50 More Things I’ve learned

It’s almost two and half years have passed since I wrote 80 Things I’ve learned. During that time I’ve taken up two martial arts, competed in both and placed no less than third, have been blessed with a gorgeous daughter, started a private training business that includes a popular boot camp, added 100 pounds to my front squat, dropped 20 pounds in body weight, and am in the best physical shape of my life. Not, by any means, an earth-shattering list; however, my point is that things change with time, we change as people and we learn new things depending on the effort we put out in the game of life and work.

During the past two and half I’ve turbo-charged my knowledge and experience, and I’m back to share with you some of what I’ve learned.

1. Since taking up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo I’ve learned how to apply myself 110% in the gym. There’s only one motto to live by when I’m training in the gym, on the mat, or outside in the pouring rain.

It’s this: Hurt in practice so you don’t bleed in battle! (Quote taken from Spida Hunta of Enhancing Performance)

You cannot expect extraordinary results with an ordinary effort. The worst thing that can result from a training session is getting tired. That’s all. If you tear yourself down during practice and aim beyond your goal, when the time comes to compete, the only thing that should separate you between you and your opponent is skill.

Brad Imes moments before ending his bloody war with Mike Dexter by triangle choke at WEC 14, March 17. Imes later made it to the finals of TUF II.

2. Learn to become comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Generally speaking, the very things you don’t like doing are what you should be doing. In order to excel, learn to step outside your comfort zone.

3. Don’t just talk the talk—walk it and make sure you do a damn good job of it.

4. Webster’s dictionary defines a “mentor” as a trusted counselor, guide, tutor and/or coach. A mentor isn’t a jack-of-all-trades, doesn’t have a fancy sounding name (in fact they may sound too plain), or use big words when they’re trying to make a point. A mentor is someone who is passionate about what they do, they eat, breathe and sleep their work and will help you if you’re willing to put in the necessary work. They are kind, caring and respectful and will not withhold information that you would otherwise have to pay for.

They will push you to learn, to open your mind and embrace new concepts and ideas. They may even criticize you, and allow you to make mistakes, but only because they know it will push you to move forward in knowledge. They don’t give you answers; instead they give you the stepping-stones to come up conclusions that may be the answer. My mentor was Dr Siff. Sadly he is no longer here today. He passed away doing what he loved to do. Lifting iron.

I’m the really cool looking guy in the top left with his eyes shut standing behind Dr Mel Siff

5. Train your wrist extensors. A lot of what you do in everyday life is flexor- related, and so, the extensors become weak.

6. For martial artists it is imperative that abdominal static strength levels are high. Movements such as bracing before throwing an opponent, holding an opponent in the guard or in a pin are examples of the abdominal’s being utilized to a great degree. Don’t just squat and deadlift; add some isometric abdominal work as well.

For further information on how to build strong abdominal’s, check out my article – Strong Abdominals

7. The training of youth should be a fun experience. Incorporate games into their routines that’ll force them to lunge, jump, squat, dodge, twist, turn, leap, bound, and skip. All of these are essential bio motor skills needed for building a solid athletic foundation.

8. If you have injured your shoulder, or suffer from shoulder pain, put down the barbell and pick up some dumbbells. Remember, if it hurts, modify.

9. If you suffer from poor posture, row. If your shoulders are tight, row. If you have a weak upper back, row. Using a variation of rows will do your body a lot of good.

10. What is core training? The next time you’re at the pool, bring a five pound dumbbell along into the water and try treading water with it. That’s core training.

11. Adding a dynamic day to your program is a sure-fire way to increase force output.

12. Two simple pieces of equipment that will get you in the best shape of your life are a sack and a tire. Attach a rope to the tire and pull it a variety of different ways.

Fill the sack with sand and lift it, grip it, pull it and throw it.

13. Make your training enjoyable. There should be a fun element attached to some phase of your workouts. Otherwise, you’re not going to be able to stay motivated.

14. Body weight exercises combined as a circuit are an excellent way to condition the body. Don’t underestimate the power of body weight movements.

15. If your goal is maximal strength keep your reps under 8. Duh.

16. Take a nap everyday. It’ll speed up your recovery. I try to get at least a sixty-minute nap in each day.

17. The most successful trainees are those who apply themselves in the gym day after day. And don’t fool yourself into believing that anything other than a sensible combination of food, rest, and hard work will bring you better results.

18. Learn to accept responsibility for the current state of your body. Once you have done this, assume the responsibility for changing it.

19. If your willingness to excel both inside and outside the gym fades or waivers, so will your progress.

20. If you want to get bigger, stronger, faster, and leaner, you have to pay your dues. This means working hard inside the gym, and making smart choices outside.

21. In life you can get injured or plateau in your gym training or burn out. Your career will intrude and family life will stress you out. During these times rely only on yourself to buckle down and work toward building a better body. In the end, only you are responsible for making adjustments when times get tough.

22. One of the biggest thrills one can experience in the gym is to see progress being made. If you learn to approach your training rationally you will be continually thrilled over and over again.

23. Pull, push, press and rotate. Now do it using one side of your body. That’s a sure-fire recipe for increased strength.

24. Overweight people aren’t necessarily lazy. A lot of them have physiological issues and food happens to be the easiest way to cope with them.

25. If it’s a habit, chances are it’ll change you in some way. Make a habit of training hard in the gym.

26. Soft tissue work is a must. Whether you use a tennis ball, a golf ball, or a foam roller, get that soft tissue healthy.

27. 90% of the people I’ve trained and assessed have weak glutes. Make sure you get your butt in gear by doing activation, soft tissue and strength work for the glutes.

28. If you’re male who trains females, choose your words very carefully. Proper communication is paramount in establishing a good working relationship with your female clients.

29. Women are competitive. I learned this first-hand during the competitions I held in my boot camp.

30. Females tend to be quad-dominant, and they don’t use their butts all that much.

31. Just because you’re flexible doesn’t mean your soft tissue is healthy. A prime example of this can be seen in the figure skaters I coach. They’re all very flexible but have a lot of knots in their muscles.

32. Balance is generally related to how strong you are. Learning to stand on a Swiss ball only makes you better at standing on a ball and brings the chance of looking like a complete idiot if you fall. The stronger you are the better your balance is. You wonder why elderly folks are always falling down? It’s not necessarily because of poor balance. It has to do with strength levels.

33. Your training shouldn’t be dictated by the calendar. Use your biological calendar to design programs. Some people can get away with training 3 times a week while others can do 6.

34. Quoting Charles A Smith, “You never know how important good health is until you no longer have it.” Cherish what you have; you never know when you’re going to lose it.

35. Simple is not the same as easy. Getting stronger is simple. Choose your compound movements, rest until you’re ready to lift again, and keep your reps low. This is not an easy task.

36. Always use proper form and technique. It’ll keep the injuries down during competition. Most of my wins on the mat don’t look graceful, but because I practice proper form and technique in the gym I’m spared from getting seriously injured.

37. The type of training equipment you select doesn’t matter. It’s how you use it that ultimately counts.

38. Stuart McRobert said, “If you lift Mickey Mouse poundage’s, all you’re going to get is a Mickey Mouse body.” In other words, someone who can Dead lift 600 pounds is going to have a thick back and a strong pair of legs.

Does Mickey look like he can deadlift?

39. It is a privilege to be able to walk into a gym and lift weight, so we can better our bodies and increase the physical quality of our lives.

Don’t train hard year round. Learn to take a break from your training. Go read a book, take a hike, and indulge in fine food and drink. Don’t feel guilty about it. If you train hard you deserve the break and so does your body.

41. High rep training does work; it’s not just for muscle endurance. Throw in some 20 rep squats and deadlifts, and see what kind of results you get from them.

42. Yeah, the basics are boring and you know them inside and out. But guess what? They work! So, stick to the basics for guaranteed results.

43. A lot of people are great at dishing out advice. But when it comes to actually applying what they know—when there’s a time-line involved and money changes hands—well, that’s a whole different story.

44. Learn about all the different types of methods and techniques, but don’t necessarily follow them. Make changes that become your own, and that suit your body and your needs.

45. Stress is dangerous. Work, family, gym, and financial stress will eat you alive if you let them take over. Do something to de-stress; attend a yoga class, read a book, or just take some quiet time to reflect on where you are.

46. An exercise that is very good at developing the upper body is the Front Squat. The strength needed to stabilize the shoulder blades, keep the arms in a static position and the torso upright; all contribute to a strong and functional upper body. Plus it builds monstrous quads.

47. Swiss balls half full of water make for fun training. They also really force you to train your grip and abdominals.

Swiss Balls can force you to train your grip and abdominals

48. I love caffeine. I love it even more before workouts and competitions because it increases maximal output. In other words, this wonderful drug allows me to work harder for longer, which equates to more work getting done.

49. Combination’s, hybrids, and complexes are excellent ways to condition the body and reduce body fat.

50. Strong abs require you to be on your feet since most of what is done is in an upright position when throwing, twisting, flexing, and bracing. Use bands, cables, med balls, kegs, tires, or whatever – just stay on your feet when training your abs


So there you have it. These are some of the nuggets I’ve picked up along the way. Of course, I realize over time that the more I know, the more I need to know.

Written by Maki Riddington

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – 50 More Things I’ve learned discussion thread.