About ten years ago I briefly worked with a brilliant man who had only recently received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. We’ll call him Michael. Michael’s doctors were insistent that diagnosis had eluded them for a longer period than normal with Michael because of his incredible intellect. He was a prolific author of legal textbooks. Thus, wherein a regular person might lose a third of his vocabulary and be instantly diagnosable, Michael could lose about 80% of his vocabulary before people would notice he was reaching for words. His wife continuously talked about how Michael was revered in the field and was one of the greatest minds to have ever taken on authorship of law school textbooks.
His family noticed emotional and physical deficits before the diagnosis. And by the time I interacted with him, he could understand directives but forgot how to tell his body to do them. I asked him to turn over from a lying-on-back position to lying-face-down; and though he understood precisely what I said, he couldn’t remember how to turn over his body. It was incredibly sad to watch the shell of a once-great mind brought so low. And some may think it unavoidable.
However, for decades a mountain of evidence has been springing forth to show us that neural inflammation can be reduced or at least partially controlled. That is, even “unavoidable” outcomes may be delayed, and assuaged, if not reversed. Mechanistically, it makes a ton of sense, since we can all fathom receptor up-regulation and down-regulation.
For example, as a person takes caffeine, does she become more resistant (tolerant) to its signal or less resistant? If a person drinks alcohol, do his receptors require the same amount or more to invoke the same response? Likewise with stress and glucose, persistent elevations will numb receptors. As receptors become degraded and corroded, it becomes increasingly difficult to get energy into the cells whose receptors are worsening. When those cells are brain cells, do the math.
Again, recently, researchers took on this subject, except from an epidemiological data gathering: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/.../prediabetes-may-be-linked-worse... . I don’t tend to like these types of studies, because they ignore mechanisms and attempt to link causes through statistical indices. That said, a study of this nature does contain the power to cast doubt on supposed correlations, if they uncover an unexpected statistical relationship. In this case, they did not cast doubt. Findings were consistent with our expectations on how unregulated glucose injures tissue. Those with uncontrolled sugars do have a higher tendency toward brain deterioration.
And perhaps, if you too have an intellectual starting point as meteoric as Michael’s, it won’t be overtly evident in your 40s or 50s or even early 60s. But all that means is if you wait until reality is no longer deniable you will have less time to face the problem. In his case, once the symptoms were undeniable, he became wholly incapacitated in the course of a couple years. Since the brain, like all organs, can regenerate to a certain extent, if you take on the problem now, your prospects will be a lot brighter.
Does a bridge collapse because of that one single car on it during the collapse? Or does it fail because of all the millions of trucks that went over it previously? The rain, the cold, the heat, the millions and millions of tectonic expansions and contractions?
Research finds that crappy childhood nutrition wrecks your health for life, even if you “get healthy” later in life: https://news.ucr.edu/.../study-finds-childhood-diet-has...
Everything is cumulative. We may notice an inflammatory condition at age 40. We may need a kidney stone removed at 50. We may need our appendix or spleen out. We may have uncontrollable joint pain. Wake-up call: it wasn’t the last car to travel the bridge.
Do some construction teams build a shoddy bridge to begin with? Sure. Do engineers occasionally miss a calculation? Of course. So, why o why, do we fixate on that last car? It wasn’t the last car. It wasn’t the last car. It wasn’t the last car. Read it again.
In formal logic there is a particularly sneaky fallacy: the induction fallacy. Based on prior experiences, we believe they create a fail-safe predictive model. They don’t. The sun doesn’t rise today because it rose every day prior. It rises today based on objective physical properties independent of our observations and independent of all prior events. Just because you didn’t NOTICE deterioration does not mean you only started to deteriorate this moment when it was no longer deniable. The bridge seemed to hold just fine with all the millions of prior trucks... “therefore, it MUST be due to the last car!”, you cry out.
Kidney function can drop to 25% before people NOTICE kidney problems. Think about that. Organs can take 75% damage and destruction and there be no obvious symptoms or signs. Really, THINK ABOUT THIS. Your internal framework is all just like this. “This never bothered me before” is a dangerous line of thought. There can be “no bother” while you’re down at 70% loss of function and integrity.
Everything is cumulative. Try to notice it before you’re forced to notice it.
The adage goes, “on any given Sunday, any team can beat any other team.” Apply this toward your health. Apply this toward your mindset. Just because your genetics or heredity say one thing, it doesn’t mean you can’t beat the odds. Just because you’ve been running a losing streak, it doesn’t mean you can’t flip the trend. Just because you’ve been on a winning streak, it doesn’t mean you can’t lose. Pride comes before the fall. The meek will inherit the earth. The factors involved in wins and losses extend far beyond the predicted significance of prior variables. Not just on any given Sunday, but on any given day, you can make a new possibility.
In history, we see it a lot. The 300 is a great example. Spartan numbers should’ve never held their position against Persian numbers. Moreover, when you study Ancient Greece, you find that Spartans weren’t even able to overtake the walls of their next-door neighbors, the Messenians. By Greek standards, the Spartans were not the toughest. They weren’t soft. They just weren’t the toughest. What are the odds of 300 guys standing their ground against 200,000 soldiers? But they did it. Heavy armor and strategic positioning accounted for a lot. Persians had light armor. Persians didn’t have home field advantage.
Any given Sunday.
The adage is evident in sports, because so often people have seen upsets. Front-runners falter. Underdogs destroy competitors. In sporting event statistics, no outcome percentage ever approaches 100, because focus, intent, and even physics can make things go sideways. You can’t ever really KNOW what EXACTLY will happen. Even the gambling and investment oracles have a long list of loser picks. The biggest gambling and investment winners have selected a lot of losers.
Any given Sunday.
Geneticists declared in 2018 that DNA and heredity have less to do with how long you will live than who you choose as a spouse/partner: https://www.genetics.org/content/210/3/1109. The team you come from has less predictive power than the team you’re making. Your past might’ve gotten you to the present. But your present is what will take you to the future.
Any given Sunday.
My mom always warned me about “joiners.” She would say that a lot of people make life decisions based on trying to be part of a group, aka “joiners”. It is a rule in Sociology, after all. People define themselves as a part of the group with which they perceive a connection, and AGAINST groups with which they perceive a schism. It drives a lot of groupthink. It wears down the individual. It directs perfectly good people to make perfectly awful choices.
Any given Sunday.
Lately, we’ve all seen people struggle with their loser pick. They forgot about Any Given Sunday. They forget about Any Given Tuesday. It’s as simple as that.
Don’t be a joiner; and there’s no problem. Outcomes don’t bother me, because I’m not a joiner. I don’t support strangers. If I make a pick or vote a way, that’s it. Done. I will criticize more harshly that same pick the very next second. They don’t get my loyalty. They don’t get my unwavering praise.
I don’t understand joiner mentality. I don’t jive with celebrity worship. But I also don’t cheer for sports teams. I don’t put a lot of stock in genetics. I don’t believe in destiny or fate or luck. I detest a lot of organizations, even if they stand for something worthy, simply because they erase individual thought. I don’t care for the follower culture of social media. I was more comfortable leaving large companies than being within them.
And if you are a joiner, that's fine. If you insist on fatalistic genetics and impossible destiny, be my guest. Just never forget that anything can change, anything can alter, any streak ends, any trend reverses, any set of circumstances may be different the very next moment.
Any given Sunday.
Especially, don’t underestimate your mind when imagining a new and different future.
The realities for which human imagination is responsible are both awesome and awful. Look around a cityscape; and think - I mean REALLY think - about how all which you see was once grasses and trees, and not much else.
The human mind which transformed everything around you is in you as well. All the STUFF you see is just STUFF that once was merely an idea, an impossibility in human minds. Your health and wellness journey is no different. A wasteland could be restored to a wetland habitat. A grassy knoll could become a bustling metropolis. No one must accept that “this is just the way it is.”
When visiting an Egyptian museum exhibit several years ago, my wife and I noted how different the facial structures of the statues are. These are leaders, mind you, who were forever commemorated in stone. Pause. THINK. Ancient Egyptian ideas of race were so different from our 1400s-1900s skin tone idiocy that scholars can’t reliably reconstruct what “color” Egyptians were primarily. You know why? Because we made up that stupid stuff. Skin tone genuinely only means skin tone. Period. End of sentence. The dumb ideas that facial structure or production of melanin has any correlation to value, competency, work ethic, etc., HUMANS fabricated.
We take for granted that certain terrible realities “were always that way” and “always will be.” Well, they weren’t. And they don’t have to be. I heard a historian panel on NPR about how certain states and colonies had women voters/female property holders before the initial reach of our early federal government in the late 1700s. Yes, you read that right. Our country overtly took a step backward with its centralized formation, LONG before it simply stepped up AGAIN to reconsider equality.
I’m not here to debate. Just think about what this means. People brought about institutionalized racism and inequality. It wasn’t always. And it sure doesn’t just exist naturally. Yes, we create divisions. But they’ve varied over history.
More importantly, think about implications. The human mind created a lot of phony social structure. It can tear it down too.
And personally, within you, you’ve created a lot of phony “cans” and “can’ts.” You take them for granted. But your or others’ minds created them. You can tear them down. And you can build better ones.
Let us build better ones.
Watch a video of an 80-year-old man deadlifting 529lbs, and connect the dots which show us that guy is just a human like you. Our physical states are outcomes from our choices. Not all. But not none. Choose to get stronger as you age. Choose to improve balance. Or choose to get weaker, and choose to lose balance.
The muscle fibers which govern balance are rapidly reacting to changes in sensory feedback. Sometimes called “fast twitch” because of this, the Type II muscle fibers are directly involved in the skill which we all call “balance.” Since the early 2000s, researchers have known with great confidence that reduction of strength WILL raise fall risk and other balance-related dangers: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18711425/. And they supposed it many decades prior. If you aren’t getting stronger, you are losing your balance.
Interestingly enough, static balance does not necessarily correlate with dynamic balance. Study findings are unclear. That is, if you can stand on one or both legs a little better than before, there isn’t necessarily any improvement in your reaction to icy ground while walking. Thus, most balance training, exercises, and therapy are unsubstantiated. It doesn’t mean they’re assuredly wrong. It just means we know a BETTER way with more evidence supporting it: strengthen.
You can peruse every single meta-analysis on balance and find it dwindles ON AVERAGE with age. That’s not interesting. What’s interesting is the question about outliers. What’s different about older people who have great balance and LESS risk of fall? They have more relative strength.
We only see balance evaporate with age because the average person insists on getting weaker as he gets older. Again, this is why I’m in a constant state of irritation by people refusing to accept that fitness is not the scale. FITNESS IS NOT THE SCALE. The scale doesn’t tell us if you’ll fall, break your hip, contract a nosocomial disease, go septic, and die within the next 5-10 years. But loss of strength IS predictive for this: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5820209/. Getting weaker? Risk is going up. Getting stronger? Risk is going down.
Wait for it. Watch the center VERY CLOSELY (video here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CK3uJ-UFf_x/). My wife’s second shot, ever. Swipe left for first shot, 37.5 feet. Day 1. I taught her how I WISH I’d been taught. Takedown. Slide. How to make a firearm totally inoperable. Mag drop, swap, reload, stance, style, sighting, bracing, breathing. Dry fire. 4 laws of gun safety. THEN, load your own magazine with ONE round. Unload mag. Load, drop mag, check chamber, clear chamber, reload. Repeat. Later, fire. One. One. One. THEN, 5 at a time.
For years I learned from a lot of experienced shooters. Not a knock against them, but the military guys were the absolute worst educators for beginners. Since it is all so natural for them, they kept leaving out critical details. It wasn’t until I worked with passionate civilian instructors (like @sir.michaeljames) that I began to see a parallel. In my industry, the most talented naturals, lifelong athletes, are not the BEST coaches. It doesn’t mean they can’t BECOME good. They’ll just never be great.
Vince Lombardi was not a star player. He was not a natural fit for football... on the field. Phil Jackson played on a Division II team which failed to win a championship. He did make it as a second round pick to the NBA, but no one argues he was a naturally dominant player.
If you have no rhythm, Neil Peart is not the BEST instructor for you. If you have no coordination, Baryshnikov is not the BEST dance instructor for you. If you’re starting businesses late in life, Warren Buffet is not the BEST teacher for you. If you weren't built like a bodybuilder at age 10, you can get some insights from Arnold, but you won't get the BEST instruction possible from him.
The greatest naturals, even those who slave for their craft, do NOT make for the greatest coaches. That’s an inarguable fact. I know people who worry about taking criticism for teaching when they don’t have the “right background,” whatever that means. But it’s quite the opposite. The naturally-gifted who are the best players, best athletes, best musicians, best artists, best marksman, ought to be more cautious and humble about giving advice and teaching, because they can never be the greatest teachers. Non-naturals will always have unrivaled superior insight for what it takes for other non-naturals to achieve greatness.
When you want to quit. When it’s “impossible.” When you think it’s not worth it. When prospects are dim. When there’s no way. When it “can’t” happen. When it “couldn’t” happen. When it “shouldn’t” be possible. When it “should” be easier.
“What’s so special about this video?”, you may be asking (video here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CKv7_5rFV5C/). Just another big dude moving big weights, not even worthy of mention. Well, just two months before this I couldn’t use the left side of my upper body. Temporary paralysis. If that weren’t enough, not long prior, I’d had the right pec major surgically reattached after a complete avulsion/tear. The week before that, my daughter was born. A couple months before that, I had crippling Lyme disease. Around the same time, we discovered a cancerous lesion on our son, requiring surgical excision. Oh, yeah, and we built a new location for our business the same quarter. You know what they call that? Life. You keep waiting for a good or easy period of time. It won’t come. You wait for the universe to deliver you unearned credit. It won’t happen. Hell, it won’t give most people their earned credit, their due.
It's a cop out to think, "I'm not good enough at 'X' or in 'Y'." Titles, recognition, and achievement are seldom contingent on skill or being "good enough," whatever that means anyway. If you’ve ever taken the time to study someone whom many call “successful,” you’ve found yourself somewhere between a little and very disappointed. Even in The Snowball, Warren Buffett’s biography, you discover that for each one of his sharp decisions, he made a great many blunders. And if his father hadn’t been a successful person and influential congressperson, none of Buffett’s initial opportunities would have even existed. Without his initial opportunities, there would have been none of his subsequent possibilities, and so on. And this is someone who is at least a little respectable. So imagine what that says about a more uncouth celebrity.
Have you ever met the allegedly or ostensibly "good enough" people? Or heard them speak? I have. Just about every "somebody" I've met at big companies is underwhelming. They aren't captivating speakers. They aren't strong writers. The don't have a powerful presence. Their critical thinking skills rank somewhere on the cognitive development chart between plankton and lichen. Most are just products of attrition, occasionally expedited in their rise by route of cronyism or nepotism. They've stuck around long enough, were in the right place at the right time, and/or were connected to the "right people." I wish it weren’t true, since I believe in merit. But when I search my soul I know that smarter people who are harder working have enjoyed much less worldly return on their efforts than dumber people who are lazy but well-connected. It’s a law. Worldly “successful” people may or may not work on skills. Some do. Most don’t. That is a very rare factor to explain getting to the top.
And you have to remember this when your mind goes into doubt or self-criticism. Those inept people were able to become presidents, VPs, executives, "somebody" fundamentally by hanging around and connections. Seriously. Learn their stories.
On the obverse, some of the most captivating speakers I’ve ever heard were lifelong missionaries with barely two nickels to rub together. What they’ve seen and how they’ve devoted themselves to their fellow man is beyond admirable. A doofus who tripped his way to the top can’t capture that impact in a speech.
The best among us and the most rigorous thinkers of all time refused titles. Ever heard of Newton? Descartes? Einstein? Jesus of Nazareth? Few or no riches. And those are the names we DO know. Then there are the many, many, many names we don't know. Most people haven't even heard of Rosalind Franklin, the scientist actually responsible for discovery of the DNA double-helix structure. In fact, there's a great example of how the smartest and hardest working person usually fades into obscurity, not only not capitalizing on his or her talents, but not even getting recognition. We have all heard the names Watson and Crick held in great esteem. But they were research thieves. Or, how many people believe they could outthink Tesla? He had zero ambition to become the world’s first trillionaire - an easy feat if he would’ve kept the patent on electricity and monetized his inventions. Meanwhile, some goofball who has spent two decades riding other people’s coattails is on a motivational speaking tour. Another trust fund goofball who’s ridden the backs of workers will stand in front of a crowd and seriously say he’s a self-made man. It's our fault too. We reward the worst of us and the least capable with our admiration, attention, and funding. We reinforce the success myth, the myth of the self-made man, the myth of worldly blessings, the heresy of the prosperity Gospel, the blasphemy of the prayer of Jabez as a thorough theological stance.
Moreover, I have to add that I know “big time” people. I’ve trained many. I currently coach a few. I’ve worked side by side with others. They aren’t one iota happier than the average person. Not one. Having failed to build the toolkit of contentment and selflessness, they are perpetually angry or depressed. Perpetually. I’m not exaggerating. Nine out of ten are substance abusers and/or food or sex addicts. If being successful by a worldly standard is so great, why is there ANY lying and cheating among “successful” people? Split hairs all you like. If worldly recognition and riches are so awesome, why would we even see a 5% fail rate in the relationships of these big time “successes”? Yet, the rate of infidelity among wealthy people is TWO TO THREE TIMES higher (https://www.forbes.com/.../wealth-matrimony-millionaires... ) than the national average (https://comparecamp.com/cheating-statistics/). And keep in mind that those wealthy people are factored into the average, pushing the statistic higher than it would be without them. It’s fair to say they are FOUR TO SIX TIMES more immoral than regular people. Their net worth in dollars may be higher; but their value as humans is worth less.
Go ahead and compare yourself. Go ahead. Stack yourself against highly “successful” people. But compare yourself on metrics that matter. How do you treat your community? How do yo show up for your family? How do you love your neighbor? How do you pray for your enemies? How do you find peace and contentment instead of incessant covetousness for more? My friend, you can be more than good enough, ESPECIALLY when compared to others. You're more valuable than every single famous "successful" person.
Two subjects confuse most people: equipment access and results. These misunderstandings are intertwined. Results rely on consistent strategic progression. Progression has little to do with available equipment. And consistency usually decreases as we rely on more access or more equipment. In this past year, we've facilitated thousands of hours of virtual appointments and seen that some of the people whose programs were predominantly or exclusively in-home had the best results. Consistency reigns supreme. Relying on limited equipment makes for greater consistency. Greater consistency means one can compound the progression effect better.
Let me clarify. There are five modes of progression for a single rep of any given exercise: range of motion, instability, explosiveness, pause (in mechanically disadvantageous portions of a movement), and the last one is resistance. The third and fourth are ends of the tempo spectrum. Strength coaches study these modes of progression intently, never getting hung up on equipment. Dan John once said he was his absolute best as a trainer when he only had one single 16kg kettlebell. That’s not because the kettlebell is inherently superior to all equipment or that there’s something magical about 16 kilograms. It’s because as we LIMIT the equipment we must think more precisely about how to appropriately regress or progress movements.
Keep in mind that this is just the single rep. We aren’t even referencing energy systems or workload. If you create more demand in multiple energy systems and/or increase workload, that too is a progression even if resistance is reduced. Exercise “work” can be peripherally defined similar to the physics definition. Work = force X distance. In twenty reps the distance travelled is four times that of five reps (that is, if range is equal). Thus, the workload continues to progress from five to twenty reps (re: physics) all the way up to a 3/4 drop in resistance. Granted, if your range of motion is also greater, technically 20 reps at 1/4 the resistance would be MORE work performed than 5 reps at 4 times the resistance, and the stimulus is GREATER with a 75% reduction in bar weight.
In physiology, however, we have more at play than simply F X D, because with greater range of motion, not only do we increase distance, we also decrease mechanical advantage both at the lever ratios (your femur is "longer", that is, farther from the fulcrum, from an engineering perspective, when in a deep squat versus a partial squat) AND at the lengthening of muscle fiber cross connections (the more the muscle is lengthened or "stretched" the less capacity it has). This is also where we discover that “resistance” is not the same thing as “weight.” The resistance you experience and effective force you must produce at 95 degrees of knee flexion is more than at 85 degrees even though the weight on the bar is the same. Just below parallel versus just above parallel are practically different exercises altogether.
All that said, it’s pretty easy to envision a half squat with 500lbs for 5 reps on a stable surface and stable setup with no pause or explosiveness as actually a huge REgression from a 45lb squat at full range of motion for 20 reps with pause at 90 degrees and a hop at the top. READ THAT AGAIN. Five partial reps with 500lbs is less work, less stimulus, and less application toward human movement than twenty reps with a pause and jump with JUST THE BAR AND NO ADDED WEIGHT. If we make the surface less stable or stagger the stance, the progression may actually be too large to handle for a seasoned athlete who regularly squats 500lbs. In fact, I've seen exactly this. One of my first movement assessments as a new coach in 04/05 was with an advanced athlete who regularly squatted over 500lbs. When I ran him through a circuit WITHOUT ANY WEIGHTS, including an unloaded squat progression-regression sequence, he collapsed at two minutes into the assessment, got up after a few seconds, and went to the restroom to puke.
A 400lb squat at the same tempo on the same surface at the same angle of depth for the same number of reps is indeed a progression from a 300lb squat with all the same variables. But if any other variable is enhanced dramatically, resistance can go DOWN a lot and the progression is still immense.
What happens with most people is they get distracted by vast facilities and a broad array of equipment, never taking the time to understand HOW TO PROGRESS. Ask veteran trainers or long-seasoned strength coaches, and they can provide ample examples of people who kept using heavier weights and more equipment WHILE GETTING WORSE.
Top athletes in the world who make consistent progress have about 5 exercises they frequently train and return to. Most importantly, they’re consistent. The best of the best do not bog themselves down with 700 variations. And they may train for 20 years, day in and out, with nothing but an Olympic barbell.
Contrast that against many influencers. The ones who’ve looked exactly the same for the past 2 years, 5 years, 10 years are continuously uploading hundreds of different routines and exercises. Zero proof of concept. No evidence of improved strength or skills. No substantial athletic PRs for months or years or maybe ever.
What I’ve seen since moving to a private space is that 10-to-1 those who train here consistently have performance improvements which absolutely crush the results of gym goers at big facilities. Since expanding more and more into the virtual coaching, I see a linear correlation between program simplicity and outrageous improvements.
The fewer the items, the more intense the effort and focus can be. The more controlled the variables in the modes of progression, the more assured we are of results. This rule has no exception. A guy who once benched 185lbs for 6 reps and now does 225 for 8 may have done nothing other than shorten his range of motion, increase the stability of his setup, and increase the tempo so that he experiences less time under tension. This could be a massive REgression. Add incline, decline, hammer strength, cables, pulleys, and other variants, and he may actually be throwing away his pressing force production capacity each week. Meanwhile, a client who has NO EQUIPMENT can explode with ability when strategically implementing modes of progression. If she started with partial range of motion wall pushups for 20 reps and is now at the floor doing full range of motion single arm SLOWER for 5, we know she is producing more force. We know it’s a PR. We know it will elicit more progress. No gym necessary. No equipment necessary. No distractions.
Or weight loss, fat loss, health, and more.
There was this response you seldom hear any more, “what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?”
People see unrelated changes which happen over the course of time and falsely attribute causation. The price of tea in China also went up EXACTLY linearly with the same change-over-time outcomes you’re attempting to connect. Why not just say the price of tea in China caused this thing?
Don’t just show me statistical change over time. Propose a known, understood, and believable mechanism.
Careful on the “cholesterol CAUSES heart disease” and other seemingly sensible proposals. Just because someone developed heart disease and had a trend up in cholesterol doesn’t mean the latter caused the former. The price of tea in China also went up.
No falsifiable, repeatedly testable, verifiable mechanisms?
Then might as well blame it on the price of tea in China.