The reason I love resistance training, weight training and generally all things strength is simple: There are no absolutes. In order to be effective as either an athlete or a coach in this industry you MUST be willing to constantly learn, adapt and generally be open minded about new ideas or research which is ever evolving.

Now in my personal journey I have done and seen a lot. From humble beginnings as a meathead with absolutely no idea what I was doing or why (Including the 3x per week bench press and biceps routine), through to some smarter bodybuilding training and then my gradual (and continuing) change of focus toward strength and conditioning.

The following is by no means an absolute or exhaustive list, but my opinion on 7 important lessons (in no particular order) which I have learnt the hard way (or the slow way). Hopefully my insights will save some of you time or effort in achieving your goals.

1. The five day split – Bodybuilders everywhere are about to lose their minds. But after training a traditional 5 day split for years (and working my butt off doing it) I found both strength and hypertrophy had stalled. Employing a higher frequency approach (which could mean an upper-lower or full body split) has provided me with not only improved strength performance, but hypertrophy as well.

Here is a fantastic article by Mike Samuels from Healthy Living Heavy Lifting explaining Daily Undulating Periodisation or DUP. He references plenty of good literature explaining the benefits of training body parts multiple times per week (for both size and strength).

2. Six small meals a day – again, this was a lesson learnt early on while I was focusing on bodybuilding and getting “Ripped” being an ex fat guy, I have tried a lot of things. For me, personally eating 2-4 bigger meals a day works much much better than the 6 small meals a day idea. Now this is subjective but the point i’m making is for fat loss, or muscle gain the important thing is total calories and the macros of which they are made up from. If it suits you better and you can stick to a diet eating 1 gigantic meal a day, or 10 tiny ones,do what works for you!

3. The hypertrophy rep range – Walk into any commercial gym and you will see the same thing – plenty of guys doing sets of 8-12 reps for 3-4 sets. They are getting a “pump” and believe this is the best way to build muscle. And who would blame them, pick up any men’s fitness magazine or worse yet ask any the “bro’s” who may or may not pass a drug test and they will tell you to do this.

Recent research has actually gone against this trend and shown that a large amount of sets for low reps (10 sets of 3, with 3 minutes rest between sets), actually produced the same amount of muscle gain, while increasing strength substantially as a group performing 3 sets of 10 reps with 90 seconds rest (the standard bodybuilding protocol). The article is linked here and definitely worth a read

4. Sweet potato, broccoli and chicken breast – I briefly touched on this in point number 2. But yeah, eating clean is fantastic and something we should all focus on. BUT, at the end of the day it’s only macros that matter, if you want to eat McDonalds, or Pizza, or Ice cream, then these can all fit a diet, and you can lose weight while eating these. It’s the calories, protein, fat and carbohydrates you need to pay attention to.

We should all aim to eat clean as often as possible, but hey in the real world this doesn’t happen, and we shouldn’t feel bad about going out for a meal with friends or enjoying the odd treat. Just account for it.

5. Mobility – Foam rolling is hugely important. I’m not saying do 40 minutes a day, but 10 minutes prior to a workout can work wonders for the athlete. Increases circulation while loosening and activating the targeted muscles. What’s not to like about that?

Similarly, we can add a lot of mobility volume between sets in the gym. Things like shoulder dislocates, band pull aparts, T spine mobility and dynamic stretching can all be used as a form of active rest. (Sure beats sitting around doing nothing).

6. Rest – This is huge. For God’s sake people, when you are sick DO NOT TRAIN. Being sick and training is only going to make you worse, and while sick you’re never going to be able to focus enough to make progress in the gym.

Similarly, those of you who do 2 workouts a day 6 days a week then go for a 40 minutes run on your day off – Take a day off, rest up, it won’t kill you and you won’t get fat by resting. In fact the recovery from resting properly will probably improve your performance in the gym and lead to better results.

The drug free athlete generally performs best weight training 2-4 times per week, and doing cardio or other training 2-3 times. My recommendation is everyone have at least 1 full day per week of doing nothing, and 2 days of very light activity – go for a walk for 45 minutes to an hour or something. If you’re training as hard as you should be, then 4 sessions per week is plenty. Even this will still require the occassional deload where the athlete takes a full week or more resting and recovering. Strength training is a long term commitment, and we need to ensure our bodies are in peak condition for prolonged progress.

7. Be comfortable being uncomfortable – While it’s true you shouldn’t leave the gym feeling like you’ve popped a lung, hard work is underutilised in the majority of peoples training. An athlete needs to be able to push and go hard when required in order to force the body to adapt. While it is possible to determine how often, how heavy and how hard to train, this in my opinion is why a coach is the greatest asset am athlete can have. Having someone objectively program for you, and make sure you are training at an appropriate intensity is the best way to improve chances of success and after all, isn’t that why we all do this? To get better, faster, stronger, bigger, leaner , fitter and just generally look better naked.


 Hope this read has been enjoyable guys, and you can learn something from it quicker than it took me. Happy lifting and remember if anyone has any questions feel free to get in touch via the contact link at the top of this page.