How to be Awesome

By Jesse Burdick

Every second of every day gives you a new chance to start shit over. Even if you don’t think it’s possible at this point, you can get moving on something good right now if you want to. That’s the best thing about training: it’s always there. Tomorrow morning, you can resolve to get in the gym and make this the cycle that finally sticks. It’s all up to you. Guys like me? We’re here to tell you how it’s done, but you have the freedom to make anything happen in an instant. You’ve always had it, and nobody can take it away from you.

Awesomeness—the art and science of simply being awesome—comes down to making one easy choice. You can’t just wake up and say, “I want to be awesome today.” That won’t work. The way to get this whole process moving is to say, “I am awesome,” then start going about making correct decisions that align with your awesomeness.

Building a Framework

The people who come to me for training and advice can be broken down into two groups—and these classifications have nothing to do with how much money my clients make or how much experience they have in the gym. The first group needs a whole Excel sheet that tells them exactly what to do, every minute of the day. For the second group, these step-by-step instructions are too much, and they want everything a little bit at a time.

If you’re in this second group, you’re in luck, because training and nutrition work just like life. If you tack on little bits at a time, it’ll eventually add up to that one big thing you’re looking for. The idea, then, is to be reasonable about it, picking things that are completely doable for you.

Take Kiefer’s programs, for example. If you want to get leaner, we typically prescribe The Carb Nite Solution as the answer to your prayers. Going without carbs for that long at a time, however, can be overwhelming for some people, and they may not be ready for it—so we can move you into it gradually with three steps that look something like this:

1.  Loose Carb Back-Loading: Limit your carbs until 5 PM, then eat carbs after that.

2.  Strict Carb Back-Loading: Once you’re comfortable with step 1, don’t eat any carbs at all until 5 PM, then eat them after that.

3.  Grow a pair and try Carb Nite: When you’ve proven to yourself that you’re capable of staying on Carb Back-Loading for a week or two, cut out the carbs altogether and get on The Carb Nite Solution.

Formulate a Plan

Here’s one of my favorite lines from the movie The Hunt for Red October. As you’ll come to find out if you do your training research, the Russians did a lot of things right. This is one of them:

When you train, you have to have a plan in place when you walk into the gym. The next time you’re training in a commercial facility—your Planet Fitness type of place—take a good look around. How many of those Walking Dead extras you see all over are actually having good workouts? How many of them do you think came in with a plan? If you’re not thinking along with me here, the answer is none.

Even if you’re only doing four exercises in a given workout, the goal here is to choose four exercises that will make you better, and then to go about the business of performing them to the best of your ability. Small things like this, done over a span of a few short weeks, will become habits. Once you’ve got habits, you can start adding things—making smart decisions—until awesomeness is second nature.

How to Figure Out Your Goals

What are you doing here? Why did you come to this site? Why are you reading this article? For all of you, your reasons will be highly personal. Maybe you want to get really strong, or maybe you just want to be able to see your abs by this summer. Or maybe, if you’re like a lot of my clients originally were, you don’t know exactly what you want at all.

There’s nothing wrong with that. When I meet clients in this situation, I encourage them to make short-, mid-, and long-terms goals—trying to get them to explain these goals in as concrete a form as they can. When we do this, the same thing always happens: they tell me exactly what they think I want to hear, and then we just sit there staring awkwardly at each other for a while.

And then we get to the real shit.

bsOnce we’ve sprayed some Lysol and cleared all the bullshit out of the room, I tell my clients to give me three “vanity” goals. That’s what I want you to do right now. I want you to be as vain here as you possibly can. Tell me what you want to look like. If you’re a girl, tell me how nice you want your ass to be. If you’re a guy, tell me how many girls you want to bang. Whatever you want to do—whatever you really want out of all of this—this is where you need to think these things over.

These goals—the so-called vanity goals—are the ones that will lead you down the correct path. That’s where we can start seriously figuring things out. Want to see your abs or drop a size? Sounds to me like you want to get leaner. Want to look vascular and see your biceps popping out of your shirt? Looks like we need to get you some muscle. Want to bench 315? 405? Time to get stronger. These vanity goals will tell you everything you need to know.

What are yours?

Two Plates

One trick you can use to be an awesome SOB is to wake up every morning with a smile on your face. After that? Just be happy, smile through everything, and use positive language on yourself and with others. Even if you hate something, smile your way through it. You’ll freak people out, especially if you’re some angry dude they’re not expecting it from. Just make the decision to make today an awesome day.

This goes back to a conversation I had with Jim Wendler years ago. Jim suggested putting everything on two plates, out in front of you, and these choosing. If you put a pile of protein powder on one plate, and a ribeye steak on the other, which plate will you pick? The ribeye, because it’s fucking awesome. It’s a steak. You know it’s going to be awesome, and you know it’s going to make you more awesome than the protein powder will.

That’s how to make the decisions that will help you, even when your choices are challenging. Which of these things is going to make me more awesome? Which is going to be better for me in the long run? Make the choices that feel right, make your move, and go forward. That’s all awesomeness really entails.

Awesomeness is Back

Everyone needs more back—particularly upper back—so here are a few ideas you can plug into your workouts on any day:

The Add-On: The next time you’re benching, squatting or deadlifting, get some extra back and bicep work in by setting a fixed barbell and a mini-band next to your station and doing the following after every set of your main exercise:

1. Band Pull-Aparts: 20 reps

2. Bicep Curls: 20 reps

Heavy Sled Face Pulls: Load up a dragging sled with a shit-ton of weight, attach a couple of EliteFTS Blast Straps, and perform face pulls by holding the handles at arm’s distance and pulling them explosively to your face. Leave these sets until the end of your workout and just blow out as many as you can.

 rdeltSeated Row Rear Delt Raise: On a seated row, using cable handles like the EliteFTS Blast Straps, extend your arms and perform a rear delt raise, cheating as much as you have to in order to get to the top of the movement. Once you’re there, try to hold it, isometric-style, for as long as you can. Again, for sets and reps, just blow it out. You’ll know exactly what I mean once you’re there.



Conditioned to Succeed

Finally, in order to be completely and totally awesome, you’ll need to be doing some kind of conditioning at least three times per week. Start your workouts off with some steady-state stuff on a treadmill—keeping your heart rate between 120-140—to get warmed up. Do your lifting, then try this for a few weeks:

Pick-a-Toy: Take any tool or toy in your gym and work it for variety. We’ll start you off doing sprints on a treadmill, which will teach you what you need to know to start inventing your own workouts in this style. Here’s a rotation for you to try:

 Day 1: 60 seconds on, 60 seconds off

Day 2: 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off

Day 3: 20 seconds on, 40 seconds off

Day 4: 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off

Day 5: 30 seconds on, 60 seconds off