53 Ways to Build Muscle, Gain Strength & Be F*ckin Awesome

Posted by Jason Ferruggia

1. Think safety first.
If you are always getting hurt no progress can be made.

2. Identify the exercises that hurt you and stop doing them.
Just because lots of people tell you an exercise is great that doesn’t mean it’s for you. If it hurts stop.

3. Have a clearly defined goal.
You can’t increase your 40 time, lose 20 pounds of fat and gain 20 pounds of muscle at the same time.

4. Train like an athlete.
Blend dumbbells, kettlebells, bodyweight exercises and various forms of movement.

5. Train for strength gains.
That’s how you build muscle- by adding more weight or doing more reps.

6. If you can avoid it don’t train first thing in the morning.
You’re more likely to hurt your back at that time. If you have no other choice do an extended warm up and use caution. It’s best to be awake for at least an hour before lifting heavy.

7. Train your neck.
It could save your life. And a pencil neck looks hilarious.

8. To spare your shoulders, elbows and wrists press with a dumbbells or a neutral/angled grip bar instead of a straight bar.
Unless you’re a competitive lifter. Otherwise this will keep you healthier over the long haul.

9. Do hurdle mobility drills.
Hip mobility is very important and goes quickly as you age. If you have good hip mobility your likelihood of having lower back problems will be reduced.

10. Don’t skimp on your warm ups.
If you’re pressed for time cut down on the main workout, not the warm up.

11. But don’t be “Warm Up Man” either.
Ya know, the guy who carries 17 different types of balls to roll on and warms up for two hours. That’s overkill. A good warm up never needs to last more than ten minutes.

12. Practice deep breathing before training.
Crocodile breathing and deep breathing in the seven month position is awesome before a workout.

13. Squat.
It’s an essential human movement pattern. But you don’t have to do it with a barbell on your back. Just maintain the ability to do it. Once you can, do some bodyweight squats every day. Like right now. Drop down and do 10. Then make that a habit to do randomly.

14. Start with the goblet squat when you need load.
That’s probably all a lot of people need. Back and front squats can beat up fragile lifters. It’s rare that someone gets hurt from goblets.

15. Don’t underestimate the power of single leg squat variations.
You can get great size and strength gains, while sparing your spine when you focus on skater squats, reverse lunges, step ups and split squats.

16. Make single leg RDL’s a staple.
When done with  kettlebells or dumbbells this is the safest deadlift variation you can do. It’s also phenomenal for the entire posterior chain.

17. For size gains you should feel the muscle.
Don’t just hoist weight. Lower under control and squeeze on the way up.

18. Always squeeze the bell as hard as you can.
Trying to crush it, on every lift you do. This will ensure tightness.

19. Squeeze your glutes tightly and brace your abs on every standing exercise.
This will help protect your spine and elicit more full body tension. Tension equals strength.

20. Always maintain optimal posture throughout your sets.
Never let your shoulders slouch forward, chin poke out or your lower back round/tuck under.

21. Do more moving and supporting on your hands.
Handstands, Power Wheel hand walks, lateral hand walks, alligator pushups, partner assisted wheel barrow walks, and crawling are all great for building up strength and stability in the shoulders.

22. Use thick handles or Fat Gripz.
This will strengthen the hands/grip and build up bigger forearms. It also alleviates helps to alleviate elbow and shoulder stress.

23. Don’t use excessive levels of psyche on every set.
This fries your CNS, increases the likelihood of injury and makes it harder to recover from one workout to the next.

24. Get a sled and use it often.
Sled work is invaluable and irreplaceable when it comes to conditioning. Get one HERE.

25. Incorporate more static/isometric holds.
Front warrior, prone mountain, cobra pose, downward dog, up dog, supine bridge and side lunge positions from yoga are all great to do on a regular basis, either as part of your warm up, or as part of a separate mobility workout you do on off days. Handstands and l-sits are also great for building indomitable core strength.

26. Jump rope.
Doing so will improve your foot speed and conditioning. Plus it’s cool to be able to jump rope well.

27. Do more exercises standing than sitting or lying down.
You sit or lie down to relax. And you spend enough time sitting at work. Stand as often as you can when training.

28.  Pick heavy shit up off the ground.
This is a basic fundamental law of being strong. I like kettelebell deadlifts for this purpose.

29. Carry heavy shit.
Exercises like farmers walks simultaneously strengthen the traps, lower back, grip, hips, knees and ankles. They’re tough to beat. Some other good carries are zercher, bearhug, waiters, shouldered, and racked.

30. Do some pushups.
They’re still one of the best pressing exercises there is. If you are beyond the beginner level figure out creative ways to load them (weight vests, plates on back, chains, bands) or make them harder (steep incline, 1 arm, divebomber, on rings, etc.).

For God’s sake, people, stay in shape!”
– Louie Simmons

31. Decrease your rest periods on small exercises.
Heed Louie’s words. One of the ways to do so is cut your rest periods when appropriate. I’m all for taking longer rest periods (90-180 seconds) on big compound movements you’re doing for low reps. But when you’re doing curls or face pulls for sets of 10-15 you can cut your rest periods way down.

32. Do something active every day.
The body is meant to move everyday. If you only strength train three days you should be out doing something active on the other days. Even if it’s just going for a walk or doing some mobility work to get moving.

33. Don’t train for more than an hour.
Your testosterone levels will drop and cortisol levels will start climbing. Plus, it’s been said that if you’re in the gym for more than an hour you’re making friends, not making progress.

34. Run, jump, climb, and crawl.
It’s what your body was designed to do. Simply lifting weights is not enough. You have to MOVE!

35. Eliminate loaded spinal flexion.
Your spine will thank you later. If you can’t do an exercise with a neutral spine stop doing it. Work on your mobility until you can.

36.  Listen to your body.
When you have nagging pains it’s always better to train around them than through them. Trust me.

37. Take a week off when your body needs it.
For most people that will usually come every 8-12 weeks. The older and stronger you are the more often you will need down time.

38. Take care of your knees.
You only get one pair.

39. Do reps to get swole.
Low reps on the big lifts are great for beginners. They don’t have the coordination or stabilizer strength to hold the appropriate positions for too long. So it’s safer to keep the reps lower and it helps them learn good habits. When you get more advanced you need moderate to higher reps (6-10 for upper body and 8-15 for lower body) to build muscle.

40. Play.
We forget to do this as we get older. Kids have a lot of things right. Always remember that “growing up” is a trap. Don’t do it. Go play something right now. I’ll wait.

41. Get at least 20 minutes of sunlight per day.
Vitamin D is critically important to your health and performance and natural sunlight is the best source. During the winter you need to at least an hour or you’ll need to supplement with it, depending on where you live. Of course, getting blood work done to test for a Vitamin D deficiency is the smartest approach.

42. Perform some soft tissue work on yourself daily.
Invest in some of these to keep yourself healthy.

43. Do hill sprints.
They shred bodyfat, crank up your conditioning and toughen you up. Plus Walter Payton did them which makes them awesome.

44.  Go to bed by 10:30 every night.
We are supposed to sleep when it’s dark and wake when it’s light. That’s how our bodies evolved. Very few people do that. That’s why very few people are healthy and in shape. I don’t expect you to go to bed at 7pm but you certainly shouldn’t be up til midnight staring at screens. Turn the cell phone, TV and computer off and do your body some good.

45. Get 8-9 hours of sleep.
It’s very difficult to get bigger, faster, stronger or leaner on minimal amounts of sleep. Sleep deprivation will also negatively effect hormone levels, mood, stress tolerance, immune function and concentration. There is nothing more important than getting more sleep.

I repeat, there is nothing more important than getting more sleep. For getting big, lean, strong, healthy, smarter, happier, more productive, less stressed… you name it.

46. Get up at the same time every day.
This will help ensure optimal/consistent hormonal balance and performance levels. You’ll feel much better when you do this.

47. Take naps.
It’s an awesome way to boost recovery and get a little surge of growth hormone. If the whole world had mandatory siestas and was forced to take naps there would be less violence, depression, divorce, war, you name it. I truly believe that.

48. Do yoga.
Don’t be too much of a manly tough guy to take care of yourself. Yoga makes you feel better. There’s a good reason that people have done it forever. Follow along with THESE routines at home.

49. Take contrast baths or showers after training.
Hot as you can handle for 1-3 minutes. Cold as you can handle for 30-60 seconds. Repeat for 5-10 minutes. This helps improve recovery.

50. Get massages.
Being dedicated to this on a regular basis over the last few years has made a tremendous difference in how I feel. Do it as often as you can.

51. Find a float tank and get in one.
This has probably been the best thing I’ve ever done for recovery in a long time. Google the nearest location and give it a try. Let me know how you like it.

52. Do some mobility work every day.
This book has lots of great options.

53. Train outside from time to time.
Bring a bunch of stuff outside and get after it. Or just go to the park and do a bunch of bodyweight stuff on the monkey bars alternated with some kettlebell swings.  But do something.

Start incorporating any or all of those tips today and pretty soon it will be impossible for you to walk into a room without people stopping to note, “That dude’s fuckin awesome.”

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Thanks for being awesome.