Failure Is An Option

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Who in your life is perfect? Think about it. Who? The obvious answer should, without a considerable amount of doubt be, “no one”. Yes, I understand that your mother is a wonderful woman, but despite how much you may believe, no, not even her. So if no one is flawless, why are so many people afraid to fail? Perfection is literally impossible, yet perfection is what most people expect. The irony. We are taught that failures translate into someone being unable to do something, that you are not good enough to succeed. Simplistically speaking, that is correct, but does that make it right? 

Remember that “F” you got in science class, back when you used to attend a science class? Why do you think it hurt so much to get? It was because that grade in essence meant you couldn’t keep up, and no sane person rightfully wants to be left behind. However, it is possible to change the perception of failure. William E. Hickson made famous the quote, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again”. Failure should be treated as a learning experience instead of just a bench mark. View it as a bench mark and you limit yourself. View it as a learning experience and you’ll see yourself grow. That “F” you got in science goes from “this is all I can give” to “just wait till they see me next test”. Failure is important to success in the same way a forest fire, can be vital to the productivity of an ecosystem. Sometimes you need to get burned before you start to thrive.

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I don’t like to lose at anything. Yet I’ve grown most not from victories, but setbacks. If winning is God’s reward, then losing is how he teaches us.

-Serena Williams

You can’t be afraid to fail. It’s the only way you succeed. You’re not going to succeed all the time and I know that.

-Lebron James

If you strive for anything greater than mediocre you cannot be afraid to fail. Period. This goes for anything that you choose to dedicate your life to, not just winning Wimbledon or multiple NBA championships. Plan on pursuing this course, and know it is going to take work. A lot of it. Don’t worry though, in order to minimize the burden, I created a list to help you to better deal with your short comings. 

  1. Analyze what you did wrong
  2. Don’t do it again

Simple, yes? Yet, sometimes we don’t realize how difficult that is to follow. The key is to be honest with yourself, and understanding that anything you hold back is really just hurting you in the long run. Also practice asking yourself why. 

Didn’t get in the gym last week? Why?

Didn’t finish that book you wanted to? Why?      

Asking why is the prelude to any solution. Why, leads to how, how leads to solutions and solutions leads to progress. 

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The successful habitually hone in on their mistakes and that truthful self reflection is what keeps them constantly improving. That is why this week’s challenge is to treat all your failures as successes. Take note of all your failures, from the largest to the smallest, (footnote: largest being that you misplaced the nuclear codes, the weakest being that you had  to swipe your Metrocard more than once at the turnstile during rush hour) and figure out where you made your mistake and how you could fix it in the future. For us failure is always an option only because we know greatness consistently stems from adversity. 

Quitters Anonymous

How easy is it to give up? To be completely blunt, it’s arguably easier than breathing. Quitting just comes natural to most people, including myself. A part of me doesn’t even want to finish this post, but I am trying hard not to become a mockery of myself. This is as much of a pep talk for me as it is for you, because sticking with things sometimes feels nearly impossible. That is the reason for this week’s Monday Motivation, in which, we will focus on persistence and why giving up should rarely be an option. 

I am a quitter. I know it’s hard to see or maybe I’m more transparent than I realize, either way I know I have a problem with giving up. Here’s a list of transgressions that quickly come to mind:

Piano. Quit.

Skateboarding. Disowned.

Finance Degree. Abandoned.

Relationships. Forfeited. 

Rap. Relinquished. (But rightfully so. I had no bars. Straight trash, homie.)

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Think about it. If I didn’t quit, I would currently be a married skateboarding financial pianist who still occasionally tries to rap when no one’s around. Now if that don’t sound amazing then I don’t know what is. That is why I place so much emphasis on persistence. Who knows what you could become if you just stick with it. 

An area that I find a lot of people lose persistence in is fitness. Prime example: visit a gym in January and compare that to the same gym in March or April. A lot of “New Year’s Resolution” people are missing in action. 

Why? 

Because working out is freaking hard! Ain’t nothing sweet about beating up your body on a regular basis. Look at the guy on the cover of Men’s Health with the six pack abs you want, or that girl on Instagram selling Flat Tummy Tea with the butt you wish you had. The difference between them and most is persistence. 

Going to the gym and not giving up when things aren’t necessarily going the way you want. If today is your gym day, make sure you go. Tired? Go. Sore? Go. Don’t feel like it? Go. Trust me, it will benefit you in the long run. 

This rule also applies to my art types as well. You guys aren't off the hook. Can anyone explain to me how you can perfect your craft without persistence? 

Speaking from experience, writing can get quite dull when you lack that spark of an idea. I can rightfully assume the same when it comes to drawing, designing, composing, etc. Do you just give up when that happens or do you actively search for inspiration? Not one person is an artistic genius all the time, so it is vital to endure and weather the storm.

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” - Calvin Coolidge

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This week's goal is for you to not give up, at least for this week. What ever task is frustrating you, continue it whole heartedly. Whether it’s completing a chapter in that book you don’t really like but you’re already half way through so you know you have to finish it— or just getting to ten reps on a set when you normally do eight. Keep going, keep pushing, and the results will speak for themselves.

 

 

4 Workouts To Get You A Chest Like Arnold

Lo and behold, it’s Monday. Or at least it was Monday when this was posted. Now, for the majority of people, Mondays are the most loathed day of the week. No one likes Mondays, for reasons so obvious I shouldn’t have to explain. But, us gym goers, whether you are new to the weights or have been lifting things up and putting them down for years, know Mondays are special. Why? Because it’s International Chest Day. A man’s favorite day. For those who aren't in the gym on a regular basis [1] compare it to watching your favorite show every week. It would be hard for anyone to imagine that for your favorite show you wouldn't be impatiently waiting for a new episode every week. The same thing applies to chest day, and today I give you something special. 

A bodybuilding legend that goes by the name of Arnold “The Austrian Oak” Schwarzenegger had a chest that everyone aspired to get [2]. Let’s forget about the politics, scandals, good movies, bad movies and whatever else thing he’s’ into now. At a certain point in human history, Mr. Schwarzenegger was the premier bodybuilder of the world. As a matter of fact, he was so good at bodybuilding no one realized that he never spoke English in any of his movies [3]. The point being is, wouldn’t you want to imitate someone like that? Even if you are only able to do but a fraction of his workout, don’t you think that would benefit you?

Today we go over Arnold’s chest day workout plan, and try to imitate it as best we can. Will you get an exact 1975 Mr. Olympia replica of his chest? Absolutely not. Can you get close, though? Well that’s for you to find out, isn’t it? 

Before we get started on the actual workout, what are some of the keys to a bigger, fuller chest? Well, Arnold believed that one of these aspects was a having a full range of motion, which is somewhat self-explanatory. It just means that you complete the motion in its entirety. For example, when you squat, do you drop until your knees are locked at a 90 degree angle, or do you go until your backside is almost kissing the ground? Well, I hope for your sake it’s the latter. A full range of motion leads to bigger gains and more of a pump because the muscles are working to their full capacity. So, for chest muscles, the last thing you want is to have your elbows stop at 90 degrees and call that a rep. What would you rather have, $50 or $100? If there is any sort of logic going on behind those eyes, your answer should be $100. So stop half-reppin’ your sets and strive for maximum growth. Bar to chest, no excuses!

 Barbell Incline Bench Press

Barbell Incline Bench Press

The second tip is, don’t forget your inclines. Arnold was known for a full chest. A full chest is only reached when you work the whole chest. Time and time again weight lifters forget about their upper pectorals. The reasons vary. Some think just working the flat bench will get the same results, others don’t like the fact that they can’t lift as much on the incline. For me, it was just an awkward motion to complete. Arnold enjoyed incline presses because they made his chest bigger and stronger which, and you may find this hard to believe, is how you win multiple Mr. Olympia championships. All we need is a tiny piece of that and I guarantee you’ll feel different walking around with your shirt off. So do your inclines, no matter how much you don’t want to do it or no matter how difficult they may be. Summer’s approaching and you don’t want to be that guy at the pool party with his t-shirt still on. 

Arnold’s final tip could be considered very minor. A workout that is usually completely looked over. You could definitely count it as one of those “waiting-for-this-guy-to-finish-his-sets-so-I’ll just-do-this-in-the-meantime” workouts. Now coming to the stage, “The Dip”. Who really does dips? Seriously, dips are for when you have nothing else to do. For when you could leave the gym 15 minutes early, but that’s 15 minutes more of your significant other yelling at you for not taking out the garbage last night, so you do dips instead. Well, our boy Arnold did not feel the same. Dips help to target that lower chest meat that is sometimes missed. Trust me, start really including dips in your routine and you’ll start to see more shape in your bodies upper region.  

 Flat-Bench Dumbbell Fly

Flat-Bench Dumbbell Fly

“The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That's what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they'll go through the pain no matter what happens.”

-Arnold Schwarzenegger 

Now for the workout you have all been waiting for. Presenting in its entirety “Chest Like Arnold: A Pectoral Love Story”

Note there are pyramid sets (which means as your reps decrease the amount of weight you lift increases) and straight sets (which means you maintain the same weight throughout the duration of the sets). Pick your weights wisely. It is more important to complete your reps than increase your weight.  

  1. Barbell Bench Press (5 pyramid sets of 12, 10, 8, 6, 4 reps)
  2. Barbell Incline Bench Press (5 straight sets of 12 reps)
  3. Flat-Bench Dumbbell Fly (5 pyramid sets of 12, 10, 8, 6, 4 reps)
  4. Dips (4 pyramid sets of 12, 10, 8, 8 reps or 4 straight sets of 15 reps your choice)

Bonus: When all of that is done. Push-ups until failure, because why not?

There is a reason why when you think of bodybuilding Arnold Schwarzenegger is the first name that comes to mind, and in most instances the only name. The man preached dedication and I am choosing to follow suit. I want you to not just try the workout, but do this workout.  I guarantee, if you commit to this you will see results. And at the end of the day isn’t that what you want? Besides, a chiseled chest isn’t going to grow itself. So get motivated, get dedicated, and get a chest like Arnold…..or at least something like it.

Footnote

[1] Come on get it together, I know you want to look and feel good. Just takes a little effort.

[2] Arguably even at 69 years old, he still may have that chest.

[3] Just jokes people.

5 Stretches You Should Be Doing

THE ASSASSINATION OF JOHN F. KENNEDY WAS AN INSIDE JOB!

What exactly does that have to do with anything? Absolutely nothing. I don’t even know if that statement is true. Regardless, now that I have your attention, there is something we must discuss that is of the utmost importance. Stretching. Trust me, I know it’s a boring topic. People don’t like to do it, let alone read about it. That’s why I did the whole JFK thing to begin with, but if you just stick with me for only a couple of minutes, I promise you will be rewarded with something special by the end of this post. 

Honestly, can you confidently say that you are consistent when it comes to stretching? If I had to assume, probably not. Not to fret, you are far from being the only one. I can’t tell you how many times I have been to the gym with someone, started my routine, only to hear “I don’t really stretch”. The proverbial record scratch is heard and a quick “huh?” comes out of my mouth. 

“So, you telling me that you just walk into the gym and start lifting?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, that’s not good.”

Most people are either oblivious or willfully ignorant to the benefits of stretching. They put it on the bottom of their fitness list right above cardio[1]. A common misconception is that physical health is defined only by how much you can lift, but most don’t realize that flexibility is a key part of it as well. Not having a limber body will limit you, and also makes you more injury-prone. How much more is yet to be seen, but why take a chance on being another injury statistic. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way talking down from my high horse, because my flexibility could use a serious boost. I plan on guest performing for Cirque du Soleil one of these days, and I have to get my act together if they are going to take me seriously. Before we go into what stretches you should do, lets discuss why you should do them. I always find that understanding the why, makes things you don’t want to do bearable at the very least. 

If you have ever injured yourself, you know it sucks. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled a hamstring or a back muscle[2] and each time I get home, look myself in the mirror and ask myself a very simple question. What happened? Not surprisingly, most times it was because I started playing a sport and went from zero to a hundred without even considering a warm up or some sort of stretching regiment. Stretching keeps the muscles flexible which leads to better muscle health. Think about it, your muscular system is a series of complicated rubber bands. Rubber bands are only effective if they are able to expand and contract. Have you ever found a really old rubber band? Maybe you dropped one behind your couch a couple years ago and are now just finding it. Well, try stretching that one out and watch it snap in two instantly. Why? Because it hasn’t been in use and as a result it just ended up withering away. The same is of your muscles. Refuse to keep them loose and they will tighten up. Next thing you know you’re pulling a hammy doing the most regular of activities. That is not a good look, especially when you could literally take just 30 minutes out of your day to stretch, thereby avoiding all that unnecessary pain and suffering. 

By now, you’re probably wondering what stretches you should do since it’s “so important”[3]. The easy answer is go sign up for yoga classes or pilates, but for us regular folk who prefer not to add another expense to an already expensive gym membership, here are some of my favorite stretches to get you started.

Reminder, before you do any of these stretches make sure to take at least ten minutes to properly warm up your body. If you are going to stretch cold, you might as well avoid the embarrassment, go to the benchpress (squat rack for the ladies), do your max and hurt yourself there. Instead of, you know, telling people you hurt yourself “stretching”. Anyways here are my top five stretches to increase your overall range of motion. Mind you, I don’t know the official scientific terms for these stretches and I don’t plan on looking them up anytime soon. So just bare with the random, yet considerably accurate, names I have given these motions.

 “Lord Forgive Me”  This stretch opens up the shoulders and upper back. Sink your torso down as far as possible to really feel the pull. Three sets, 30 seconds each. 

“Lord Forgive Me”

This stretch opens up the shoulders and upper back. Sink your torso down as far as possible to really feel the pull. Three sets, 30 seconds each. 

 “Pop a squat”  You want to get into the squat to open up the groin. Make sure to keep your back straight. Avoid rounding it. Also use your elbows to help spread your legs apart. Three sets, 30 seconds each.

“Pop a squat”

You want to get into the squat to open up the groin. Make sure to keep your back straight. Avoid rounding it. Also use your elbows to help spread your legs apart. Three sets, 30 seconds each.

 “This Leg Thing”  Keep the back straight and lean forward to feel a pull in your hamstrings and calf muscles. Back needs to be straight to feel this stretch. Keep your core tight to maintain balance. Three sets, 30 seconds each. Remember to alternate legs.

“This Leg Thing”

Keep the back straight and lean forward to feel a pull in your hamstrings and calf muscles. Back needs to be straight to feel this stretch. Keep your core tight to maintain balance. Three sets, 30 seconds each. Remember to alternate legs.

 “Superman”  This is for your lower back. A common injury is the lower back, so you always want to make sure you keep that flexible. Three sets, hold each set until failure.  

“Superman”

This is for your lower back. A common injury is the lower back, so you always want to make sure you keep that flexible. Three sets, hold each set until failure.  

 “Spiderman”  Another stretch that opens up the groin but it also stretches out the thigh. Remember to lift that back knee up and sink those hips down. Three sets, 30 seconds each. Don’t forget to alternate legs.

“Spiderman”

Another stretch that opens up the groin but it also stretches out the thigh. Remember to lift that back knee up and sink those hips down. Three sets, 30 seconds each. Don’t forget to alternate legs.

These stretches are very simple and easy to do. The journey to flexibility is not as impossible as you may think. Just do these stretches before every work out session[4]. You can even mix in some of your own favorites, next thing you know, you would be qualifying for the neighborhood amateur gymnastics team…..if that’s even a thing.

So you made it to the end, and I’m a man of my word. I now present to you your reward. 

It's a baby pig eating a tiny ice cream cone. You can't tell me that isn't one of the cutest things you have ever seen in your life. Just melts your heart, I know. What? You thought you were getting money? May I remind you, I write. On the internet. I barely know what money looks like. 

Footnote

[1] We’ll get to cardio another day.

[2] Surprisingly as active as I am, I have never broken a bone, and I don’t plan on doing it anytime soon. Don’t you put that evil on me!

[3] I can just hear the sarcasm in your voice and I will let you know that it is not appreciated.

[4] Interested in a little extra credit? You can do these after your work out as well. 

5 Reasons Why You're Avoiding Leg Day

An absolute travesty is occurring in gyms across America, and it is not serving pizza to participating members; no disrespect to Planet Fitness[1]. The “Upside Down Triangles” of society, better known by their various aliases which include “Chicken Legs”, “Jail Body”[2], “Johnny Bravo”, “The Flamingo”, and my personal favorite “Tip Drill”[2] are ravaging the land with an atrocious physique. These men, and this is exclusive to men unless someone can feature a woman with the same issue, have the bad habit of never scheduling a leg day. With all the information available to us, top heavy Nephilim should not exist in 2017. So why does the trend continue? Why do consistent gym goers inconsistently focus the necessary, and what steps can be taken to alter the fitness course?

To start let’s get the cynicism out of the way. I, for one, am tired of watching these guys strut around the weight room like they are God’s gift to mankind just because they can curl my body weight. The unmitigated gall to have that much confidence knowing that we can see you stanky legg[3] to the water foundation because your chest is too big for your body. It is hard to be impressed by your five plate max when I just saw you twerk your way to the bench press. Now that I’ve got that out of my system and have put my pettiness aside, the real goal here is to educate and assist. We could spend all day deliberating how being 6’1 250lbs with a 28 inch waist looks utterly ridiculous, but at this point in the article that’s just repeating the obvious. Without further ado let’s discuss leg day, a staple of proper fitness. Please note this is not only for the scrawny legged, there are great tips in here for everyone trying to gain a little more size in that ever tricky lower region. 

Why is leg day such an afterthought to so many people? Originally, there was going to be some massively long paragraph explaining the reasons people skip leg day, but then I remembered I graduated college already.  No more word counts and no more page limits which, fortunately for you, means there’s now a list. Besides, if you made it this far in the post you deserve some sort of reward.  So, now presented is the top five reasons why guys avoid leg day: 

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  1. It Is Not Easy
    • Squats, lunges, box jumps, leg presses, etc. are some of the hardest workouts on the planet. Think about it, when you do leg work outs it’s your body weight plus whatever amount it is that you are lifting. Why risk passing out under the tremendous pressure of a barbell, when you could get this nice bicep pump with a third of the effort? I feel you, I was there. 
  2. Results Are Not Quick
    • Relative to the conversation, leg muscles are the largest and strongest body group that you have[4]. They are designed to hold you up, so they are always working. Every time you walk, run, hop, skip or anything else that involves movement is a work out. In order to gain size when lifting you have to break down the muscle so that it recovers stronger. Imagine the difficulty of breaking down something that is already strong. What do you think will take longer, knocking down a door or going to Fort Knox and knocking down the vault? Logic says the vault will take a considerable amount of effort and the same concept applies to your legs.
  3. No One Can See Your Legs
    • Speaking from the perspective of living on the east coast where it is frigid for nine and a half months of the year, it is imperative that pants are worn just about all of the time. Why spend all this effort on legs when no one is going to see them? Bet money you don’t even own a full body mirror. In reality, you barely see your own legs, let alone someone else.
  4. The Myth On What Girls Like
    • Let’s be real, unless your occupation involves physical fitness it is going to be hard to convince anyone that you lift because you enjoy “being healthy”[5]. Calling you out on your ulterior motives, it’s perfectly natural to do things to attract the opposite sex. Skull crushers and incline presses will somewhat get the job done, but remember, women like butts and thighs just as much as we like butts and thighs; and trust me they’d rather not deal with your flat back[6].       
  5. Skinny Jeans
    • Now this may be a reach, but just hear me out. It is hard to deny that skinny jeans and slim straight jeans are not the fashion trend these days. I wear them all the time. Why you may ask? Because I’m fashionably conscious that’s why! There is however, a slight problem when you are constantly increasing your squat weight. Those jeans get a little tighter than they should be. Jumping up and down repeatedly to get them on, losing circulation and suffering public wardrobe malfunctions are just some of the issues. Speaking from experience, I can’t tell you how many pants I have ripped over time. The whole thing is just embarrassing. Shame always discourages and there is a ton of shame associated with ripping your pants in a public setting. But there is an answer, two words…….designer sweatpants.

By now, you are wondering what the solution to all of this is. Believe me, it is very simple. When it comes to leg work outs, just get it done! Upside down triangles just don’t appear overnight. It still takes considerable time and effort to become top heavy, so just figure out how to distribute that time and effort a little differently. That second chest day is unnecessary; spend it working on your legs. That unexpected extra day you were able to make it to the gym; spend it working on your legs. Pretty soon that effort will translate into results, and next thing you know you’re adding shorts to your attire. Find yourself a leg routine that works for you, maintain it, and understand that it is not going to be a quick fix. Regardless of how long it takes, never get discouraged. One day you’ll look down at tree trunks you’ll call for legs and realize that it wasn’t as hard as you thought.        
 

Footnote

[1] Actually, on second thought, Planet Fitness are you kidding me? Pizza? Really? The assumed understanding is that you are targeting the below average gym goer but that is not the way to go; there is no need to stoop into the absurd. Think about how remarkably insane that is.

[2] https://youtu.be/ZqEsUqI4YD8?t=168

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewufRwrayTI 

[4] The body has stronger muscles as far as pound for pound goes, like the heart and your jaw.

[5] There are other ways to be healthy without hitting the weights, like being vegan.

[6] Having a skinny, bony, or non-protruding buttocks.