My fitness philosophy was wrong, at least depending on your goal, which includes just about all of them.
This will begin a new direction for the site. I will focus on natural bodybuilding, not for competition so much as for general appearance. This is my true passion, as I am sure for most readers too.
Future content will remain fixed upon it. That means ignoring topics like powerlifting or training for other sports. There is no need for opinions on them anymore, as not only are they irrelevant, but I will never act as if I figured this all out again.
If you have been here for awhile, you deserve an explanation for such a major shift. For everyone else, this will help you to understand the older posts. I hope to set you upon a more sensible path, through some lessons I learned, regardless if you choose to stay.
Let’s start with some issues we should all address.
Be Specific and Open-Minded
We want only the facts that justify our acts—the facts that fit in conveniently with our wishful thinking and justify our preconceived prejudices!
– Dale Carnegie
Would you rather be consistent or correct?
Being correct means progress toward a specific goal. This opposes consistency or thinking one way is best for everyone. It matters not who they are, what they can do, or what they want.
Did you come here to learn or to confirm what you already decided?
These are difficult questions to answer honestly as it feels satisfying to be right.
It should be apparent that these issues pervade life. Consider nutrition or politics. Many view things absolutely, using words like right or wrong, yes or no, always, and never.
To succeed though, we need to admit how things really are, not how they ought to be. We need to be humble, breaking down our mental walls preventing success. We need to be specific about our problems and open-minded about the solutions.
I did not follow this advice.
How It Began
The very young critic is very much unbalanced. He is strongly in favor of wiping out the old order and starting a new one.
– Henry Ford
Differentiation, especially controversy, attracts notice in the fitness industry. It sets you apart by forming your tribe. You gather those like-minded amidst the endless crowds.
At first, I wanted to truly help others instead of being unique for its own sake.
I failed. I created dogma that revealed itself in everything I wrote. Despite this, I did not form a clear vision, a goal that we all would pursue.
I had uncovered a Paleo equivalent for training. This natural approach had us exercising as dictated by evolution. Pushing, pulling, squatting, and traversing by foot.
It was efficient too. Bench press, squat, and row for moderate reps through a limited range of motion. Apply one tough set no more than a few times a week. Seek progress by adding weight whenever possible. Sprint for intervals, along with walking or jogging, as often as needed.
This was optimal and safe for everyone. I would then criticize anything beyond it. This had me ignoring overwhelming evidence contradicting my views.
It did contain some truth. Our bodies adapted for compound movements when lifting heavy. We also cannot tolerate too much exercise, but this statement gives no indication as to how much we need.
Most importantly, my philosophy had little to do with bodybuilding. The consistency meant nothing. It had a narrow application at best.
In the end, I would rather be helpful than unique.
I want to apologize for misleading everyone. I am truly sorry. I never intended to deceive anyone purposely.
I am flattered by all of the emails received over the years, even the more or less tactful ones. Criticism is a part of the game. Mostly though, I just feel grateful thinking about them.
The posts did help people. They came to believe in a simple program so as to work hard, reduce injuries, stay focused, and make progress. The success stories filled me with joy.
I especially enjoyed the thoughtful questions. These definitely influenced me over time. I am sure many corresponders reached the conclusion here long before I did.
There is still value here, however exaggerated at times. I will keep the old content up as it continues to attract people. I will compensate by highlighting this article throughout the site.
I was never threatened legally or otherwise to change my views.
Some followers may feel disappointed or betrayed, but I see the future as brighter now and will explain why.
Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.
– Earl Nightingale
To disregard and ridicule those at the top of your field is arrogant and ultimately self-defeating.
Many trainees state that the greatest bodybuilders are fools. They are just lucky cheaters, relying on genetics and drugs to get ahead. These trainees then follow general, minimalist programs while making excuses for their poor results.
Their false version of reality takes little away from the achievers. They remain stagnant and perhaps self-satisfied. Admitting the truth can change your life for the better though.
I suspect many have not tried real bodybuilding. Even before I preached basic routines, I never really tried to isolate muscles to a fine degree. I have now done so with incredible results.
The world is not fair though. The top bodybuilders have greater potential than most of us. Those using drugs gain insurmountable advantages as well.
The world is complex, though complicated describes it better. Countless factors blend together to create an end result. We would like to believe we can design a grand system to explain and simplify everything, but rigidity will only limit yourself.
Why not just accept that things are unfair and complicated? We can still set lofty goals. There is so much we do control.
We all have limited time in our lives. Life is short. We can never predict the future.
Get started on what you want now. Pay the price to get there. Use the best methods available.
Please do not waste your time, our most precious and limited resource, through self-deceit like I did.
Consider these lessons.
- Define your goal.
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
– Henry David Thoreau
Ask yourself, why am I training? Be specific and clear. I suggest writing this down to make it more concrete and real.
Do you want to bodybuild? If so, then know that a push, a pull, and a squat, what I suggested here, will work a lot of muscles efficiently but not optimally.
The largest muscle in a movement tends to be the prime mover, doing most of the work. The squat therefore targets the glutes, the bench press targets the chest, and the row targets the trapezius. You can confirm this through bodybuilders, EMG studies, and personal experience.
Exercises can train the same muscle group differently too. By having your hands outside of your elbows when curling, arms fixed to your sides, you can target the short inner head of the biceps. Toes pointing inward on heel raises hits the outer head of the gastrocnemius.
We need a variety of compound and isolation exercises to develop our muscles. We need a diversity of positions and angles. We need to disable large muscles so the small ones can grow.
The bench press, the squat, and the row alone, performed with medium positions, are ineffective for bodybuilding.
Some knowledge here can now be repurposed toward this goal. For example, I was wrong about multiarticular muscles in that they actually work less while maintaining their length. We know that the rectus femoris is not engaged much during regular squats, so we can attack it through leg extensions while leaning back and drawing the hips forward or with something like sissy squats or cable kicks.
Once again, you can confirm this all on your own. What do you feel working on or getting sore from an exercise? Where are you adding muscle?
I tried to ignore this reality behind a set of loosely-related principles. This demanded faith that certain muscles would grow indirectly. I tricked myself in clever ways.
Bodybuilding can risk our joint health. Our muscles evolved to work alongside many others, which has nothing to do with isolation. This is part of the price you pay to succeed, though you can reduce the stress by being sensible.
You need to evaluate your results specifically too. Monitor progress in the mirror. The weight on the bar, showcasing your strength, is only a means to an end.
If you observe your body changing, it will reveal the value of training with some volume, variety, and factors beyond strength that matter even if hard to quantify.
As a bodybuilder, I still feel you should avoid functional training, powerlifting, and the Olympic lifts. Isolation opposes the mass coordination needed for sports. Therefore, my opinions on these subjects are nearly the same.
Do not pursue incompatible goals at the same time. Do you want to be a strength athlete or a bodybuilder? Choose your path.
Know what you want. Avoid dabbling to be successful. Specialize.
- See pros and cons.
When confronted with two courses of action I jot down on a piece of paper all the arguments in favor of each one, then on the opposite side I write the arguments against each one. Then by weighing the arguments pro and con and cancelling them out, one against the other, I take the course indicated by what remains.
– Benjamin Franklin
Some choices are better than others for reaching a goal, but the reasonable ones bring advantages and disadvantages.
Some of the best examples come from nutrition where performance can harm health.
Animal foods allow our bodies to thrive yet increase our risk for cancer and other diseases. Whole grains can harm your health depending on how you handle the anti-nutrients and carbs yet replenish glycogen, fuel the brain, and bring essential vitamins and minerals. Saturated fat can boost testosterone yet encourage heart disease.
Why can’t we just accept the truth in all of these statements?
Instead, we want to have it all. We want all pros and no cons. We want everyone to experience it the same way we do, yet often we are wrong about how it affects ourselves.
Achieve your own balance based on how the pros and cons affect you and your goals.
For bodybuilding, concepts like training to failure and multiple sets can be useful. Still, they will affect the rest of your workout and those later in the week. You need to experiment within that range of just enough and not too much.
I say again, know what you want. Do what it takes to get there, or set a different goal. This may require extraordinary sacrifice if you want to become a champion.
- Think for yourself.
If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.
– Adolf Hitler
My approach was inspired in part by High Intensity Training (HIT).
Arthur Jones, the inventor of the Nautilus machines, was one of the most charismatic leaders of HIT. He was intelligent, scathing toward anyone opposing him, and inadvertently humorous when insulting others. I and many others liked him.
As an outsider, he shared some great insights. Arthur was wrong about a lot of things though. Some of his main ideas are soundly disproved through biomechanics.
We need to be careful not to view experts as flawless, purely good or bad. It is even more dangerous when we ignore our own wisdom. We seek approval for what we know to be incorrect, getting permission to deceive ourselves.
They are people too, often specializing say by working with athletes. Their experience may or may not be applicable to us. They are imperfect on matters within their scope of practice too.
View any expert as just one source, and fallible at that. Never focus on anyone exclusively.
- Value experience over science.
If it works, do it. If it doesn’t, don’t. My attitude is, don’t agonize over why.
– Dorian Yates
Some may find this contentious, but it’s important.
Top bodybuilders learn mostly from each other. Most do not read the latest research. They do not consult the forums where a bunch of average trainees get together to chat.
Despite this, they have the most developed physiques in the world.
If you believe in only the science, you will be like one of the blind men that each touch a different part of the elephant. They claim to understand the whole. This is what happened to me.
Science is valuable but incomplete.
By relying on anatomy alone, you may disregard working different muscle heads that bodybuilders know how to isolate.
Keep an open mind. Through willingness to consider and test, you gain power. You do not need to comprehend everything to make a decision.
Consider too that exercise science is plagued by small sample sizes, untrained subjects, countless variables, biases, conformity, and research done by inexperienced graduate students.
Often the science has to catch up with the bodybuilders doing whatever it takes to win. The professors just confirm what the coaches and athletes discovered long ago. The scientific method depends on the interplay between theory and experimentation anyway, so view this as just another source of information.
- Avoid oversimplifying.
Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.
– Albert Einstein
Health and fitness has many platitudes within certain circles:
- You cannot change a muscle’s shape.
- You must squat.
- The bench press destroys your shoulders.
- Calories in, calories out.
- Use the least amount of exercise necessary for the best results.
Where is the proof? Most of these statements are so general as to be meaningless. They give no specific recommendations.
Consider that post-workout nutrition matters according to research and the top bodybuilders. Many choose not to believe this to make life simpler regardless of the truth. They justify their laziness.
Accept things as they are, not how they ought to be.
- Know yourself.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
– Reinhold Niebuhr
We all have different goals, options, capabilities, and preferences.
Trainees have succeeded on many programs, and we all have our own nuances. Ideal rep ranges may be based not only on hypertrophy but muscle fiber type. You may be mostly slow-twitch or fast-twitch, which could affect how many reps you should do.
You should probably stick with a moderate rep range for bodybuilding most of the time. Don’t completely ignore intuition telling you to go higher or lower though. Ignore convention stating you must train within 8-12 reps or for sets of 5 all the time.
We all have unique body structures so exercises affect us differently. Many notice these differences on dumbbell pull-overs or if the barbell squat works their legs enough. How our muscles attach will affect our displays of strength too.
There are three somatotypes, or basic physique types, that include the ectomorph, the endomorph, and the mesomorph.
The ectomorph is thin and tends to be taller, having less overall tissue. The endomorph is larger, having both more fat and muscle. The mesomorph is muscular and balanced.
Most of us are a blend. These are not perfect classifications. Nonetheless, it is rare to find someone transferring to another somatotype.
Most everyone can have a great body. Ectomorphs become lean and graceful like Greek statues. Endomorphs build imposing Herculean mass. Mesomorphs merge the two.
We all have to play the initial hand we are dealt. Exhaust all options before complaining about genetics or being a natural. Strive for an ideal yet be realistic.
- Be flexible.
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Don’t be afraid to change your mind. Like a game of chess, your beliefs are pieces. They should be used to achieve checkmate or your goal.
Most fitness experts state the need for variety. I have always resisted this. It did not make sense to me that we had to keep our bodies guessing to make progress.
I’m not sure exactly why variety works but it does, so I apply it now. Every change we make seems to stimulate our muscles differently. I may not like it, but I accept it.
Avoid pattern seeking for its own sake. Don’t rely on numbers like 1, 3, and 5 that are too common in the fitness world. For example, depending on the number of exercises you use, perhaps you would do well with 2 sets each, not one set or 3-5.
Be honest and keep all your options open.
- Learn from others and treat them well.
You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.
– Zig Ziglar
Maybe that person you scorned just wanted to help. You took it personally, feeling attacked by their information since it did not fit within your belief system. Perhaps later you found out they were right.
Regret, guilt, and empathy arise when you realize someone with a different view was correct and sincere all along.
You can learn the most from those whom disagree with you. You can also learn something from everyone, even just what to avoid. Purists too have us questioning our most basic assumptions.
You are going to die someday, perhaps sooner rather than later. Dwelling on negative people, events, thoughts, and feelings will invite thieves to steal away pieces of your life. That time is wasted forever.
Relationships are also important for a happy and fulfilling life. Seek out those similar to you. Associate with people that support your goals.
Everything worthwhile in life involves people.
- Be purposeful and optimistic.
Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.
– Napoleon Hill
I think many avoid ideas like positive thinking and goal setting because the general outlook in personal development seems to ignore reality.
The world can harm and destroy you. A rare circumstance could end your life right now without it being your fault. This is so plainly true to a logical person yet seems ignored in the self-help literature.
Here is my response:
Success is a process, not an event. Countless events will be within your control. Anything that fosters a better attitude toward them will help you.
Think of a captain embarking on a voyage. Did he or she choose a destination, or are they haphazardly sailing across the ocean? Are you at the wheel or among the crew on someone else’s ship?
Purpose is the harbor in the distance. Weather, damage to your boat, and other challenges will disrupt the journey. Optimism lets you correct the course.
You will almost surely dock where you want someday if you pick the right location. You may be lost at sea, but this is unlikely. Either way, you can still enjoy the trip.
If you feel stuck, begin with what I call motivation by osmosis. Perform easy, more passive tasks such as listening to and reading for inspiration. I suggest Napoleon Hill, Earl Nightingale, and Dale Carnegie.
This process will slowly but surely make you more positive. You will feel more likely to take action toward your goals. Finally, make sure those goals are really your own.
I can tell you that setting sail is the toughest part. Once you get away from the shore, the majesty of the sea is thrilling. Commanding the helm will make you happier.
Bodybuilding, besides having meaning on its own, helps you achieve other goals. You gain confidence, attractiveness, energy, good habits, unique health benefits, and more.
A positive attitude will help you to succeed here and with anything else you desire.
Why I Was Wrong and Some Lessons
Opportunity, for most of us, doesn’t knock just once; she raps a continual tattoo on our doors. The pity is that much of the time we’re either too preoccupied to hear or too lethargic to answer.
– Benjamin F. Fairless
As natural bodybuilders we have different role models, with legends like Steve Reeves and Abbye Stockton motivating us.
By choosing this path, you favor health, symmetry, proportion, and respect from all kinds of people, while making progress that will not fade so easily.
Training is mysterious which makes it fascinating, and life would be dull if everything was straightforward.
It is fun to build and sculpt your body. Lately, I have enjoyed developing the serratus anterior. These are fingerlike muscles extending from the ribcage area. Since the powerful chest takes over on movements involving the serratus, you need to know how to isolate it. You use exercises like scapular protraction while kneeling with a rope attachment on a cable machine to work it best.
You may, like I was, be excited to go this direction. Think about the typical stages of any design though. First too little, then too much, and finally just right.
You are invigorated by all of the possibilities. You keep adding. You eventually come to realize what you can handle and what matters, at least until you need to change things up!
Bodybuilding is rewarding, though I doubt I need to tell you.
I hope you found these lessons not only applicable to fitness but the whole of your life.
The Future of RDLFITNESS
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.
– Helen Keller
This site embodies my deepest interests. I love fitness, writing, and web development. I enjoy crafting good arguments and providing unusual insights for your benefit.
I am no longer writing Push, Pull, Squat, & Sprint: A Simple Plan for Complete Fitness.
I have started on a new book titled, at the moment, How to Isolate: Bodybuilding Exercises for Extraordinary Muscle Growth.
I have been a bit disappointed in my quest to isolate muscles better. If ever there was a secret to bodybuilding, this is it. The materials out there lack the comprehensiveness and detail you would expect, such as how to target the specific head within a muscle group.
I feel that reconciling bodybuilding with sources like anatomy and biomechanics would improve things. We also need recommendations that are realistic for natural trainees.
Would you find this useful? Please let me know. Your feedback is wanted and appreciated.
My plan is to blog regularly again. This content serves as a form of marketing. I would then self-publish books to earn a living.
Writing demands a lot of time and little money. Therefore, I am taking big steps in 2017 to allow for this. I now realize we must not delay in creating the lives we want.
For any fans here, I want to thank you again for all of your support. If you ever need help with anything, please reach out to me. The door is wide open.
This is a new beginning, and I hope you stay. I am excited for the future. I have much to share with you, for your success in natural bodybuilding and beyond.