“The abdomen is the reason why Man does not easily take himself for a God.”
Even Fredrich Nietzsche craved ripped abs. The quote above was taken from Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. It is the 141st epigram in part IV of his philosophic treatise of factoids first published in 1896. It reveals a body-consciousness on the part of the 19th century’s most widely read philosopher that has, heretofore, been overlooked.
Nietzsche often thought in short, free-standing bursts – that led to nothing further, yet he deemed them too insightful to throw away. The epigram section in Beyond Good and Evil are reflections on subjects that caught his attention to the point that he wrote down his thoughts and observations in his journal.
There are a lot of important transformational tips, techniques and tactics that can be compressed into epigram soundbites. Norman Mailer called these shrunken topics, “chocolate-covered factoids.” Here are a few chocolate-covered factoids, of thought on a wide range of topics: strength, fitness, nutrition, psychological aspects, ideas related to the transformative process.
- Every foodstuff other than protein, fat or fibrous carbohydrate is undigested sugar: bodybuilders, the world’s greatest dieters, will center their regular food eating around lean protein and fiber carbs. Fat and natural starch carbs are manipulated (in conjunction with intense and frequent exercise) to force the body to burn body fat.
- Learn to love dumbbells: the elite transformational athlete periodically burns out on the classical exercises. One surefire remedy is switching to dumbbells. This is a proven stagnation buster. If a man hits the wall barbell benching, a 4 to 6-week dose of dumbbell-only flat benching is a proven way to overcome inertia. Dumbbells force each arm to carry its fair share; dumbbells cause maximum activation of muscle stabilizers; dumbbells are narrow grip, ergo, maximally beneficial for building bench press finish power. Dumbbells can be used on all upper body movements: flat and incline pressing, seated and standing overhead presses, rows, curls, triceps exercises standing, seated or lying. Dumbbells allow for left-right alternating reps. Learn to love dumbbells.
- Make room for overhead pressing: too many progressive resistance trainees don’t do any overhead pressing. If they do it will be on a press machine. Overhead or incline pressing on a machine is the lite beer of progressive resistance training. Standing or seated overhead barbell or dumbbell pressing is scotch whiskey. Guys like Kaz, Pat Casey and Terry Todd could do seated barbell front presses with 400-470 pounds. The press-behind-the-neck is another proven shoulder builder. Ed Coan could do 400 lbs. in the power bar press behind the neck. Dumbbell pressing, seated and standing, are also highly recommended.
- Strength training AND cardio – not one, not the other, both! two distinctly different exercise formats need be included in every serious transformative training regimen: strength training and cardio. One taxes the external musculature while the other taxes the internal organs. These two intense exercise types are underpinned and supported with nutrient-dense eating. Beware of those that tell you they have a system that allows the athlete to train strength and endurance simultaneously. These “hybrid” systems are invariably ineffectual. Make room in your life for two distinctly different types of exercise.
- Prison training can teach us a lot: one incredibly successful control group is the American prison population. When it comes to building muscle, power and strength, inmates are leading the way, obtaining incredible results, far superior, demonstrably superior, to the vast majority of high-paid, elite personal trainers. The prisoner is confined to raw tools, barbells, dumbbells, a weight bench, maybe a squat rack, pull-up bar, dip bars and for cardio, your feet, running the yard. This forced minimalism turns out to be an advantage. Secondly, prisoners are consistent: they never miss workouts. They train often and in short bursts. They have the worst nutrition in the world, yet they create monster physiques eating bologna sandwiches and ramen noodles. The astute modern trainee should take a lesson from these master trainers, men that transform themselves training outside in February in Ohio, lifting hard and heavy every day, using nothing but Old School exercises in short intense sessions. Psychologically the inmate gives 110% in every session because they train in front of men whose opinions they value.
- Don’t waste a lot of time on dinky exercises: to many trainees fall in love with certain exercises and 90% of the time they fall in love with the wrong exercises. No one ever built a monster body doing lateral raises, lying leg curls, triceps kickbacks, cable crossovers, leg extensions, pec-dec or the curl machines. Men have gotten massively muscular (and continue to do so: see aphorism #5) performing squats, bench presses, deadlifts, overhead presses, rows, dips and power cleans. Yet, head to the local YMCA or Health Club on a packed Saturday morning and what exercises are the mob performing? All the useless movements, with the most favored being the comfortable exercise machines the members can sit or lie down on while “strength training.”
- Don’t be talked out of real results: anyone that listens to an expert, hires a personal trainer, purchases a fitness book touting a system, has a right to expect the promised results. Every fitness system or expert has front end promises, “use my system and see sensational results.” It is reasonable to expect that if you adhere to the expert’s protocols with due diligence for the proscribed period, the results promised will be delivered. 95% of all fitness-related systems (including diet) over-promise and under-deliver. Hold experts accountable for their promises. How do you determine if a system or expert is legitimate ahead of time? Check the expert’s credentials. Does the expert have any academic credentials? Does the expert have any athletic credentials? Has the expert created any champions? Does the expert have a long list of transformed clients?
- Learn how to cook: an athlete cannot depend on mom, the girlfriend or restaurants to provide the continual stream of power food needed to fuel the human body. Learn how to grill or pan saute a steak, roast or pan-fry chicken, make vegetables that taste good and create nutrient-dense power foods, all in your own kitchen. Seize control of your own culinary destiny. You have the ability to YouTube up simplistic cooking techniques on everything from how to make a perfect 3-egg omelet to how to roast a duck. Never before have these visual tools and aides been so available, so avail yourself.
- Use music to get centered and psyched: before and during a workout, many top athletes use music as a way to shut out the outside world and get focused and psyched. Leading up to a workout, most elite athletes will select a milder brand of music; putting on the headphones before the workout is actually the start of the workout: the music goes on during the ride to the gym or training facility; when the music goes on, extraneous thoughts and regular life problems are suppressed: all thought is now focused on the particulars of the about to happen workout. During the workout, the elite will shift to the most evocative and frenzied music as an aide to attaining the berserker mindset, a prerequisite for optimal performance. Use music to recalibrate the Mind and in doing so improve the quality of the workout.
- Train hard enough to trigger the adaptive response: the reason the vast majority of the general populace never obtain results from the training efforts is the exert insufficient intensity. Regardless if the training is progressive resistance or cardiovascular, the degree of pure physical effort needed to cross the intensity threshold and trigger the adaptive response. Hypertrophy, muscle growth, is a dramatic event. On the cellular level, a hardcore progressive resistance training session traumatizes muscles and in that trauma lies the gains. Hypertrophy is always accompanied by a floodtide of beneficial hormones: adrenaline, growth hormone, endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin…those that exert in the 60-85% range will never train with the 102% effort and sheer intensity needed to grow muscle or melt off body fat.
We could go on and on; eternal epigrams and chocolate-covered factoids. These nuggets are excellent appetizers to the full-blown articles, the meat and potatoes main course. The best factoids inspire the writer to expound and expand.
*Top photo credit - Powerlifter Bill Kazmaier
About the Author
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of numerous books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher biography here.