The More I Learn, The Less I Know

It’s true – the more I learn, the more I wonder how much I really know.  The fact is, this is completely true for all of us – we’re only capable of really knowing a small amount of information and knowing it very well on our own.

Sure, we can memorize a bunch of random facts or terms, but is it something we really know, or something we’re just familiar with?  There’s a difference.

This is my last article of 2011 and I didn’t want it to be the typical motivation-for-not-stuffing-your-face-over-the-Holidays type of post.  Sure, those are great, but I’ve already done that and others have done a really good job of it as well.

In retrospect, I’ve been very fortunate to travel all over the country and spend time with other professionals learning and building relationships this past year.

I won’t go into every single detail, but I want to highlight the importance of realizing we can’t know everything and just how pertinent it is to build relationships with others to aid you in your journey to understanding and a fulfilling education.  In this case, I’m mainly speaking from a place of our fitness education, but it can be applied to other areas of our lives too.

I Love To Learn

I get a lot of questions about training and diet – mostly from readers and clients, but I even get the occasional question over dinner or when I’m out and about in situations not in any way related to fitness – those times when I’m out with a girl or with my family for dinner.

I began to think about my conversations and how I go about formulating my thoughts.  My responses to certain questions are far different now than what they were a year ago, so it’s clear something has changed. As a result, I’ve been reflecting about how my views have altered when it comes to diet, training and other goals.

In a sense, it’s part of my evolution as a science-focused trainer and physique-enhancing counselor.

There are a few people who’ve really shaped my views over the last year, and they probably have no idea just how much of an impact they’ve had on me from a training and even a personal level.

Today I want touch upon a few of them and explain what they’ve helped me to understand, why It’s important, and hopefully it’ll encourage you to open your mind a bit more going into the new year.

I LOVE Training Like a Bro

I have a confession to make.  I really love pump training.  I enjoy doing multiple sets of presses and pulls with light weight after my strength work for a mad pump.  If you peruse my work, the majority of my training articles are primarily strength-focused routines, even when the main goal is hypertrophy.

This is with good reason though, and it’s mainly because the simplest way I know to explain how hypertrophy works is there must be a period of progressive overload with enough nutrients to support the growth.

In reality, it’s not that big of a deal if you work in the lower rep ranges (sets of 5) or higher rep ranges (sets of 10-15) as long as there is progression in strength (adding weight to the bar) plus an increase in stimulus/tension over time (same thing as adding weight, but can be achieved with other variables such as rest or volume).

So I’ll say it clearly, I’ve been training like a bro for the last 3-4 weeks.  For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about when I say training like a bro, I’ve left an article link at the bottom from Matt Perryman so you can get educated entitled Brogram Design 101.

So what does my programming look like?

It’s quite simple, actually.  I won’t go into all the reps and sets, but I’ll give my basic outline here.

It’s 3 days on, 1 day off and I rotate my training like so:

Day 1: Chest/Shoulders/Triceps
Day 2: Legs
Day 3: Back/Biceps
Day 4: Rest (sit around and eat ice cream and play on the internetz)
Day 5: Start all over again

My training usually begins with 3-4 sets of a heavy compound movement using Reverse Pyramid Training (in the 8-12 rep range) so I cover my strength base.  Then after that, I pick a handful of other movements and do multiple sets in the 10-15 rep ranges and one exhaustive movement with about 50% of my 1RM for 5-6 sets of 12-15 reps with a 30 second rest period.


My rest periods never go longer than 2 minutes for all the other movements and I’m usually out of the gym in 40-50 minutes including all my warm ups.  I love it.

Why Would I Do Such A Thing?

Many of you reading this are probably going “this guy has lost his marbles” and wondering why I don’t stick to a 3-4 day full body or upper/lower split.  The reason is BOREDOM.  Fact is I did full body training for almost the entire 2011.  After about 9 months, I switched to a tried and true upper/lower split for a few months and then got bored with it again.

After quite a bit of conversing with Matt Perryman and his experiments with daily squatting, I realized I wasn’t being dumb about my training, I merely needed a refresher.  I needed to do something to remove the boredom.

Now, I sort of picked this training schedule at a bad time – with the holidays and my last trip to San Francisco (long 5-day weekend), my daily training had to take a back seat for a while and won’t be able to resume it fully until after the first of the year, which I’m completely fine with as I haven’t had a solid training break in over 12 months.

The picture to the left is my current state (192lbs at 5’8” and was snapped a few weeks ago in the midst of my daily training).  It seems that the extra training volume is doing a nice job of helping me stay decently lean despite drinking cartons of orange juice and a ton of whole milk on the regular to keep my calories up.

Again, don’t forget to check out Matt’s link at the bottom for more info on training frequently and doing some Brogramming.

Some People Squat Daily for Fun and Profit

Another person who’s had an amazing impact on my studies and my life from afar is strength coach Nicholas Horton.  If there’s anyone in the space who I recommend for info on Olympic lifting or daily training, it’s him.

His writing has impacted me more than many will know and it’s because we both share similar struggles when it comes to perfectionism and even depression at certain periods in our lives.  I first read an article by him titled Managing Depression With Weightlifting? Or, How You Feel Is A Lie and his willingness to put his story out there, much like I have mine, made me realize he was into health and fitness for many more reasons than it just being his profession – he’s in it to have a positive impact on the lives around him, much like I am.

Many folks will be thrown off when they hear of people getting bigger and stronger training daily.  Most will say it’s a recipe for disaster and a sure shot to overtraining.  It is if you do it incorrectly, meaning you do a ton of volume along with the crazy intensity.

And I think most of us trainers tend to err on the side of conservatism in hopes that people won’t do entirely too much work, as most don’t know how to intelligently design a training program.

Here’s a nice quote from John Broz:

If you got a job as a garbage man and had to pick up heavy cans all day long, the first day would probably be very difficult, possibly almost impossible for some to complete. So what do you do, take three days off and possibly lose your job?

No, you’d take your sore, beaten self to work the next day. You’d mope around and be fatigued, much less energetic than the previous day, but you’d make yourself get through it. Then you’d get home, soak in the tub, take aspirin, etc. The next day would be even worse.

But eventually you’d be running down the street tossing cans around and joking with your coworkers. How did this happen? You forced your body to adapt to the job at hand! If you can’t’ squat and lift heavy every day you’re not overtrained, you’re undertrained! Could a random person off the street come to the gym with you and do your exact workout? Probably not, because they’re undertrained. Same goes with most lifters when compared to elite athletes.

John Broz 2002

Read the links at the bottom to learn how this method can be used effectively.

Kettlebells Are Awesome!

I’ve never been too big a fan of kettlebells, and it’s not because I deem them inferior or silly or what have you.  It’s simply because (ahem) I’ve never used them personally nor have I been instructed on how to use them.

But that all changed this past weekend during my visit to San Francisco to hang with Dick Talens, Brian Wang of Fitocracy (invite code!) and Sohee Lee (NPC competitor/fitness up-and-comer).  While I was on Facebook, I announced my visit and Coach Stevo gave me a holler.

After a few chats back and forth, I basically said “hey, I want to train – Sohee and I will be the students, and you be our coach, cool?”

Stevo and Rob Umfress (a great coach as well) met us at the beach and it was my official introduction to kettlebell training. To my surprise, I really loved it.  It was a breath of fresh air after training with barbells the last 12 years.

The workout we did is informally called easy-easy-easy-wtf and I now know why – if you’re in the Bay Area, you should hit him up for some training on the beach!

Here’s a video Sohee put together of us doing our thang – this was the wtf part.


You’ll notice Sohee and I laughing at the beginning as we watch them, and then my crying out toward the end of my turn.  Heh.

Right after this part, we all ran into the cold Pacific Ocean – oh how I don’t miss that part…

Afterward, we all went to the local diner, killed some greasy food and spent a few hours talking about training, human psychology, and how we tend to do more hugging than hand-shaking in the south…

Training and conversing with Stevo and Rob was a major highlight of my weekend – picking their brains about diet, recovery, training different populations (young, old, injured) was a goldmine of information and I’m indebted to them for spending their time with me.

This is why I love my job – it’s not the training, or sitting around constructing the perfect macro composition for fat loss, improved performance and hip thrusting…

It’s the relationships I’m building as a result – relationships are what my life revolves around and what I’m passionate about.

I Hate The Dogmatic Attitude That Plagues Our Industry

Going into the New Year, I want to encourage you to adopt a mindset/quote that I’ve borrowed from Bruce Lee.

“Absorb what is useful; Disregard that which is useless”

When you look around on the internetz and in gyms alike, we have a ton of dogmatic ideas revolving around nutrition, training, what equipment we use, etc. and it bugs the hell out of me.

Another thing I hate is how fitness pros like to bash on each other and/or their respective methods.  My good friend John Romaniello said something to me in New York last month and it went something like this (paraphrased of course):

“There’s no point in us bashing each other – there’s so many people who need help and fitness advice and there’s plenty of room for us all to work together.  Plus, it just makes you look bad when you attempt to publicly tear down someone else.”

Barbells, kettlebells, bands, sleds, etc. are nothing but tools – some are useful to us and others are not.  That’s it.

There’s nothing special about eating 6 meals per day and in the same vein, there is no magic when it comes to intermittent fasting.  I’ve done both and I happen to do better on larger, infrequent meals.  However because of my personal preference, intermittent fasting isn’t any more special than other methods of eating fewer calories.

The same goes with training – just because you got stellar results on a low-volume, full-body routine doesn’t make it the best, most effective training protocol out there.  It merely means that it works, just like most other sensible training methods.

Always be weary of someone telling you there’s only one way and every other way to be inferior.  If this happens, kindly look them in the eye, tell them thank you for sharing their information and simply move on.

Don’t get into an argument.  Don’t get bent out of shape; just let it go and realize everything works to an extent.  Focus on the positive things in your life and improving the lives of others.

The More I Learn, The Less I Know

Over the last year, I’ve learned a ton – more so than I can even begin to comprehend sometimes.  The relationships I’ve built and people who’ve come into my life help me realize there’s so much to learn and gain in this lifetime.

All of the coaches I mentioned above (any many, many more) have contributed to my education and the aid in removal of self-imposed limitations when it comes to what I accept as relevant and irrelevant knowledge in the diet and training world.  I’m still learning more and more each day.

I even hired a nutritionist to help me combat my struggles with hypothyroidism and hopefully get me on the track to living a life without medications.  Just one hour on the phone with him helped me realize how much studying I have to do on the effects certain foods can have on the endocrine system when autoimmunity is present.  My mind was blown – no joke.

I will likely write much more about my hypothyroidism at a later point when I’ve ran more labs and have more data to present in my findings.

My point is simple: the more I learn, the more I realize there’s so much I haven’t even began to understand.  I’m perfectly okay with this as I plan to be a student until I die.

And now I raise my virtual glass of (your drink of choice here) to 2012 – can’t wait to make it better than the last with all of you.

— — — — — — — —
Further reading:
— — — — — — — —

Matt Perryman
Brogram Design 101 – good intro to what I’ve been doing for my personal training.
How Much Can the CNS Handle? [Stress] – A great read on overtraining and overreaching when it comes to strength training.

Nicholas Horton
How You Feel Is A Lie – Really great article on Nick’s struggles with depression and how he uses Olympic lifting and Zen Meditation for a happy life.
Squatting Daily – good primer on squatting every day to a max.
The ‘Secret’ to Bulgarian Training in Olympic Weightlifting – another good one on daily training.

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  1. says

    I’m assuming that you only focus on progressing the main movement of the day, and that your accessory movements are more by feel, correct?

    Basically as long as you improve the big movement your good, while you just use the accessory movements for more volume.

  2. says

    The principles are rock solid but the application is the grey area. Or as my training partner says: “There are not bad exercises, just bad applications.” I disagree with that but it’s in the right direction for a soundbite.

    Great article, you thick SOB.

  3. DS says

    As someone with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, I completely agree with your statement that the more we know, the more we realize how much we don’t know. Thanks for teaching me a bit more about fitness with each new post!

  4. says

    It’s funny because I am tempted to argue about what is the best way to go about strength training or nutrition but I do always come back to the fact that the best approach is the one that works for you.

    Even beyond that, I think although some people are clueless about how to be efficient with their time in both the gym and the kitchen, the fact that many people are trying to improve their body is worth the positive support. Your post really reminds me of that.

    Props brosky.

  5. says

    Very true that the more we learn, the more we understand that what we know is so much lesser than what we think we know. My personal experience with this has been in fitness as well as at work. A year ago I was training what I thought was the best way but now I realize that it was probably the worst way to train. Same is the situation at work when you feel that you have mastered your art but it takes just a closer look to realize that instead you have just begun.

  6. Yu Jin says

    A good article. I’m still experimenting both diet and training. as i can see, there is only 1 thing in common about most of the dieting and training methods, that is discipline. Good job and Happy new year!

  7. Finn says

    Great article and i pretty much sums up whats going on in my life now. I have been alll over the place fitness wise. Selfexperimenting however have enlightended me and that is the only way to learn about what your own body wants and needs. This article is another great excample of why JC is the perfect coach. He adapts and are willing to change his views accordingly.

  8. says

    Very interesting to see how your thoughts on learning are similar to my own.

    Always reminds me of the Bruce Lee quote, “Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I’ve understood the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick just like a kick.”

    I think training, personally and with guiding others is kind of like that.

  9. says

    Great post.

    LEARNER is one of my top five strengths from Strengths Finder. And I completely relate to feeling like the more I learn the less I know. There is always more, more than any one person can grasp. More reason to work together.

    Variety is good. Like changing your training frequency. Kill the boredom. Also I’m glad you got a chance to try out kettlebells. I love them, even though i work out in my garage not the beach. Working out on a beach looked awesome.

    Prepare for an even better year of learning in 2012.


  10. Eric says

    Good one JC. One of the things I’ve learned this past year is that I really don’t understand something until I’ve experienced. All those little facts, quotes, etc. I KNOW what they mean and find truth in them but I don’t really KNOW the heart of it until I experience. You do learn so much more just by doing, the next trick is to not forget those experiences.

    Great vid too, you can tell how much fun you’re having. I remember I shared the Holstee Manifesto with you a while back and a couple of the lines there were “Life us about the people you meet, and the things you create with them so go out and start creating”. Seems like you’ve done great on doing that thus far. Another line “Travel often”. Here’s to another great year for you and all the JC community.

    One more lesson I do think you need to learn, judging by the line in the sand in the vid, is that sometimes the shortest route between two places is a straight line…not. Or maybe you were trying another Holstee line “Getting lost will help you find yourself.”

  11. Alex says

    Fitness is like anything else, when it comes to this. The more information you’re privy to, the more you realize just how damn much is out there. I don’t think this is a disheartening truth though. The more I experience, the more I learn what I enjoy, what works for me, and what goals I want to focus on. And there is a certain peace that comes with acknowledged ignorance, as the pressure to have all the answers dissipates. But the real bliss – like you said – comes from focusing on the positive, making headway in whatever you want to do in life.

  12. says

    Looking solid bro! I’m often astounded and a little unnerved when I suddenly remember a long forgotten fact; at which point I realise how much I’ve forgotten. Makes me wonder whether I really can absorb more stuff or whether like Homer I’m just pushing old stuff out. Digging into the endocrine system is a Pandora’s box; prepare to erase everything previously learnt (if you’re lucky it’ll stay in your mind’s recycle bin)!

    I train almost daily, using a similar set-up and it works very well for me; triggered mostly by a gym newly equipped with every hammer strength machine going – curiosity got the better of me!

    Congratulations on the site and the articles ; going from strength to strength. Have a good one!

  13. says

    Thanks JC. Perhaps the best lesson I’ve learnt this year is to never stagnate. Always aim to get better every single day.

    The best types of workouts are the ones you’ll do… often. I’m not going to comment on the need for fitness pros to work together. I think I’ve made my opinion on the matter crystal clear.


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