This week on Barbell Shrugged we interview three-time New York Times Best Selling Author, Tim Ferriss.
Tim’s a very busy guy. Between book projects and start-up work it’s hard to give him just one title. If anything, you could call him a master of self-experiment. He’s certainly had a lot of success applying research methods to business, publishing, tech, marketing, education, creativity, fitness, podcasting, even Yabusame archery. It’s an impressive resume, but you can utilize the same tactics. In fact, you must do that.
The 4-Hour Workweek is a must read book. Click pic to read more.
If want to achieve extraordinary results in the gym, in work, in anything, then you have to work very effectively. You must spend your resources doing the right things, when it matters most. And you have to always work on improving your ability to think, for very good reason. As physicist Richard Feynman said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”
You can be a successful athlete, a great coach or podcaster, you name it. These are just skills like any other. You can learn it, but you have to work wisely. I think Tim has some really great tips for approaching experiment and performance.
First thing, set your conditions carefully.
You don’t need more will power or self-discipline. Just working hard isn’t the answer. Ideally, all you should do is make doing the right things easier. The best example is to simply organize and protect your time.
Start by creating a daily ritual to set your rhythm.
For Tim, each day starts with 15-20 minutes of transcendental meditation and a perfectly brewed cup of spiced tea. From there he spends about 5 minutes journaling his thoughts and daily intentions, which is one the very best ways to improve your happiness and overall effectiveness. With the mind cleansed and primed for the day he then spends time mobilizing restricted joints, something we all should do more often.
During this time all distractions are removed or silenced. The body and mind are primed and ready for work. The best possible effort is now possible.
Sometimes you just need the first domino to fall.
The most common cause for failure when learning any new skill is taking on way too much at the start.
It’s good to be eager, to want to progress quickly. But you have to be very cautious anytime you introduce more actions and behaviors to the mix. This requires resource and action, more decisions. In time you get fatigue by the demand and you fail, likely during travel or times of stress. You will break and loose progress, which is exactly what we want to avoid.
Don’t try adding lots of new behaviors and demands upfront, these are just new failure points. Instead, focus on changing just one behavior or habit. It should be a small thing, a doable thing. It should lead to other layers of discovery, but you don’t have to worry about all that up front.
Just tip the first domino over. That’s the most powerful action you can take.
There are no biological free lunches.
One thing I appreciate most about Tim is that he always advises people to consider the minimum effective dose. This applies to writing and teaching, and it also applies to your body.
When it comes to ingesting compounds and loading your body, you need to be very careful. Tim’s attitude towards all nutritional supplements is one of caution. In his view there is always a side-effect – a consequence – to taking anything. If you don’t know what it is you just haven’t discovered it yet.
It’s better to remain cautious.
Get your blood work done frequently, at the same time of day, under the same conditions, etc. Understand what you’re lacking and then supplement accordingly. Never copy what someone else is doing without first getting your own data. Think about your goals, what you need, and what you’d hope to achieve. And once you correct the issue, move on.
Take the same approach in the gym.
If you’ve read The 4-Hour Body you’ll know that Tim talks often about building muscle and strength.
There are two primary points to consider. First, gaining muscle mass is an incredibly hard thing to do. Anyone who’s faced the task of shoveling down an extra thousand calories or so of food a day will know how difficult that can be. It’s worth it, but you cannot keep it up forever.
A better option for most athletes looking to improve performance is to simply improve their relative strength. The quickest way to do that is to become more explosive. The faster you are the stronger you can become, and the less wear and tear you risk.
Consider the example of Barry Ross, a highly acclaimed track and field coach who’s athletes have set numerous national and world records. The secret behind his success, at least from what Tim could observe, was the strength of his athletes. They could all pull three times their bodyweight from the ground quickly and with ease, and they did it mostly by training for speed.
Try this. Load your barbell with something heavy, but not too heavy. Pick the heaviest load that you can lift any day, with great form. Pull it from the ground hard and fast, and with the best technique you can manage. After you lift the barbell, drop it. For now we’re going to avoid the extra loading.
If you’re an track and field athlete like one of Barry’s athletes you might consider stopping at the knees. Likewise, you might consider doing these pulls with a trap-bar, which is a very safe way to pull frequently. If you’re a powerlifter or a weightlifter, then practice your usual pulling technique.
After 2-3 heavy repetitions and drops, wait about two and a half minutes then do something fast. A few box jumps. Some bounding, or maybe short sprints. Just move a quickly as possible and for a very short distance. Wait a few more minutes and then lift your barbell again.
Do that a few times and you’ll be done. Also, you’ll be much stronger very, very quickly.
To learn more from Tim make sure to check out The Tim Ferriss Show. He’s has had some amazing guests on his podcast, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pavel Tsatsouline, and Kelly Starrett, just to name a few. Subscribe to the show, it’s great.
Enjoy the show,
- Learn more about the power, and danger, or experiment in Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks by Ben Goldacre.
- Make sure to check out The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef. Both are great books.