7 Steps To Mindset Mastery: For Fitness & Life

Been working out for a while and still not getting the results you want?

Maybe struggling to get started on a fitness regime, even though you’re fed up of how you look and feel right now?

Learning from the best part of a decade working with clients as a Personal Trainer, I can tell you that it is almost always the same story.

Lot’s of experience and observation of people at every level of their fitness journey always points back to the same thing that is holding people back.

Can you guess what it is?

It isn’t the wrong training program or diet plan.

It isn’t not having a good gym buddy, nor that niggly shoulder injury.

It’s always a mindset problem. Always.

I’m going to give you the 7 steps to mastering your mindset for success in fitness (and life), but first we need to lay some groundwork.

The Right Mindset To Change Your Body

I believe that all other problems stem from either the wrong mindset, or incorrect beliefs.

It’s rare that someone simply doesn’t know what to do. Especially nowadays with the interwebs. People have too much information. More commonly, we have too many conflicting ideas.

We tend to major in the minors, obsessing about minutia, while missing the big picture.

Most people know too much, and do too little.

If we stuck with one person’s ideas for a sustained period and gave our all, instead of program hopping and looking for the next shiny object…

If we stopped switching between “bulking” and “cutting” on a bi-weekly basis, dependent on how many abs we see in the mirror or some off-hand comment someone made about you looking fat/skinny this week…

Then we would all be a lot better off. But I digress.

To achieve more in our body, we need to think better. We need to fix our mindset.

What does mindset even mean?

I use mindset in the broad definition of encompassing the way that you think.

To change your mindset is to change your thinking.

Mindset – in my definition – is applied psychology.

I believe that our thoughts and beliefs are the only limiting factor we face.

Even if you have a dumb goal like you want to be in the NFL, despite being a sedentary 35 year old… that is still a thinking problem.

Your goal is all but impossible – incorrect thinking – wrong mindset.

You could rattle off a million reasons like;

“You’re too old”.

“You don’t have the genetic potential”.

“You don’t have 10-15 years of dedicated training under your belt”.

They’re all secondary to the fact that it’s a stupid goal, aka; a thinking problem.

Entertaining the idea of wanting something that is impossible is a faulty thinking pattern… because it is impossible!

What I’m getting at here is that the thinking – the mindset – underpins everything else. Nothing happens in the physical world that hasn’t first been thought of in your mind.

Saying we want to achieve something we don’t really care about is a thinking problem too. Maybe you’ve felt like you should do something for years – but never committed to doing what it takes?

Getting in shape is simple (but not easy)

All that you need to succeed in the fitness game is a well laid out plan.

You probably know what to do without me telling you. At least the basics.

Sure, there’s advanced stuff that’s useful to know, but doing the basics well stacks all of the odds in your favour. Much of this is common sense stuff.

People have been getting in great shape for a long time. All you have to do is follow the plan that has been laid out by many people over history.

Ignore the latest Instagram fad and do what worked for people 10, 30, 50 years ago.

It’s a fairly simple system to follow. The human body hasn’t changed in a long time, and you could safely ignore everything that has been said on the topic in the last 50 years and be no worse off.

Maybe even better off. Advice won’t be tainted by people on gear giving advice to people not on gear, leaving them wondering why they can’t keep up with the program.

The real sticking point in all of this is in the implementation – the doing.

Like I said; simple, but not easy.

If it was easy, everyone would be in great shape. Look around your average high street or mall and that is evidently not true.

Look around your average gym and it still isn’t true!

So we know what to do…

(I promise you do know what to do. Don’t worry, I’m gonna tell you anyway, to make sure, but I’m confident 10/10 people know what to do. You just don’t have confidence in that knowledge, because you’ve never been able to action it).

We know what to do…

But we don’t do it.

That is the disconnect.

All people, at all stages of their training life know what they need to do to go to the next level. Some people are simply not willing to do what is required to get to the next level and are ok with that.

But most people can’t get to the next level…

Even though they know what is required and they want to do it.

Let me tell you what you need to do. Then I’ll explain how to get your head straight and get yourself into the right mindset to change your body.

Here’s exactly what you need to do…

If you want to lose body fat…

  • Consume less calories than you expend
  • Maintain positive nitrogen balance (high protein intake)
  • Add a training stimulus to maintain muscle mass

 

If you want to gain muscle…

  • Consume more calories than you expend
  • Maintain positive nitrogen balance (high protein intake)
  • Add a training stimulus to maximise muscle building

It’s really that simple.

There’s lots of ways to skin that cat, but it isn’t important here. That’s just details.

Focusing on the details and missing the big picture is most people’s problem.

And no, you can’t do both at once. Choose one.

I’ve detailed what it is going to take in the section below. Choose the one that is relevant for your goals.

Mindset For Weightloss vs Muscle Building: What it Takes

Mindset For Weight Loss

Getting in the right mindset to lose weight

Let’s get a few things straight. This is what it’s going to take to move the needle on your body and lose fat…

  • You’re going to feel hungry at times
  • You’re going to crave things sometimes
  • You’re going to feel weak or tired
  • Your joints might get a bit sore, you won’t recover from training as well
  • You will have to track what you’re eating and be very conscious of it
  • You need to lay back / knock off alcohol
  • You will choose what to eat based on your diet first, tastes second
  • You might have to forego social occasions
  • Sometimes you’ll be in a bad mood
  • You will ‘cheat’ on your diet at some point and need to bounce back from that

That’s all assuming you’re already training and eating right. If you’re not, then following a weight loss plan will actually leave you feeling better.

Can you deal with that?

Is losing weight worth it?

I’m not trying to put you off.  I’m telling you the reality. You need to accept reality. If you’re not prepared to do what you need to do, don’t waste the time trying.

If you are prepared, great!

You’re ready to move on. Skip the next section and go to step 1.

Mindset For BodyBuilding

Getting in the right mindset to build muscle

Wanna build muscle? Here’s what you gotta do…

  • Force feed yourself when you don’t want to eat anything more
  • Eat, consistently.. all day, every day
  • Be prepared to hold water and look ‘soft’
  • Probably gain some fat, lose your abs
  • Train a lot. No excuses
  • You might outgrow your clothes
  • You will probably sweat a lot
  • You have to prioritise training and eating over your social life

Getting muscular isn’t all fun and games. It’s work, it takes time and at times is uncomfortable.

Up for it?

Good, go ahead to step 1.

I tell you this not to put you off, but to empower you.

Every fitness company in the world wants to tell you how EASY it all is with their system.

Bullshit. It’s hard work. Part of the right mindset is accurate thinking – knowing what it is going to take to achieve your goals .

7 Steps to Success: Fitness Mindset

Click the image to download the 7 steps in summary.

7 steps to success: fitness mindset

Step 1 – Know WHY You Want This

fitness mindset - why?

Why do you want to change your body?

If you don’t have an answer for this, you need to find one. You are probably repeating someone else’s goals. You are saying what ‘sounds right’ based on societal norm, or the opinions of friends, parents and partners.

To find why you want to achieve something is to strip it down to it’s base and discover your true desires. A strong, powerful why will give you the strength and desire to get through any barrier.

While lacking a strong why leaves you floating, motivation fluctuates and the chances are you will never meet your goals.

The real reason you want to change your body will be related to your core values and the biggest themes in your life.

If the thing you value most is family, your why might be around being strong and fit to protect them, being healthy to ensure you get to see kids and grand-kids grow up, setting a good example for them, etc.

Step 2 – Set MEANINGFUL Goals

fitness mindset - set meaningful goals

When you know WHY you want to change your body, you need to translate that into some specific goals. These goals must be meaningful. In other words, you need to have a clear vision of what achieving this is going to do for you.

You need to be able to close your eyes and play a movie in your mind of yourself having achieved the goal.

If your goal is to add 10lbs of muscle, because you want to be stronger and more attractive to women, you need to see how women react to you, how you feel around women, the things they say to you, etc. etc.

When you have a clear vision of what happens when you achieve your goal, it goes from being an abstract thing to becoming real for you.

The more visceral and emotional your goal is, the stronger you will be pulled towards it.

Step 3 – Link Your Transformation With Your Major Life Goals

fitness mindset - link fitness with your main life goals

If fitness is not one of your highest values, we need to make it one.

You will know if it is, because you prioritise it in your life above other things. When something is a high value we prioritise it, enjoy it, obsess over it. When it is a low value we procrastinate, it bores us and we generally dislike it.

It might be somewhere in the middle, but you will know what your highest values are. What are you always excited to do? What will you make time for, rather than making excuses for? What do you talk or read about most?

We want to link fitness with our highest values by discovering how changing our body will help us achieve more in the things we value most highly.

Here are my highest values:

fitness mindset - your hierarchy of values

Let’s imagine that training wasn’t already one of my highest values – how would changing my body help me achieve more in business and with women?

In fact, let’s write a list. Write down 100 reasons why improving your fitness will help you achieve more in business and with women. Here’s an example of mine:

  1. Improving my fitness will give me more confidence to make sales
  2. Improving my fitness will give me more energy to work harder
  3. Improving my fitness will allow me to make a better first impression on business contacts
  4. Improving my fitness will teach me discipline
  5. Improving my fitness will increase my self-belief
  6. Improving my fitness will make me more attractive
  7. Improving my fitness will give me more confidence around women
  8. Improving my fitness will make me better at sex
  9. Improving my fitness will make me more photogenic, improving online dating outcomes
  10. Improving my fitness will show women I value myself

You get the idea…

Do this with whatever your highest values are.

We are framing our fitness goal in the way that it is most meaningful for us. Understanding how it helps us achieve the things we care most deeply about. Anything that helps us achieve more in our passions will motivate us.

It ceases to become tedious hard work to achieve some arbitrary fitness goal that is meaningless to us. It is a direct path to getting more out of the most important areas of our life.

Step 4 – Determine Who You Need to Become

fitness mindset - who do you need to become?

What needs to happen for you to achieve your goal?

You need to engage in the habits and behaviours that take you to that goal. To engage in the habits and behaviours, you need to have the beliefs and thinking patterns of someone who does those things.

In other words, you need to be in the mindset of someone who is successful, before you will be successful.

Don’t think in terms of what you need to do – that implies you are going against your nature. There will always be conflict and it will feel like you’re forcing it.

Instead, think in terms of who you need to become. When you become the kind of person who is in great shape, it comes naturally. It’s fun. It’s easy.

Who you need to become is a person who thinks and acts in a certain way. Define what those thoughts and actions are.

When you have laid out who you need to become, you will know what you need to do.

I always use the word transformation, because you need to go through a personal transformation. To achieve a significant change in your body, you literally have to become a different person.

You transform into a different version of yourself.

This change in mindset is taking your fitness from something you want to do; which is a weak weasel phrase, to something you area strong phrase.

Step 5 – Find Potential Limitations

fitness mindset - find potential limitations

One mistake most people make when setting their intentions is failing to look at the potential roadblocks.

Focusing only on the good intentions is not seeing the playing field as it is. You’re looking at an empty run through to the opposition goal posts – forgetting there are ten 250lb guys on the opposition team who want to rip your head off.

Positive thinking is not the same thing as living in a dream world.

Positive thinking is seeing the reality and believing you will succeed.

To create an effective plan, you need to see where you might trip up, and then plan around it. See what is potentially going to sabotage your efforts, and create contingencies.

Knowing what is potentially going to hold you back and already having a solution is empowering. It puts you in control and allows you to sidestep most of the difficulties that would usually stand in your way.

Of course, sometimes things will come up that you couldn’t possibly have planned for. The difference now is, because you have sidestepped all other potential problems and been making excellent progress, you have lots of self-confidence.

You’re not worn down and low on willpower, having to recover from slip up after slip up. You’re feeling great, confident and motivated to overcome this.

Step 6 – Create The Plan

fitness mindset - create the plan

Once you know your potential limitations, you need to create the plan based on who you need to become, while working around the potential problems.

This will become your plan.

Only now do we progress from ‘head stuff’ to practical, actionable strategies. Now we focus on what training split to use, how to set up a diet, etc.

Most people start here, and then wonder why it never works.

Without the mindset underpinning it, you’re just shooting in the dark. Taking someone else’s plan, applying it to someone else’s goals that you don’t really believe in, and then having predictable problems sabotage your efforts.

By spending a couple of hours focusing on getting your mind right, you are giving yourself the best possible platform to achieve more.

Not just achieving more, but doing it in an easier, smoother, quicker and a more enjoyable way.

Step 7 – Make Commitments To Execution

fitness mindset - commit to execution

The final stage is the doing.

This is where we stop thinking about goals, and start talking about commitments.

I don’t believe in process goals.

If something is within your control, it is a choice.

Setting a goal implies you’re going to try – weak weasel words.

Make a commitment that you are doing.

It sounds like a pedantic difference in language, but it makes a difference in the way you think. The language that you use dictates how you think.

‘Try’ implies 2 things. It implies that it is in the future, not in present tense. Secondly, it implies that you are going to struggle and might fail.

Why would you struggle and fail with something that is completely within your control? Because you choose to.

Instead make present tense commitments that you are doing it.

What if you make commitments but still fail to keep them? It means you didn’t set your intention correctly. You had a faulty belief or the situation has since changed.

That is nothing to be ashamed of. You have not ‘failed’, unless you give up.

Rather, you have expanded your knowledge and gained a clearer picture of the reality of the situation. This is empowering. You can now engage in more accurate thinking and are therefore closer to achieving what you set out to do.

Bringing it all together…

Once you’ve been through the steps above, the real work begins. It is the doing that counts.

Getting deep into mindset, motivation and planning is great, but don’t let it become mental masturbation.

It only works for you if you do the work.

The purpose of mindset work is to facilitate you getting better results. Not as an excuse to not do anything. This is just a platform, to get mind and body aligned for the best possible chance of success.

You will still face setbacks. You will still have unexpected problems.

You will still doubt yourself. You will still sabotage yourself.

I don’t claim to be able to help you avoid any of that. That is life.

You now simply have the tools to give you the best possible chance of coming out the other side victorious.

The Attractive Introvert: How to Attract Women When You’re Not The Outgoing, Social Guy

How Introverts Get Women - Phil Hawksworth

She was walking through the crowd in my direction…

We’d locked eyes moments earlier. She walked towards me, and looked again. A curious kind of look broke over her face.

I smirked.

She was within a couple of feet of me, still looking at each other, I simply said, “hey”.
She said “hey” back.

I looked at her a little longer, still smirking.

She couldn’t control herself – you could see words bubbling up in her throat, until she had to spit them out.

You’re handsome. I like your eyes”.
Thanks”, I said, without breaking eye contact.

What’s your name?

10 minutes later we were in a taxi.

The Attractive Introvert - Phil Hawksworth

A few years ago…

I would not have believed this possible.
Not for me, anyway. It’s something out of a James Bond script. Doesn’t happen in real life…

Except, now it does. All the time.

I don’t care whether you’re just looking to settle down with a nice girlfriend, or you want to go home with a different girl every night of the week…

To achieve what you want from your dating/sex life, you have to present yourself as an attractive package.

The conventional wisdom of how to do that simply does not work for introverted guys.

Sure, you can go out and pretend to be an outgoing, social guy…talking to everyone. Bouncing around the place with a big grin…

You will see some success like that – but it’s not fulfilling.

It’s not who you are. It’s tiring, it feels unnatural (because it is). The person you are presenting to the world is not really you.

You might get laid, but trust me, that is not fulfilling for ever.

You can be the ‘attractive introvert. There is nothing wrong with you being quiet, and you do not have to become extrovert to succeed with women. Even at bars and clubs.

You have to show up as your honest, true self if you ever want to have deeper, meaningful relationships with the opposite sex.

Whether they are transitory or more permanent doesn’t matter. Everything works out a lot better when you can follow the age-old stupid advice girls give and “just be yourself”… with the caveat that this time, it actually works.

You should be yourself. You will not be happy being anyone else.

What is missing when people say it is this;

“Just be yourself…BUT if yourself is not good enough, you are not entitled to anything. Go and make yourself better”.

You don’t become a new person. You evolve yourself.

You don’t turn up at school on day one, “just be yourself” and expect to pass your exams. You go and learn.

You don’t turn on the computer, “just be yourself” all the way to coding the next billion-dollar software. You go and practice.

Eventually, you’re going to be good enough.

Maybe not good enough to get a scholarship to Harvard or build the next Facebook…but good enough to get a decent education and make a comfortable living.

So it is with dating.

Yes, damn right, be yourself…but recognise the market value of your current self – if it isn’t where you want it to be, you need to work on that.

Back to being the attractive introvert…

“Being yourself” means being OK with your natural disposition. Accepting it, incorporating it into who you are, and making it your strength.

That’s what I’ve done.
I hate talking to people I don’t know or don’t like – so I don’t.

Even when I am with a girl I like, I don’t tend to talk much. Communicating mostly non-verbally and enjoying her feminine presence, more than worrying about conversation.

I dated a girl for an entire year that didn’t speak English
Friends would ask how, or what, we talked about.

They don’t get that – for me – it’s only a small part of the many things I value. Someone’s presence and the feelings they create are more important to me than what they are saying.

I think any intelligent or free-thinking guy is going to feel the same way. Someone who spends the majority of their time reading, thinking, travelling, meditating etc…

It will be extremely rare to meet someone who is your intellectual equal AND free-thinking. Women tend much more towards following the herd.

It exists, I’ve met numerous women like that, but they’re a tiny percentage of the population.

I would argue that you shouldn’t be looking for that from a girl that you date anyway. You have friends to talk about philosophy or politics with.

If a girl is sweet, happy, looks after me and makes me feel good – I am happy.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

Before you’re having deep conversations about the meaning of life… you need to actually meet and say hello.

This goes for the coffee shop or library as much as it does the bar or party…
As an introvert, you are not going to light up the room and be the super social guy.

You shouldn’t even try. It’s incongruent, tires you out and just doesn’t fit with who you are.

It’s pretty see-through as well. Probably works on some people, especially drunk people; but it’s not a good long term strategy.

Mostly because it is just that – a ‘strategy’.
Nobody needs a strategy to simply be their true self.

That means for an introvert to be attractive on first impression…

You need to have other things going for you.

You can be extremely attractive, as an introvert, even if you don’t look like David Gandy.

Think of movie characters that women fawn over. You want to be the ‘strong silent’ archetype. James Bond.

It’s raw, masculine and mysterious (aka chick crack).

This is who you are, deep inside.
You might not feel very strong right now, but every man has a power inside. You’ve lost it, but it’s there.

If you’ve seen the Tony Robbins documentary on Netflix, there’s a couple of instances where he reconnects this power for guys – one who was suicidal, and the other who was just a giant pussy that got bossed around by his girlfriend. She – of course – didn’t want to sleep with him anymore.

You can see their life change. Before this experience, they were not strong in any sense of the word.

It is within anyone’s reach to attain this power that is inside you.

It’s a journey. It takes time, effort and pain…

But the rewards on the other side more than make up for it.

This journey happens in the gym.

You absolutely must have the physicality to display your strength as a man…

You need to carry yourself well. To own your presence, look good and dress well.

You will get noticed, without having to be all up in everyone’s face, feeling like a dancing clown.

I will often go home with girls from bars or parties after exchanging barely more than 2 sentences.

It’s 100% not down to any magical hypnotic words I said. I can’t stand the ‘pick-up’ goo-roo thinking that you have to ‘say the right thing’.

I understand why they do it. It sells, because men want a closed system that they can learn and implement.

Unfortunately, no such system works or exists.

At the core, if you’re not seeing the success that you desire right now, it is because you are not the man you need to be. There’s no shortcut.

At best, you’re just replicating the behaviours of what a successful person does. Modelling works in a sense. ‘Fake it until you make it’ is valid, but it’s only half of the equation.

You have to go out and do the work on the back end, to make the front end that you’re faking become reality. This is the ‘making it’ part.

You can model the right thing, and be better off than doing the wrong thing, but it’s not the truth. It’s fake, and that will be visible.

Maybe not immediately. Likely not consciously, but eventually everyone will see through it. Something just feels ‘off’.

To have the kind of dating and sex life that you desire, you have to do the work to be the man. You have to be ‘that guy’.

Some simple eye contact exchanges say more than 1,000 words could ever say…

When you own your presence and you’re comfortable with your physicality.

How do I become the attractive introvert?

The 2 things you must do are:

  • Be in shape
  • Be confident

The latter follows from the former.

I could mention dressing well, good posture, grooming, etc. but they will all be in check, if you are in shape and have confidence.

When you’re confident, you value yourself and take care of yourself. It’s not something you need to think too hard about. You don’t see successful, confident people looking like slobs.

You never have to worry about what to say, or saying the wrong thing. It just doesn’t matter. You will say the right thing, because you will say the honest thing. The honest thing will be the right thing.

This takes work…

I’m not saying “just be yourself” as you are now…

Nor am I saying “just become confident”… (what the fuck does that mean?)

It’s not a shortcut or a magic system. It’s the long and arduous process that every successful, attractive introvert has been through, to tap into their power and achieve more in their lives.

You need to put in the time in the gym. To build your confidence, and find your power in your physicality. It is a necessity.

It underpins everything that you do. What you say, what you’re wearing – that’s the surface level stuff that is built upon the foundation of your physicality.

Physicality doesn’t just mean being in shape.
It means how you carry yourself, how you stand, how you move, how you look around the room and how people perceive you.

You have an internal strength that is displayed via body language and – for lack of a better word – your aura.

Does having a six pack help?
Yes, of course it does. But it’s not the be-all and end-all.

Taking up space and moving confidently are more important.
That is within the reach of any guy within 6-12 months.

You just have to do the work in the gym.

You just have to become ‘that guy’.

 

I’m going to be writing more specifically about fitness, physicality, and how it can have a life-changing impact on an introverts dating life.

To do this, I want to understand more about where you’re at – there’s a short, anonymous survey you can take here that will allow me to help you to the best of my ability.

I appreciate you taking the 2 minutes to complete it.  

Basic Mobility For Men (Can You Do These Movements?)

You want to be strong and jacked. You don’t want to be beat up and injured, right?

We can talk all day about the ‘best workout plans for the 33 year old guy with 7 years training experience and a sedentary job’ or whatever your specific situation might be. It’s all for jack if you get injured.

Here I want to tell you about the importance of basic mobility; what it is, how to do it, and why you need to.

This goes alongside your normal training routine. To maximise your strength and hypertrophy gains while avoiding injury, poor posture and waddling around with your arms out at 90 degrees because – you might be jacked – but you’re stiff as a board.

Honestly, mobility is not the sexiest fitness subject we could cover, but it really is one of the most essential.

Let me tell you why:

  • Good mobility minimises the risk of injury and keeps you training for longer.
  • Good mobility helps the body function properly during movement. Good mobility allows muscles to activate in the sequence they are supposed to. Instantly increasing strength and helping you use the right muscles.(An example: when you have piss poor hamstring flexibility and you deadlift all from the lower back; stunting hamstring growth and risking hemorrhaging your spine out of your throat when your back can’t take it any more)
  • Good mobility allows you to use a full range of motion, strengthening joints and increasing muscle growth.

What this is not:

This is not some 2 hours per day yogi oestro-hipster routine.

We are keeping the end goal in mind. You are in the gym to get strong and jacked. This routine is to help you do that.

What is Mobility?

Mobility is best described as flexibility through movement. It differs from static flexibility in that it also has a motor control component. You have to control the body as it moves through the range of motion. We think about mobility from a joint perspective, rather than individual muscles’ perspective.

I don’t want to science this post up too much, so think of mobility as; ‘controlling the body through the greatest possible range of motion’.

For example; comfortably doing an ass to grass squat, or a behind the neck press.

Why You Need Basic Mobility

You need mobility to:

Not get injured: Injuries suck and nothing will ruin your hard earned physique quicker than not being able to train due to injury.

Most gym injuries come from a lack of mobility and are totally avoidable. Structures are too tight and eventually tear, or one joint is lacking sufficient movement, so force is focused on another structure or joint, instead of being distributed among the different joints evenly. Putting undue stress on the joint(s) taking the brunt of the workload.

Better muscle activation: Anyone who has ever read an article about squat depth knows that full range of motion leads to better muscle activation, a stronger contraction and therefore a greater adaptive response and more muscular growth.

A balanced physique: Better muscle activation leads to a more balanced physique, as the muscles are challenged throughout their entire range of motion.

For example; compare a weightlifters quads to a quarter squat bro. You can see significantly more growth on the inner head for the guy who uses full range of motion every time.

Doing complex exercises effortlessly: If you like to play around or show off in the gym, good mobility makes things like muscle ups a walk in the park, while most guys struggle to get anywhere near a deep bottom position.

Common Mobility Problems

I’m a fitness guy and I still spend the larger part of my day sat at a desk behind the laptop, so I can only imagine what it is like for people with the dreaded j-o-b. Our modern lives are a constant assault on our posture, we spend too much time sitting, too much time typing and too much time staring at our iPhone.

It is little wonder we wind up with tight muscles, under-active glutes and rhomboids, and poor movement patterns. The flip side of this epidemic is that, similar to obesity, it’s so bad that it’s extremely easy to stand out.

Be the guy in shape, the guy who has great posture and can actually move his body, you instantly stand out from 98% of ‘men’ in the west today.

So we are starting from a bad place, of sitting in poor postures for the majority of our day to day lives, and then we go to the gym – that’s making it better, right?

Not necessarily. I’m not going to insult you and assume you are every day bench and biceps kinda guys. You’re more intelligent than that, but what you might not realise, is that the lack of mobility and poor muscle function is restricting you from properly working the postural muscles such as the glutes and mid back – even when you are doing the right thing and trying to work them.

Quick diagnostic question: Have you ever struggled to feel or develop a mind muscle connection with the muscles at the back of the body?

If so, all the rows and deadlifts in the world will not get your body functioning properly, until it is moving in the right patterns, through the full range of motion.

Here are the most common mobility problems I have seen over and over in guys:

  • No ankle dorsi flexion (knee forward over toes) and collapsed feet that don’t work
  • No mental connection with the glutes and an inability to use them; leading to instability at the hips
  • Tight hips to compensate for the lack of stability (you can’t squat because you can’t stabilise and your feet don’t work – not because you need to stretch your hips)
  • No thoracic spine extension, causing slumped posture and poor functioning mid back muscles (rhomboids and mid/lower traps)
  • Internally rotated (rounded) shoulders and tight chest & lats
  • Forward head posture and tightness throughout the neck

This is what happens:

  • You can’t squat full depth with a straight back
  • You can’t behind the neck press, chest to bar pull up or properly front squat
  • Your glutes, hamstrings, mid back, rear delts and lats are underdeveloped compared to other muscles
  • Even if you’re aware and fight it; bad posture seems to be your default

Most guys fall short in one, or usually multiple, of these areas. It is hurting your strength, your physique and your posture.

Testing Basic Mobility

There are 5 exercises that I like to use, to diagnose mobility problems. I will break them down below and you will see where you fall short and what you need to work on.

These exercises are tests. I am not necessarily advocating you putting them in your program regularly and do not care how many you can do/how long for. The only thing I care about is if you can execute it perfectly, with control and full range of motion, for at least one rep.

How To Do These Tests

Approach these tests the way you would a workout. Complete a warm up first and build up to doing the movements. It goes without saying, be careful and do not hurt yourself trying to achieve something that your body is not capable of doing right now. We are looking for feedback on where you need to put in some work – this is not a competition.

I actually shot the photos below without doing a warm up first. This is not advised. I have a large degree of mobility because I am an Olympic Weightlifter and it is a requirement of the sport. I shot the photos in a cold state to indicate how they will likely look for you. If you can achieve the positions I display in the photos you have plenty of mobility for everyday training, injury prevention and maximising hypertrophy.

Pistol Squat

The pistol squat will assess:

  • Foot and ankle joint mobility
  • Hip mobility
  • Hip stability

How to do it:

Stand with your feet hip width apart and lift one leg. Keeping that leg straight, break from the hips and sit back and down on the standing leg, in a squat motion, while simultaneously extending the other leg out in front of you, to keep it off the floor. Sit all the way in to a deep squat and then stand back up. Your back will probably round a little at the bottom, don’t worry too much about that as this is an unweighted movement. Ideally it won’t round, but very few are mobile enough to achieve that.

Typical failures include; not being able to achieve full range (hamstring covers calf), not being able to keep the other leg out of the way, knee tracking excessively inwards, falling over.

Phil Hawksworth Basic Mobility Pistol Squat

Bridge

The bridge will assess:

  • Thoracic spine extension
  • Shoulder extension and external rotation
  • Hip extension and glute function
  • Wrist extension

How to do it:

Lay flat on your back, bend the knees and place the feet flat on the floor. Ensure the feet are pointing forwards. Place the hands flat on the floor by your ears, with fingers pointing down. Lift the hips to full extension and push the arms straight to arch your whole body in to the air. Push the head through and ensure the elbows are locked out straight, with feet and hands still flat on the floor and not turned out.

Typical failures include; Bent elbows, palms lift, a ‘kink’ in the lower back, feet turn out, falling over.

Phil Hawksworth Basic Mobility Bridge

Skin the cat

Skin the cat will assess:

  • Shoulder stability
  • Thoracic spine mobility
  • Shoulder extension

How to do it:

Grab a neutral grip chin up bar or gymnastics rings and start from a full hang. You want to roll yourself over backwards, past upside down and as far over towards a full 360 degree roll as possible. The measurement for this isn’t whether you can do a full 360, but rather, whether you can comfortably roll over and relax in to a hang. If you do not have the mobility your body will not be comfortable and you will stay tense. You also need to be able to roll back over to the right way up, to test your end range strength.

Typical failures include; not being able to go all the way over, discomfort or pain in the shoulders, not being able to reverse the movement (lack of end range strength).

Phil Hawksworth Basic Mobility Skin The Cat

Behind the neck press

Behind the neck press will assess:

  • Thoracic extension
  • Shoulder extension & external rotation

How to do it:

Place a barbell on your back like you would for a squat and take a slightly wider than shoulder width grip. ‘Pack’ the shoulders down by retracting and depressing the shoulder blades. Press the bar overhead. Lock it out with straight elbows and the bar behind your head. Ensure your midline stays solid and you do not over-extend the lower back.

Typical failures include; not being able to start the movement without cheating, pain in the shoulder joint, not keeping a strong and stable midline.

Phil Hawksworth Basic Mobility Behind The Neck Press

Overhead Squat

Overhead squat will assess:

  • Foot and ankle mobility
  • Hip mobility and stability
  • Core stability
  • Thoracic extension
  • Shoulder extension & external rotation

How to do it:

Take the bar on your back like a normal back squat and grip it with a wide grip (experiment to find a comfortable width). Press the bar overhead with straight arms and then sit down in to a full squat, keeping the chest up, elbows straight and bar behind your head.

Common failures include; not being able to sit all the way down, rounding the lower back, not keeping the bar behind the head, knees collapsing inwards, bending elbows.

Phil Hawksworth Basic Mobility Overhead Squat

Bonus Test: Sott’s Press

The Sott’s press doesn’t assess anything that the behind the neck press and overhead squat don’t already have covered, but the ability to do them shows a superior amount of mobility and control. If you can do a Sott’s press, you have nothing to worry about.

In my opinion the Sott’s press is the ultimate test of mobility for the average gym goer (not professional gymnast, etc.).

How to do it:

Take the same grip you would for an overhead squat, but keep the bar on your back and sit down in to a full squat. From the bottom squat position, press the bar overhead and lock it out with straight elbows. Lower the bar back to your shoulders and stand up. Move your grip inwards to increase difficulty, until you can do it with the same grip as the behind the neck press, or even pressing from the front rack like a standard military press (much more challenging).

Phil Hawksworth Basic Mobility Sotts Press

 

Try these exercises out and see where you fail.

Now you know where you need to put in some work, I best tell you how to fix these issues.

Cures for Common Mobility Problems

You’ve done a quick assessment and know where you’re lacking, we best look at the cures.

Training to improve mobility is a two part process;

  1. Release and stretch tight joints and muscles
  2. ‘Bed in’ the new range of motion, build control, stability and correct movement patterns

It’s probably not a great revelation for me to tell you to stretch that tight chest, but the second part is where most people fail to make significant changes.

It is the second part that makes it permanent and leads to an increase in performance. A bit of ad-hoc stretching isn’t really the point. The point is to quickly and permanently increase the quality of movement, range of motion and control throughout all points of the exercise.

Problems

Feet & Ankles lack dorsi flexion

Cannot sit all the way down in the overhead squat and pistol squat (hamstring covering calf), whilst keeping the lower back straight and the knees aligned with the feet.

To improve foot and ankle mobility:

 

Hip Extension

Cannot fully extend the hips on the bridge, possibly have a sharp kink in the lower back.

To improve hip extension:

*Actively: with glute engagement, pushing the hips forwards

 

Knees cave

Cannot perform the pistol or overhead squat without the knees caving in.

To improve knee control and alignment:

 

Lower back rounds

Lower back rounds during the pistol or overhead squats

To improve control and stability at the lower back:

  • Learn correct breathing patterns for lifting
  • Increase ankle dorsi flexion (see above) and thoracic extension (see below)

 

Foot & hip stability

Shaky or fall over during the pistol squat

 

Lack thoracic spine mobility: especially extension

Cannot do a full arch through the entire spine during the bridge. Probably has a kink in the lower back.

Cannot behind the neck press or roll right over in to skin the cat without pain.

Cannot keep the arms behind the head and lower back straight in the overhead squat.

To improve thoracic mobility:

 

Lack shoulder extension and external rotation

Cannot behind the neck press, lock out the arms during the bridge or keep the arms behind the head during the overhead squat.

To improve shoulder extension and external rotation:

 

Notes

  • The beauty of all of the test exercises, is that you can do them regularly and they will actually improve your mobility.
  • Perform releases, stretches and activations first, then use the test exercises to embed motor learning and build strength in the new range of motion.
  • Many things are complimentary; foot and hip stability, or thoracic extension and shoulder extension/external rotation, go hand in hand and improving one will improve the other.
  • Frequency is king for progression with mobility. Do it as regularly as possible and you will see quick improvements. Maintenance takes much less work than progression requires.
  • Stretching or releasing alone will not lead to long term improvements. Without building control, stability and strength, your body will not be comfortable in the increased range of motion and quickly tighten back up, to protect itself.
  • Use these mobility drills as warm ups for your regular workout. It warms your body, improves the muscle firing sequences and mind-muscle connection. You can kill two birds with one stone.
  • Invest in a couple of lacrosse balls and a light jump stretch band. They are cheap and easily portable, but 90+% of what you will ever need to look after your mobility.

Conclusion

Mobility can be frustrating for guys. It’s generally pretty tedious; we would rather be lifting something or going home to eat some steak.

Couple this with the lack of good information out there for guys, who want to stay healthy and maximise their training potential, but do not want to spend 2 hours flouncing around, like many of the mobility guru’s or movement guru’s espouse.

What we are left with, is shoulder impingements, bad backs and unnecessary time out of the gym. This can all be avoided with, at most, 10 additional minutes per day.

Indeed if you take my advice and use your mobility drills as your warm up, you will barely spend any additional time in the gym.

You will, however, get injured less, be able to train through a greater range of motion – and thus achieving stronger muscle contractions, have a better mind-muscle connection and be able to perform complex exercises more easily.

(6,150-Word Guide) How to Naturally Raise Testosterone: For the 20-Something Man

how to naturally raise testosterone

How to naturally raise testosterone..?

Every guy I know wants to have high testosterone. It’s the ultimate masculine ideal. It’s a corollary to being strong, buff, manly, powerful, alpha, attractive and whatever else a guy might aspire to be.

Unfortunately, that runs opposed to most of modern society. You can make the argument that the media, politics and general society want to demonize masculinity, and you’re probably right. But honestly, who cares? It just makes it easier than ever for a guy with his shit together to be elite.

When the vast majority of men are suffering from pathetically low testosterone levels, as the free-falling average testosterone levels indicate, it’s much easier to stand out.

Be the guy who is actually in shape, in good health, with drive and high-energy. Nothing is more estrogenic than complaining about something that is almost entirely within your control.

What is testosterone? Quick and dirty guide to the male hormonal system

To be able to naturally raise testosterone, we first need to understand a little about what it is. I’m going to give just enough detail to understand what you need to understand, to action the things that are going to help you in life. Go buy a biochemistry text book if you really want to study the endocrine system in great depth.

Testosterone is secreted from the testes at the end of a chain of events that begins in the brain. The hypothalamus secretes gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which stimulates the pituitary gland to release follicle stimulating hormone and lutenizing hormone, which stimulate the testes to produce testosterone.

That’s just how it is released. How it is actually made is even more complicated. See the image below.

steroidogenic pathways

The reason I am telling you how this works will become evident later. Like most things in the human body, the system is incredibly complicated. There are inputs and outputs at various levels throughout the body where the androgen system is interacting with other internal and external systems. You cannot look at it in isolation, without consideration of the whole body and dozens of not immediately related things up and down the chain which ultimately have an effect on testosterone levels.

Signs of low testosterone

You might have low testosterone if:

  • You can’t gain weight/muscle/strength
  • You’re weak
  • You’re fat
  • You have poor immunity
  • You lack focus, energy and drive
  • You have low sex drive
  • You don’t wake up with an erection in the morning
  • You feel tired all of the time
  • You’re depressed or generally unhappy
  • You tend towards vegetarianism, feminism and complaining about how unfair life is
  • You’re generally a pussy

It’s assumed that as you age your testosterone levels are supposed to decline, but there isn’t actually any evidence for this. It happens, but that doesn’t mean it is supposed to happen.

It is becoming more and more common, for an abundance of reasons we will explore later, that young guys have low testosterone. If any of the above sounds like you, it is worth looking in to getting it tested.

Read a great series of posts detailing a young guys low T journey here.

I’m a fan of doing lab tests for this stuff. Even if you’re fine, it’s good to have a baseline to compare against in the future. Doctors diagnose low testosterone at the level it reaches critical deficiency and causes problems – this says nothing whatsoever about the level that is optimal.

The ‘range’ you’re being measured against is based on a population average. With our populations collective testosterone level declining – and just look around at a sample of the next 1o guys you see – being ‘average’ is not saying much.

You should strive to be way above average and at the very top end of ‘normal’ levels.

How to test your testosterone level

If you’re under 35 you stand little chance of your doctor running the tests for you, even if you have symptoms of low testosterone. Luckily you can do lab tests yourself.

A blood hormone panel will tell you the information you need. Here is mine from a couple of years ago:

testosterone panel

In the US and elsewhere testosterone is measured in ng/dl.

36.7 nmol/L = 1059ng/dl, for comparison.

The reference range varies depending on where you look, but as you can see, my level at this time was 20% above the top end of the reference range. That was 3 years ago, so I was 23 at the time. I haven’t had it measured since; that is the latest data that I have.

What should I do if my testosterone levels are low (or I think they are low)?

This is why I explained very briefly how testosterone is produced. If your levels are low, there is no one single fix. Any break in the chain is going to effect everything down stream from there.

Perhaps you don’t have enough cholesterol in your diet to produce testosterone from?

Perhaps you’re low in lutenizing hormone?

Perhaps you’re aromatizing too much and turning testosterone in to estrogen?

Without testing and getting some professional help, you are really just guessing what the problem is. People will ask things like:

Will taking zinc/magnesium raise my testosterone?

Does tribulus work?

The answer is, it depends.

It depends on where the problem lies. The only surefire way to raise your testosterone, without actually understanding where the problem is, is taking exogenous testosterone (injecting). The non-natural method.

Now, I think as guys get older they absolutely should take TRT to improve their health and quality of life, when it is required. However, I also think that a lot of younger guys, say in their early 30’s, are getting on to TRT too early, when they have scope to keep levels high naturally for a while longer.

It’s no joke committing to injecting yourself every day/week for the rest of your life. It’s not something that you should take lightly and without knowing all of the ins and outs of it.

This is a totally different story to taking testosterone for strength or bodybuilding, by the way, which is usually done in cycles and not ever meant to be a permanent solution. That’s a different conversation for a different day.

I’m very much pro-TRT, but I think before you ever get to that point you should:

a). Be doing everything in your power to naturally raise testosterone levels

b). Look in to the data and find where your system breaks down, then focus on fixing that and optimise, before you look at exogenous testosterone

I personally used to work with a very high-level nutrition/functional medicine guy who now works for a billionaire you would all recognize. The interpretation is where the money is, if I just did all of the various tests I’ve had myself, I wouldn’t really know what they meant (and I know a lot more than the average guy about this stuff).

Your best bet is probably to find an anti-ageing doctor, or ask around online, or even at the gym, for a doctor who is clued up on this stuff and will help you get the tests and interpret them. The best resource I’m aware of for this stuff is Fab Fit Over 40, so go over there and have a read. If you’re under 40, which most of my readers are, the information is still just as valid and useful.

Now, if you don’t have any immediate signs of problems, or you don’t have much cash, by all means just get the basic male hormone panel to get a baseline testosterone level. Then look to improve it with the things I am going to mention below.

If you can’t get even the basic panel, of course you can and should still implement these lifestyle related things. The benefits will be far reaching and almost all of the things mentioned are much bigger than just effecting your testosterone levels. The only downside is that you don’t have any comparison data. You’re basing it only on how you feel. Although it’s safe to assume that doing this stuff is healthy and good for you anyway, so it doesn’t matter even if it didn’t raise your testosterone.

Ways to naturally raise testosterone

There are a host of things you can do to naturally raise testosterone levels. I strongly advise every guy does all of these things anyway, because they’re important for health and quality of life. They will likely raise your testosterone, assuming you don’t have any defective functioning somewhere in the chain of events that produces and releases testosterone.

I’ll break them up in to categories for simplicity. Some of them are just easy switches you can make, some are habits that will take a bit of effort to build. Select the easiest wins to get started and then build them all in over time. The point – as with most things in life – is to be consistent. A flourish of trying to change everything for 3 days and then quitting isn’t going to help anyone.

Here we go…

Workout

Phil Hawksworth

If you’re not lifting, and you’re over the age of 20, you will be missing out on a huge chunk of potential to naturally raise testosterone. Go to the gym, pick heavy shit up 4-5 times a week. Whether you’re bodybuilding, weightlifting, powerlifting, strongman, gymnastics, heck even Crossfit. It doesn’t matter. You need to be lifting weights.

Cardio is less important, but it still has benefits in it’s ability to aid detoxification through sweat and breath. We will cover this in more detail later.

You need to be using your body for it to function properly. If you sit around, work behind a desk and then go lay on the sofa, it’s not going to be working efficiently. It’s too damn comfortable. Challenging your physicality with progressive overload in training will ensure that your body stays young and healthy.

Training is also the catalyst for a lot of other things we are going to look at. By having physique/strength goals and lifting on a regular basis, you will automatically start to do a lot of other things right, to sustain your training and recovery.

If you apply an 80/20 principle to raising testosterone, lifting weights is most definitely going to give you huge returns on the investment of time and effort. Both in itself, and the knock-on effect it has on other behaviours.

Don’t be fat

Now, there’s many reasons that being fat can potentially lower your testosterone. For example, self-esteem and good posture are correlated with high testosterone (I think this relationship goes both ways) and if you’re a fat slob, you probably don’t have high self-esteem or good posture.

Likewise, being seen as someone in a leadership position and being attractive to attractive women is also unlikely to happen if you’re out of shape.

The biggest thing though, is the fact that body fat itself is estrogenic. The more body fat you have, the more you are converting testosterone in to estrogen. This means less testosterone, you then gain more fat, become more estrogrenic, dropping more testosterone and with it the drive to actually do something about it.

I can sympathise with people who are overweight, for the most part of my adult life I helped train and coach people to lose weight. The commonality was that they always wanted to lose weight. Hence seeking professional help. For many, there seems to be an inherent lethargy where the pain and effort of trying to not be fat is harder than the pain of being fat and feeling bad about it. Getting caught in a cycle of inaction that usually takes a drastic life event (health scare, divorce) to kick them out of.

You could theorise that this is caused by the low testosterone. That no matter how shitty it is being fat, they simply do not have the drive to do anything about it. Justifications and excuses abound, obviously. Yet at the core of it, I’ve never met someone who was overweight and genuinely happy about it. They just didn’t have it in them at that specific time, to do something about it; for any number of reasons, limiting beliefs, obstacles, etc.

I haven’t yet given any specific advice to combat this, but common sense says exercise and diet is a good starting point. This brings us nicely on to the next point…

Nutrition

Don’t eat shitty food. You know the kind I’m talking about. The junk food, the plasticy franken-food, the sugary, luminous blue cake. Crappy food is estrogenic. It makes you fat – see above. It lowers your energy, inhibiting ability and drive to workout and do other useful things. It messes up your sleep patterns, leaves you nutrient deficient. Lacking in the building blocks for testosterone and healthy metabolic function across the board.

 

Don’t eat loads of soya. It’s estrogenic. Likewise, don’t cook food in plastic containers or leave water bottles in the sun/heat. The plastics leach in to the food/drink. Try and drink filtered water too. Tap water has all kinds of nasties in it. Like heavy metals which bind to testosterone receptors, blocking testosterone uptake.

 

Go easy on the booze. Alcohol inhibits testosterone production, and makes you fat as well. Beer is the worst, so drink spirits. A high quality spirit with no mixer or soda water will be the most body-friendly way to drink. Leave the vodka and coke for the ladies.

 

Eat enough protein and cholesterol. You need protein for every cell in your body. If you don’t get enough, you cannot be as healthy as is optimal, let alone thinking about being strong and muscular. If you’re training (I hope you are) then you are going to need more than the ‘average’ or the ‘recommended’.1 gram per pound of lean body weight is the traditional bodybuilding recommendation. I think this can vary depending on what else you’re doing – for example if you’re lean and eat high carb, you won’t need as much – but that’s a good place to start.

Take a look at that diagram back up the top and you will see it all starts with cholesterol. This is the base material for all of your sex hormones. If you’re not eating enough, you cannot possibly produce high levels of testosterone. The funny irony is that the most hardcore bodybuilding diet of dry chicken, dry rice and wet broccoli, 6 times per day, is most likely deficient in cholesterol. They’re ok because they skip the whole process and have some nice ready made testosterone in a little glass vial…but if you try follow this diet natural, it’s not going to end well.

Saturated fat contains cholesterol, which comes in animal products. This is the biggest reason I mentioned vegetarianism as a sign of low testosterone. They probably don’t have enough protein, probably eat too much soya and probably have less than optimal belief patterns, but fundamentally without the building block they simply cannot make testosterone. Yes you can eat a vegetarian diet, be healthy and have high testosterone, as long as you get your eggs and dairy. If you’re vegan, you can’t – full stop.

Manage stress

Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, fights for the same resources as testosterone. Reference the diagram above and you will see that both are made from progesterone.

Progesterone is a limited resource in your body and the more of it is serving the creation of stress hormones, the less there is left over for testosterone. Stress hormones will take priority every time, by the way, because they evolved as life saving hormones in the ancestral environment.

We cannot stop stress, and indeed in the right amount, it is healthy and essential. What we need to do is manage it so that we have a stress load which we can deal with. It’s not that stress is bad, it’s the double whammy of modern western humans suck at dealing with stress and have an incredible amount of it. Mostly self-imposed. We can never avoid stress. What we can and should do, is learn to manage it, while avoiding unnecessary stress.

 

Practice stress management. Some people like to meditate, some ‘meditate’ i.e. walking/driving/hitting a heavy bag (this is my preference), writing your thoughts down in a journal, or voice recording them – to get them out of your brain and let the sub-conscious get over them.Consider writing/recording some of the shitty things you say/think about yourself and then looking back on them the next day when you’re calm. Look stupid? Never talk to someone else like that? You’re free to let them go. (This tip is from Gorilla Mindset by Mike Cernovich – highly recommended.)

Go to talk therapy or play gory video games if it helps you deal with stress. That’s not my idea of time well spent, but if it works for you, go for it.

 

Stop putting undue stress on yourself physically. That means don’t sit down all day or generally being lazy. The body needs to move to be healthy. Go to the gym, go for a walk, play a round of golf, have sex. Whatever, just move your body.

Adopt good posture and release muscular tension. We will talk about posture more later, but realise that bad posture is stressing your body. Think about your insides, you have a thin wire down the middle transmitting electrical messages, and a load of tubes around it carry blood, oxygen, water, etc. If you’re in some funky posture where there’s a big kink somewhere there isn’t supposed to be, you are inhibiting all of these wires and tubes from performing optimally. Bad posture will make you less healthy.Excessive muscular tension will both pull you in to bad postures, and is stressful in itself. Stretch, get a massage, buy a foam roller (and actually use it), do some yoga. Whatever you need to do to release the physical tension.

Don’t carry around dead weight (fat). You’re just taxing the bodies systems with no gain in return, unlike muscle which is actively helpful in sustaining itself.

 

Stop putting undue stress on yourself mentally. That means let things go, work on being present, build your self-esteem, adopt an abundance mindset and fill your brain with uplifting thoughts.That thing you’re angry/upset/stressed about…
Is it within your control?
Will you care or even remember it in a years time?

If the answer to either is no, then let it go. It is not serving you. If it’s not in your control, you can’t do anything about it. Whatever happens, happens. If it’s something inconsequential, just get over it. If it’s a person in your life causing it, either forgive them, or get them out of your life. Holding petty grudges is not helping you.

Turn off your phone at night. Put it down from time to time. When you’re at the gym, leave it in the locker. When you’re at dinner, leave it in the car. You’re not that damn important that you can’t go off the radar for half an hour. Indeed, if you’re not always available, people will hold you in higher regard. Unless you’re a doctor on call or something, put the damn phone down and be present.

Having low self-esteem is stressful. You’re always going to be putting yourself down. Go get in shape, have a mission in life that inspires you, fuck some hot girls and achieve stuff that makes your confidence grow. High self-esteem typically goes with an abundance mindset. When shit happens, it doesn’t really phase you, you know that you will be ok, because you back yourself 100%. You know you’re going to succeed, so circumstance, other people, the environment, really can’t get under your skin. Whatever happens, you will work through.

Cut negativity out of your life. That’s people, news, social media, even clients. I understand why people keep people around, even if they bring them down. There’s more aspects to some relationships. Deep rooted feelings, memories, etc. I’m slightly on the sociopathic side on this, I don’t put other people’s feelings above my own and I don’t care about my perceived obligations. If you’re a liability, you’re gone.

What I never understand, is why people watch the news, rage-read things they dislike on the internet and spend hours arguing in YouTube comments. Why on earth do you want to fill your brain with negativity? Stop doing that shit, right now. Fill your mind with things that lift you up. Educate you, entertain you, make you feel happy.

All of this stuff is going to lower your stress levels, increase your testosterone and will also be the healthiest thing you could do for yourself. Not to mention how much happier and more successful you will be by adopting thought patterns that build you up, instead of tear you down.

Sleep & light cycles

When did you last sleep for 9 hours in a pitch black room, without any electronics around, waking up naturally – no alarm clock?

Sleep is the time that we regenerate and the body goes to work on it’s internal processes without the inconvenience of your being conscious and doing stuff, which requires energy.

If you’re not sleeping properly, your stress will be high. Your insulin sensitivity will be lower, making it more likely you will get fat. Your energy levels are going to crash, meaning you are less likely to workout, or to achieve anything of note in your days. Your mood will be low as serotonin is depleted and that’s going to wear down on your overall psychology.

On top of all these secondary issues, testosterone is produced on a circadian rhythm, meaning it needs your sleep cycle to align to regulate itself. When you circadian rhythm gets out of whack, it causes all sorts of problems you really don’t want to have to deal with.

To improve sleep:

Sleep in a pitch black room. Turn off any light sources and get some blackout blinds. The difference in sleep quality is huge – if you’ve ever gone out in the countryside away from street lights and all the electronics in your home, you will recognise this.

 

Wind down before bed. Meditate, stretch, journal, listen to music. Whatever works for you. You don’t want to go to bed carrying all of the days shit with you, where you lie awake anxious about whatever thoughts you’ve been repressing all day. Simply writing them down, or doing some physical relaxation will go a long way to quelling this anxiety and improving your sleep quality.

 

Leave the phone in a different room. Phones emit electromagnetic waves that will interrupt the brains natural wavelength, and the blue light from the screen is the same spectrum as sunlight, which signals your body to be awake. You want to avoid blue light at night, as your body and mind will not be at rest in it’s presence. Turn off the TV and laptop for half an hour before bed too.

On a more practical level, just having your phone nearby is an addiction we probably all suffer from. We can’t help but look at the damn thing every 2 minutes and get that little dopamine hit from a message or notification. Lie in bed for 2 minutes and can’t sleep? Feeling anxious? Grab your phone and find solace in someone else’s life on Facebook! Not good for your sleep patterns…

 

Try and keep a consistent cycle and have routines for the evening and morning. This will put you in the right frame of mind for sleeping. The consistency is important because your body becomes conditioned to routine. It will fall in to a comfortable routine and match up your circadian rhythm if you give it chance. Going to bed at roughly the same time and waking at the same time will allow your body to set itself optimally for your routine.

 

On the opposite side of this, we have light exposure. This is less talked about than sleep, but still important. When most of us spend all day sat inside under unnatural lighting and rarely, if ever, see the sun, it’s not good for our health or our testosterone levels.

This goes back to circadian rhythms and light is the signalling that tells your body what to do. When it gets natural light exposure, it sets off a cascade of signalling and hormonal release. If you’re not getting natural light during the day, and not getting true darkness at night, it causes havoc with your circadian rhythm.

What to do? Go outside whenever you can! Get a light alarm clock that wakes you up gradually with light exposure – mirroring sunrise. Get a sun lamp for your desk, to give natural light exposure when you’re indoors. Get your vitamin D levels tested and supplement if required – more on that later.

Posture

Did you know that your posture can affect your testosterone levels? Well, it does. Read more about how this works here. This post is long enough as it is; I’ll just deal with the practical application.

Improving posture will naturally raise testosterone and high testosterone will lead to adopting more dominant postures. This will become a positively self-perpetuating cycle. You can be implementing all of the other points in this post to start raising your testosterone. Meanwhile, you can start to consciously improve posture.

It’s an odd thing to think about initially. Like breathing, you will have just done it unconsciously all of your life. I find that the two – breathing and posture – really go hand in hand. When you start to be aware of one, you start to be aware of both.

When you first start to think about it, you’re going to find it very tedious. Every time you catch yourself in bad posture you will adjust yourself and 2 minutes later likely be back in to the bad posture again. You just have to stick with it. Keep re-training your nervous system until it starts to adopt good postures as it’s default.

The 2 positions you need to think about are standing/walking and sitting. If you work in a office, you probably spend the majority of your life sitting. I was fortunate in that I worked in gyms when I was becoming aware of this stuff, so was on my feet all day.

Sitting for long periods is not something humans are particularly well designed for. It takes it’s toll on your body, your posture, your muscles. To sit better theres 2 things to think about it: Abs and head.

If you get the abs and head right, everything else in the chain will end up in the right place too. So focus on these two things.

Focus on gently flexing the abs, so you have a natural curve in your lower back. If you’re sitting in a chair with a back, sit your ass right back so that as much of you as possible is in contact with the chair. If you’re on a stool, or just ‘free sitting’ focus on keeping your spine straight and upright.

Keep the head back on your neck. Get your computer set at eye level, so you’re not looking down at it. If you’re reading a book or on your phone/tablet, hold it to your face, rather than craning your neck down to your lap. If your head is back on the neck (think tucking your chin to make what would be a double chin) your upper back and neck will fall in to line as well.

Your limbs will end up in the right place if your lower back and head are, so don’t worry too much about them. Obviously having a set up where your feet are flat on the floor and your elbows can rest comfortably on the desk is going to be easiest – but this only applies to sitting at your own desk – which is probably only a moderate percentage of the time you spend sat down.

Now, for standing or walking posture, this time you need to think about glutes and head. Again, if these two things are sorted, everything else will fall in to line.

When you’re walking, squeeze your glutes as you stride. When you’re standing, lightly squeeze them and balance weight on both feet (you probably stand primarily on one leg at the moment). Same as when sitting, push your head back on your neck, look ahead at the horizon when you’re walking.

Do these two things, and your spine will be straight, shoulders will pull back and hang naturally. Of course, if you have tight muscles, this might not happen immediately. You should also be stretching the tight muscles out and strengthening the important postural muscles at the back of the body in the gym.

Cold Exposure

Cold showers are great. I wrote about them as part of my morning routine. Cold exposure has been consistently shown in studies to raise testosterone. Taking a cold shower each morning is a pretty simple routine to take up.

Aside from the physiological mechanism for raising testosterone, it also builds discipline, mental strength and fortitude that probably affects testosterone levels by way of altering your attitude to life in general.

Detoxify & sweat

This is a big one. Most of us are packed full of toxins. Heavy metals which inhibit testosterone uptake, and plastics which increase estrogen. From the environment, the air, food, water, hygiene products. It’s hard to escape, unless you go and live off the land in the mountains away from civilisation. What we can do, is ensure that our detoxification pathways are working optimally and do what we need to do to support them.

This is a big topic, so I will just skip over the main takeaway points. Again you will see the complexity of this process in the image below.

detoxification pathways

Your liver is the main organ involved in detoxification and there are 2 phases of detoxification.

Toxins are stored in fat tissue, because it is ‘safe’ – outside of the blood stream. This means the more body fat you have, the more toxic you will be.

Phase 1 takes toxins in to the liver for processing and phase 2 is the excretion process. You eliminate toxins through urine, faeces, breath and sweat.

To aid detoxification we can provide the nutrients required for the processing (see image), provide sufficient clean water, breath hard and sweat a lot. One of the biggest benefits of cardio is the increased breathing rate over a sustained period of time. We can also use sauna’s to help the detoxification process. Aiming to accumulate time – 20-40 minutes is a good target, a couple of times per week. Infra-red saunas are better, if you have access to one.

There’s a lot more to detoxification, but it’s beyond the scope of this post. Action the things in the previous paragraph and it will help in your quest to improve health, metabolic function, and naturally raise testosterone.

The biggest thing you can do, is stop putting as many toxins in to start with. Don’t eat shit food, drink too much or do a lot of drugs. Drink filtered water, don’t heat plastic contains or re-use water bottles. Avoid most cosmetics and chemicals on your skin (it’s your biggest organ, and it absorbs the stuff you’re putting on it).

Psychology of how to naturally raise testosterone

This is actually the area that most interests me. The integration of body and mind never ceases to amaze me. Like posture, this goes in both directions. The right psychology will lead to increased testosterone, and increasing testosterone will build positive mentality.

Here’s some actionable tips:

Succeed and win at life. It’s not the taking part that counts. There’s many studies showing that winning at competitive endeavors raises testosterone, while losing doesn’t. Obviously this is short term, but if its habitual – beating yourself on a daily basis with incremental improvement – new PR’s in the gym, etc…

 

Raise your adrenaline. The old advice of doing something that scares you every day has merit. It raises your testosterone. Again, it’s a short term spike, but if it’s something of habit it will have long term benefit.

 

Avoid mind poison. Gossip is for women and negativity is for losers. In other words, stop watching TV and reading the news. Be very selective in what you let in to your mind. This goes for people too. You just don’t want to be around people who bring you down. It’s going to affect your psyche and your physiology.

 

Be around attractive women; don’t masturbate. Being around attractive women raises your testosterone (and having high testosterone makes attractive women want to be around you). Getting yourself off will lower your testosterone, and is a waste of your sexual energy that you could put in to something useful. Have sex, or find something else to do.

 

Having a generally positive outlook on life keeps stress levels low, and remember stress is the polar opposite of testosterone. Simply doing stuff that makes you happy, having a hobby, being around people you like, etc. is going to help things more than you realise.

Supplements that naturally raise testosterone

I’ve left this section until last because I’m going to reference many things I have said above. First of all, understand that supplements will help if they are filling a gap somewhere in the chain of events that causes testosterone to be produced/released. If the supplement is not filling a place you have a deficiency, it probably won’t do anything.

Therefore, it is a very individual thing. What works for me will probably not work for you, and vice versa. Testing is the way to really find out what you need, but you can also experiment. While Vitamin D is going to be great if you need it, and probably not raise testosterone if you don’t, it’s still good for you and will have a net positive effect on your health. Assuming you don’t take so much that you poison yourself – but you’re not that stupid.

Here’s some of the things that are generally good all around supplements, which will benefit your health and possibly raise testosterone:

  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin D
  • Omega 3 fish oils
  • Greens powder
  • Milk thistle

These are all generally useful supplements. There are ‘testosterone specific’ supplements such as tribulus and various blends that companies create which might benefit you. Depending entirely on where in the chain things break down for you. You can test and find out for sure, or you can experiment and see what happens. There is no magic supplement that will work for everyone, so be warned; you might waste your money.

What about getting huge/strong and taking gear?

That is beyond the scope of this already lengthy post. One thing that I will stress is that you have no right to be thinking about taking exogenous testosterone until you:

Have maxed out your natural potential by doing everything mentioned in this post, consistently, for at least a year.

 

Have been training properly for at least 3 years. I say properly, because most people don’t start training properly for the first couple of years in the gym. They get some noob gains and think they’re on the right track. It’s only when that stagnates that they start to educate themselves and actually do things properly.

 

Are over 25 and have done extensive research on what you are getting in to. Just because the guy down the gym does it and has huge arms doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for you.

 

Have a specific reason for doing so. What are your goals? Is that what is required to achieve them?

 

If you meet these criteria, then you should get in research mode and find out as much as you can. John Doe Bodybuilding has extensive information on pretty much everything you would want to know, so start there.

Conclusion & recap: How to naturally raise testosterone

Alright, we’ve covered a lot of info here. Let me recap it briefly:

  • Testosterone is produced and released through complex bodily systems with lots of moving parts. If there is a break at any point in the chain it is going to negatively effect testosterone.

 

  • Everyone can and should be doing everything they can to naturally raise testosterone, regardless of age. All of the recommendations are also generally good for your health and will have many other benefits.

 

  • Testing, finding out your levels and where things break down, for certain, is the best solution. Even if you cannot get the labs done, doing the things discussed to naturally raise testosterone is going to benefit you – you just won’t have the data to track change, relying only on how you feel.

 

  • Start to implement things in to a routine/habit and build them in to your life. Some things are simple swaps, others are habits to adopt. Start with the low hanging fruit and progressively build everything in to your lifestyle in a manageable way.

 

  • If you’re not testing, track how you feel and measure progress via gym performance, sex drive, energy levels, focus, body composition, etc.

If you have any questions or comments, fire them in the comments.

Why Chiang Mai is the Best & Worst Place for Digital Nomads (Depending On Your Situation)

Chiang Mai digital nomad co-working space

Chiang Mai is pretty much Digital Nomad Mecca. It tops most people’s list of the best place for a Digital Nomad to live and work, and for good reason. I’ve spent about 6 months of this year in Chiang Mai and it is great. I have written about it my time there before: here.

It’s (very) cheap, weather is great most of the year, the people are friendly and speak English pretty well. It’s also a very easy place to integrate in to and feel at home. There’s lots of expats and the Thai people are generally accommodating of foreigners, so you don’t really feel like an outsider.

It has an abundance of coffee shops – perfectly suited for working, and plenty of culture and nature around when you want a weekend trip.

However-

Depending on where you are at in your business and personal life, it might be the absolute best place you could possibly be…or the absolute worst. Let’s explore why…

Chiang Mai digital nomad co-working space

One of Chiang Mai’s many co-working spaces

Chiang Mai Digital Nomad plus points

Let’s look at the plus points of Chiang Mai first. This conversation focuses on it’s viability as a place to base yourself to build/run your business. It’s an entirely different conversation from it’s merit as a travel destination or somewhere to look at temples (which is has many of (and they all look the same)).

Chiang Mai cost of living is very cheap.

This is the biggest thing it has going for it, and here is why.

Because it is so cheap to live in Chiang Mai, you can try things. You can afford to fail and know that you’re not going to be homeless. When I lived in London, just my food cost as much as my entire cost of living in Chiang Mai. And that’s eating almost all my meals cooked by me. In Thailand I eat out every meal.

My rent in London was 10 times what it was in Chiang Mai. A monthly tube pass costs 2.5 times hiring my own motorbike and buying gas…you get the picture.

If your business is new, you’re just launching or you haven’t even started yet; the low cost of living is a huge safety net. It allows you to throw caution to the wind, because you really can’t lose. You can invest everything in your venture. You can put all of your time in to something that you know may not bring an immediate return.

With just a couple of grand saved up, or doing a few hours of freelance work you can cover the cost of living in Chiang Mai and focus everything else on building your business.

My Chiang Mai story

When I arrived in Chiang Mai in January, I had no business. I had no idea what I was going to do at all in fact.

I was burnt out, fed up of Personal Training, sick of having a diary and being it’s bitch. I liked working with clients, but the obligation of being in a certain place, or even on the phone at a certain time, was cutting in to the freedom that I so highly value.

With not a huge amount of money saved up, I was able to take some time off and travel for a few months before really settling, and then start to figure my shit out. I needed to do this. I needed time away from the constant push, push, push of building a business. The opposite of Chiang Mai – London – where I spent the past 5/6 years makes you work like a dog, even if you don’t want to, you have to because cost of living is so high.

I’m so grateful that I was able to do a bit of freelance writing and pay my way in Chiang Mai while I regenerated and got back in to drive mode, figuring out what my next move would be. It was the start of the next phase of my life, which I probably should have done 18 months earlier.

When I’d figure out what I wanted to do going forwards, I was able to do this. I didn’t have to sell my time coaching people any more. I was able to put all of my energy in to building a scaleable business that is actually bringing passive income. I could do this because I only needed to work about 30 hours a month on freelance jobs to pay the bills. Leaving me all of the other time to work on my own stuff.

I can invest days and weeks in to building a product that I know is going to pay off down the road, without worrying about it paying me today. You could write a book (or twelve – as I intend to do next year). You can build a membership website (as I have this year). You could build a blog and write e-books (as my friend Will did, who’s post here inspired this one).

All sounds great – so what’s the problem?

Chiang Mai Digital Nomad Negatives

Chiang Mai cost of living is very cheap.

I know, that was listed as the single primary positive. How can it be a negative?

Well…

For a number of reasons, and how important these are will depend on both your personality and where you are at in life right now.

Life in Chiang Mai is too easy.

You don’t have to do a whole lot of anything to get by. It can definitely make your lazy. If you’re not a man on a mission, with a clear vision of where you are going – the temptation is going to be to say “why bother?”. I did this for a while, but I knew it would never last, I’m too driven. It was a regeneration phase that I badly needed. However, I know that I am more self-aware and driven than most people and that an ‘easy life’ is often appealing.

You don’t have to do anything to ‘be successful’ in Chiang Mai. This can be dangerous because the laziness (totally encouraged by the Thai way of life) conditions you to think that it’s ok earning $1,000/month. It’s plenty in Chiang Mai…but you’re going to be stuck there. You can’t travel or go home on that kind of money.

I knew a girl who – no word of a lie – filled in surveys on the internet for a dollar a go. That is how she paid to live there! It’s not that she didn’t have any talent or ability to do something more useful for the world…she just didn’t have the confidence. There was no external pressure to push her out of her comfort zone and do it anyway, because you can live in Chiang Mai from filling in surveys on the internet.

It takes some resolution to keep focused on your goals and not get sucked in to that lazy life. When I actually got down to work, I stopped socializing with both travelers and Thai friends for the most part. I had a few like-minded friends I would see now and then, and that was all.

I would work, go to the gym, eat and sleep. That’s that. I am naturally introverted, so tend to ostracize myself from most people when I want to get stuff done or just need alone time anyway, but I saw my friends do the same thing. You isolate yourself and for all intents and purposes could be anywhere in the world – you’re not doing anything that required being in Thailand. (You could say you’re not making the most of being in Thailand.)

People in Chiang Mai

Most of the Digital Nomads in Chiang Mai aren’t going anywhere. They fall in to the trap of being lazy and getting by on Thailand money. It’s full of wasters, basically. They’re not bad people, they are just not driven.

They are goofing off because they don’t want to work a ‘normal job’, rather than having any great desire to build a business and be successful. I picture most of them back home getting a 9-5 in a year or two when their adventure is done. They’re not all in, by any stretch of the imagination.

You aren’t going to meet many people who will be useful in a networking/masterminding sense. Nor will you meet many people who are a level above you, killing it, and motivate you to step up and go to the next level.

Now this is a generality of course, but I write from the perspective of comparing Chiang Mai to other place in South East Asia. I didn’t write this when I was in Chiang Mai, because I had nothing to compare it to. Now I do.

Other alternatives in South East Asia for Digital Nomads

Working by the pool in Bali

Bali

I’m in Bali right now as I write this. Bali is better, it has a higher cost of living and most of the people here are doing pretty well for themselves. However, the expat scene is skewed heavily to people living here and working locally as yoga teachers, alternative health practitioners and the like.

There’s people working online of course, but not the same numbers as elsewhere. So Bali is a good alternative, but the wifi sucks.

#thirdworldproblems when you chase wifi around, buying a coffee and realizing the wifi is down – do you drink it and leave? Try and work offline? Take the afternoon off? You know going to the next place and getting another coffee is going to leave you too buzzed…

I like Bali, but I don’t think I would base myself here long term, purely because of how bad the wifi is. Perhaps it will get better in a couple of years?

Bangkok

I still can’t get my head around Bangkok. The place is just a cluster-fuck.

I like it, but only in very small doses. It quickly becomes too hard to get around and I just couldn’t deal with the disorganized-crazy on a daily basis when trying to get shit done.

Other people love it, so perhaps you can integrate in to the scene there and get to grips with it?

Saigon

Right now I lean towards Saigon as the best place in South East Asia for Digital Nomads.

Saigon is the place I’ve been where people have their head screwed on and you will meet actual winners, people who are building successful businesses. It has the perfect blend of being cheap and easy, as is the rest of Asia, but developed and thriving enough to keep things moving forwards.

It’s a totally different vibe in the cafe’s of Saigon compared to Chiang Mai, and one that I think is more conducive to success.

There is a much higher chance of meeting people who might be useful for your business or just masterminding in Saigon.

I’m heading there next year for a while as it has the perfect big city vibe without being complete chaos that I find Bangkok to be.

Where should you base yourself?

It really depends on your personality and where you are in life. Do you have your head screwed on, a clear mission, and need the cheap cost of living to get things flying…great, Chiang Mai will be perfect for you.

If you need to be pushed by your peers, you tend toward laziness and ‘just doing enough’, or you don’t work well without having other people to bounce ideas and mastermind with…you might want to look elsewhere.

Chiang Mai is great and I really enjoyed my time there. In fact I’m going back for a while next week. I just don’t think it is the best place to base yourself if working is your goal. It’s a city that is very easy to live in, but not a city with a great deal of opportunity or money changing hands.

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