Getting in better shape, improving your body composition and stacking on muscle is something that requires effort. We know this, it’s not new information.


The issue most people have isn’t that they don’t put effort into the process. It’s more that they direct their efforts into the wrong places.


We’ve got people religiously measuring out how much creatine they’re taking or what flavour pre workout they’re going to spend half their wages on when they only sleep 5 hours a night.


People that are constantly searching Google and YouTube for the next best workout plan or made up exercise when they really don’t know the meaning of hard work in one given set.


Everyone’s looking for the next best workout, pill, drug, stimulant or tin of magic beans. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news but it just doesn’t exist.


The good news I have is that in this article, I’m going to try and dispel as many myths about training and nutrition as I can, and give you some fundamental principles that you can focus your attention and efforts on in order to make some serious progress.


It’s not sexy, it’s not got any flashing lights or bells and whistles attached to it, but it works.


“If you improve everything, then everything improves”

  • Eddy Coan





Before we look at anything else – training, nutrition, supplementation, cardio or anything of that ilk, we have to fix your sleep.


Sleep is the human body’s way of recovering, repairing and regenerating it’s tissues. Not getting enough sleep or getting sleep that is of sub standard quality will be a limiting factor in your health, fitness, muscularity and can even stop you losing fat.


There are countless studies which show conclusively that people who sleep less than 8 hours per night are at a much higher risk of injury than those than sleep 8 or more hours per night. There are also studies showing that the hormone responsible for the regulation of hunger (ghrelin) is upregulated if you aren’t sleeping well or enough. That means that if you’re trying to restrict your calories right now and not sleeping enough, you’re making it harder for yourself to not ‘cheat’ on your diet. Alongside this, poor quality sleep can also downregulate the metabolism which means your body will have a harder time burning calories over the course of the day.


Add into this the fact that you generally just feel like sh*t if you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you’re grouchy, snappy and generally a worse person to be around and it’s not hard to see how poor sleep could be the thing that’s holding you back.


So here’s a few tips for you to try and implement into your life to get a better night’s sleep:


  1. Routines, while they might seem daft, are the number 1 thing I’ve changed over the last 2 months that has had the most positive impact on my life. I have a morning routine and a pre-bed routine. This means that I go to bed and get up at the same time every single day. Figure out what time you need to be in bed to get 8 hours of sleep. Then plan a routine around it. Personally, I’m in bed for 10pm to be up at 6am, so my phone is off by 9, I grab a shower, put the dog to bed and spend half an hour reading before I fall asleep. In the mornings, I have 4 things on my to do list: get up at 6am, walk the dog, read, and write. This is just what works for me to help me wind down at night and hit the day running in the morning. I know it might seem silly but rigidly sticking to these routines has positively impacted my moods, energy, productivity at work and general quality of life so I can’t leave it out.
  2. All blue light is eliminated from 9pm. That means my phone is on aeroplane mode and away from me by 9, TV is off and wherever possible I don’t turn the big light on (ideally you’re better off with a candle but I don’t trust myself not to burn the house down). Blue light interferes with our circadian rhythms, essentially making our brain think it’s still daytime and preventing us from falling asleep. Put the phone, TV, iPad or whatever screen you’re obsessed with down or turn it off an hour before bed.
  3. No stimulants after 4pm. In fact, keep stimulants to a minimum full stop. Not only do we not want to keep you awake at night, but I don’t want you dependent on coffee or pre workouts and not able to harness your own natural adrenaline for training.
  4. Make your room as dark as physically possible. You essentially want to aim to be sleeping in a ‘human bat cave’. Any light in your room will negatively impact the body’s natural production of melatonin which can make it much more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. If you work nights and can’t sleep in a dark room, consider investing in some blackout blinds or curtains that block a lot of the natural light.
  5. Make sure your last meal contains some form of carbohydrates. Most of you will have this programmed in to your diet plans. Although the muscles are at rest during sleep, the brain keeps working and needs energy. If we don’t have any glycogen ready for disposal, it will be pulled from muscle tissue which is not what we need.
  6. Try and keep your room as quiet as possible. If that isn’t an option maybe get some ear plugs.
  7. Consider a Vitamin D3 supplement. This has been shown to increase the quality of deep sleep, especially if blood levels are low.


“If you religiously take creatine but only sleep 5 hours a night, you’re a f*cking idiot”

  • Stan Efferding



Single Ingredient Foods


There’s a ton of conflicting information out there about nutrition and it’s often a subject people tend to get hormonal over – which is the reason I tend to avoid the subject online most of the time. However, it can’t be denied that people are severely uneducated on the topic of nutrition for building mass and strength, as well as optimising health, so I feel I have a duty to throw my thoughts on the topic into the ring.


Without going down too many rabbit holes, I think the biggest piece of the nutritional puzzle people tend to get wrong, is veering away from single ingredient foods. Foods that are what they are – not foods that are comprised of a list of ingredients.


A steak is a steak. It’s part of a cow. Nothing else is added. A potato is a potato. You get the idea. However many of the processed foods that we see on shelves today have a list of ingredients and a shelf life of 2 years. If something can sit on a shelf for 2 years and still be edible it lacks the appropriate enzymes to be digested and broken down by the body. These foods aren’t going to be a huge deal in moderation, or if they make up a minority of our diet, but trying to build a healthy, well built and lean physique based on a diet of mainly processed foods isn’t a great way to go about it.


“I don’t eat the foods I like. I eat the foods that like me. And I make that decision about 2 hours after I eat”

  • Stan Efferding


Yes, primarily it is a calorie balance equation and macronutrients do matter. But purely paying attention to how many calories and macronutrients you’re taking in might be a good place to start, but it makes no allowances for digestive & gut health, micronutrient needs such as vitamins & minerals or fibre intake just to name a few factors.


If you’re interested in optimising your performance in the gym, gaining muscle, losing fat, being healthier, fitter, faster or stronger you need to be concerned with getting your digestive system in order and balancing out any deficiencies you may have through your diet.


If you have any questions on this as always you can contact me, but I strongly recommend looking into “The Vertical Diet” by Stan Efferding. This is a great place to start for beginners and really drills home the kind of foods you should be looking at from a health and performance standpoint.



The ‘Execution Vs Effort Continuum’


Aside from programming, there’s two things that matter when you’re in the gym.


Execution and effort.


If you’re not progressing at least one of these two variables when you’re in the gym, I really don’t see the point in being there at all from a muscle or strength building standpoint.


As coined by Ben Pakulski, these two variables exist on a continuum. Absolute beginners should start at the execution end of the continuum, these guys need to learn how to train before they start adding effort into the mix.


Absolute beginners in a weight lifting environment need to know what it feels like to contract a muscle. Then they can add load and see what it feels like to contract that muscle under load. I believe everyone should have a period of time when they first start training learning the basics of human movement. This period of time also serves as a way to figure out how your own body works, what it’s built for, the kind of exercises that do and don’t suit your body and how to make the most of your time in the gym.


This is obviously going to be a much faster process if you do a hell of a lot of research or hire a coach to help you, as opposed to just going it alone and trying to figure it all out on your own.


Once the execution is in place, the effort is the next piece of the puzzle.


People hear the word ‘effort’ and think they already put effort in at the gym. I’m going to challenge you on that and say you can do much better.


Every set you perform in the gym has to be the highest quality work you can possibly put in. I’m talking like if you don’t have what it takes to do 20+ rep sets with a reasonable amount of weight without quitting when it starts to hurt, you’re going to find it very hard to build a decent physique.


“WORK. That’s How You Get It”

  • Gary Vaynerchuck


At the risk of starting to sound like an Eric Thomas motivational YouTube video here you’ve just got to want it bad enough. When shit starts to hurt, that’s when you know you’re putting in the work. Keep going.


You’ll see everyone around you dick measuring with how much they can bench press or how big the weight they can bicep curl is, and yeah strength is important – but how many guys are comparing quite simply how HARD they’re working? Very few.


I’m not a very competitive person, until I set foot in the gym (or on the football field in my earlier days). My thought process is NEVER that I’ll lift more than you. I love to be strong and it feels great to lift big weights. But the way I beat people? I will work harder than you. That is why my physique is developing. Because if you get off the leg press having done 50 reps I’ll get on and do 51. That’s the level of work you have to be prepared to put in when you’re in the gym.


It’s shouldn’t be a chore. Remember you’re doing this because you want to, not because you have to. No one is forcing you to try and improve the way you look, least of all me. If you wanna be a fat bastard more power to you quite frankly.


But if you want to build a physique you’ve gotta put in the work. It’s as simple as that – no magic beans, no powders, pills or potions, nothing special or newly discovered. The same thing the most successful athletes have been doing for decades, centuries even, is what will work for you too if you just put it in to practice.


“Find Pain – Then Find It Deeper!”

  • Milos Sarcev





None of what you’ve just read will work if you don’t consistently apply it over a sustained period of time. Eating one good meal or hitting one workout hard is all well and good, but it won’t make an ounce of difference if you don’t follow it up with repeated good work consistently.


Nothing I’ve talked about in this article is new, nothing is original, nothing has been thought up or invented by me. But every single bit of it works. If you do this every single day you’ll progress. I guarantee it. But if you continue on your quest to find the next new exercise (note: sitting sideways on a smith machine and using a close grip handle doesn’t target ‘inner chest’ it just makes you look a bellend), new supplement, super food or drug to bust through your training plateau you’re dreaming.


Do the necessary, do it every day and come back to me in six months.


If you’ve properly applied the principles in this article with an intelligent approach and you don’t look and feel substantially better I’ll be shocked.


Hope this was useful. If it was, share it with a friend. If it wasn’t share it with a friend anyway and slag me off together. It’s all fun and games.

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PS – If you enjoyed this article, why not check out the one I wrote on stress and it’s impact on your physique by clicking here?