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When I saw this new ebook listed on Kai’s page I was intrigued, certainly enough to drop the ten bucks to find out what it was. My expectation was that it was a recomp type program or possibly shredding program, so now I will break it down for you to set your expectations in check.

The book is broken into 3 parts: Secrets of the beast, the beast’s diet and footsteps of the beast.

Before getting into specifics I should mention that this was my first experience reading one of Kai’s ebooks, and I must admit that the writing style is… unique.

The section called “secrets of the beast” can basically be summed up like this: eat nutrient-rich foods with a caloric deficit to burn fat. So calling it “secrets” is kind of odd.

The second section, diet of the beast, basically goes into a little more depth of the previous section, telling you how to determine caloric needs and suggesting calorie/macro breakdowns. It’s very brief, about two pages long.

The final section is a workout routine which is high volume, broken up into two three-week blocks.

Final verdict: save your ten bucks and buy some creatine.

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Every time I cut I find new challenges… this time is no different and it took my friend Nate pointing out some ideas that helped me re-calibrate my plan.

My struggle is primarily that I’m losing weight but my belly fat looks worse than ever. So the plan of attack is to focus on adrenal repair via cutting out caffeine and adaptogens as well as trying to reduce my stress in a few ways including having a little food in my stomach pre-workout.

As far as training, my approach has been to do a method I’ve not done for years which is full-body training, 3 days a week with cardio days in between. The idea with this is to model my training after Steve Reeves, who built a ridiculous body before steroids were as prevalent as they are now. The big difference is that I’m supper-setting movements to increase the metabolic effect.

I wrote a blog a while back about “toxic masculinity” as well as one about how to behave in a way women will respond to, and it still leaves questions in my mind about the nature of manhood, especially given our ever-shifting culture.

The question of manhood is quite fascinating to me, and it’s a subject I’ve studied almost as much as I’ve studied the subject of feminism (being a single father to a son and a daughter has perhaps been at the heart of my interest in gender roles).

My initial instinct on the subject goes something like this: from a biological, evolutionary and even spiritual standpoint, women and men have certain differing strengths that come naturally. Women for example tend to be more naturally capable of nurturing and as such have adopted a greater inclination towards the kinds of traits that accommodate this — perhaps this speaks to why women tend to have a higher representation in careers that involve working with people. Men on the other hand, have historically had to compete for everything – including the women, and as part of this tend to be fuelled to a greater extent by aggression. So it is little wonder that men carry this over to the work environment where they either utilize this competitive nature to try to get ahead or often times prefer to avoid people altogether by working with “things”.

Obviously this is just a broad stroke and is not meant to imply that competitive women or nurturing men are any less in their respective genders, in fact I would argue the opposite. Having a strength in what is traditionally considered to be the other gender’s realm could very possibly make one better suited to understand the opposite gender — if they allow themselves to… here’s the problem: men who are more agreeable by nature DO allow themselves to accept the position of the other gender. Conversely, women who are more competitive or assertive, may tend towards seeing men as their competition and therefore will not easily allow themselves to see things from their perceived opponent’s point of view.

This epiphany brought a lot into focus for me. Men who are assertive see other men as the competition. Women who are assertive see men as the competition.

So naturally, if men are the competition, the way to gain the greatest advantage is to paint masculinity as somehow oppressive or inherently bad in some way.

Another complication is that women are generally taught about what kind of behaviour is acceptable from their perspective male partner – and rightfully so. But men are seldom taught the same. This means that men go into potential relationships with far more expectations and those expectations can subtly grow.

This has unfortunately led to a lot of confusion about what it means to be a man – or in some instances – how we are allowed to express manhood.

There’s another problem that can’t be understated… it is clear from data across ethnicities and races that children raised in single-parent homes are more likely to get involved in crime, violence, poverty, gender confusion and even suicide.

So I propose that the number one job of any and every man is that of being a positive male role model for his children and in fact children in general.

Of course this begs yet another question: “what is a positive male role model”?

Aside from simply being a presence I think it involves the following:

1. Accepting the role of a protector. This means that you put the safety and security of the ones in your care above all else including your own.

2. An unwavering respect for the role and duties of motherhood… this includes providing for them and making their job easier. I think “chivalry” comes out of this respect.

3. Learning to harness your aggressive instincts. I like the word “harness” because it is not an all-out suppression. We have those instincts for a reason, but we must control them and not allow them to control us.

All of this is being written by a guy who has taken on the role of being a single dad. I’ve had to be both an emotional and physical support for my children, and I’ve loved every second. I have taken on the challenge of trying to teach my son how to be a successful and responsible man, while teaching my daughter respect for herself and those around her. She can be whatever she wants as far as I’m concerned, as long as she goes through life with respect and understanding of her male counterparts.

Last time was all about preparing mentally and physically for training so now we will talk about getting the most out of the session in the moment.

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There are a few times in your life where you make landmark improvements in your life and I’m going to share many of those with you here. Briefly, the best information I learned about healthy fat loss while strengthening muscle came from Tom Venuto’s Burn the fat, Feed the Muscle; Ben Pakulski was the one who taught me the most about exercise form and muscle growth with his MI40 program. As far as mental focus and drive, I credit Anders Ericsson’s book Peak alongside Carol Dweck’s Mindset.

FOCUS

The term focus is one that I love because it is all about being in the present. It puts your mind squarely on the task at hand. But I find that focus is something that needs cultivation. It means secluding yourself from outside distractions. It is something that gets better with persistent practice.

Focus is having laser vision on your current activity while pushing towards your desired future. It is connecting your mind to your body. It is he single moment when you what to quit a set but you tell yourself that this rep is the one that will determine whether you progress.

I’ve said before that progress is not easy, and this is one area that is definitely not easy. Nor is it intuitive. Our bodies and minds are designed for survival, meaning that when things get difficult our brain tells us that we are entering a danger zone and that’s when we quit.

That instinct is clearly important, but being aware of it, and knowing when you can push past it is where we begin to grow. In this way that inclination to quit can actually serve you extremely well, as it will guide you ever closer to the edge of your comfort zone.

The more you practice reaching this point and pushing past it, the better you get at doing it naturally – which can impact your life both inside and outside of the gym.

The pursuit of getting to this point where we not only face challenges head on, but in fact enjoy such opportunities to progress can be understood using what Carol Dweck calls the “growth mindset”. When we learn to crave growth we also learn to love the challenge.

PROGRESS

With the right mindset and the right teaching, people are capable of a lot more than we think.” – Carol Dweck

Ingredients for progress:

  • Specific performance goal
  • Focus
  • Meaningful positive feedback

As I suggested in part 1, short-term performance goals take into account your current limitations and give you a target to aim for that is slightly beyond your current ability. This should be slightly ambitious but not unrealistically so.

The term “progressive overload” is probably familiar to most who have entrenched themselves to some degree in physical activity – even more common is the concept of the “comfort zone”.

But a term that may not familiar to you is the “zone of proximal development”, an intriguing concept initially developed by psychologist Lev Vygotsky.

While the intentions of this concept seem to be geared towards childhood development, I’ve found it to be applicable to training psychology as well. The zone of proximal development represents the happy medium between pushing upwards enough to progress while not so hard as to inflict injury or discouragement. This is where I always strive to be – on a constant but gradual incline.

This idea can also be conceptualized by thinking of your comfort zone as something that is continuing to grow as you progress.

It may help to remind yourself that any upward climb is – by definition – difficult, while also maintaining the humility to understand our limitations.

In order to ensure progress you should keep a training log. This will help you know week to week the amount of weight to use and also help track your progress.

Additionally, while I suggested having an open mind and being creative with your program creation, there is also value to keeping a program somewhat consistent over a number of weeks. This helps you know that you are advancing in either weight or reps.

As an aside, I find humility itself to be a key component of improvement of ANY kind. In fact I have heard it said that humility is the prerequisite to wisdom.

Feedback can come in many forms, it could be from progress photos or a coach, or just a friend commenting on your progress. Whatever the source, it seems to be a key component to maintaining long term progress. Instagram has become a breeding ground for “attention seekers” but while its commonplace to shun such people, the reality is that getting positive responses is actually something we need.

The Ingredients of Muscle Growth

If we think of muscle building as hypertrophy, there is little better resource than the work of Brad Shoenfeld, who determined that the primary factors leading to muscle growth are: muscle damage, muscle tension and metabolic stress (aka cell swelling).

Brad suggests periodizing these factors. Personally I’ve found that simply being aware of them can help understand the true goal of the training session.

In the protocol I suggest below all of these factors come into play, and by being mindful of them you will access their true power.

TRICK YOURSELF INTO LIFTING MORE WEIGHT

The “contrast principle” or “perception effect” suggests that our mind perceives things in comparison to one another. So how can this be used to improve physical training?

Instead of training with a constant weight for a constant number of sets, try reverse pyramid training. This method suggests starting with the heaviest weight and dropping the weights while increasing reps for successive sets.

I’ve seen time after time that implementing this techniques has resulted in rapid strength and muscle gains.

Now for a word of caution…. if you are too ambitious on your first/heaviest set you risk injury (yes this is coming from experience). A set or two of lightweight warm ups to mentally practice the form will help prevent against this, and make sure that the incremental increase from your last session is moderate. In actuality it’s the second set where true growth often occurs as this is where you are typically lifting above your previous ability.

MUSCULAR FAILURE

In order for progress to be true there has to be a controlled variable. This is one reason why training to “failure” is preferred when doing resistance training.

This means that you are physically unable to perform any more repetitions while maintaining proper form. That point cannot be overstated, because doing a low number of reps with a relatively light weight won’t accomplish much (outside of rehabilitation purposes).

It should be noted that at different parts of the range of motion you have greater strength. If you have ever seen someone squatting or bench pressing with chains this is the reasoning behind this. In the case of bench press, as you push the bar farther from your chest you are stronger and therefore the chains give you more resistance to work against.

However in many gyms using chains isn’t practical, so one way I’ve found to be more practical for getting to muscle failure is using “top partials” – which is doing a few reps at the top – or more accurately – strongest few inches – of the range of motion at the end of each set.

DENSITY

Density refers to the amount of “work” done within a set amount of time. From my experience it is an amazing way – if not the most effective – to progress physically as well as aesthetically.

In my Superhero training program I suggested working on three things: power, size and speed.

Using density as a measurement can help improve all of these.

The beauty is that you can progress in a number of ways almost indefinitely because the amount of density is essentially:

(sets) x (reps) x (load) / time

So you can progress by:

  1. lifting heavier weights
  2. doing more reps
  3. doing it in less time – usually done by decreasing rest time.
  4. A strategic combination of the above three.

One of the best ways to do this type of training is using reciprocal inhibition (RI), which means pairing up antagonizing my muscle groups. This is my favourite RI split:

  • Day 1: chest + back (rowing)
  • Day 2: quads + hams
  • Day 3: shoulders + back (lats)
  • Day 4: biceps + triceps

And then I will work low back and abs into the routing intermittently.

Try doing that split while using a rep scheme something like this:

20 reps, 15 reps, 6 reps, 8 reps, 10 reps, 6 reps, 8 reps, 15 reps.

Then each week decrease the rest time between supersets from about 60 sec to 15 seconds. When the rest becomes that low you can go back to 60 seconds but with heavier weights 😊

Related: Man’s Search for Muscle: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

1. Women would rather be listened to than talked to.

This is important to know from date number one. Rather than talking about yourself (she could not care less about your job), instead take the opportunity to learn about her.

2. Women are not disposable

This is a mentality that some men take on unknowingly. But the fact is that if you take on a philosophy of objectifying women, the ones of high value will never respect you.

3. Confidence is sexy. Arrogance is not.

Learn the difference.

4. Never… NEVER send an unsolicited dick pic.

Women are not like men, this is a good thing. As such she will not likely be aroused by a spontaneous nude as you would be. Just don’t.

5. Be a man; and let her be a woman.

Okay this is pretty broad (no pun), but it requires a basic concept of what it is to be a man. Unfortunately there is no set standard but there are a few things that seem consistent such as: ambition, accountability, knowing your values and being true to them and so on.

As far as letting her be a woman, this essentially means that you respect her unique qualities and value them as much as your own.

6. Learn to be both tender and passionate

Both at once whenever possible.

7. She doesn’t want to be rescued.

As much as it seems hardwired into us to want to help a woman we care about when we can (and even when we can’t), don’t rob her of her sense of capability by constantly trying to solve her problems. It may seem weird but it can actually be counter productive.

8. Don’t be boring

Yes this is subjective, but try to think of the most interesting people you know and what makes them interesting to get an idea of whether that describes you.

9. Respect yourself enough that you will not accept being treated poorly

As much as I have suggested a high respect for women, there are plenty out there who are quite capable of using their assets to manipulate you. Having a high self worth will be a good repellent against such behaviour.

10. If you feel the need to disagree with something she says, begin the argument with the words “you’re right” – and mean it.

There is no such thing as winning an argument with a woman. However most reasonable women will respect your opinion if you show a genuine respect for hers.

Oh and one last thing… Smile!

Anyone familiar with Layne Norton may have read some of his contest prep articles, as I have – and in fact I used some of his advice when preparing for more than one photo shoot.

Recently he unleashed an ebook which is extremely long and in depth, all about the process of preparing to go on stage in a physique competition, and even though I have no interest in stepping on stage it intrigued me.

First of all, I must say I highly appreciate the fact that when you go to his page (which I refuse to link) it is not one of those 10-zillion page long advertisement pages, it is simply a picture of the ebook and you can choose either the men’s or women’s version — although I’m almost certain they are the exact same book… because throughout the thing it gives advice for both men and women.

So while it was a far better buying experiences than most of the online sales experiences I have to admit that my first read through of the books ok left me annoyed.

Why? Because it is being pitched as a comprehensive 260 page book, which suggests there is a ton of information packed in there. However it could have easily been shaved down by a hundred pages or so.

The first 80-some pages were filled with very basic information about calorie balance… in other words stuff that anyone who is about to enter a show already knows.

The last section is all about poses, which is probably helpful to some people but let’s do a quick reality check… anyone who is serious about getting on stage will almost certainly need a coach, not a $40 ebook to learn this stuff. Having a coach for doing a show is also vital because you tend to be so depleted that it’s almost impossible to do everything with meal planning and creating an effective training program on your own.

Buuut – the book does an excellent job of laying out much of the detailed information a coach would normally be handling so it can be good educationally if you choose to work with a coach and if you choose not to, you’ll have a better idea of why you probably should be.

I actually see the book as more of a narrative in the life of a professional bodybuilder than an actual how-to guide.

There are millions of books that will help you get from bad to good in terms of physique improvement and I believe the goal of this book was to help people go from good to great. Does it succeed in that? Yes in a sense. Layne discusses much of the same topics that can be found in his pre-contest articles but in more depth in the latter parts of the book. He also talks about what to do after a show, which may be excellent for anyone on a restricted diet of any kind.

That being said, I would simply suggest that if you get the book you set your expectations appropriately; it is not likely to be 260 pages of NEW information, but a large dose of old information, some “nice to know” information and a little bit of advice that will very likely be valuable at some point in your life if you want to get ridiculously lean.

I’ve been working on this for quite a while, so hopefully there is some value here for you…

I can’t put my finger on exactly what sparked this line of thinking, but I recall having an “aha” moment when comparing muscle function to our conception of superheroes.

Muscles have many evolutionary functions, we can think of tribal cavemen who had to survive harsh elements including competing with their own kind in order to mate.

Specifically these functions are: power, speed and size

These three functions also happen to be what we attribute to modern-day heroes both in real life and to exaggerated extents in fiction.

Size may stand out a little bit because it doesn’t actually seem on the surface to be a true function, but the more we consider it the more we may value it’s purpose. Consider the muscularly huge people we see – they immediately earn respect. Their size also tells others they are not to be messed with. Furthermore their size seems to correlate to their own confidence which compounds their capability.

A case could be made that balance contributes to this as well… but to be perfectly honest I could not think of a way to attribute balance to superheroes. Still combining balance and strength training seems to have a harmonious effect – making such movements as split squats one of my personal favourites of late.

So if your goal is to create a training program that helps achieve that superhero persona, we ought to consider designing the program to develop these three functions.

Let’s look at what seems to develop them individually:

POWER

Here we look to the world of power and strength trainers. These people are known to lift tremendous amount of weight, but in small bursts. This is where progressing with heavier weights using small repetitions seems to be most beneficial.

SPEED

When I think of speed in mere mortals I usually visualize martial artists. Not only do those committed to martial arts tend to be fast, they also tend to have efficient physiques – meaning lean and toned.

But between working full-time, being a full-time single dad and everything else in my busy life, I simply haven’t had the time to commit to martial arts training, never mind the costs that seem to be skyrocketing in proportion to the rising popularity of MMA.

So it has had me looking for other ways to develop speed. Here is what I’ve found…

Explosive concentric (positive) movements appear to help this area, which can fortunately be trained to a certain extent while performing strength training.

Incorporating such things as box jumps and HIIT sprints/upright bike into your routine also seem to be effective. Just look at the massive quads on Olympic sprinters if you want more evidence.

SIZE

This is an interesting one, because it isn’t strictly about being huge, it’s about LOOKING huge. That is what I’ve heard described as the illusion of size. Basically it amounts to being both muscular and lean enough for the muscularity to look even larger. Basically what we’re looking at training like here is bodybuilding style volume, but we also want to add in a level of metabolic training to use stored fat as fuel. For that I find antagonistic supersets to be best.

So in an attempt to train all these areas within one program, this is what I came up with…

Note: whenever possible use explosive concentrics and controlled negatives

Day 1: Chest and back (rows)

Bench press superset with 1-arm dumbbell rows; 8 sets; reps = 20, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 6, 15

Cable crossover superset with seated cable row: 4 sets of 10-12 reps

Incline dumbbell press superset with barbell rows: 4 sets of 6-10 reps

Day 2: Legs

Leg extension superset with lying leg curls; 8 sets; reps = 20, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 6, 15

Squats superset with box jumps; 4 sets of 10-12 reps

Bulgarian split squats superset with 1-leg stiff-legged dumbbell deadlifts: 4 sets of 6-10 reps

Day 3: back (lats) and shoulders

Dumbbell shoulder press superset with wide-grip pulldowns; 8 sets; reps = 20, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 6, 15

Dumbbell laterals superset with reverse-grip close-grip pulldowns: 4 sets of 10-12 reps

Dumbbell upright rows superset with bent-over dumbbell laterals: 4 sets of 6-10 reps

Day 4: arms

Seated dumbbell curls superset with overhead dumbbell extensions; 8 sets; reps = 20, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 6, 15

Dumbbell hammer curls superset with cable press downs: 4 sets of 10-12 reps

Ez curls superset with skull crushers: 4 sets of 6-10 reps

To make this even more effective at least metabolically, try incorporating density something like this:

Week 1: 60 seconds rest between supersets

Week 2: 45 seconds rest between supersets

Week 3: 30 seconds rest between supersets

Week 4: 45 seconds rest between supersets

Week 5: 30 seconds rest between supersets

Week 6: 15seconds rest between supersets

Week 7: 45 seconds rest between supersets

DIET

Obviously what you eat will make a huge difference and what I’ve found to be most effective, practical and sustainable in terms of maximizing body composition is the idea of carb backloading.

In short you eat protein, fat and veggies in the early part of the day and save your carbs for the last meal or two.

If this sounds like a weird concept, you are probably used to the notion of eating your carbs early in the day and tapering then off. The mentality behind this was that you would give yourself energy in the early parts of the day and reduce them while your metabolism is slowing down.

While that does seem to make sense on the surface, if we try to think about it from another angle the picture will look a little different.

Reason number one to avoid early carbs: at the start of the day we don’t “need” extra energy. In fact if your body determines it needs extra energy, in the absence of carbs it will take the energy from stored fat – which is what we want!!

Reason number two: our brains send different kind of messages depending on the present food sources. Protein and fats send messages (neurotransmitters) that are energizing and motivating, while carbs tend to be more relaxing and feel-good. This makes it clear that we want the protein and fats early and carbs later on.

Give this puppy a 6-week run and let me know how it works for you!!!