Swearing makes you stronger(!) + my biggest learnings from 2023 and goals for 2024Dec 31, 2023
As we enter the final hours of a year that has been both rough and educational in many ways, I want to share some of my reflections with you.
First, a new study showed that my North-Norwegian heritage has a clear advantage, as I was raised in a culture where swearing is central part of our language.
It can actually increase your strength and pain threshold!
In the study "Effect of swearing on strength: Disinhibition as a potential mediator" (click for link), researchers measured grip strength in a group who said the word "Fuck" or "a word you would use to describe a table" - 10 seconds before measuring grip strength for 10 seconds.
On average, strength increased by 8% (!)
The underlying mechanism seems to be related to disinhibition and activating brain circuits associated with humor.
So, what’s the lesson?
Don't take everything so damn seriously, see some humor in training - and in life in general!
And with that out of the way, I'd like to share…
My most important learnings from 2023:
Diet and Health:
Most diet philosophies are more about dogma and religion than facts and real-world outcomes
Approaching 50, I decided in April to do a complete heart scan. During a stress test (cycling to exhaustion with EKG), I had systoles (extra heart beats under high strain). Later CT and angiography showed that I have a mild degree of stenosis and atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries which supply the heart with blood.
Shocking for someone who thought they lived an above-average healthy life with both regular exercise and diet.
But it turns out, years of low-carb/high-fat/carnivore dieting and thinking my elevated LDL levels were harmless, also called "LDL-denialism" proved to be wrong. The typical response when I share this with others is that half consider it obvious, while the other half still deny any link between LDL and heart disease.
Well… Occam's razor comes to mind here - the simplest explanation is probably the correct one. An overwhelming majority of research shows that an intake of more than 10% of calories from saturated fat increases LDL cholesterol, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease. It’s considered a consensus in nutrition, a field where there are an impressive amount of unknowns.
Of course, there are many exceptions to the rule, including the fact that many saturated fatty acids are neutral on their effects in raising LDL, and many people can have a lifetime of elevated LDL levels and never develop disease...but for me, it seems to be a direct cause.
I started on a low dose of Rosuvastatin and Aspirin along with dietary changes, and managed to reduced my cholesterol from nearly 5.0 (way above the normal range) to 1.5mmol/L (lower part of the range, equivalent to 58mg/dL).
I also take supplements such as vitamin K2, D3, and Nattokinase (8000CFU/day)
Since I started my "Project 50" which I've posted a lot about on Instagram with dedicated strength and conditioning training, I've gotten stronger and reached a body fat percentage of about 8-9%.
My most recent health check-up indicates reversal of my mildheart disease, so I don't intend to change my mind for the foreseeable future - even though, e.g. Dave Feldman can demonstrate that there are so-called "lean mass hyperresponders" who can have very high cholesterol levels without any signs of disease.
I don't think it's wise to discard an entire model based on exceptions.
I believe the Mediterranean diet but also the traditional Nordic diet is the best.
I still think the diet model I’ve presented in The Last Program is solid, but I will adjust the part that trivializes ALL saturated fat, especially the animal-based.
In my defense, none of the diet plan templates exceed the recommended limit of 10% of calories from saturated fat. To put it in perspective animal meat fat is only 40% saturated, so for a 2000kcal diet, that corresponds to up to 55g of animal fat (equivalent of 400g/13oz of 85% lean ground beef per day), or 82g of fat/585g (20oz) of 85% lean ground beef for a 3000kcal diet.
Fat in dairy products (except butter), chocolate, and coconut oil seems to be more neutral and can be consumed in larger amounts.
My learnings and takeaways on training
Train closer to failure to build muscle mass
...but it's probably a good idea to keep 1-2 reps in reserve (1-2RIR) as a rule of thumb.
For strength, it's better to keep more reps in reserve (2-4RIR), but train closer to 1RM.
I developed the "Effective Reps" model back in 2005, and it simply states that you get a better stimulus for hypertrophy from the last repetitions of a set vs. the first repetitions, especially when lifting lighter weights.
There has been a lot of criticism against this model in 2023, but as I've been trying to say all along: It's a simplified MODEL that makes it easier for people with no background in physiology to understand why a set of 5 reps with a 5RM can build as much muscle as a set of 20 reps with a 20RM.
It was never meant as a hard rule where training with more than 5 reps in reserve is wasted. There are MANY factors that play into how effective a repetition is for stimulating muscle growth.
But like I said above: I don't think it's wise to discard an entire model based on exceptions.
The Effective Reps model was the precursor to Myo-reps, which is essentially about "extending" a set by first training close to failure, then staying there by taking a short rest-pause, and then continue doing sets of 3-5 reps with short breaks in between.
So this wasn’t really a "new" learning, but more of a confirmation of a model I developed 17 years ago, and then adding extra nuance difference by understanding that 1-2RIR as a general rule is probably the most productive long-term.
Those of you who are participants in The Last Program also know that I recommend an initial phase of 1 set to failure to recalibrate your sense of where your failure point actually is, as many tend to underestimate themselves and train with 3-5+ RIR when they THINK they are training with 1RIR.
The debate about training volume disappears if everyone had the same RIR as a starting point, and accounted for inflammation.
The volume debate never ends, and 2023 was no exception. Experts, influencers, and people in various comment fields are furious, and studies are still being pumped claiming that as many as 52 sets (!) are effective for building muscle.
We have almost a century of research on physiology and fatigue mechanisms, and what happens when you subject a muscle to mechanical tension and loading, and everything points in the same direction IF we standardize for proximity to failure (0-1RIR):
- 1 set already provides 50% (or more) of the maximum training stimulus you can achieve in a given workout, and this is estimated to be about 5% muscle growth over 8-12 weeks.
- 4-6 sets probably provides close to 100%, which in practice means that you have to train 4-6 times as much to go from 5% to 10% muscle growth over the same 8-12 weeks. Is it worth it? Sure, as long as you can recover from it, and not everyone can.
Training frequency seems to be a LOT more variable between individuals than training volume, because a certain training stimulus does 2 things:
- Stimulates muscle growth. This process usually only takes 24-48 hours and then the muscle will gradually begin to atrophy (lose size).
- Creates microscopic muscle damage and fatigue that requires recovery. This process can take anywhere from 2 to 10 days!
There will always be a correlation between how and how much you train, and the degree of 1. and 2. The more you get of 1. and the less you get of 2. - the faster you will recover, and the more often you can train that same muscle again.
Even though the muscle is done growing after 24-48 hours and gradually begins to lose size, you MUST be recovered to be able to stimulate it again AND this loss is so slow that you haven't lost everything you've built after just a couple of days.
At the individual level, there are some who get more of 2. than 1. regardless of what they do in the gym, and thus should probably at least ensure that 1. has happened but also spend more time recovering. This is exacerbated by poor sleep duration and quality, poor diet (both nutritional value and calories), and too much stress (both physical and mental).
The endgame of all of this is that we must both understand how different training variables affect this relationship between 1. and 2. - the "stimulus:fatigue ratio", and how you individually respond to a given training stimulus.
The answer is ACTUALLY quite simple:
If you are able to progressively overload - i.e. your ability to consistently add reps, or load, or both on an exercise - the balance between training and rest is within an optimal range.
Not because I’m mean or greedy, but because during the whole month of December, I have provided a discount of something that has many times the value of trying and failing for months and years ahead on your own.
Next big learning:
High volume and “bro-split” can work great
...for some, under certain conditions
This is related to the previous two lessons.
You CAN train with more sets IF you train with more reps in reserve and with exercises, ROM and rep ranges that avoid fatigue and inflammation. However, it will probably be necessary to have more days of rest before you train the same muscle directly again.
Many so-called bro-splits or “bodybuilding programs” will also train some muscle groups indirectly in a later session in the same rotation (for example, many triceps exercises will also train chest and shoulders and vice versa), and this will both counteract a potential (gradual) atrophy without requiring added recovery.
I have most recently had great success with a split where each muscle group is trained directly 1x/week and either indirectly (e.g. an arm day with close-grip bench later in the week) or with lighter load, higher rep training on another day, as an advanced lifter.
In case this is unclear: I am NOT saying that I have now completely moved away from recommending high frequency programs such as full-body training three times a week, and that I now only recommend bro-splits!
I still recommend starting with low volume and higher frequency, then gradually and systematically reducing the frequency and adding volume while evaluating the results.
Even though we can provide ranges for what will work for the average lifter, optimization involves finding out what works best for YOU.
I had some incredible results both on a fullbody and upper/lower split with quite moderate volumes, but started to max out and run into recovery issues after a while. I moved to a lower frequency again and was able to push volume slightly higher on each workout, and starting seeing gains again.
My biggest learnings for business and life
There is a lot more I could have shared here, but I will conclude by saying that for me, 2023 has been a rough year, both health-wise and financially.
This summer, I began posting more on social media, and in a short time, I doubled the number of followers on Instagram.
The feedback from the participants in The Last Program have been exceptional, but it has still not been financially sustainable.
I gradually realized that the reason was quite simple: I became too focused on increasing turnover, and “lost” myself along the way. I was told by various marketing experts and freelancers who made big promises, and learned all sorts of smart strategies from books, YouTube channels and courses.
I thought I did a ton of mistakes and needed to change myself and my business model to finally be successful.
And the result was the exact opposite - my revenue stream plummeted.
I finally had a major revelation…see this post on Instagram.
The world wants authenticity and honesty
So, I fired all these smart marketers and changed my whole perspective from:
What creates the most reach and engagement?
What am I passionate about, what have I learned, and what do I want to share with others who want to learn from me?
This article is an example of this revised perspective.
So these are my 10 goals for 2024:
- I will continue to share what I am passionate about and have learned, so that others can learn it.
- I will write newsletters weekly and focus more on YouTube where I will both have interviews with various guests (check out yesterday's podcast with Paul Carter here…) and videos where I talk about various topics.
- The updated Myo-reps e-book is coming, a Myo-reps app is coming, the Cyberneticfitness app has been opened for a limited user group and will soon be opened for more.
- I will do more 1-on-1 coaching again.
- I will also start a new job as a teacher at NIHI.no, a Norwegian Sports Academy, starting with the education Certified Coach and Mental Trainer that I have created myself (more information coming soon). In autumn I will teach several classes in nutrition for a Diploma Degree (more information coming later).
- I will invest more in myself and my own learning in both training and nutrition, but also psychology, productivity, philosophy, marketing/sales, social media, and networking.
- I will become a better partner for Ingeborg and father for Isak.
- I will become better at staying in touch with my friends.
- I will challenge myself both physically and mentally by exploring whether what I believe is really true, or if there are alternative viewpoints or explanations - also called First Principles Thinking.
- I will swear more. God damn it, I’ll become strong as hell! 😂
...And with all that off my chest, I would like to thank you for the past year, and wish you all the best for 2024!