Section 3: Fitness

Best Ways To Stay Weak

Like many working people with families who frequent the gym, I have limited time for it. So I make damned sure that my top priority is to use the time I have there as efficiently as possible. I spend no more that one hour at the gym on any given day (on weekdays, that’s even pushing it a little). With less than an hour a day, six days per week, getting into amazing shape is easy. Here are the things I never do because they help weakness grow.

1. Engage in structured cardio
As a former cardio addict, this idea and especially the practice was tough to get used to. But once I did it, everything began to make sense and my body composition started to change like magic. After years and years of exercise and doing the wrong things, I now know what’s right. I believe that structured cardio is not only unnecessary, but also counterproductive for losing fat. It made me hungry and it also made me weak. It did absolutely nothing for my strength and size and zilch for functional ability. Replacing structured cardio with heavy weight lifting was one of the most productive things I’ve ever done in my life. I very strongly believe that cutting calories from the diet is far more effective than cardio for dropping fat. Don’t get me wrong–I’m still a proponent of activity, and I always make sure to get 10,000 steps per day (according to the FitBit in my pocket). That’s around 500 calories worth of stepping spread over the day during the process of living and working. I almost always go out for a walk mid-day. I take the stairs up eight flights to my office, I bike to and from work. That’s plenty. The body can only divert so much energy to repairing itself; I’d rather that energy go into lifting and fixing the damage I do to my muscles during my lifting sessions (getting stronger and bigger) than be wasted just for the sake of it. Here’s an analogy: an hour on the elliptical is like dumping a gallon of kerosene onto the street and igniting it, while an hour of heavy lifting is like using that same gallon of kerosene to heat water that spins a steam turbine that powers a machine that builds muscles (I think the analogy fell apart at the end there). This is no knock on people training for sports and marathons and the like–it’s a statement that [in my opinion] for the average person like me, doing cardio to get a cut/ toned/ strong body is fantastically unproductive and a waste of precious time.
2. Engage in bullshit lifts
Compound lifts are where it’s at. All forms of barbell squatting (back, front, Bulgarian split, hack), all forms of deadlifts (American, Romanian, stiff-legged), good mornings, barbell (and a little dumbbell) pressing (i.e. flat & incline bench, overhead), and big pulls (Pendlay rows, t-Bar rows, dumbbell rows, weighted pullups, cable rows [alternatively, deadlifts can fit in here as well]). That’s it. They get more of the muscles and joints working in the way they’re supposed to move and contract in relation to one another than any other crap lifts. Isolation lifts are for champion bodybuilders who are already extremely low on body fat (like 4%) and are looking to extract supernatural definition from very specific muscles. My only exception to the rule is six to ten WEEKLY sets of assistance work for the triceps and six to eight WEEKLY sets of assistance biceps work. Zero direct abdominal work because none of the muscles that are part of the abdominal/ core complex are meant to contract eccentrically as their primary function, which is what happens during a crunch or sit-up or whatever other useless “exercise” is touted as being a great ab stimulator. If you don’t believe me, look at my abs on the home page. I haven’t performed a single direct repetition for my abs in years, yet I still have a strong, defined core. It’s simply a combination of low body fat % and performing the big lifts. They all require very powerful isometric core contraction, which is exactly how our abdominal muscles are built to work.
3. Lose focus
I do my best before each set to focus on making it an all-out animalistic effort with the knowledge that the second it’s over I can completely relax for a couple of minutes. That’s the reward. I think about it this way: an hour-long lifting session probably boils down to around 20 or 25 minutes of very intense effort and that I won’t have to generate even 10% of that effort for any of the remaining 1,415 minutes [of the day] outside of those 25 minutes.
4. Rush lifts
I mentioned earlier that my lifting sessions last an hour. Sometimes a lift might be so taxing that I need extra time to recover between sets. That’s fine. That’s good. It means the set was tough and my body will respond by adapting to it providing I give it the rest it’s asking for. Inevitably, as a result, there are some sessions during which I realize I’m running out of time to complete all sets of all lifts that I set out to take on. The constant is that I must be out of the gym on time. The variable is how I choose to use my remaining time. I could do one of two things: 1) rush to complete the remaining sets, or 2) continue to take my time, but not complete the remaining sets. I choose #2 every time. Rushing and lifting stand in diametric opposition to one another. I’d rather eat a pint of ice cream before rushing a lift. Ice cream feels better going down. If I have six minutes left in the gym and I still have, say, four sets of a lift to complete, I’ll simply continue on my pace, putting every ounce of effort I have into the sets I’m able to complete in that time and forget about any sets I might have missed. Intensity is way more important than getting everything done.
5. Ignore the importance of tracking progress
Could there be a correlation between the number of people who lift without recording their progress and the number of people who make little progress? I think so. Journals are good. When my goal isn’t losing fat, I aim to improve every lift every session. If it means one more rep at the same weight or the same number of reps at a greater weight, or the same number of reps at the same weight but at a faster pace, it’s all good to me. That virtually impossible to track without a journal.

Why Bother Being Ripped?

The irony in this blog is that although I’ve posted several shirtless photos of myself to document my progress, I almost never take my shirt off in front of others in real life, not even at the beach (although I don’t find myself there too often). So what gives? Why bother getting ripped if nobody knows what’s under my clothes (with the exception of my wife)? For me, being ripped and staying ripped is the product of living what I deem a healthy lifestyle, although every person might have a different concept of what a healthy lifestyle is. I’m certainly not suggesting that if you’re not ripped you’re not healthy (in fact, I believe the two are generally mutually exclusive) but rather it’s that the habits I consider healthy and have incorporated into my life also happen to produce a ripped physique.

150 lbs @ 7% body fat. Mostly functional with a touch of vanity.

150 lbs @ 7% body fat. Mostly functional with a touch of vanity.

Vanity vs Function

Although I keep it to only a couple of minutes per week, I do admit that I enjoy taking photos of myself in the mirror. I like to track my progress. Is that vain? Is it more about form than function? There’s probably some vanity involved, but the lion’s share of everything I do is functional; it’s not for show. In my case, form follows function. I’m not interested in being ripped for the sake of it; I’m interested in having a healthy body, and being ripped just happens to come with it.

Let’s take three individuals with similarly impressive physiques, but for whom appearance tells only part of the story and can belie the truth about each person’s health.

Person 1: The “bulker” and cutter

This person prefers to be ripped for a portion of the year, using the bulk and cut method to put on muscle and [what I consider to be] a good deal of fat, then cut down for several months, losing fat and some muscle. Many bodybuilders engage in this practice for their sport. While this is perfect for some people (and probably necessary for bodybuilders), it’s not my cup of tea, especially considering that I don’t compete or have any aspirations to do so. I don’t like the concept of swinging fat stores and overall body weight in general so drastically over the year. I make no comment about how it factors into the health of others, but I know it’s not right for my health. I also believe that it can lead to more licentious eating (like things out of boxes or sweets) during the bulking phase. It doesn’t mean that all individuals who engage in a classic bulk are doing it, but it’s a common occurrence. Further, eating so much food creates a pro-inflammatory immune response and reduces the body’s ability to use energy for cellular repair because it’s so busy working to break down and integrate nutrients all the time. A ripped physique says nothing about blood profile or cellular health.

Person 2: The sculptor

This is an individual who is more focused on creating a ripped physique and less so on developing functional strength. He or she performs many sets of many reps of a mind boggling array of exercises to target every muscle from every angle. This is awesome for some people, but I stay far away from anything that resembles this type of routine, which results in little functional strength development, central nervous system inefficiency, and imbalances between muscle groups because I believe it’s simply impossible to know, say, how many triceps kickbacks must be performed for how many reps and sets under what kind of load at what speed to properly compliment the four sets of pec-isolating cable flyes you just performed. Why not just bench heavy instead?

Person 3: The full-body metabolic conditioner

Think CrossFit or boot camp style training. Lots of people love routines like these; they can be great for developing functional strength. I’ve personally done absolute monster loads of strength-based metabolic conditioning in the past. But if you’ve read my posts about walking, you probably know how I’ve come to terms with how counterproductive metabolic conditioning is for the average person (like me). I think it’s definitely helpful for certain types of athletes in small, judiciously applied doses, but otherwise I prefer to stay far away from it the same way I do targeted sculpting routines. Some (only some) CrossFit practitioners see peeing blood as the result of exercise-induced muscle tissue breakdown (a.k.a. rhabdomyolysis) as a rite of passage and wear it as a badge of honor (I personally think that’s the most absolutely insanely stupid concept/ practice on the planet). Metabolic strength routines can be hell on the joints and connective tissue. Those explosive movements can take a major toll on the body after years. I’ll be 33 years old soon, and I want to stay very strong in the least stressful way possible.

Person 4: Me

If I stand next to any of the three types of people described above I might not stack up visually, but there’s a good chance that I’d be ahead on the spectrum of functional strength, joint health and possibly blood health. Since I’m not interested in sculpting my body in the least, but I am focused on minimizing gym time, I perform absolutely zero targeted muscular work i.e….

  • no biceps curls
  • no crunches
  • no shrugs
  • no triceps kickbacks
  • no dumbbell rows
  • no cable flyes… no cable work at all
  • no pec deck
  • no leg extensions
  • no leg presses
  • no leg curls
  • no calf raises
  • no shoulder raises
  • no… you get the point

…and use only heavy compound barbell lifts, chin-ups, pull-ups and dips. This is how I’ve developed a relatively high strength to body weight ratio in virtually any anatomical position. I can strictly front squat 125%, back squat and bench 170% of my body weight for reps, deadlift almost 190%, overhead press 100%, chin and pull-up 130% and dip 160% for several reps. I list these stats not to brag, but to make the point that one not need look very strong to be very strong. If you’ve ever watched American Ninja Warrior you might have noticed that the most successful competitors are those who are masters of their own body weight. They’re people who can maintain precise control over their bodies under exceedingly physically taxing conditions for extended periods. These individuals are ripped more often than not, but they’re also usually only carrying moderate amounts of muscle. Whenever I see someone big and ripped ready to attack the course, I know they’re likely not going to be completing it because it’s virtually impossible for them to overcome the weight of their own muscle, much as the way an enlarged heart is more likely to fail. This is no knock on big muscles by any means–it’s simply a statement that I prefer to maintain a high degree of mobility and an ability to carry my weight in a more effortless manner. Ten years ago I was at 166 lbs (big for me) with 10% body fat, and I was a tortoise with poor endurance. And since being ripped is a year-round state for me, I’m not drastically swinging my eating habits. I might add a couple hundred calories into my diet by opening my eating window to four hours per day for a couple of months when I want to add a little more muscle, or close the eating window a bit if I want to lose a little fat, but this is primarily for reasons of vanity. At its core, the lifestyle I follow heavily favors function and integrated health before all else, and rippedness follows.

My Approach to Lifting

I’ve received a couple of inquiries over the past few days about why my lifting routine is so complicated and if it can be simplified. While I very honestly don’t think it’s complicated, one of this blog’s goals is to demonstrate just how easy getting ripped and staying ripped can be. To that, I do agree that it can be further simplified; truth be told, I generally do use the simpler version of the Ripped Forever Method during most sessions.

Two main principles

1. Lift very heavy barbells with great focus using basic compound motions and aim to improve (add reps or weight) each session.
2. Do not spend more than one hour in the gym.
Plus this:
3. Walk. A lot.

Lifting using the RF RPT Swing method

RPT is an acronym for reverse pyramid training. It’s not a new idea, and it’s not my idea, but I use it heavily (no pun) and tailor it to my own needs (which might be the only unique part). It’s simple: lift the heaviest load the smallest number of times on the first set and progress to lifting the lightest load the largest number of times on the last set.

I always perform three main lifts (Stronglifts style) followed by two to three “accessory” lifts. The accessories are also almost exclusively performed with a barbell or, less frequently, with dumbbells. Never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever machines.

Day A main lifts:
Barbell back squat
Push press
Deadlift

Day B main lifts:
Barbell front squat
Flat bench press
Pendlay row

Day A (this was my exact main lift session from Friday 7/25):

Barbell back squat:
Warmup (this goes quickly): naked bar x 10 | 95 x 7 | 135 x 5 | 185 x 3 | 205 x 1
Working sets: 235 x 2 | 225 x 3 | 210 x 4 | 195 x 6 | 185 x 8 | 185 x 8

Push press:
Warmup: naked bar x 8 | 95 x 4 | 115 x 3
Working sets: 140 x 3 | 135 x 3 | 125 x 4 | 115 x 5 | 95 x 7

Deadlift:
Warmup: 135 x 4 | 185 x 3 | 225 x 2 | 250 x 1
Working sets: 270 x 2 | 250 x 4 | 225 x 6

Day A accessory lifts:
Dead dumbbell swing press (I think I invented this): 80 x 10 per side (that’s it)
Supine (palms up) T-bar row: 90 x 7 | 90 x 7 | 90 x 7
High cable row (literally the only exception to the machine rule): 120 x 8 | 120 x 8 | 120 x 8

More on the accessory lifts

After the main lifts, I perform 2-3 accessory lifts, usually for three sets performed using a “freestyle” modality. Here’s an example of some of the options:

  • I might do 3 sets of speed dips, pumping out as many reps as possible in 20 second sets.
  • I might do 3 sets of 5 reps each of heavy weighted dips
  • I might do 3 sets of 8 reps of moderately-weighted chinups
  • I might do 3 sets of 8-10 reps of a decline or incline bench press
  • I might do 3 sets of 6-8 reps of good mornings
  • I might do 1 set of 5 reps on each side of my body of a heavy dumbbell suitcase deadlift
  • I might do 1 set of 10 reps on each side of my body of a dead swing press with a dumbbell
  • I might do 3 sets of 8-10 reps of a T-bar row
  • I might do 3 sets of 8-10 reps of a high cable row (one of the only times I use a machine)
  • I might do three sets of 12-14 bodyweight pullups

This method has been extremely effective for me because it address both physical AND mental obstacles. The goal is dynamic. Regarding the RPT portion, set two is different than set one, set three is different than two, etc. After grinding out a seemingly insurmountable and endless set of three heavy squats, I am elated in knowing that I will not have to do that again today (or tomorrow or the next day for that matter). I particularly enjoy using this method because it hybridizes strength and hypertrophy lifting modalities. Very heavy weights and low reps stimulate brute strength development (think powerlifters and strongmen/ women), while lighter loads and higher reps stimulate sarcoplasmic development a.k.a. hypertrophy (think bodybuilder).  What’s particularly beautiful to me about the “swing” method is that the next time I perform these same exercises, I might shift the entire rep range up and load range down. So instead of:

235 x 2 | 225 x 3 | 210 x 4 | 195 x 6 | 185 x 8 | 185 x 8

…I might opt for something like:

210 x 4 | 195 x 6 | 185 x 8 | 175 x 10 | 155 x 12

Crazier still (it’s not really crazy) is going for something like:

235 x 2 | 225 x 3 | 185 x 8 | 175 x 10

See what I did there? There’s a big load and rep gap between sets 2 and 3.

The goal is to always add more weight or an extra rep to the analogous set performed during the same exercise last time around. It’s so flexible and freaking wonderful. Please do let me know if you have any questions.

Week 16: Beginning to add muscle

image

Week 16. Body fat in high 6% range at 148 lbs.

Now that I’m down to a body fat % in the upper sixes, I’ve begun a new 16-week cycle during which I’ll reduce the rate of fat loss in favor of muscle development. My goal is to drop to 6% bf and add 4 lbs of muscle over the course of the next four months. The primary technique I’ll use is… eating (while continuing to engage in a strength routine). I’ll reduce my daily fasting time from 21 hours to 20 hours to allow myself to more comfortably consume 300-400 calories over what I’m currently taking in.

My Three Most Critical Stretches

Regularly performing full-body heavy compound barbell lifts keeps me pretty flexible, but there are three stretches that I perform religiously because they’re so critical to my posture and overall health.

Thoracic extension

This one is awesome. It opens up my entire anterior from my lower abs to my jaw. It simultaneously expands all abdominal muscles, the rib cage, stretches the pectorals and anterior deltoids, and massages the thoracic (upper section) spine. It’s fantastic for posture and I get a nice crack out of a couple vertebrae using it, which is something I love. I wish I could crack every single joint in my body.

The exercise is performed with a foam roller (I prefer high density). The goal is to have both the butt and back of the head on the ground at the same time while breathing slowly and deeply.

The king of all upper body mobility exercises.

The king of all upper body mobility exercises.

Hip stretch with external rotation

Hip flexor tightness is a problem that plagues the majority of humans working office jobs sitting all day (like me). Tight hip flexors pull the pelvis forward (anterior pelvic tilt), which is the #1 cause of lower back tightness and pain, a problem that also affects many distance runners (an activity that I engaged in for years and was exceedingly good at until I came to terms with how fantastically damaging and tension-producing it can be). Tight hips can even cause knee, upper back and neck pain! Maintaining a high degree of hip mobility can mean the difference between living a life free of widespread muscle tension and living one plagued by muscular imbalance.

I’m sure I didn’t invent this stretch, but I’ve never seen it before. A physio band is looped around the top of one foot close to the toes and the leg is subsequently pulled across the body up and behind the other leg. Maintain focus on pressing the bent knee into the ground and thrusting that hip toward the ceiling at the same time. Moving the non-stretched leg away from the stretched leg increases the intensity of the stretch.

External hip rotation stretch.

External hip rotation stretch.

Hip stretch with internal rotation

This movement is the opposite of external rotation. A physio band is looped around the top of one foot close to the toes and the leg is subsequently pulled out and away from the body. Maintain focus on pressing the bent knee into the ground and thrusting that hip toward the ceiling. Moving the non-stretched leg away from the stretched leg increases the intensity of the stretch.

Internal rotation hip stretch.

Internal rotation hip stretch.

Want to Stop Being Fat? Want to Get Ripped? I have the secrets.

Secret 1: Stop eating.
Secret 2: Start walking.
Secret 3: Lift really heavy weights.

Six small meals a day is highly overrated. 2,500 calories in two hours right before bed is highly underrated.

The day I realized that the common wisdom of “six small meals a day” was keeping me from dropping below 10% body fat was the day I began an intermittent fasting routine. Lots of small meals keeps your insulin levels nice and your tummy steadily grumbling for more food. Since I started fasting nearly five months ago, I haven’t looked back. Now I fast for 21 hours straight every single day, and it’s easy. I swear. I’m not a freak of nature. I’m not a wizard. I’m not a wombat. I’ve never been leaner, never been stronger, and I’m still dropping fat AND gaining strength even in my current sub-7% state (albeit slowly) at a caloric deficit. If you search my blog for posts on intermittent fasting, you’ll find an explanation somewhere.

And I'm bloated in this photo from red wine and ice cream!

And I’m bloated in this photo from red wine and ice cream!

Walking is the king, queen and royal baby of “cardio”, hands down

Because it’s freaking easy and it can be done anywhere. I wrote a post on walking a couple of weeks back–you should be able to find via search. Look at my beautiful and indispensable best friend, my FitBit One in the photo below. I’ve topped 18,500 steps today, and the day’s not over yet. That’s almost nine miles worth of steps. I work a full time job, have a wife and young son, and do all the cooking. Next time you think you don’t have time to exercise, think of this post and feel your legs begin to itch.

I credit 63% of my ripped-ted-ness to this little, beautiful device.

I credit 63% of my ripped-ted-ness to this little, beautiful device.

Master your hormones. Lift heavy.

Lifting very heavy barbells using compound movements in a fasted state is my holy grail of hormone control–more specifically, very naturally forcing my pituitary gland to pump lots of fat melting, muscle growth-signaling growth hormone into my bloodstream until the moment when I drive my blood sugar levels through the roof at the end of the day with lots of good food, spiking insulin and directing all those nutrients into my muscles and liver that had been depleted of glycogen from the prior 21 hours of fasting. I know I’m not explaining much here, but if you’re interested, lots more on this can be found on the pages of rippedforever.com.

Hamstrings, Erectors: Can You Say Good Morning?

I’m feeling slightly creative.

I squat a lot. Other people? Not a lot.
A barbell on my back, legs on squeeze, I got em hot.
Back squat, front squat, rep it light or shake heavy
Forcing pressure through the core enough to break through a levee
Addicted much? I think so. Use a Smith crutch? Nah-ah, no.
Cause that’s like Double Dutchin for your knees in the snow.
Squats versus quads and glutes are sniper squads versus fruit
But aiming them at hamstrings is a lame way to shoot.

Ok, I’ll stop now. But my point is that while I think that front and back barbell squats are two of the most effective strength exercises hands-down, they don’t stress the hamstrings effectively. I’m sure some people might argue with that statement, as I would have until a couple of weeks ago. Why a couple of weeks ago? It was the first time I’d ever performed a heavy good morning. Until that time, I’d performed lots of good mornings over the years with a body bar or a broomstick, but I used them for stretching and warmups, not specifically to make strength gains. I decided to give heavy good mornings a try because I’d read in a few places that many power athletes favored them over Romanian and/ or stiff-legged deadlifts for hamstring engagement. And forget about traditional deadlifts; although I love them for more general posterior chain engagement, they don’t hit the hamstrings anywhere near the extent to which even Romanian and stiff-legged do. Needless to say that I was astonished by how obliterated my hamstrings were (in a good way) for three full days after performing a few sets of heavy good mornings for the first time. The fact that my hamstrings were in such distress after only three sets of ten reps at 110 lbs indicated to me that all my squatting had not been terribly effective at engaging my hams despite always squatting at least to parallel and generally with very good form.  So from here on my lifting routine will include heavy good mornings because it’s so clear how much I was depriving my hams the chance to reach their full potential without them. They’re also phenomenal for the erectors, glutes and internal and external obliques.

I’ve read conflicting opinions on the safety of heavy good mornings because they can generate high shearing forces across the spine, which can lead to a bulged disc. While this might be true, I don’t believe they are more or less dangerous than any other weight-bearing exercise. If performed with poor form and with a load beyond one’s reasonable capacity, any heavy lift can do serious damage. In the 17 years during which I have been lifting I have never seriously injured myself. I see absolutely no danger in performing heavy good mornings with good form and inside a power rack with safety pins set at a reasonable height to allow for a proper bailout if necessary. I should also note that I plan to continue to use good mornings as an assistance exercise a modality that favors a reduced load and higher rep range, so I don’t expect to ever have to bail on one.

Great video on why good mornings are so awesome and how to properly (safely) perform them:

Ripped Abs Without Crunches, Cut Biceps Without Curls

All individuals have different goals. Some are more interested in developing massive strength, and less so in maintaining a ripped physique (e.g. powerlifters), while others are more interested in growing and specifically shaping individual muscles, while being less concerned about strength (e.g. bodybuilders). My interests have gravitated toward a hybrid of those, i.e. developing both the strength and physique I wanted as efficiently as possible.

For me, getting ripped became legitimately effortless once I understood how effortless it could be. Sort of a circular statement, I know, but it’s true. I also know from experience that it can also be excruciatingly difficult if it’s made to be that. I’ve noticed that my overall health and general physique flourish when I stress myself just enough, then stop long before I’m spent, and rest even when I feel I don’t need it. This is one of the reasons I dropped structured cardio almost completely out of my life several months ago.

To these points, I figure why bother with exercises that target only one thing, like crunches or biceps curls? I see many gym goers performing lots of these types of exercises; these are clearly two really popular muscle groups to isolate, so much that it sort of cliché. I don’t know what the goals of these individuals are, and I pass no judgement on why they’re doing what they’re doing, but my best guess is that they probably want definition and/ or growth in those areas. But for my particular goals though, there are a few big problems with isolating muscle groups like this.

Abs with zero direct ab work.

Abs with zero direct ab work.

Muscular balance is upset [functional fitness suffers]
I developed imbalances in my overall musculature when attempting to stress individual muscle groups, and even experienced impingement in certain areas as a result of the impossibility of applying loads in the right ratios to antagonizing muscle groups in isolation. Take a hamstring curl, for example. When ever during the course of real life would the hamstrings be isolated to that extent? There is literally no natural motion that isolates the hamstrings the way a very unnatural leg curl does. You can look at it from the other side too: an individual who favors leg extensions (either intentionally or unintentionally) to the point where the quads become more powerful than they should in relation to the rest of the lower body musculature, can develop a painfully tight lower back and lordosis. Chances are exceptionally high that if one major muscle group in the lower body is firing during a real life motion, the rest of those groups are as well. This is why it makes sense to me to almost exclusively perform compound exercises with a barbell, like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and other fixed bar exercises like weighted chinups, pullups and dips.

Biceps without a single curl.

Biceps without a single curl.

Isolation takes too long
Two exercises for the biceps, two for the deltoids, three for the back, three for the chest, one for the abs… oh wait, make that two cause I gotta hit those obliques. Oh crap, lemme get my traps in there also, so one for that. I forgot triceps. I’ll add two exercises for those. This is pretty much the way I used to lift weights. I’ve written fairly extensively on the main pages of rippedforever.com about why it was so absolutely pointless for me. Now, if I perform 3-5 sets of close grip heavy weighted chinups, I hit the biceps, lats, abs (lots of isometric work during a heavy chinup), traps, rhomboids and posterior deltoids. And as a bonus, if I squeeze all the way to the top of the motion range, I get hard pectoral work. Five sets of five reps of very heavy chinups takes maybe eight minutes. That plus some heavy front squats and deadlifts can easily be a complete and very effective workout completed in 40 minutes.

Isolation doesn’t develop strength
At least not nearly to the same extent that heavy compound lifts can. Compound lifts tax the central nervous system in a big way like nothing else can. A shoulder raise can’t do that. Neither can a calf raise. Nor a shrug. Reverse curl? No way.

Isolation has a place
None of the above is to say that I think isolation or working smaller muscle groups is worthless. I can’t say that, because many individuals find them very valuable and critical to their own goals. They’re just not relevant to my goals, and they absolutely are not a requirement for getting ripped and staying ripped.

I used to think that walking was only for obese people…

…because ripped people did crazy cardio and metabolic training. P90X. CrossFit. Boutique bootcamps. I was one of them. An 18-mile run on a Saturday morning was just the way I woke myself up. Jump squats. Fifty burpees. Repping out on TRX bands. Heavy ropes and jump ropes and more running. Sprinting! A half hour of sprints! No, make it 35 minutes! Walking was exercise for grandparents, the sick, the recovering, the fat and the lazy. I scoffed at the Surgeon General’s recommendation that every capable individual walk at least 10,000 steps per day. How pointless. My view was that walking only counted as exercise for the overweight. Except for the minor detail that I had it all wrong.

My first several days of not performing any structured cardio required an act of brute force will that I was seriously unaccustomed to. I was addicted to brutally difficult, gut-busting metabolic work and grueling endurance activities. I literally ran 20 miles for fun on some days. I was going hard seven days a week. Weekends were “awesome” because I got to spend more time burning myself. I’d complete a workout (i.e. a body mutilation session) on a Saturday, get home, shower, and be totally blown for the rest of the day. Playing with my son took every last ounce of energy I had. I felt like my body temperature was perpetually elevated. On weekdays, I’d blast my body early in the morning to the extent that I’d be dripping sweat for the next several hours. Let me tell you, if there’s something more unprofessional in a business meeting than huffing out a big, flappy fart, it’s having to wipe your upper lip and brow every 90 seconds because your body is doing all it can muster not to spontaneously combust as a result of a stupid-ass workout.

On the first day that I didn’t go to the gym in the morning in favor of taking a walk outside, I felt like an alien in a strange new world. There was fresh air. The sun was rising. I was one of the first people out on the street (6am); the city had a different feeling at that time. I didn’t need music to walk. I listened to NPR (National Public Radio) instead. Education while exercising? Wow. But was it actually exercise? My heart wasn’t pounding. I was barely breathing. No burning in my muscles. Just… just… easiness. The walking motion felt simultaneously so familiar, yet so foreign. Until that time, I’d been doing this walking thing out of necessity. Since my family and I live in the city and don’t own cars, walking is just a mode of transportation (along with biking/ longboarding/ subway). But now I was doing it without a place to go.

And I enjoyed it.

Fast forward to present day. I can, without reservation and with a clear mind say that I not only enjoy walking for pleasure and exercise, but I have actually come to love it. Yes, I used the L word. Now, it’s the only form of cardio I perform. I do it on both lifting and rest days, and my FitBit One has become such an instrumental piece of fitness equipment for that reason. Because it tracks steps and integrates with MyFitnessPal, it motivates me like nothing else.

There are so many reasons why I love walking

1) It helped me get ripped

I am religious about walking at least 10,000 steps (about five miles) on a lifting day and 12,000-13,000 (about six miles) on a rest day. That might sound like a lot, but spread out over the course of a day, it’s really not at all. All those steps add up to 400-600 calories daily, which, in addition to intermittent fasting enables me to easily maintain a daily caloric deficit that has been and continues to be conducive to my ripped goals. For me, learning how to get ripped meant learning how to walk.

2) I have lots more energy

I find the act of walking itself to be energizing, but what’s even more beneficial for me is how it doesn’t leave me feeling wasted and hungry like traditional cardio and metabolic training.

It’s low impact and very low stress

Call me nuts, but I believe that humans are built to walk before anything else. I don’t think that running for long distances is natural to us. Sprinting occasionally, yes. I am an experienced endurance runner. The reasons I enjoyed running were less physical than they were mental. I enjoyed the feeling that I had completed a mini-odyssey after a 25 mile run, in addition to the mental challenge. But physically, that endurance stuff wreaked havoc on my body. Tightness everywhere, aching joints, lots of sweating, dehydration. What I was doing was so unhealthy. Walking is the opposite. When I dropped hard cardio, I also noted a marked improvement in my immunity. I’ve read that too much intense cardio can impair immune function by reducing white blood cell count as well as chronically increasing stress hormone levels. A big part of learning how to get ripped entailed learning how to stay healthy so that I could maintain my productive gym work.

Walking lets me spend less time inside gym

The gym is a petri dish rife with who knows what strains of freakish Franken-microbes. This goes to the point about immunity above.

Walking has improved my mobility

Since I have a daily step goal and I don’t take all 10,000 or 12,000 steps in a single bout, I get up and walk a few times per day. This is powerful for two reasons. In the olden days, I performed hard cardio and/ or CrossFit style stuff early in the morning, biked to work, then sat at my desk for seven or eight hours. So basically I was saying a big “screw you” to my muscles, muscle facia and tendons. The repetitive fast contractions of the muscles associated with all that cardio and plyometric/ CrossFit/ metabolic work caused tightness throughout my body, and then I sat frozen in a position that’s conducive to generating tightness all on its own. Does that sound smart? Walking fixes all that. First, it’s low-impact and doesn’t cause the tightness endemic to high-impact stuff. Second, it’s spread over the day, meaning that I can’t stay seated for all that time. A win-win if you ask me.

Walking lets me spend more time with my family

Here’s what a Saturday or Sunday used to look like for me: destroy body at gym. Make little progress. Get home. Shower. Muster every last drip of energy interacting with family. Drag myself around outside with them. Collapse at end the of the day.

Now, it looks like this: if it’s a gym day, lift according to the RF Strength Method, spending no more than an hour in the gym. Get home. Shower. Energetically engage with family. Walk to park. Play with son in park. Walk around the neighborhood with family. Walk home with family. That’s all my “cardio” now.

Walking can be done virtually any time with no equipment

I don’t really have to explain this one. A couple of days per week, I don’t achieve my step goals by the time I get home. OMG!! What to do?! Walk back and forth in the apartment for a while, while pondering how to create a cohesive meal out of fish heads, lard and oatmeal. Literally. Jog lightly in place for a few minutes here and there until my FitBit tells me I’m good. It all counts. It’s all energy out. No sweat.