When In Doubt, Stick to the Basics

The health and fitness world has expanded greatly over the years. The amount of resources, methodologies, theories and hacks seem to be never ending. This is a great thing for those trying to better their health and become more efficient in doing so. There has never been a better time for someone to take control of their life with the wealth of information you can find just by scrolling through Instagram for 20 minutes. At the same time, the amount of information that is out there can make you feel helpless. Whether you are looking at good, solid research or some pool noodle looking trainer that thinks he knows it all because he has 5,000 followers.

If you want to lose weight, go on the carnivore diet and eat nothing but meat and fruit. Actually, the best way to lose weight is to go Keto. Just kidding, eat whatever you want as long as it “Fits Your Macros”, just make sure to put a broccoli stem in your coffee.

Want to put on muscle and look shredded? Make sure to do compound lifts every day. Wait, no, make sure you isolate one muscle group per day. Better yet, just take this new supplement that just came out with the really cool fancy label describing how jacked you will get if you take 6 a day.

The best methodology is CrossFit. Better yet, Orange Theory is the only way to burn fat. But if you want to look like a Greek God or Goddess, you should use nothing but Kettlebells because all other gym equipment is worthless.

Okay, you get the point. All of the above have a time in a place, well, except the broccoli stem in the coffee and the fancy new supplement that will probably give you a heart attack. The point is, while they may work great for one person, it might completely derail the motivation and confidence of the other.

Even as someone in the field who has consumed all things fitness, nutrition and wellness for 15 years, I sometimes feel like an imposter and get overwhelmed with all the information and resources out there.

If you ever feel like this, just take a step back and remind yourself to keep it simple. The best way to reach your goals is to simply find something that you enjoy and stick to it. Consistently putting in effort day in and day out is what gets the job done. And as you go, tweak some little things here and there. If for 1 year you worked out 5 days a week, read 10 pages a day, ate healthy food 85% of the time and did your best to get sufficient sleep everyday, you’re going to come out on the other side a whole hell of a lot closer to your goals. I don’t care if you do CrossFit or Peloton, just move and improve every day.

Some simple tried and true baselines that will help improve the life of every single general population person out there:

  1. Fitness/Movement – Try and do something everyday that gets your body moving and blood flowing. Even if it’s just going for a walk.
  2. Nutrition – Keep it real. You should know where your food comes from. If it’s in a box that has 67 ingredients in it, there is probably a much better option out there. Focus on eating whole foods without a bunch of additives and chemicals
  3. Sleep – We live in a society where sleep is always the thing that gets pushed aside. If most people got 1 more hour of sleep than they normally do everyday, they would probably function a whole hell of a lot better and feel much more energetic.
  4. Mindset – You are what you consume. If you hang out with friends that do nothing but spew negativity, you watch mainstream media all day telling you about all the problems in the world, you have negative self talk and you constantly compare yourself to people on social media, you will go to sleep every night with a negative mindset. All that negativity impacts your health in such a profound way.

I am very big on the 1% rule everyday. If everyday you got just a little bit better, your life will change for the better over time.

So if you get overwhelmed and confused, don’t get discouraged. Just take a step back and remind yourself that there is no perfect route besides consistent, intentional, hard work.

10 Lessons From “Chop Wood Carry Water”

Chop Wood Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf is a very fun, quick read that has many valuable life stories and lessons. Below are 10 things that I took away from the book, both quotes or excerpts from the book or in my own words.

  1. The little things in life matter – “Every little thing we do, no matter how mundane, matters greatly when it is multiplied by the number of times we do it.” Life is a game of inches, and when we break everything down in life to smaller tasks and focus on one thing at a time, this will compound over time into either something great, or something bad. Reading for 10 pages a day doesn’t sound like much, but multiplied by 365 days and you will have read 3,650 pages. “In the big picture, every single choice matters, no matter how small. Everything you choose to read, listen to, or look at. Everything you think about, dream about or focus on. And especially your circle – the people you surround yourself with and allow to influence you – can make all the difference in who you become. Inches might look small up close, but added up over the right amount of time, they can cover any distance in the universe.”
  2. “Uncomfortable isn’t a choice, but where you experience it is. Life will always be difficult somewhere. But we can choose to experience that difficulty now, or push it off until later. Everything costs something. Nothing is free. Hard isn’t a choice, but where you experience it is.” If you always focus on putting yourself in uncomfortable situations, you will always continue to grow and adapt and become better every day.
  3. “Under pressure you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training. That is why we train so hard.” Whatever you are trying to achieve in life, your preparation and work and training will dictate what outcome you receive.
  4. “You fuel your heart with six things: what you watch, what you read, what you listen to, who you surround yourself with, how you talk to yourself and what you visualize.” If you are constantly controlling all six of these inputs, you will become unstoppable and you will feel so much better about yourself and the world around you.
  5. “The grass isn’t greener on the other side. The grass is greener where you water it.” You must focus on your own journey and stop comparing it to others.
  6. “Hardship often prepares ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” Bad times in life suck, but if you focus on a productive mindset, those bad times can help shape the rest of your life. My dad passed away when I was barely 21 years old. By far the worst time in my life, but I channeled that energy into things I can control, into focusing on honoring him, but pouring my anger and sadness into my workouts, by trying to make him proud in everything I did. The worst time in my life turned into the best thing to happen to my personal development, my mindset and helped me transition from the mindset of a boy to a mindset of a man.
  7. “The wind can be both creative and destructive at the same time. It all depends on how you harness it.” “Words are a lot like that. Just like the wind, they are everywhere. We use them every day to talk to ourselves. And just like the wind, their power can either destroy, or create. You may not have control over how other people talk to you, but you do have control over how you talk to yourself. And that is hugely important, because words put pictures into your mind. Pictures in your mind impact how you feel. How you feel impacts what you do. What you habitually do impacts your destiny.”
  8. “Your failures, shortcomings, and challenges can either end up as your excuse or your story. I hope you choose courage, curiosity and persistence.” You can’t always control what happens to you in life, but you can choose how you react to anything in life. No matter what, you are always in control.
  9. Bad things will always happen in life that will really put a wrench in what you were looking to achieve. Take an injury for example. If you are training for a marathon and you have a knee injury that prevents you from running for 6 months, that can feel like the worst thing in the world. But you have to look at it as an opportunity. Now you have 6 months to study running techniques, to focus on your upper body strength (which will also help your running), to have more time to read on your knowledge of the sport and study the best to compete. If you pound away for 6 months, you will come out the other end a better runner when you are able to run again.
  10. “The point of life is not to arrive safely at death. Don’t believe that lie. On your deathbed, you will regret the mountains you chose not to climb. You won’t regret the bumps, bruises, broken bones and scars you got from the ones you did climb.

10 Quick Hacks for a Smoother Squat

The health and fitness world has expanded greatly over the years. The amount of resources, methodologies, theories and hacks seem
Chop Wood Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf is a very fun, quick read that has many valuable life stories and
#1 - Move your hands for a wider grip on the bar I have had plenty of people complain that
If you were to ask for one piece of advice when it comes to training, it would be to make

#1 – Move your hands for a wider grip on the bar

I have had plenty of people complain that their shoulders bug them during the squat due to where their hand position is.  If you have shoulder issues, the barbell squat probably aggravates that injury a little bit.  Spreading your hands farther apart helps relieve some of that tension in your shoulders and helps you focus on the muscles that you should be focusing on.

There are also different types of barbells, such as a safety bar, that will help put your shoulders in an even more comfortable position.

#2 – Spread your feet out into a wider squat stance

A lot of people start with their feet shorter than shoulder width apart and then they complain of being uncomfortable or not being able to go down all the way.  A wider squat stance feels more natural and comfortable.  A little wider than shoulder width apart is where I like to stand.  Have you ever watched a baseball player field a ground ball with a narrow stance or a lineman in football try and block the person in front of him with a narrow stance?  I know the majority of my audience is not athletes, but you will have more balance and feel more natural with a wider stance.

#3 – Start squatting onto a box

If you are just starting out with squatting, it probably feels very awkward with that barbell sitting on your back.  You probably feel like you are going to fall backward or just feel very shaky.  Start with barbell box squats if this is the case.  Place a box right behind the squat rack and squat down until your butt touches the box.  This way you will know how low to go down while ensuring you get the full range of motion.  It also serves as a safety cushion.  If you feel so shaky like you are going to fall backwards, now you will fall onto the box instead of falling onto the ground.

It’s important not to completely sit down and relax your muscles on this modification.  Think of there being a scale on the box and you want the scale to show 50% of your bodyweight.

#4 – Lower the barbell

So many times I have heard people complain about how the barbell hurts their neck.  Most line up with the bar so high on their neck that it sits on their spine.  Try lowering the bar and using your upper back as a pad instead

#5 – Perform goblet squats

If the box squats still aren’t quite doing it for you, try starting off with goblet squats first.  A goblet squat is when you will hold a dumbbell or a kettle bell right underneath your chin and perform a regular squat from there.  Having the load in this position helps even out your center of gravity and makes balancing a little easier.  You can even take this a step further and perform goblet box squats.  Goblet box squats is perfect for beginners looking to get into squatting.

#6 – Focus on the forces of your feet

A common problem is that people tend to have their knees bend in during the squat, usually on the concentric part of the squat (raising back up).  A way to counter this is to focus on pushing your feet outward into the ground to keep your knees straight, pretending that you are trying to screw your feet into the ground.  To do this, you will put a clockwise force in your right foot, while putting a counter-clockwise force into your left foot.

#7 – Warm up

Some of you might think this one is common sense, but there are a lot of people who just walk into the gym and go straight to the squat rack.  Warming up will help eliminate that pain and awkwardness that you might feel during a squat, not to mention it will help you lift more weight and stay pain free.  Seriously try it.  It’s pretty remarkable.  Get a sweat going and focus on activating all the muscles that you use in a squat.  See #8 for an additional piece for a warm up.

#8 – Perform self care

If you have pain in your knee, hip or back during a squat, you may just be really fricken tight.  Try busting out the foam roller or lacrosse ball and basically give yourself a massage in and around the areas that aggravate you.

#9 – Squeeze your armpits together

Once you get into position, if you squeeze your armpits together, flexing your lat muscles and bringing your shoulder blades together, you will be able to create a straight back when using this tip.

#10 – Build up your core

I am sure when you think of squatting, you think of a leg exercise.  This is obviously true.  However, barbell squats are also a great activator for your core.  If you feel unbalanced or weak during a squat, start hitting your core workouts a little harder and perform exercises such as the pallof press and planks to help build your core strength.

Progressive Overload Your Way to Your Goals

If you were to ask for one piece of advice when it comes to training, it would be to make sure you are using the principle of Progressive Overload. What this means is that over time, you are overloading the demand in which your muscles are asked of. We are playing the long game with training. It’s all about getting 1% better everyday and allowing yourself to slowly grow over time. The beauty of training with this mindset is that it is sustainable, you WILL get better, stronger, faster and you will decrease your risk of injury.

Progressive Overload is measured in the following ways

1. Actual weight lifted in each set

This is just simply increasing the total weight that you lifted for a session. Let’s say you are doing Goblet Squats in your lower body workout and below are your numbers in week 1:

  • Set 1 – 10×40
  • Set 2 – 10×40
  • Set 3 – 10×40

We can see that for all 3 sets, we did 10 reps with a 40lb dumbbell. Now in week 2, we hit the below numbers:

  • Set 1 – 10×40
  • Set 2 – 10×40
  • Set 3 – 10×45

In week 2, we used the same set and rep scheme, except now we increased the weight for the 3rd set. When you do the math, you will have lifted a total volume of 1,200lbs in week 1 and a total volume of 1,250lbs in week 2. That might not look like much, but over time if you focus on getting your total volume up just a little bit every week, you will become much stronger over time.

2. Total amount of sets completed

Taking the same approach as point number 1, below are the numbers for week 1:

  • Set 1 – 10×40
  • Set 2 – 10×40
  • Set 3 – 10×40

And below are the numbers for week 2:

  • Set 1 – 10×40
  • Set 2 – 10×40
  • Set 3 – 10×40
  • Set 4 – 10×40

In this example, the rep scheme is the same and we lifted the same weight, except now we added a 4th set. This brings the total weight lifted to 1,600lbs in week 2 compared to 1,200lbs in week 1. You still didn’t have to worry about challenging yourself to lift a heavier dumbbell and you managed to increase your volume by 400lbs.

3. Total amount of reps done

And once again sticking to the same concept, your week 1 numbers are the same:

  • Set 1 – 10×40
  • Set 2 – 10×40
  • Set 3 – 10×40

And now for week 2 we will add 1 more rep to the third set:

  • Set 1 – 10×40
  • Set 2 – 10×40
  • Set 3 – 11×40

Doing this brings the total week 2 volume to 1,240lbs compared to 1,200lbs in week 1. A much more conservative increase, but that’s still a win. Again, we are playing the long game here.

4. Amount of time under tension

This is known as either tempo work or specifically training the eccentric part of a movement. Tempo work is the speed in which you perform an exercise and the eccentric part of a movement is the lengthening of those muscle fibers.

Perform a goblet squat where you drop down into the bottom of a squat in 1 second, spend no time hanging out in that bottom position and shoot back up to standing in 1 second.

Now, do a goblet squat where you take a full 4 seconds to lower yourself down into the bottom of a squat, hold that position for 3 seconds and then slowly rise back up to standing for 4 seconds. Much harder right?

Instead of just using gravity and momentum to help move that weight, you are now increasing the demand on your muscles during each rep which will make you stronger over time. Using this theory is also great for strengthening your tendons and ligaments and will help bulletproof your body.

5. The amount of work done in a certain amount of time

A great way to measure this is to perform an AMRAP workout. AMRAP stands for As Many Rounds (or Reps) As Possible. To show how this relates to Progressive Overload, let’s use the following workout:

  • 10 Minute AMRAP
  • 5x Push-Ups
  • 10x Air Squats
  • 15x TRX Rows

Let’s say that in week 1 you got through 3 full rounds plus 5x Push-Ups and 3x Air Squats. That would mean the total amount of repetitions you got through was 98 reps.

In week 2 you hit this workout again and this time you got through 4 full rounds and 2x Push-Ups. Doing so would bring your total repetitions to 122 reps. You now increased your total work capacity by 24 reps.

6. Lowering the rest periods between sets

  • 10 Rounds
  • 400M Run
  • 60 seconds rest

This is your running interval workout for week 1. Heading into week 2, you will perform the same amount of sets and you will run the same distance every set, except now you will lower your rest periods to 50 seconds between each round. This will most definitely change the demand on your cardiovascular system and will help increase your endurance.


There are other ways use the Progressive Overload Principle, such as running a mile 1 second faster than your previous mile or rowing 1,000 more meters between week 1 and week 2. The important thing is to make sure that you are focusing on just getting 1% better every week in any one of these aspects. I recommend keeping a training log and recording your workouts, weights, times, distances, etc. Otherwise you will find yourself repeating the same things every week and wondering why you’re not making progress.