distracted in so many ways, we are losing sight of what is most important in life: work, love, and Zen. We are losing sight of the present moment.

At NO-MIND FITNESS, I care about your mental health, your mental states, your mindfulness, and your degree of presence. I have designed this website in a simple, clean, minimal manner. I am trying to maximize your focus and presence, not distract or bombard you with all sorts of junk.

Having ranted sufficiently, I will now list 12 constructive actions that you can take in order to maximize your focus and minimize distractions.

1. Meditate once, twice, or thrice daily for 10-20 minutes.

Meditating is the most important action you can take to maximize your focus, presence, and awareness. You must become aware of your level of addiction and distraction before you can directly address these issues. Please see these posts: "Zazen Instructions" and "Why You Should Take Zen Very Seriously".

2. When doing X, just do X. Do not multi-task.

This principle is very simple but very practical and powerful. When writing an essay or article, just write. When reading a book or article, just read. When researching a given topic, just research it. When ordering something online, just order it. When texting, just text. When talking on the phone, just talk on the phone. When working, just work. When sleeping, just sleep.

3. Eliminate noise and distractions.

Your work area should be quiet and have zero distractions. So turn off any nearby TVs. If you’re doing work that requires focused concentration, do not listen to any music, even classical music. If necessary, wear earplugs. Silence your smartphone or at least avoid using it.

If you’re working in an area with other people and they repeatedly interrupt you for trivial reasons, then directly tell them, “I’m trying to focus on this project. Please do not interrupt or distract me. Thank you.”

If you do not enforce your boundaries, people will keep interrupting and distracting you.

4. Cultivate the habit of reading.

Reading is largely an exercise in focus and linear thought. If the author writes well, he or she will write in a linear fashion, which will make it easy for the reader to trace and understand that line of thought or reasoning.

To cultivate the habit of reading, I recommend reading at least one book (any genre) per month. In particular, read books that are 200+ pages long, on subjects that genuinely interest you. For bonus points, read a book that is 500+ pages long or that is on a very difficult subject matter (e.g. Kant’s theory of knowledge or ethics). You can find rigorous books in any subject: philosophy, history, literature, religion, economics, finance, business, etc. For any subject X, just Google “the most difficult [or rigorous] books in X.”

If you do not read regularly, do not feel bad or guilty. It is never too late to cultivate the habit of reading. Start with a book that really interests you and is fairly short (200 or fewer pages). Once you finish that book, find another fairly short book. You can develop the habit of reading one book at a time, one chapter at a time, one page at a time.

When reading, just read. Eliminate distractions. Turn off the TV and PC. See (3).

5. Whenever you use technology, use it for a specific, relevant, practical purpose.

Do not use technology aimlessly or just for the sake of using it. Use technology only to the extent that it is necessary and practical: writing an essay or article, researching a given topic, checking your e-mail, updating your website or blog, ordering something online, or checking your financial accounts.

In particular, do not surf the Internet aimlessly. We are all guilty of doing this sometimes, but you should look at websites only for specific, relevant, practical purposes. If you’re surfing the Internet just to pass the time, then you’re wasting your time.

6. Clean up and organize your desktop.

You should not have too many folders or files on your desktop. If 25% or more of your desktop has clutter, then you should immediately clean and organize it. Less is more. This is the secret to Zen aesthetics: minimalism, absolute simplicity, cleanliness, and empty space. You can further apply these aesthetic concepts to your office and residence.

7. Leave open only the computer programs that you’re actively using.

If you’re not actively using a computer program, close it. You should not have 10 programs open simultaneously. Less is more. The more programs you have open, the less focused and the more distracted and scatterbrained you will be. The fewer programs you have open, the more focused and the less distracted and scatterbrained you will be.

8. Unless it’s truly necessary, do not check your e-mail first thing in the morning.

In general, when you start your morning, you should work on the most important task of the day. In the early morning (especially if you meditate), your mind is fresh, focused, and ready to tackle the day.

If you check your e-mail first thing in the morning, you may spend the first 15-60 minutes of your morning answering e-mails, dealing with minutiae, checking the websites to which your emails link, and getting distracted overall. In this case, you are wasting your fresh, focused mental energy.

Thus, I recommend waiting until 10am or later to check your email. Before then, work on the most important task of the day.

9. Do not watch random videos on YouTube.

One can easily waste a lot of time by watching random videos on YouTube. Nevertheless, YouTube does have some fascinating videos or documentaries. Thus, I recommend watching videos only for a specific, relevant, practical purpose.

If you find yourself wasting too much time on YouTube, you can easily block it using the extensions or add-ons listed below in (10). If you ever need to watch certain videos on YouTube, you can temporarily un-block it and then block it again later.

10. Block websites that distract you.

If you’re wasting too much time on certain websites (e.g. Facebook or YouTube) and it’s undermining your productivity, you should block them using a website blocking extension or add-on. I recommend Simple Blocker for Google Chrome and Block Site for Mozilla Firefox.

Do not unblock these websites unless you have very good reason to do so.

11. If necessary, disconnect from the Internet.

If you want to eliminate all Internet distractions for a certain time period, you can physically remove the Ethernet cable from your PC or laptop. If you’re using WiFi on a laptop and it has a WiFi switch, you can use it to disable your wireless connection.

Alternatively, you can disable your Ethernet connection in Windows 7 by doing the following:

1. Right-click on ‘My Computer’
2. Select ‘Properties’
3. Click ‘Device Manager’
4. Click the triangle next to ‘Network Adapters’
5. Right-click on the relevant network adapter (e.g. ‘Realtek PCIe GBE Family Controller’)
6. Select ‘Disable’

Once you do this, you will not be able to access anything on the Internet or your local network (e.g. a network printer or other PCs).

If you want to re-enable your Ethernet connection, follow the steps above but select ‘Enable’ instead of ‘Disable’ in step 6.

If you have Windows 8 or 10 or OS X, just Google “how to disable your internet [or Ethernet] connection in Windows 8 or 10 [or OS X].”

12. Walk through nature at least once a week.

If you really want to get away from the distractions of technology, go outside and experience nature. Walk through your local park, forest, or beach, which will help clear and rejuvenate your mind. If you bring your smartphone along, avoid using it. When experiencing nature, just experience nature.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Mentally Prepare Yourself for Winter 2015-16

Winter is approaching, and I want to remind you of the principles in my post, “How to Thrive during Long, Harsh Winters.”

In summary:

1. Embrace winter.
2. Always think positively.
3. Never complain about the weather.
4. Surround yourself with positive people.
5. Meditate daily.
6. Work out consistently.
7. Stay busy and productive.

You should be thriving, not just surviving, in winter.

Break through any mental barriers that you impose on yourself.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Interview with Elite Powerlifter Trevor Pfaendtner


Trevor Pfaendtner is extremely strong. In fact, he is the strongest guy I have seen in person, although I haven’t attended any powerlifting meets. I have seen him high-bar back squat 505lb for 3 sets (6, 5, 4 reps) and bench press 345lb for 8 reps.

Trevor is 27 years old, 6 feet tall, and 281lb. He has lifted weights for 14 years and competed in powerlifting for 8 years. As a raw powerlifter (with belt and knee wraps) in the open 275lb weight class, he has achieved the following elite numbers:

• 1RM (1 rep-max) back squat 666lb
• 1RM bench press 479lb
• 1RM deadlift 606lb
• Total: 1751lb (elite)

As a geared powerlifter in the junior 275lb weight class, he has achieved the following elite numbers:

• 1RM back squat 745lb
• 1RM bench press 710lb
• 1RM deadlift 625lb
• Total: 2080lb (elite)

As a geared powerlifter in the open 308lb weight class, he has achieved the following elite numbers:

• 1RM back squat 749lb
• 1RM bench press 722lb
• 1RM deadlift 604lb
• Total: 2075lb (elite)

Furthermore, Trevor is a doctor of osteopathic medicine, family medicine resident, and a consultant for Renaissance Periodization.

Given Trevor’s impressive accomplishments, I was eager to interview him and learn from him.

Note: unless stated otherwise, all exercises listed here are barbell exercises.



Many readers may be unfamiliar with powerlifting. Can you tell us briefly what powerlifting is? And what exactly is the difference between geared/multiply powerlifting and raw powerlifting?

Powerlifting is the sport of lifting weights—specifically, competing in the squat, bench, and deadlift. In competition, you perform three attempts at each lift. The heaviest attempt at each lift is added together for your total which is what determines the winner of the competition. Athletes are organized by age, weight, sex, and in some cases lifting equipment. Raw powerlifting is generally considered to be only using a belt, but some federations will allow knee sleeves or knee wraps. Geared powerlifting allows for supportive clothing such as bench shirts and squat suits to be worn. These devices were originally designed to help protect the hips and shoulders, but evolved to be far more than just safety measures as they allow the lifter to handle heavier weight than they could otherwise. In competition, geared lifters compete against geared lifters only.

How did you first get into powerlifting?

My brother introduced me to weightlifting when I was about 12 years old when he would go train for football (he is 4.5 years older than me) and I continued to lift for sports when I got to high school. Once I went away to college and wasn't playing any organized sports anymore, I would end up linking up with the powerlifting club on campus my freshman year.

Many guys lift weights through high school and college but stop once they enter the “real world” and start working “normal,” full-time jobs. What about powerlifting (or weight training in general) has made you pursue it for 8-14 years?

I really enjoy the process of building toward concrete goals. I want to bench press 500lb and when my bench increases little by little at each competition, I can tell that I have made quantifiable progress. Powerlifting is an avenue for stress relief as well. It offers an opportunity to be in control of a facet of my life when so much of the rest of my life is in other people's hands. I continue to lift because I love doing it and because I have goals that I have not yet met.

What are the three most important lessons you have learned from powerlifting?

Work hard, train intelligently, and don't let lifting be the only focus of your life.

What was your first strength training or powerlifting program? For how long (roughly) did you run it? How effective was it?

For the four years of high school, I did whatever the football coaches told us to do, which was basic linear kind of programming if anything at all. Then I started trying some routines.

How long were you training before you achieved a 315lb bench press, 405lb back squat, and 495lb deadlift (all 1RMs)?

Well in high school I benched 315lb as a junior weighing around 200lb. I squatted (high) 405lb for 6 reps at one point and deadlifted around 500lb with the trap bar, but all of this was with terrible form. At that point, I had been training as the football coaches told me for 3 or 4 years I guess. By graduation I was benching around 350lb with poor form and had more or less stopped squatting and deadlifting. Once I got to college, at my first competition I squatted 468lb, benched 325lb, and deadlifted 550lb at 204lb. That was after maybe 4 months of dedicated powerlifting training doing a basic 5 x 5 pyramid.

Many strength trainees follow a novice linear progression (e.g. Starting Strength), exhaust it, become early intermediate strength trainees, and then get stuck in the intermediate stage for a long time. They may hop from one program to another, since there are so many intermediate strength programs available.

What are some guiding principles you would recommend for an early intermediate strength trainee?

Learn the technique as well as possible and put in as much heavy, high volume work as you can until it stops working. Find people stronger than you and ask for help. Do what they tell you to do. They know more by default.

What are some guiding principles you would recommend for an advanced intermediate strength trainee?

Keep working on technique and more volume work. Chances are they are focusing more on strength than they should and neglect hypertrophy work.

What are some guiding principles you would recommend for an advanced strength trainee?

I couldn't say as I consider myself to be in the category above.

In the past, you’ve said that, for intermediate and advanced lifters, it’s good to cycle through different variations of a given movement. For example, instead of training the bench press 52 weeks per year, you could spend 4-8 weeks training the bench press, 4-8 weeks training the incline bench press, 4-8 weeks training the close-grip bench press, 4-8 weeks training the DB bench press, and so on.

Do you recommend cycling for the primary movement (e.g. the bench press) or only for assistance exercises?

I would say cycle everything, but keep it specific to the sport you are training for. Doing cleans could be fun, but it will do nothing for my bench. I cycle my main movements essentially every month to some degree and my accessory movements more or less monthly, but there are only minor variations on what I change them to.

What are the benefits of cycling through different variations?

Based on research, people tend to stop responding to repeated stimulation of the same kind. Variation in the stimulation allows for new adaptations to be made.

After a period of time, which is specific for each lifter, the body will adapt to a stimulus and no longer make improvements, or at least will not do so as effectively. This is more pronounced in more advanced lifters as they require greater and greater stimulus to achieve disruption in homeostasis that will promote meaningful adaptations. Variation can come in the form of volume, intensity, and exercise selection. Changing the movements too often does not allow the body a chance to adapt to the new stimulus effectively. I like monthly or every two month switches as they seem to be the sweet spot for allowing improvement without getting stale.

What if I vary the stimulus but it leads to a new adaptation that decreases my overall strength? For example, if I do stiff-legged deadlifts instead of deadlifts or incline bench press instead of bench press, then it seems that I may lose overall strength because I will be using lighter weights for the stiff-legged deadlifts and incline bench press than for the deadlifts and bench press. Or are the deadlift and bench press variations making you stronger overall because they’re strengthening weak points: the posterior-chain (lower back, glutes, hamstrings) for the stiff-legged deadlift and the upper chest, shoulders, and triceps for the incline bench press?

You want to pick exercises that are still relatively specific to the goal at hand. You pick exercises that will build weak points and promote improvement of the competition lifts. Getting better at SLDL will very likely improve your conventional deadlift, but high volume hamstring curls will do little to improve your deadlift as it is not similar enough to the main movement to carry over. The intensity that can be achieved with SLDL is vastly greater than that of the hamstring curl. If done correctly, these variations can help to build strength, not detract from it.

In particular, what exercises do you recommend cycling through for the back squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press?

I stick to low bar and high bar squatting, with rare months of buffalo (slight camber) bar squatting. For deadlift I switch between stiff legged, deficit, and full range pulling. For bench press I use close grip, medium grip, wide grip (rarely), floor press (rarely), and incline work of varying grips. I also incorporate a lot of heavy triceps movements such as JM press, French press, and rolling barbell triceps extensions on the floor. I rarely train overhead press as I have never found it to help my bench press.

When you compete, do you use the low bar or high bar position for the back squat? How do you incorporate each into your training?

I train both high and low bar depending on where I am in the cycle, but I compete low bar with knee wraps exclusively. My offseason (any time not in strength or peaking phases) I will mostly do high bar work to build my quads bigger. Closer to competition I do competition style lifting in preparation.

Do you think the front squat is ever a good substitute for the back squat? Or is the front squat only good as an assistance exercise for the back squat?

Front squat can be a good adjunct to the back squat. It can be great for building quad strength and size, but I can't perform the movement due to shoulder pain so I do not do it. Really it depends on what your goals are. I want my back squat to get better for competition, so I focus more on that anyway.

What do you think about the leg press as an assistance exercise for the back squat or deadlift?

It can be good for hypertrophy work as an assistance exercise.

What are you thinking when you’re setting up to perform a 600lb+ back squat or deadlift? Are you trying to focus only on executing the movement and thinking about nothing else? Are you practicing no-mind? Or are you telling yourself certain cues or affirmations?

Before a big lift I get excited because this is what I love to do. I used to be more into the idea of getting angry before a lift, but it gets to be exhausting to focus on negativity when lifting is supposed to be my time away from life stress. Most often I am just thinking that I will lift the weight and watch the video afterwards to see where I can make improvements. Sometimes I will make a conscious effort to focus on keeping my knees out or something like that.

Suppose someone lifts weights, weighs 200lb, eats Paleo, and wants to increase his weight to 210lb or 220lb. What is the simplest way for him to do this, while still eating Paleo (largely)? Just eat a lot more protein and a lot more starchy carbs (e.g. sweet potatoes, white rice, and brown rice)? Eat six meals per day instead of five?

Eat more than you burn. You have to be in a hypercaloric state to grow. Whether that is Paleo or Wendy's you need more calories in. People always say "I eat a ton." Well, it's not enough if you're not growing.

Have you ever had a serious injury that required surgery? If so, how long did it take you to recover from the surgery? How long did it take you to re-gain your previous strength levels? What was your mindset when you were going through the process of re-building your strength?

I have been fortunate that I have avoided surgery. I dislocated my elbow in high school during a wrestling match. I was away from lifting for three months to allow for healing and PT. While in a splint I was still doing the leg press and a lateral delt raise machine. In retrospect I should have done more. By the time the PT was done, I think was back to benching 325lb within two months maybe. I just kept training and was happy to be back at it.

In general, how do you motivate yourself? What are your most effective methods? For example, do you tell yourself certain affirmations? Do you listen to certain kinds of music when working out? Do you have certain role models?

I stay motivated just by how much I enjoy the process like I said before. I get antsy if I have to take time off. I would suggest finding something that keeps it interesting and fun for you. That way, there is no motivation struggle; it is just go do the thing you love. I like to listen to a fair amount of heavy metal, but I will also throw on Black Keys or something a little mellower. More often than not though, I don't listen to my own music while I train because it is one more thing to keep track of and can be a distraction. I look up to the top guys for their ability and technique, and I look up to the older guys who keep grinding away and putting up consistent results. Brian Schwab and Ed Coan come to mind.

What advice would you give to someone entering their first powerlifting competition?

Don't cut weight. Just go in as strong as you can and have fun. Try to learn something while you're there. Talk to someone stronger than you are and see if you can get advice. However, wait until they are done lifting. Not everyone is looking to mentor someone between squat attempts. Go for PRs. Don't worry about official records until you are more advanced.

What do you think about CrossFit?

CrossFit, like anything, has the potential to be really awful if not done correctly. I think that the longer it is around, the more intelligent programming coaches emerge. It can be a great way for people to get in shape and to get good at doing CrossFit, but I wouldn't say it is a good way to accomplish much else. It won't make you a better football player, soccer player, etc.

When it comes to learning about strength training, do you try to read and learn as much as possible? Or do you read very selectively in order to avoid information overload and not waste time? Do you just stick with your current knowledge base, which you have learned through experience and past research?

I have read different training methodology books over the years and tried to learn something from each one. I would say it is important to learn a lot early on, but don't overdo it. I have met lifters who read everything and over-analyze everything, but never got any real work done because they were too focused on the minutia. Try to find reputable, scientifically backed stuff that has been proven to work. My training really took off once I started following the style of training that Renaissance Periodization puts out. It is all research based and has helped to put hundreds of pounds on my total. I think that after lifters get some experience (years), then they can start looking at ways to reinvent the wheel.

What are your hobbies, outside of your professional life and athletic/fitness life?

Time doesn't allow for much else, but spending time with my wife and dogs, playing X-box and just hanging around with friends when I can.

How do you balance your professional life (being a family medicine resident), your athletic/fitness life (powerlifting), your hobbies, your social life, and your marriage life? How do you manage your time?

I try to compartmentalize and prioritize as much as I can. I focus on work when at work and focus on everything else when I am not at work. When I train, it is only about training, but I have gotten a lot better at being more efficient with my time in the gym. I used to spend 3 hours at each session, but now I get to be around hour and a half at most. I try to coordinate as best as I can with my wife's work schedule so we can spend time together and not neglect the dogs. This goes back to question #5: powerlifting is a huge part of my life, but it is only a part. Everything else is more important and once I solidified that in my mind while in medical school, my lifting improved. It took the stress aspect out of chasing numbers. It's great when it works out, but it's better when I get to spend time with family.

Did you play sports in high school or college?

High school: football 4 years, wrestling 2 years, track 2 years
College: powerlifting starting freshman year—bodyweight increased from 200lb to 260lb in 4 years

How did you meet your wife?

What is your favorite quotation?

"More weight."

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How Strong are the Top Athletes in the 2015 CrossFit Games?


In a previous post, “How Strong are the Top Athletes in the 2013 and 2014 CrossFit Games”, I compared the strength numbers of the top 10 male and female athletes in the 2013 and 2014 CrossFit Games. Here, I will compare the strength numbers of the top athletes in the 2014 and 2015 games. In particular, I will focus on their one-rep max (1RM) deadlift, back squat, clean and jerk, and snatch.

Please see this spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is based on the data posted on the official CrossFit Games website in August 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Please note that many athletes who placed in the top 10 both in the 2014 and 2015 games (e.g. Ben Smith) listed the same 1RMs in August 2014 and August 2015. So, either they did not increase their 1RMs over the course of a year, or they simply did not update their 1RMs on their profile on the CrossFit Games website. The latter is probably true. In addition, three of the top 10 male athletes and two of the top 10 female athletes in the 2015 games have not posted their strength numbers. Nevertheless, I will use the available data, as they are still informative.

In this article, I use the terms absolute strength and relative strength. Absolute strength means the absolute most weight you can lift for a given movement. It is simply your one-rep max (1RM) for a given movement. Relative strength means your absolute strength relative to your bodyweight (i.e. divided by your bodyweight). One can express relative strength as a proportion or percentage of your bodyweight. For example, if you weigh 200lb and your 1RM deadlift is 500lb, then you can deadlift 250% of your bodyweight (BW).



Individual Winners

• The top male athlete (Rich Froning Jr.) can deadlift 545lb (280% BW), back squat 445lb (230% BW), clean and jerk 370lb (190% BW), and snatch 300lb (150% BW).

• The top female athlete (Camille Leblanc-Bazinet) can deadlift 300lb (230% BW), back squat 310lb (240% BW), clean and jerk 230lb (180% BW), and snatch 190lb (150% BW).

Top 10 Athletes (1RM Relative Strength)

• On average, the top male athletes in the 2014 CrossFit Games can deadlift 273% BW, back squat 240% BW, clean and jerk 178% BW, and snatch 147% BW.

• On average, the top female athletes in the 2014 CrossFit Games can deadlift 231% BW, back squat 198% BW, clean and jerk 153% BW, and snatch 122% BW.

Top 10 Athletes (1RM Absolute Strength)

• On average, the top male athletes can deadlift 522lb, back squat 459lb, clean and jerk 339lb, and snatch 280lb.

• On average, the top female athletes can deadlift 304lb, back squat 263lb, clean and jerk 203lb, and snatch 162lb.



Individual Winners

• The top male athlete (Ben Smith) can deadlift 540lb (280% BW), back squat 480lb (250% BW), clean and jerk 335lb (170% BW), and snatch 300lb (150% BW).

• The top female athlete (Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir) can deadlift 308lb (200% BW), back squat 253lb (170% BW), clean and jerk 216lb (140% BW), and snatch 187lb (120% BW).

Top 10 Athletes (1RM Relative Strength)

• On average, the top male athletes in the 2015 CrossFit games can deadlift 267% BW, back squat 241% BW, clean and jerk 178% BW, and snatch 150% BW.

• On average, the top female athletes in the 2015 CrossFit games can deadlift 233% BW, back squat 187% BW, clean and jerk 149% BW, and snatch 121% BW.

Top 10 Athletes (1RM Absolute Strength)

• On average, the top male athletes can deadlift 514lb, back squat 466lb, clean and jerk 343lb, and snatch 289lb.

• On average, the top female athletes can deadlift 344lb, back squat 276lb, clean and jerk 222lb, and snatch 180lb.


2014 VERSUS 2015

Now, let us examine the change in relative strength numbers from 2014 to 2015.

In terms of average relative strength, the top male athletes slightly increased their snatch from 147% BW to 150% BW. They slightly decreased their deadlift from 273% BW to 267% BW. Their back squat and clean and jerk remained the same (240% BW and 178% BW, respectively). Thus, overall, the top male athletes in the 2014 and 2015 games are roughly equal in strength.

In terms of average relative strength, the top female athletes slightly increased their deadlift from 231% BW to 233% BW. But they moderately decreased their back squat from 198% BW to 187% BW. They slightly decreased their clean and jerk from 153% BW to 149% BW, and slightly decreased their snatch from 122% BW to 121% BW. Thus, overall, the top female athletes in the 2015 games are slightly weaker than the ones in the 2014 games.



In any case, the top male and female athletes in the 2014 and 2015 games are pretty strong overall. This comes as no surprise because functional strength largely drives performance on metabolic conditioning (metcon) workouts. All else being equal, the stronger you are, the better you will perform on metcons.

Given the above numbers, I would conclude the following.

1. If you’re a male looking to compete and perform well in the CrossFit Games, you will need to develop at least a 250% BW deadlift, a 225% BW back squat, a 175% BW clean and jerk, and a 150% BW snatch.

2. If you’re a female looking to compete and perform well in the CrossFit Games, you will need to develop at least a 220% BW deadlift, a 190% BW back squat, a 150% BW clean and jerk, and a 120% BW snatch.

Now, what is the best way to achieve these strength numbers or make substantial progress in achieving them? As I wrote in last year’s article, the best way is to do dedicated strength training and Olympic weightlifting. In particular, learn the proper movement patterns, train them constantly and systematically, and get progressively stronger and more explosive. Use a novice linear progression until it no longer works, and then do an intermediate program. In fact, this is the most effective way to achieve your strength goals in the shortest amount of time possible.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Eight Means to a Simpler, Better Life

In the film Zen and in the last chapter of his Shobogenzo, Dogen, the founder of Soto Zen, articulates eight ways to apply Buddhist teachings to your concrete, everyday life, so that you may live as a virtuous, enlightened being. In this article, I explain and interpret these eight means to living better and more simply. All eight means relate to and reinforce one another. Here is a short list of the eight means:

1. Regulate your desires
2. Be satisfied
3. Be tranquil
4. Be diligent
5. Practice mindfulness
6. Meditate
7. Practice wisdom
8. Avoid pointless talk

Now, let us examine each point in detail.

1. Regulate your desires

If you have unlimited desires, if you want everything in life, then you will inevitably be dissatisfied.

For example, suppose you want to become a billionaire with a net worth of $50 billion. You want to marry a swimsuit model. You want to own several huge mansions, several private jets, and 10 exotic sports cars: Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, etc. Further, you want to travel the world regularly in luxury, first-class style: five-star hotels, five-star restaurants, etc. Altogether, these desires comprise your ultimate dream lifestyle, and you are very motivated to achieve this lifestyle.

Now, if you do not achieve this ultimate lifestyle, then you will be dissatisfied. For example, if you accumulate a net worth only of $5 million; if you marry an intelligent, attractive woman with good character but who is not a swimsuit model; if you own only one large house, no private jets, and only one exotic sports car; if you travel the world regularly but in an economical manner; then you will be dissatisfied. After all, you had much higher standards for your ultimate lifestyle, you wanted it really badly, and you fell short.

However, if you do achieve this ultimate lifestyle and if you have the psychology of a typical modern consumer, then you will likely still be dissatisfied (in some respects), because you will likely compare yourself to others who have more than you do and you will want more and more. You will never have enough. Yes, you may have a net worth of $50 billion, but so-and-so has a net worth of $75 billion. Yes, you may be married to a swimsuit model, but so-and-so is married to a younger, hotter swimsuit model. Yes, you may have several huge mansions, several private jets, and 10 exotic sports cars, but so-and-so has more/nicer/better mansions, private jets, or exotic sports cars than you do. No matter who you are, there is always someone richer, smarter, bigger, stronger, faster, hotter, more accomplished, or more propertied than you are. No one can be number one in all respects all the time. Bill Gates may currently be the wealthiest person in the world, but he is not number one in all respects, and he will eventually pass away and no longer be the wealthiest man in the world.

Thus, even if you do achieve your ultimate dream lifestyle, you will still be dissatisfied to the extent that you want more and more, that you compare yourself to others, and that you seek validation or happiness externally.

Therefore, you should regulate and limit your desires. In short, be smart, prudent, and selective about your desires. For example, it is smart and prudent to desire sufficient food, clothing, housing, education, safety, peace, tranquility, and health. It is not so smart or prudent to desire 20 huge mansions, 20 private jets, 20 exotic sports cars, a harem of 20 models, or copious amounts of 20 illicit drugs.

Finally, you should realize that happiness or satisfaction comes from within and thus seek happiness or validation internally, not externally.

2. Be satisfied

This directly relates to regulating and limiting your desires. In support of my previous argument about the ultimate dream lifestyle, the Buddha asserts, “Those who do not know satisfaction, even when living in a heavenly place [e.g. several huge mansions], are still not satisfied. Those who do not know satisfaction, even if rich, are poor. People who know satisfaction, even if poor, are rich” (Warner, p. 238). Warner elaborates, “[Knowing] satisfaction is the simplest way to get rich quick because everything you have becomes everything you want” (p. 238).

Thus, you should be satisfied with and demonstrate gratitude for everything that you do have: food, clothing, shelter, health, safety, family, friends, etc. Whenever someone does something for you, you should demonstrate gratitude by sincerely saying, “Thank you,” and perhaps even, “I appreciate it.” This alone will improve your relationships and quality of life.

Furthermore, you should be satisfied with the present moment in the sense of fully accepting it. Of course, you can strive to improve yourself and set and pursue goals, but you must accept where you currently are—right here, right now. You can never escape the present moment.

3. Be tranquil

Your mind should be like a lucid, tranquil body of water. Always stay cool, calm, and composed. In particular, always stay extremely calm, which is especially important when you’re stressed, when you’re facing adversity, or when your ego-self starts to rear its ugly head or terrorize you.

In addition, avoid any emotional ups and downs. Stay stoic and (somewhat) emotionally detached. A lucid, tranquil body of water does not get jubilant, hysterical, furious, or depressed.

Lastly, if you are introverted or somewhat hermetic or if you enjoy solitude, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. In many respects, it is easier to be tranquil when you are alone. Just consider the monks in the film Into Great Silence or the hermits in Amongst White Clouds.

4. Be diligent

Set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound) goals and work deliberately and consistently toward them. Persist and overcome adversity. Improve, progress, and grow.

You should also be diligent in applying these eight principles (regulating your desires, being satisfied, being tranquil, meditating, etc.) to your daily life.

5. Practice mindfulness

Always pay attention to what you’re doing and thinking. Focus 100% on the present moment: right here, right now. Cultivate absolute presence in your daily life.

For example, when meditating, just meditate. When cooking, just cook. When cleaning, just clean. When lifting weights, just lift weights. When running, just run. When sleeping, just sleep.

6. Meditate

Meditating daily will increase your focus, discipline, awareness, presence, and mindfulness. When you meditate, you are observing your thoughts in the present moment and learning how to disassociate yourself from them and focus on your breathing. Thus, meditation in itself is an exercise in focus, discipline, awareness, presence, and mindfulness. So, if you exercise your skills in focus, discipline, etc. for 20 minutes per day, then these skills will improve significantly over time.

Here are zazen instructions.

7. Practice wisdom

You can cultivate wisdom by applying these eight principles and the Buddha’s teachings to your daily life. This includes practicing compassion and showing gratitude.

8. Avoid pointless talk

Avoid idle talk and gossip. Although this principle is subjective and a matter of degrees, you should ideally communicate in a direct, concise manner about practical, relevant matters, so that you use your time optimally. But if you and your audience want to discuss points in greater detail and if you both have the time, then elaborate as needed. For example, if you want to spend three hours discussing subject X with someone who is really interested in it and if you both have the time, then go ahead.


Overall, I think these eight principles capture the essence of Zen Buddhism and serve as an excellent guide to living better and more simply. If you regulate your desires; if you are satisfied, tranquil, and diligent; if you meditate and practice mindfulness and wisdom; if you avoid pointless talk; then you will live a more peaceful, fulfilling life with much less stress and anxiety. In this sense, Zen is extremely practical.


Works Cited:

Dogen. Shobogenzo: The Treasure House of the Eye of the True Teaching. Trans. Rev. Hubert Nearman. Mount Shasta, CA: Shasta Abbey Press, 2007. PDF file.

Warner, Brad. Sit Down and Shut Up: Punk Rock Commentaries on Buddha, God, Truth, Sex, Death, and Dogen's Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2007. Print.

Zen. Dir. Banmei Takahashi. Perf. Kantarou Nakamura, Yuki Uchida, Ryushin Tei, and Jun Murakami. Festival Media, 2011. DVD.

Last revised 6/10/2017

Thursday, March 26, 2015

To What Extent Are You Making Progress with Your Personal Trainer?

I’ve seen many people work with personal trainers and not get serious results or make much progress. These people may not be doing exactly what their trainer prescribes. They may not be doing the workouts consistently or following his or her nutrition recommendations. Or the trainer may be giving them workouts that are not very effective.

However, if you hire a trainer for the medium- or long-term, consistently do the workouts that he or she prescribes, and exactly follow his or her nutrition recommendations, then you should be getting results and making progress in the medium- and long-term.

Results and progress are the most important things. They’re more important than good conversation, good laughs, good feelings, etc. People skills or soft skills may be important to some degree, but results and progress are ultimately the most important.

If you’re working with a trainer who seems really “cool” and personable, you’re doing exactly what he or she prescribes, but you’re not making much progress in the medium- or long-term, then you’re wasting your time and money and you should look for a different trainer.

In order to assess your trainer and your progress in the medium- and long-term, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Does your trainer emphasize getting results and making progress? Does he explicitly talk about it? Or does he talk about everything else except getting results and making progress? Is your trainer basically all talk, hype, and image?

2. Can you do more push-ups, pull-ups, chin-ups, and air squats now than when you first started?

3. Have you learned how to properly deadlift, squat, bench press, and overhead press (or push-press), whether it’s with a barbell (BB) or dumbbells (DBs)?

4. Have you made significant progress in terms of the deadlift, squat, bench press, and overhead press (or push-press)?

5. Have you significantly decreased your one-mile run time, 500-meter rowing time, 2000-meter rowing time, or any other cardio benchmark?

6. Is your trainer making you do constantly varied workouts?

If you’re doing constantly varied workouts, then you cannot really make systematic progress since you’re too busy doing constant variety.

In order to make progress, you must be able to measure progress with a benchmark (i.e. something that you do repeatedly). For example, if you deadlift once a week or run one mile once a week, then you can use that as a benchmark to measure progress. If you’re increasing your deadlift by 5lb or 10lb every week (or month) or if you’re decreasing your 1-mile run time every week (or every few weeks or month), then you are in fact making progress.

7. Is your trainer making you do many different variations of the same fundamental movement pattern?

For example, here are different variations of the lunge:

  • Front lunge
  • Side lunge
  • Reverse lunge
  • Front lunge with torso twist
  • Walking lunge
  • Walking lunge with DBs, BB, or medicine ball overhead
  • DB walking lunge to curl to shoulder press
  • Front DB lunge to balance
  • Side DB lunge to balance
  • Front DB lunge to balance to overhead press
  • Side DB lunge to balance to overhead press

Here are different variations of the push-up:

  • Regular push-up
  • Decline push-up (feet elevated)
  • Wide-grip push-up
  • Narrow-grip push-up
  • Diamond push-up
  • Divebomber push-up
  • Clapping push-up
  • Hand-release push-up
  • Push-up with feet on stability ball (SB)
  • Push-up with hands on SB
  • Ring push-up
  • Push-up with hands on DBs
  • Handstand push-up

Now, if you’re constantly doing variations of the same fundamental movement pattern, then you cannot make significant progress in any one variation. You’re too busy doing constant variety to make systematic progress. You’re essentially spreading yourself too thin.

Instead of doing 10 or more variations of push-ups at a time, you should focus on one to three variations at a time, which will allow you to make significant progress in those variations.


Now, if your answers to questions (1)-(5) are mostly “no” and if your answers to questions to (6) and (7) are “yes,” then you should consider getting a different trainer.

In particular, you can sign up for NO-MIND FITNESS monthly programming, which is personalized, systematic, and progressive. It is all about results and progress in the medium- and long-term.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why You Should Sign Up for Monthly Programming

Some readers may ask why they should sign up for monthly programming and pay $100 per month. Here are 12 good reasons that fully justify signing up.

1. Achieve serious results in the medium- and long-term through effective, balanced, time-efficient workouts that are tailored to you and your goals. See these testimonials.

2. Learn the proper form for all exercises and movements.

3. Lose body fat.

4. Gain muscle mass.

5. Increase strength and overall fitness.

6. Improve athletic performance.

7. Improve flexibility through stretching.

8. Have someone motivate you and hold you accountable. I want to light a serious fire under your ass, which will increase your own internal motivation, discipline, and self-mastery.

9. Have someone push you beyond your comfort zone and help you break through mental barriers.

10. Benefit from my 4.5 years of intensive knowledge and experience. How many trainers do you know who can deadlift 495lb for two reps? I did on 6/30/2014.

11. Improve your overall health, which will add years to your life. Do you want to live to the age of 50 or 80? Do you want to make it to retirement age (70)?

12. If you follow NO-MIND FITNESS programming, it is more valuable and better for your long-term health than the following:

  • Wasting time on Facebook or YouTube
  • Buying and sitting on a La-Z-Boy recliner
  • Watching cable television on a 50”+ TV
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Getting tattoos
  • Eating at expensive restaurants
  • Driving a high-end, luxury car

Just consider the monetary costs of these products, services, or activities.

Product or service Monthly price One-time price
Wasting time on Facebook or YouTube Free Free
La-Z-Boy recliner At least $400
Cable TV service with 200+ channels $60-100 per month
50” or larger LED TV At least $400
Alcohol $10-20 per week, $40-80 per month
Cigarettes in Chicago (1-2 packs per week) $11 per pack, $11-22 per week, $44-88 per month
Tattoo At least $50
Expensive restaurant meals (1-2 meals per month) $100 per meal, $100-200 per month
High-end, luxury car (Mercedes, BMW, Audi, etc.) At least $30,000
TOTAL At least $244-468 per month At least $30,850

If you purchased or used all these products or services, it would cost at least $244-468 per month and at least $30,850 in terms of one-time purchases. Thus, NO-MIND FITNESS monthly programming is much less expensive than the monthly purchases and one-time purchases.

Furthermore, you will not improve your health by wasting time on Facebook or YouTube, sitting on a La-Z-Boy recliner, watching cable television on a 50” TV, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, getting tattoos, eating at expensive restaurants, or driving a fancy car. None of these will help you lose body fat. None will make you more muscular, lean, or ripped. None will make you bigger, stronger, or faster.


That said, now I want you to imagine what your life would be like when you’re healthy, fit, and strong in terms of your mind and body.

When you’re lean and ripped.

When you’re highly focused, disciplined, motivated, decisive, consistent in action, and positive in terms of self-talk.

When you’re not wasting your time or money on frivolous things that neither improve your health nor give you lasting satisfaction.

If you want to improve your physical and mental health and overall life, then sign up here. I would be happy to help.

Last revised 5/3/2016