Ten Simple Things.

When the alarm goes off on Monday morning it is damn hard to get out of bed.
I’ll be honest, the first 15 minutes of my week are spent bleary-eyed, aimlessly walking around in my dark house.
Eventually, I make it outside to work out. From there I sneak back in the house and use juuuust enough light to find my things. (Not too little or I’ll spend more time fumbling making noise but not too much or I’ll wake someone up).
If I’m lucky, I’ll find a matching pair of socks, an unwrinkled shirt, and still have time to make some coffee before I run out the door (most times without my wallet and keys).
It’s not a great way to start the week.

Now, things don’t always go that poorly.
If I’m consistent with my list of small things, I can easily make Monday (or every day) go swimmingly.

  1. Put your gym bag together the night before. (yes, even if you workout at home)
  2. Sit down with your wife and make a monthly “menu” so you can meal prep Sunday night. Or, if you’re lazy like me, throw some chicken in the InstaPot in the morning, workout, shower, pack up the chicken and take it to work.
  3. Prep the coffeemaker the night before. Or get a Keurig.
  4. Prep your “gym” the night before. Put your notebook and pen w/ your workout written down in the gym. Place the appropriate kettlebells out on the floor, load the bar to warmup weight, etc
  5. Prep your work clothes ahead of time. Over the weekend, wash, dry, iron, etc. The night before set it out where you can easily grab it without rummaging around and making noise.
  6. Pray (or meditate). Spend time in reflection right from the get-go. Turn off your car radio and start Monday morning in silence. At very least, try it for 10-15min
  7. Audio books/podcasts. After your prayer, use the rest of your commute to actually learn something.
  8. Make excuses to walk more. Park farther away from the door. Take the stairs. Seriously. It sounds ridiculous but all those steps add up during the day and can seriously benefit your health.
  9. Floss. In between the last two episodes of that show you and the lady are watching, get up and floss. Not flossing can lead to gum disease. Left untreated, it can lead to receding gums and tooth loss. Gum disease is also linked to heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, premature birth, and many other health conditions.
  10. On the way home from work, grab some flowers for your wife. No special reason, just do it to make her smile.


11. Do more pushups.
Traditional pushups are beneficial for building upper body strength. They work the triceps, pectoral muscles, and shoulders. When done with proper form, they can also strengthen the lower back and core by engaging (pulling in) the abdominal muscles. Pushups are a fast and effective exercise for building strength.

Year-Round Training: Planning for the Seasons

At the time of this writing it is July 29, 2020.
The summer is coming to a close and soon the rush of back-to-school, sports, and holidays will consume nearly everybody’s lives.
Shorter days and colder weather will come to pass.

Now it is time to batten down the hatches; prepare for the onslaught of attacks against the lifestyle of health that you’ve worked so hard to cultivate over the past few months. If you attempt to fly by night, foregoing any planning or preparation, you will undoubtedly dust off the same tired, old excuses and slip back into your lifestyle of lethargy and indolence.

Make ready your training methods, meal plans, and chore lists.
Construct an overarching plan to protect your time to train.
Though 15-20 minutes to workout may not seem like much right now, “justifications” to take that time away will creep into your life.
You need to know your enemies in order to defeat them.

Over the next few weeks, declutter your house, starting with your kitchen.
Organize your food so you know exactly what you have and where it is.
As time is sacrificed to other responsibilities the temptation to eat fast food will be nearly impossible to overcome.
Sit down with your wife and take stock of what you have and propose a meal plan each month. Avoid processed food as much as possible and focus on healthy, whole foods.
Be realistic, with fall comes the slow cooker, hearty stews, and soups.
Holidays and family gatherings are an important part of the human experience. Work with them instead of against them.

Create a plan of action for the seasons’ responsibilities.
Duties around the house with change as the weather changes.
Your kids’ activities and schedules will differ from the lazy summer days.
Most importantly, make time for quality time. Don’t let anything interrupt you from dinner until you put the kids to bed. And then, make sure you have time to spend with your wife.

All of this will affect your training schedule. That’s not a bad thing. Life happens in seasons, it’s cyclical, and it’s best to work with the seasons instead of against them.
While you sit there with your wife, work with her to make sure everyone’s schedules allow the appropriate amount of time for work, rest, play, pray.
In my experience, I thrive when I can be in bed at 10pm, awake at 4:30-5:00.
That allows me to train, drink some coffee and get my reading done, shower and leave for work on time. Meals are a prepped at the beginning of the week so I can just grab lunch and go.

Finally, remember that as the seasons change, your training should change. Winter brings heavier food, holiday desserts, and dark beers. Your garage will be freezing cold every morning. Don’t try to fight it by focusing on fat loss and six-pack abs. You will lose that battle, I guarantee it. Focus on short, heavy workouts. You’re consuming more calories, use this as a time to focus on strength and size. During the spring and summer you can look to other goals.

As summer fades and time is stolen, excuses and rationalizations will multiply. This need not be the case. Take time now and come up with a strategy, a battle-plan for the coming months. Work closely with your spouse and be clear about protecting your training schedule while also honoring your other duties. Be realistic about your goals and work with the seasons rather than against them.

Let’s talk about Rest

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionmore than 35 percent of people are sleep deprived, which means that 1 in 3 people aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis.

This is definitely one of my struggles. I have a feeling most of you can relate too.

Life gets hectic really quickly and the first thing that seems to suffer is the amount of sleep we get.
It’s important to resist this as sleep and exercise are both key components of a healthy lifestyle.
In fact, experts say that sleeping may be just as crucial as training… and the lack of it can be the enemy of muscle.

It’s important to remember that as we increase exercise (again, crucial to a healthy lifestyle), we must also increase rest (also crucial). To maintain a truly healthy lifestyle you must equally increase all aspects.

Dan John’s compass based on Sister Maria Assumpta’s teaching.

The key to successful family life is balance. Period.

If you work too much, you’ll miss out on all the parts of life that are actually important.
Play too much and you won’t be providing for your family.
So on and so forth, you get the point.

Let’s focus on rest. Specifically, sleep.

Here are some simple (not necessarily easy) tips to improve your sleep.

  • Create a consistent schedule– and try to stick to it even on weekends, holidays, etc.
  • Create a bed time ritual or routine to wind down
  • Avoid eating at least 2-3 hours before sleeping
  • Make sure the room is dark, quiet, and cool
  • Avoid screens at 2 hours before bedtime
  • If needed, use supplements. (I suggest melatonin, zinc, magnesium, and calcium)

There are many studies that show sleep deprivation is linked to weight gain and obesity, and getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night may undo the effects of dieting.
Researchers speculate that there are several ways that chronic sleep deprivation might lead to weight gain, either by increasing how much food people eat or decreasing the energy that they burn.
When you are running on little to no sleep, your hormones may be thrown off, including the hormone that increases hunger and appetite. Also, since you are awake for a longer period of time, you may become hungry more often. If you are up until 2am and you usually go to bed around 10pm, your body may feel hungry since your schedule is thrown off.

I know it’s difficult to prioritize sleep, but consider this: your strength and muscle size will increase and your fat will decrease exponentially when paired will a solid workout and diet plan.
Finally, working out while well-rested is an entirely different experience than going into it exhausted.

The harder you rest, the harder you can lift!

The Power of 1%

From 1908 to 2004 total number of gold medals the British cycling team had won was 1.
The Tour de France? No wins in 110 years.

In fact, the team was so bad that some of the top bike manufacturers refused to sell to them because they thought it would be bad for business.

Enter Coach Dave Brailsford.

Just five years after Brailsford ‘s arrival, the British Cycling team destroyed the competition at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, taking home an astounding 60 percent of the gold medals available. Four years later, when the Olympic Games came to London, they set nine Olympic records and seven world records.

That same year, Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France. The next year, his teammate Chris Froome won the race, and he would go on to win again in 2015, 2016, and 2017, giving the British team five Tour de France victories in six years.

During the ten-year span from 2007 to 2017, British cyclists won 178 world championships and 66 Olympic or Paralympic gold medals and captured 5 Tour de France victories in what is widely regarded as the most successful run in cycling history.

What was Brailsford’s secret?


That was his secret.
Marginally improve by 1%.

He took a look at the entire British cycling operation and changed tiny little things instead of coming up with a ridiculous training regime. It wasn’t just about getting 1% better at actually riding though.

Brailsford improved that daily lives of the riders in marginal ways as well. They studied the most efficient ways to wash their hands to avoid getting sick. They studied sleep habits and determined the best way for each rider to get quality sleep.

A common misconception about success in life (training, business, etc) is that there needs to be some big, emotional, dramatic breakthrough. We can probably thank Hollywood for that. Realistically though, we need to embrace marginal gains.

Train a tiny bit harder, sleep a little more, park at the end of the lot and get a few more steps. Eat just a little bit healthier. All of these tiny improvements will grow and I guarantee that if you continue on with the 1% mindset, you won’t even recognize yourself in 6 months.

You’ll find that the system you put in place will move you towards your end goal much faster than abruptly changing everything and hoping that it will stick.

The “Essential Essentials” of the Basic Home Gym

When arguing the “ditch the commercial gym” angle, oftentimes the counterpoint of “a full home gym is really expensive and I don’t have the money up-front” comes up.

It’s a fair point. I totally get it.

I would implore you to rethink the definition of “essential”.

Invest slowly. You can make a ton of progress with a single piece of equipment, if you’re smart about it. It might take a few years to get a ton of gear.

If I may “phone-a-friend”, the world-famous Coach Dan John, “In fact, I think it is a mistake to equip your gym too well in the beginning. You want your gym to “grow” as you know you can commit to more and more work. Having a perfect home gym from the start will look pretty when you give tours, but you might never use anything. When it is coming out of your pocket, it helps to “know” that you are going to use a piece of equipment.”

Ok, here’s my list:

  1. A kettlebell (duh)
  2. A pullup bar (in a perfect world a pull-up bar with dip station, but for the sake of sticking to absolute essentials, a doorway pullup bar)
  3. Ab wheel
  4. Jump Rope

With the 4 aforementioned pieces of equipment you can create a nearly endless variety of programs designed to fit any goal.

The kettlebell will be the biggest investment and probably most difficult to find (at the time I’m writing this there is a literal shortage of kettlebells).
However, it is the anchor of your home gym. You need the flexibility of the kettlebell to add muscle mass, increase conditioning, and shed fat. The kettlebell alone can do just about anything.

Pull up bar – Though you can get a great back workout with a kettlebell, nothing beats the pullup/chinup in terms of raw back strength. Not only will the pull up bar allow you to throw on slabs of muscle, but hanging from a bar is essential to shoulder health. Start taking care of your joints now so to avoid issues later in life. You’ll be using your kettlebell build extremely strong shoulders with all the overhead pressing, so it’s smart to balance things out with some vertical pulling.

Ab wheel – . The ab wheel is the absolute king of full body tension and it can help your pull up power and counter the effects of lots of hinging. You can grab one for $10-15 off Amazon.

Jump rope. A jump rope is a fantastic tool for conditioning, coordination, and fat loss. When I’m in a cycle of training with a ton of kettlebell swings and deadlifts (which is often), it helps to have something unweighted to get your blood pumping.

[Coming Soon!] The Ultimate Fitness Plan for the Busy Dad

Exciting news here at Midwest Muscle!

I’ve been hard at work putting something REALLY BIG together.

Yuge, you might even say.

When first getting into fitness, it’s important to define your goals.
Some people may want to put on a ridiculous amount of muscle and cut to almost no body fat.
Some people may want to lift as much weight as humanely possible.
Others may be training to supplement a different sport.

Many of us don’t fit into any of those categories.
If you’re anything like me, you want to be healthier family. You want to keep up with kids, stop your doctor’s scolding, and yeah, look a lil better for the wife.

That is exactly why I am putting together this new program.

This brand new workout program is the ultimate fitness plan for the busy dad.

30 days of workouts designed in such a way that muscle building, fat loss, endurance, and mobility are achieved.
Just follow the program every day, clean up your diet a bit, and watch your body transform.
I highly suggest taking before and after pics for this.

Each workout is just 20 minutes. Your family life is prioritized. Spending hours in the gym is unnecessary and (in my opinion) unfair to your family. You need to be training to live a better life, not living your life to train.

You only need 1 kettlebell. Gym memberships are overpriced and take even more time out of your day but a full home-gym is easily over $1,000. With bills to pay and unexpected home repairs neither of those options are ideal.
All you need for this program is a single kettlebell.

Oh, and don’t forget access to the Midwest Muscle video library.
With purchase you’ll be given access to videos explaining each movement included in the program. No more guessing about form.

Building Shelves

I started building some stuff in my garage.

Now, I am NOT handy whatsoever. I’m not mechanically minded, I’m terrible with tools, and every time I try to fix something it ends up more broken than before. Brokener.

Anyway, I needed some more storage space in my garage.
It’s an old detached garage, and the previous owner didn’t really take care of it (or anything, for that matter). So, it gets pretty wet in there when it rains, chipmunks make nests, and the old shelves were extremely rickety.

Finally, after years of dealing with a cluttered, messy space, I decided to do the unthinkable. I cleaned everything out and built new shelves.

Super-fancy and nearly perfect shelves:


As you can see, these are some SUPER BASIC SHELVES. But, they made a huge difference in my garage, overall.

All I did was regular old straight cuts, some 45s, and then used wood screws to put it all together.
Mastery of a few basic skills can make a massive difference. The same rule applies to your fitness.

If you want to make an insane amount of progress, just master the most basic movements and repeat them daily.

Push, Pull, Squat, Hinge, Loaded Carry.

Overhead Press, Row, Goblet Squat, Swing, Farmer’s Walk

Practice these every single day and you’ll have a fantastic foundation for your fitness goals. In fact, more than likely you’ll be able to meet and even exceed your fitness goals if you stick to these basic movement and simply increase the intensity over time.

Now, go build something!