🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences
- The trick to building strength is straight forward progressive overload: Increase the weights as you get stronger, that’s it.
- The importance of recovery and not getting into the exhaustion phase is often forgotten: A lack of sleep screws with our hormones and actually eats away muscle mass.
- Strength training is great for our health and wellbeing and general physical preparedness, so we should all get informed and take ownership of our own bodies.
Ross Edgley is an impressive guy. Not just visually – his physique is incredible – but also in terms of his drive which translates into many different areas which are connected to physical health. The book is a collection of different pieces of knowledge around the main topic of “how to get stronger” which he put together in a collage of his years since moving onto this personal path of discovery.
For a person who is already quite interested in the world of human bodies and potential capabilities, there is not much new to discover, but it is all presented in an engaging way. Lots of little stories and tidbits here and there, quick jumps between topics, funny anecdotes and side notes, interjected with his several impressive world record feats like the Tree-athlon (carrying a 100lbs heavy tree trunk while doing an Olympic distance triathlon) or the Everest Rope Climb (climbing 8,848 meters up a rope).
I thought is was especially clever of him to build a bridge between all the different approaches of physical training in comparison to what the people all over the world do. His travels to the Namibian long distance runners, Bulgarian wrestlers, or Japanese cold plunge meditators really enriched the narrative.
After all, though, it’s more of a coffee table book than a serious training guide. You can certainly take some great advice from it, and Ross did great work researching the science behind all of the advice he collected and quotes from many different papers and studies, but his scientific knowledge basis seems thin in the end. Not entirely his fault, because unfortunately, that’s also partly due to the actual human knowledge basis of physical training being quite thin as of yet. That being said, any strength training is better than no training and this book is a big motivator to get going. Job well done.
🍀 How the Book Changed Me
- Strength training and endurance training complement each other, which is something many people don’t know. Especially for amateurs and non-specialists of both areas, it’s true that one doesn’t hurt the other but enhances it.
- The way that Ross Edgley has kept an open mind to all the world has to offer in terms of physical education rubbed off on me. Many of the habits or strengths of certain peoples have developed over thousands of years and should be noted not just by historians, but by scientists and the general public as well.
- “Do more!” – if you want to get places, you need to start. Have an idea and follow through with it, no matter how ridiculous it sounds, if it can be done, go ahead and try it. This type of growth mindset will get you places.
📔 Highlights & Notes
- When doing strength training, the traditional way of using Progressive Overload to adapt our bodies to larger and larger tasks, just works.
- If you put little load on your body over a longer time span, you build endurance. If it’s a lot over a short time, you build strength.
- The Soviet training foundation is to thrive for general physical preparedness. Build a base to be ready for everything, so you can be specific in your goals later on.
- When you overload your body with anything, the shock phase should lead to an adaptation phase, but not by much in order to avoid an exhaustion phase. Fatigue and illness don't improve you.
- Progressive Overload isn't linear, listen to the body to see when it adapts well and when it needs rest.
- A good immune system is the base of everything, of every type of training.
- Cold therapy (like the methods made popular by Wim Hof) helps the veins contract faster which makes them stronger, which in turn improves your immune system. Six minutes in 14 degree water three times a week had measurable results in terms of lymphocytes growth.
- In order to grow, you must do more. When you plateau and don't see improvements it's because you need to do more and challenge your body to adapt.
- The Four Point training system divides training into different areas: the unassimilated training which has nothing to do with what we are trying to accomplish (doing push-ups when you’re trying to run faster), the partially associated training, semi-associated, and the directly associated, like for example running faster when you're trying to run faster.
- Every type of training works, especially in the beginning. Don't overcomplicate it.
- Different types of muscle contractions are isometric, concentric, and eccentric.
- Isometric muscle contraction: no movement but tension (e.g. plank)
- Concentric contractions: shortening muscles
- Eccentric contractions: lengthening, like the biceps when coming down from a pull-up. This works with most efficiency and more weight can be used, but the resulting soreness is higher too.
- Calisthenics is the term used for body weight exercise.
- 12-week body weight workout program:
- The most effective ab workout is the “plank with reach”, it has 27% more muscle activation than crunches. “Integration exercises” are those exercises which activate the full body, not just parts.
- In order to improve core strength, use unstable surfaces and involve balancing. Or, learn to hold a position and do nothing, like forming an L shape with your body while hanging from a bar
- A calorie isn't equal a calorie. A gram of fat has 9, but some fats like coconut oil are medium chain triglycerides and actually help the burning of itself via thermogenesis.
- Food. Here, variety is key. Try everything and anything, just like our ancestors.
- Protein: taking in 1.7 grams per kilogram of your bodyweight per day is a good point to start when getting into strength training. Protein is even more important for endurance athletes than for bodybuilders and it can help with short term weight loss.
- Carbs do help with running faster. Carbo loading works. A general starting point is 7-10 grams per kilogram of bodyweight for endurance athletes per day.
- Ketosis: a low carb and high fat diet leads to the liver making ketones from fat which replace the carbs as a fuel source and become efficient at that. See the Inuit people living above the Arctic circle who mostly eat fatty meats and almost no carbs. It takes 2-3 weeks to achieve ketosis.
- If you’re interested in effective fat loss, do a combination of HIIT cardio and weight training, LIT is okay too. LIT is better for the immune system than HIIT.
- Remember, a lack of sleep disturbs hormones and eats muscle mass.
- Sleep deprivation also increases hunger.
- Strength training and endurance training can block each other’s signaling to adapt, but also benefit each other. For example, capillary density increases from endurance training which in turn will make strength training more effective.
- Strength training works best when done 2-4 times per week due to muscle adaptivity.
- Muscle growth profits more from doing stress exercises slowly. Increase the amount of time of each single repetition.
- It takes 2500 calories to synthesize one pound of muscle. But it also requires one pound of fat gain.
- Strength training without carbs in the body is reducing its effects.
- Endurance pyramid: improve mechanics first, then find your fuel, then build consistency, then add volume, then increase intensity.
- Running technique. Forefoot striking prevents injury. Modern running shoes cushion the heel impact which often leads to injury further up the chain, like in the knee joints, hips, or back.
- Better running form creates efficiency.
- Uphill running technique: imagine being pulled by a rope attached to the top of your chest. Put your chin up. This widens the chest and improves breathing. Don’t collapse the shoulders.
- Downhill running technique: confidence is key. The faster you go, the less contact time with the ground, the less likely you are to slip. Ankles lose, midfoot strike, let gravity pull you. Relax.
- Downhill: only ever heel strike when it's steep enough to slide on the bum.
- Downhill: don't brake to much. Commit to the downhill.
- Proper running form: relax the arms, no tension in the shoulders, move at the hips, avoid the mental image of “pushing off the ground”, foot should land close to the body not in front, keep a high waist position during landing.
- How to get faster at running: do 80 percent of running in the aerobic zone and just 20 percent in the anaerobic. And intervals.
- Don't outsource your health. Take control of your own nutrition and training. Get informed. Become your own expert!
- “Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you.” Steve Jobs.
- Be balanced
- Learn from the past
- Keep it simple
- Question everything
- Always pursue happiness
- Embrace individuality
- You're your best expert
- Live beyond books
- Never stop exploring