10 things the muscle mags didn't tell you about being fit and healthy

Ever ‘stumble’ through the magazine section at the grocery store only to have your eye caught by a clever heading like “Grow Like Crazy”?

Or maybe you’ve looked at a jacked and cut dude on the cover of a muscle mag and thought, “hmmm… maybe I could that?” (or just as common: “Why CAN’T I look like that?”)

For alotta guys, muscle mags are a primary source for their fitness information. And if you’e ever read one, you’ll know that there’s no shortage of new tips and tricks every month. But at some point, ‘hacks’ and lists of do’s and don’ts for building muscle and getting ripped provided by the Muscle Mags lose their value.

I’ve been writing a lot of guest posts recently. And you know what most websites say makes for good, going-viral-worthy content?


As in “10 Ways to Get Jacked and Build Biceps Like Arnold.” People click on that stuff all day, everyday (and twice on Sunday).

The problem, though, is that most list posts are full of a myriad of interesting pen marks, tethered together in a way that lends to acquiring information without actually influencing the bottom line. Really, what good is it if it doesn’t progress you towards looking, feeling, or performing better?

I’ll admit that I’ve contributed to the “noise” a time or two myself. In order to get my name listed under an article at a popular site, I’ve written a list post knowing that it really wasn’t doing a whole lot to provide the type of actionable information that transforms mind and muscle.

But on my site I do things how I want to do them.

And most often, this means writing from a place of gut-wrenching honesty and real-life experience. The kind of stuff that doesn’t always leave the forces of google purring with approval. The kind of stuff that may not appeal to the keyword formulas that satisfy the latest SEO craze, but damn well might actually change your life in a positive way.  

So this is my version of a “list article”, my attempt to avoid massaging your minds with more of the same tired, boring advice. Advice that sounds good on paper, but doesn’t always play out so well in real life.

Instead, you’ll read what I’ve experienced and what has actually helped me. And if you apply this information to your life consistently, you’ll probably see all kinds of positive turnaround.

Here’s 10 things the Muscle Mags forgot (ha) to tell you about building a better body.


When you first get into working out and eating to build muscle and get ripped, it’s normal to be a little obsessed with all things fitness. You’re in the ‘learning’ stage, where you can’t get enough muscle building and fat loss info.

Not only is there nothing wrong with this, I think it’s actually a crucial part of the process. Often, when people pick up new habits and interests, there’s an initial period of time where that’s the primary focus.

But in an ideal situation, after a while, this obsession starts to fade as you figure out how your new interests integrate with everything else that is “you” – like your other interests, responsibilities, goals, and relationships that make up your life.

However, for A lotta people, this progression never happens. Instead, you get caught up in the fitness culture – a world defined by shirtless, flexing pics posted on instagram every day and endlessly searching the web for the next “secret” that will give you “drug like gains.”

Pretty soon all you can think, talk, or read about is gettin’ swole.

You start to judge your worth as a person in how much weight you can bench, squat, or deadlift; or by whether or not you have 17-inch arms.

And if you’re not careful, you could end up in a situation where you feel like there is no separation between you, the person, and you, the body.

The fitness game is a great habit to have. Pushing yourself to transform your body and get stronger and all of that is great. But never let your abs or the amount you can bench press or your Fran time become the defining factor in who you are as man, or just as a person in general. 

Those things, while important, are a fragmented version of masculinity and humanity. Your purpose (and your worth) is greater than any measure of performance or appearance.

Be first focused on becoming the best version of yourself – physically, mentally, and emotionally – and let things flow naturally from there. I think you’ll find each area trends upwards when you do this, without any area becoming too much of a focus.


When I was 20 and single, I worked out 5-6 days per week for 1 ½ to 2 hours at a time. I didn’t have a lot of responsibilities outside of myself at that point in life, so it worked.

I had the energy to train that often and with a lot of intensity.

Now, at 29, things are a bit different. And it’s not really about age so much as it is about circumstances. I’m not just living for myself anymore. I’m married and I have two kids.

That’s three other human lives that I am significantly responsible for.

Regardless of where you’re at in life, there’s more important things than spending every waking hour in the gym workin’ on your fitness. And no – more isn’t always better in the pursuit of physique transformation.

I’ve yet to meet an average person with a job and other priorities/responsibilities that can’t build a great-looking and performing body with 3-4 workouts per week lasting 30-60 minutes and the addition of a few other healthy habits.

Run this advice up against alotta what you read in the muscle mags and you’ll think you’re lazy or “uncommitted.” Not so my man, no so.

If you’ve got a solid plan that you’re willing to put into action consistently you don’t need to be living in the gym to get fantastic results.


Raise your hand if you’ve ever googled a famous person’s workout program in an attempt to emulate what they do… guilty?

I’ve been there too.

But while googling “Rich Froning’s Workout” or “Henry Cavill’s Superman Workout” may seem like a good idea – and it probably even seems harmless – it’s not going to be the best way for you to build muscle and get ripped.

Your life isn’t all that similar to the lives of those guys. Athletes, actors, and bodybuilders have access to resources that you don’t have.

Oh, and getting in shape is their job.

Sure, they’re busy and have other stuff going on in life. But when your job is to get in shape, you are able to do things that normal dudes like you and me can’t. When you’ve got millions of dollars riding on your ability to build muscle and get ripped; you’re going to organize a lot of your life around training.

Which is fine for them, but isn’t great for you. Two issues arise when you try to take on the workout of someone else whose life situation is different from yours:

  1. You overtrain. Just because an actor or Crossfit Games athlete can train for 2 hours a day, everyday, and still recover properly to build muscle and get in better shape doesn’t mean you can. In fact, if you have a job, kids, and other responsibilities, I can pretty much guarantee you can’t. Overtraining can be as detrimental as not training at all. 
  2. Your priorities get skewed. So you start following Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel workout and things are going well…  only you’re sacrificing time with your family or friends to get in an extra workout. You compare your results to what he looked like in the movie – and when you don’t measure up, you feel like a failure.

Don’t make this mistake. The idea of following the workout of an athlete or actor that you admire is cool, but the result is almost never what you wanted. Find a workout program designed specifically with the goals and limitations of someone like you and follow that instead.

You’re results will actually be better, and the process will be a whole lot more enjoyable and sustainable.


Tyler Durden from Fight Club said “You are not your fucking khakis.”

But when you subscribe to a fitness label – you act like you are your khakis.

The Muscle Mags say, “You’re a bodybuilder so you have to train 5-7 days per week on a body part split.” So even though that doesn’t fit with your priorities or life circumstances – you do it anyway, because that’s what your fitness label does.

You do Crossfit so you have to do snatches, cleans, and squats multiple times per week even though you may not have the mobility to do them correctly and they beat up your joints.

In each of these examples (and any other similar), you get caught up in a “label” and lose sight of doing what’s best for you and your goals.

Ditch the labels. Get crystal clear on your goals, find the best way to reach those goals while taking the other aspects of your life into account and run that. Oh, and don’t forget to kick some things in there just for fun every now and then. 


A bit extreme? Maybe. But some guys actually do this stuff. If that’s you, you should probably stop.

And even if it’s not as extreme as head-butting walls and cranking music to deafening levels before your lifts – alotta guys are taking intensity too far.

Normal dudes who have jobs and relationships and hobbies and life outside of the gym, can’t be training like it’s their only responsibility.

So what does this mean?

It means not training to muscular failure on a regular basis.

It means not overly psyching yourself up before lifts.

It means not slamming a bunch of caffeine or loaded pre-workout supplements (more on this below) to do more of the two things above.  

Every once in awhile, when you’re really feeling it, go ahead and push your limits. But most of the time you should be training to technical failure, not muscular failure.

Usually, at technical failure, you may be able to squeeze out one or two more reps if someone had a gun to your head, but your form may not be perfect or you’d risk having the drop the weight and “fail” a rep – your goal is to stop just before that happens.

Most genetically average guys (that includes you), aren’t going to be able to recover from workouts that have them training to muscular failure on a regular basis or doing stuff that makes it so they can’t walk for two days afterwards.

If you’re drag-yourself-out-of-the-gym exhausted at the end of your workouts, you’re doing it wrong. Maybe that works for guys who are fitness models or bodybuilders or powerlifters or Crossfit athletes — guys whose job is fitness – but it won’t work well for normal guys.

Ideally, you will end your workouts feeling better than when you started. You’ll challenge yourself and work hard, but you won’t annihilate yourself. All this “training to failure” garbage” doesn’t sit well with me. 

Does Steph Curry go in the gym to practice missing shots? Heck no. He’s in there to make shots. Your reps in the gym are similar. They’re practice. Work on working the muscle. Focus on mastering the movement. Stop a rep or two shy of “failure” – that’s the goal.


I’m not anti-supplement. I take a few supplements on a regular basis. But I recognize that there’s nothing magical about supplements.

The reason I’m somewhat down on supplements is that I’ve seen and experienced how compelling the ‘supplement savior’ narrative can be. When you hear all the supposed benefits of a given supplement, it’s really easy to get sucked into a situation where you’re putting most of your hope for changing your body in a supplement.

Pretty soon, you’re dropping hundreds of dollars a month on all kinds of supplements that you’ve come to view as a necessity. A few reasons supplements don’t live up to the hype:

  1. Most won’t deliver on their promises… and those that do probably aren’t something you want to be messing  with. Listen man, I’m all about getting a “one up” in the gym, but I’m bouta sacrifice my health in the process. PEOPLE HAVE DIED from taking pre-workout supps – how messed up is that? Think an extra rep is worth your life? For your sake – I hope that’s not even a question that needs to be considered.
  2. Even with the best supplements, there’s no guarantee that you’re getting what you think you’re getting. A few years ago, one of the highest quality, most well-recognized and recommended protein brands (One World Whey) admitted that there was actually 1g of protein in their protein (rather than the 25g on the label). Oh, and rather than being “all natural” as advertised, it was filled with a bunch of sugar as a filler for the missing protein. That stuff was something like $2-3 per serving. I can find a bunch of other things to spend that money on than sugar. Or I can just go eat a steak and get my protein.

Bottom line: Supplements aren’t all their cracked up to be. Helpful if you’ve got some extra cash and/or are looking for a bit more convenience? Yeah, sure. But get to a point where it’s a necessary “stack” to the gains advertised in the magazine and you’re being misled.


There’s a difference between discipline and obsession. In my experience, meticulously tracking calories and macros leads to obsession.

Discipline, on the other hand, like choosing foods that make you look great and feel awesome most of the time will usually get you the results you want without the obsession.

If you build the right kind of habits, you don’t need to be typing everything you eat into an app to track your totals. Plus, even the best calorie counting efforts can be off by as much as 25% – so it’s not as much of an exact science as often promoted.

I know the whole “if you’re not tracking, you’re guessing argument”, but I tried that for a while, and while it was fun in theory, it didn’t play out the way I had hoped.

Eating whole, unprocessed foods most of the time not only will make you feel amazing, it also makes the whole process of tracking what you eat much, much easier. I’m not against all forms of tracking all of the time. 

Sometimes, especially as a beginner, tracking things can be beneficial to gain awareness so that you can make adjustments. But that’s a different game than a lot of the advanced strategies you’ll find in the Muscle Mags.

If you get to a point where you need a calculus degree to figure out what you’re eating today, you’re dabbling in obsession, not just discipline – and it ain’t necessary if competitive fitness isn’t in your immediate future.


For normal guys, being in ‘good’ shape is actually better than being in ‘great’ shape.

Whoa. Whoa – calm down. Before you start throwing stuff at your screen and yelling profanity at me, I’m not telling you to embrace mediocrity. Far from it, actually.

“Great” is the type of condition fitness models and physique athletes are in when they stop on stage or pose in front of the camera.

“Good” is the type of condition that can be sustained within the context of everyday life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen guys make massive transformations only to end up comparing themselves to this or that dude and still feeling like a failure. 

I’ve experienced this myself. About a year ago, I got in the best shape of my life for a photoshoot. But you know what? At the time, I remember looking at the photos and comparing them to this guy I saw on the cover of a Muscle Mag and thinking “ehh, I look okay.”

Part of this is my fault, for not making a more determined effort to building the best me without worrying about comparisons, but part of it is the mindset I picked up from mainstream fitness, which is driven by Muscle Magazines.

I remember reading  the advice to “find someone who looks like you want to look and use it for inspiration.” I did that. It’s horrible advice. Constantly comparing yourself to the guys on the cover of a magazine is a great way to never feel good enough.

It’s a distraction not worth the frustration it will cause. Just focus on taking what you have to work with and making it the best it can be.


For years, I wouldn’t do any cardio because I was sure it would burn away all of my hard earned muscle. This included avoiding hobbies like playing basketball or going for a run with my wife.

Then I ran a 9 ½ minute mile and realized my conditioning was awful and that the years I spent avoiding any kind of conditioning for fear of losing muscle wasn’t such a great idea.

Maybe it had allowed me to build one more pound of muscle… but at what cost? At the cost of being out of shape and unable to do any activity that requires endurance? Or how about not being great for overall health?

Yep, that’s the price I was paying for such an extreme obsession and fear of losing muscle. Is it really worth gaining just a tiny bit more muscle if it means sacrificing things you enjoy and putting your health at risk? Probably not – actually for me – definitely not.

I’ve got two kids to keep up with for the next 18 years (that they’re living with me). I’ve got hobbies that allow me to connect with friends while being active. I’m not going to miss out on that for 1-2 pounds of muscle.

You have to weigh the cost… is it worth it?

Another way guys often sacrifice health for gainz is by doing exercises that they can’t perform correctly because they think they have to do them in order to get results.

Barbell squats are a good example. Honestly, most guys can’t perform barbell squats with good form because they lack the mobility to do so. But since squats are often called the “king of all exercises” and most hardcore muscle building magazines and websites say “you have to do squats to build muscle”, alotta guys try to make it happen.

So they end up doing squats anyway and putting themselves at an increased risk for injury, and for what? To say that they can squat a certain amount? Because that somehow makes you more of a man?

Don’t buy into that b.s. If you can’t do an exercise properly or pain-free, then don’t do it. It’s that simple. There’s always a safer alternative that will still get you 90% of the results without the risk.

Whether you are avoiding activities you enjoy or doing things because you “have to”, stop it. If you want life long physique transformation, you’re in this for the long haul. And in order to stick with this whole fitness thing for that long, it has to be at least a little bit enjoyable and supportive of your overall health (not to mention your sanity). 

Seek to find a balance between what is going to help you achieve your goals and what is going to improve your overall health and fulfillment with your life.


Ever seen the cover of a magazine suggest something like “get shredded in 6 weeks!” Appealing as that is, it isn’t all that helpful for most.

Most people won’t get shredded in 6 weeks. And out of the ones that will, most of those won’t maintain their results. Why? Because true physique mastery is a long-term game.

Wanna get in shape for a short period of time? Maybe the shredded in 6 weeks approach will do. 

Wanna be in awesome shape for the rest of your life? It’s gonna take longer and it’s gonna require more learning.

Physique transformation is a short-term game. All it really cares about is changing as fast as possible.

Physique mastery is about change that lasts. It’s about figuring how and why and embracing the battle of how to integrate the “fitness” into the other aspects of your life. It’s about achieving a level of understanding that’s less about extremes and more about sustainability.


Obviously. But overall, there’s alotta hype that overpromises and under-delivers. In the long term, I just don’t see the information provided by Muscle Mags being helpful.

Maybe it can serve as inspiration to get started. To recognize that you’re now living with the kind of body that you want and to initiate some changes. But there’s too much of a short-term, gotta sell some supplements and keep people guessing approach that doesn’t lend itself to true fitness mastery.

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