Today’s article is specifically for a group of guys I’ve been conversing with over the last few years through email, internet forums, and in passing at the gym. Today I plan to address some problems many beginners face when it comes to getting big and strong.
Strangely, none of these problems are physical. These guys are all fully capable, and in good health. The issue seems to lie deep within their psyche.
I’ve touched on some of this before in my Former Fat Boy Syndrome article, so if you found that one of value, you’ll surely resonate with today’s message.
WARNING: Some of the material I’m referencing (mainly the RSD video by Owen Cook) may be offensive to some of you. Just because I’m referencing this video doesn’t mean I agree with everything in it.
In saying that, if you’re easily offended, you probably want to refrain from watching the video and just pay attention to my article. I didn’t have to include the video, but the concepts Owen discusses about success and human nature need to be communicated and he does a very good job of that.
Background Info About The Video I’m Referencing Today
The video title is –The Truth About Success 2 – Execution, Learning From Failure, Not Being A Lazy Slug – it’s a 2 hour presentation by Owen Cook, Co-Founder and Producer of Real Social Dynamics, the world’s largest dating coaching company.
Now I want you to know that we’re not talking about dating, picking up women or seduction techniques in this article. My website is not the proper avenue to teach guys how to build confidence and charisma when it comes to approaching women.
However, the reason I’m referencing this video is because many of the topics Owen discusses directly correlate with success in general. Owen Cook is a hard-working entrepreneur, and someone whom I have much respect for when it comes to achieving success in his respective field.
Owen travels the world teaching guys how to be confident in approaching women, and building relationships. Over the years, I’ve watched his talks and lectures evolve from teaching those how to be successful with women to lessons about achieving success, and living an enriched life.
Who Is This Article For?
- Are you a dude who wants to get big and strong, but doesn’t know where to start?
- Do you have an irrational fear of gaining body fat that keeps you from making any progress in the gym?
- Do you keep making excuses about why you can’t build the physique you want?
- Do you constantly change your mind about building muscle and losing body fat?
If this sounds like you, keep reading.
The primary roadblocks we’ll be discussing today are:
- Information Overload
- Irrational Fear of Fat Gain
- Making Excuses and NOT TAKING ACTION
Free Advice Is Hardly Ever Taken Seriously
A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader who I’d been conversing with since August 2011. He filled out a consultation request and it read the following:
- Name is Matt
- 17 yrs old
- 140lbs (body fat: 14-16%)
- I squat 230×5, bench 165×5, deadlift 305×5
- I want to lose body fat and I’m extremely experienced with intermittent fasting
My first response was similar to this:
Hey Matt, First of all, you’re 17 and 140lbs – you likely have no business dieting and how do you know so much about fasting? When I was your age, I didn’t even know what a calorie was, let alone intermittent fasting.
We went onto discuss exactly why I didn’t feel he should be dieting. And my reasoning was twofold.
- He was too young to think about dieting, especially at his body weight of 140lbs.
- He’s at a prime time in his life when he can grow rapidly if he’ll just lift heavy stuff and eat his mama’s home cooking.
We went back and forth about working together, but I was adamant he mustn’t diet! Needless to say we lost contact. No way was I going to let this kid do anything other than train heavy and stuff his face under my supervision.
We got to chatting about free advice and regardless of how great it is, no one ever takes it seriously.
It turns out Matt was listening to this episode.
So I get an email toward the end of May from Matt again. This time it was different – he mentioned the podcast he listened to and felt obligated to give me an update. I’m sure glad he did.
I then learned after our exchange, he’d contacted my friend and mentor, Alan Aragon, who eventually gave him almost the exact advice I did: eat big, get strong and gain some body weight.
In his email, Matt shared with me that he finally took our advice, decided to get out of his own way, so to speak, begin eating well and training hard.
In about 12 weeks, he went from 140lbs to 160lbs, and added a significant amount of strength during this time frame (all numbers in pounds):
- Bench: 160X5 –> 205X8
- Overhead Press: 105X5 –> 135X8
- Deadlift: 305X5 –> 380X3, 350X5,
- Weighted Chins: BW –> BW+25X8
Turns out he didn’t gain much body fat in the process, and looks fuller, and thicker than he did before. But the best part of his transformation is not only that of his physique, but of his mind. He was hesitant at first to take our advice, forget about the fat-gain paranoia, and do what it takes.
Here’s how he ended the initial update email – a thank-you for pushing him to do what we knew was best for him. The bold is my emphasis.
All I know is, for the first time in my life, I’ve built a physique that I’m genuinely proud of, and I can’t tell you just how awesome it feels. I know it’s nothing spectacular compared to most fitness junkies, but just having a respectable physique compared to most of my peers has given me a newfound confidence that has carried over to every area of my life.
Just wanted to say thanks again to people like yourself who helped push me in the right direction, even if it took awhile to get through my thick head.
Now there’s one thing I want you to remember here: THIS GUY IS 17 YEARS OLD. It’s pretty rare for dudes outside of athletic programs to take the advice of those older than them when it comes to strength training, and muscle gain.
Mainly because there is so much information out there – much of which is so conflicting when comparing sources. Jason Ferruggia mentioned a few weeks ago that in order to be successful, you should probably get your information from only a few credible sources. The more books, articles, and resources you read, the more likely you are to find contrasting viewpoints.
Now there’s nothing wrong with having a broad knowledge base, but when you’re easily influenced, we must try to minimize the distractions.
Matt and I’s email conversation spanned over many exchanges and we eventually got on the phone for an interview. So, if you’re a young guy who’s ever been worried about fat gain, or afraid that you’re not doing the right things when it comes to training and eating for size, please listen to this interview I did with Matt.
We go over many of the pitfalls not only young guys, but beginners experience in general. Some of the topics discussed are the following:
- Starting out – how he used to curl more than he could bench
- How his irrational fears crippled his efforts
- Why his obsession with his physique made him smaller and weaker and how it affected other aspects of his life
- How a few months of making no progress turned into a YEAR of no progress
- How he finally took action, let go, and flipped the switch to experience success in strength and muscle gains
- His dealing with the daily mental battles
- What adding strength and size to his frame did for his confidence
- Why he recommends to stop focusing on body composition and all the tiny details
Be sure to listen to his short interview (around 25 minutes): You can download the audio file by right clicking here and hitting ‘save-as’ or you can use the player below.
And now, you’re about to learn how a dating coach can help you experience massive success with your strength and muscle-building efforts.
And get this: he doesn’t even lift!
“Success is about focusing on what you want – not focusing on what you don’t want.” – Owen Cook, RSD
This principle applies to anything you want in life – lots of money, healthy relationships, a significant other, etc. In this case, you probably want to be bigger and stronger than you currently are.
If you’re reading here, I don’t have to tell you that strength and mass is a product of eating well and getting stronger over time.
There’s NO other way around it.
In the video (36:30) Owen is talking about one of the simplest principles of success – focusing on what you want, and not what you don’t want.
He’s teaching the guys that success is a narrow road, in which you must have a focused set of behaviors. As you walk along this narrow road, you’re going to mess up – and to be successful, you have to keep course-correcting along the way.
Owen makes a great point where he essentially says don’t focus on the short-term results; focus on the behaviors that are conducive to success.
What does this matter? Because those who have been successful at getting big and strong all follow a certain set of proven processes and behaviors.
What are the proven processes and behaviors???
I think this is pretty apparent, but those who are big and strong all have a few things in common. They stuck to a well-designed strength or bodybuilding program for a matter of months (6-12) before making any major changes.
They ate above maintenance (more calories than they burned daily) and pushed their body weight up. They focused on strength gains and performance goals.
If you need a routine, or need to know how this process works, check out the how to build muscle guide for beginners. Also, check out the JCDFitness beginners muscle-building routine (free PDF download).
Let me give you an example of two guys.
The focused guy knows the path to success. He’s following a proven routine, and eating well each day. He’s been keeping record of his intake and his workouts. Each week he’s getting stronger and noticing that his clothes are fitting tighter.
Despite the fact that his abs are not as pronounced as they were a few weeks ago doesn’t phase him. Why? He knows that his hard work is paying off. Plus, he’s enjoying his newfound confidence as his strength soars.
The scattered guy switches up his routine every other week. He continually changes his mind about dieting and bulking because he feels that he’s gaining fat too rapidly every time he eats over maintenance. He reads every piece of fitness info he can get his hands on and the differing opinions mess with his head.
His emotions control his decisions, which keeps him from sticking to any type of plan long enough to see results. He’ll probably continue this cycle for many months, and possibly years with no results to show for his haphazard efforts.
The difference between these guys is an understanding of the processes and behaviors that govern success.
Jahed Momand, a friend and accomplished weightlifter, who is now starting to coach others, says it best with the following quote:
“The most important thing you can do is keep going, and realize that your results, on any one day, are irrelevant. There will be ups and there will be downs.
Consistently getting under the bar is what we want, so ignore the daily results. Detach your ego from the outcome of any one particular day. The only thing that matters is you showed up.
Daily results are irrelevant in the long run, because it is the accumulation of your efforts and habits over time that determine what you get out of any diet or training program.”
This is Matt’s story. He learned how to control his mind and his behaviors in a way that lead him to success.
Take home point:
Stick to the behaviors and processes that produce results – discard everything else.
Now that we know there are indeed proven behaviors we must follow, let’s look at some of the pitfalls, along with ways to avoid them.
“Our biology tells us to maximize value and minimize time and effort” – Owen Cook
At about 29:30, Owen says this phrase above, and every time I hear it I stop and think for a moment. We’ve grown as a species to make things easier. We want the greatest rewards without much effort.
This is not a bad thing entirely because technology has greatly improved our lives. I love writing articles on my iMac, as opposed to using a pencil and paper.
However, our current age also makes us lazy and susceptible to falling for voodoo marketing. Remember when I wrote Fitness Claims and Marketing – How Our Emotions Control Us? This is a perfect example. Who doesn’t want abs in 7 minutes? Or who doesn’t want the fast track to muscle gain when a supplement ad claims you can add 10lbs of muscle in the next 5 days?
The old mantra is true: nothing worth having ever comes easily. It never works that way, and if it did, no one would appreciate success. Owen even says later in the video that he wouldn’t want to win the lottery because it would take away his drive and vigor to teach and build his business.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing this is an easy road. It’s not and I can tell you from experience. Don’t make this mistake.
Combat Your Irrational Fear of Fat Gain
“Our brains will rationalize almost anything that it thinks is in it’s best interest.” – Owen Cook
In this segment of the video (about 1:09) Owen is telling the guys how some people get caught in this funk of laziness. In context, many guys are afraid to go out and initiate new friendships or relationships with girls. As a result, they will make excuses and come up with reasons why they can’t go out.
In short, their brains are making these excuses real to them, which causes them to develop an irrational belief that they can’t go out and thus, be successful meeting new women.
The same thing happens to the beginners who were either Former Fat Boys or the skinny-fat guys who have a death-like fear of adding an ounce of body fat. So what happens?
They typically under eat, and train too much in hopes of preventing any fat gain. But what typically happens is they get weaker and their body remains the same. Months and years go by without a single noticeable difference in their physique.
And it’s all based on a very irrational fear of adding slabs of body fat when over eating in the name of strength and size gains.
Here’s something you must realize.
No matter what, if you’re 150lbs and eating 1500 calories daily with the hopes of not adding any body fat, YOU WILL NOT REACH YOUR GOAL of a bigger, stronger physique.
This may sound a drastic approach to many, but I can assure you – many people succumb to these types of behaviors over the irrational fear of fat gain.
First of all, if you’re eating well (at least 14-15xbody weight in kcals – much more for some guys) and training 3-4 times per week, you’ll make strength gains and even build some muscle. You may have to eat more depending on how active you are.
But chronically eating much less than maintenance will forever keep you small and weak.
Keep doing this and YOU WILL FAIL.
“Failure is the default of not taking action.” – Owen Cook
At 34:30, Owen is giving a talk about how you need to have a good mindset, and a hope that things will work out in your favor, but without a plan and actually taking action toward your goals, failure is in your future.
He even goes onto say that we must have a rational paranoia (I love this) of failure.
It means that you must be so afraid of not making progress that you do everything in your power to avoid looking back a year later to see no changes in your physique.
How will that make you feel knowing you wasted a year or longer because you couldn’t get it together?
It’s going to suck. You’re gonna be pissed that you didn’t listen to others. You’ll be frustrated that you couldn’t shut off the voice in your head telling you that you’re going to get fat if you eat a caloric surplus.
Let me elaborate – I found this thread I found on Reddit and it’s a classic case.
As you see in the screenshot, he’s freaked out about eating over maintenance due to recently losing a lot of fat. Now, I don’t know this guy, but my hunch tells me he’ll let his irrational fear of gaining back the fat keep him from making any positive changes to his physique with regards to muscle gain.
He’ll probably start out training, and eating well, but as soon as he thinks he sees a hint of fat gain, he’ll cut calories drastically and begin an endless cycle that will result in failure.
Okay, so enough preaching. I hope you get the point. If you don’t take action, and control your thoughts, you’re going to lose at this game. And you will be very, very disappointed.
Plan Of Action
I came across a short post by Ryan Holiday the other night and it fits perfect with this theme. It’s titled Take Little Steps.
And here are your little steps to success.
- Pick a training routine and stick with it for at least 6 months – I don’t care what you choose as long as it’s within the realm of being good for a beginner. Think of Starting Strength, Stronglifts, Syatt’s routine or mine.
- Commit to eating well for the entire time you’re training – follow the guides Jordan and I laid out in the Muscle Building Guide for Beginners.
- Cut your fitness reading down significantly – pick 5-10 sources of your favorite info and read a little from those daily (maybe an article or two per day). This will ensure fitness info doesn’t flood your brain 24/7.
- Focus on the journey, not the destination – try to have fun every day and don’t let one or two bad sessions determine how you feel about where you’re headed. Realize that you’ve set a goal for yourself and that you’ll reach this goal by taking small, daily steps to eat and train well.
- Cut out the thoughts that do not serve you – Something else Jahed introduced me to was self-talk that can instantly change your state. If you find yourself pondering a thought that is not serving you, stop and say to yourself “this thought does not serve me,” or “this thought is not productive.” And then forget about it.
- Develop a very real and rational paranoia that you will fail – Don’t dwell on the negative thoughts, but remember this: if you don’t take these steps daily, you will fail – don’t look back a year from now wishing you’d have taken my advice in this article.
Go forth. Eat, lift and be merry.