3 Simple Principles To Build Strength, Creating Great Days, And Crafting An Essential Intent
Building strength strategically, guiding words from Tim Ferriss, and one decision that eliminates 1,000 others.
Here is your weekly dose of Longevity Minded, 3 things I’m exploring in the realm of longevity this week.
Let’s dive in.
🫀 Live Longer
3 Principles For Building Strength (And Muscle) Without Equipment
Principle 1: The Rep/Set Scheme
Every week, aim for the following quotas:
10-25 sets per muscle group per week
5-30 reps per set
If you have been training for a while, you will need more sets (around 15-25) per week to continue growing.
If you are new to training, 10-15 should suffice.
Principle 2: Stability and Tension
Knowing how to leverage stability (or lack thereof) and maximize tension is critical to building strength without equipment.
By dispersing your weight unevenly between limbs, you can increase the strength required to perform the movement.
The goal is to work towards single-limb variations of the push-up and squat. This is addressed in Principle 3 below.
The harder the contraction over a greater part of the body, the more effective the exercise.
So, you can build strength without weights by contracting your muscles harder while performing an exercise. The main advantage of advanced bodyweight exercises (such as the pistol squat and one-arm push-up) is that they demand a complete, full-body contraction.
WARNING: If you have, or have had, issues with your heart (or any medical issues) consult your doctor before attempting to contract your muscles harder while exercising.
Principle 3: The Movements
If I could only pick 3 exercises to do for the rest of my life, it would be these three. No question.
When exercising without equipment, centre your routine around two movements:
Pistol (one-leg) squat
(Don’t worry if you can’t perform them yet, there are modifications for both movements explained below.)
Movement #1: (One-arm) Push-up
Personally, I cannot yet perform a one-arm push-up.
Instead, I do a stabilized version of them:
Set up for a normal push-up.
Keeping your left hand in place, stretch out your right arm to the side so it is no longer under your shoulder (it helps to have a tiled floor so that you can measure the distance). The further your right arm is stretched, the more difficult the movement will be.
Perform 5-30 reps (depending on difficulty and what kind of workout you feel like having). The majority of work will be on your left side, with the right hand just providing stability.
Switch sides and perform an equal amount of reps.
You can use these modifications to make the movement easier or harder:
Modification #1: To increase the difficulty of the push-up, elevate your feet on a platform such as a chair. Alternatively, you can make the movement easier by elevating your hands above your feet.
Modification #2: You can further modify the push-up by changing the distance between your feet. The closer your feet are, the more difficult the movement. The further apart they are, the more support and the easier the movement.
Movement #2: Pistol (One-leg) Squat
One-leg squats are a feat of strength, stability, and balance.
When starting, I suggest performing these with support. The easiest way to do so is by standing in a door frame, with each hand on one side of the frame to support yourself.
As you descend, use the door frame to balance. On the way up, use the frame to balance or to help pull yourself up if you don’t yet have the leg strength required to propel yourself up.
Eventually, you can progress to one hand against a wall for balance and then to performing the movement with no assistance at all.
Movement #3 (Bonus): Pull-up
If you have access to a pull-up bar, add them.
💪 Feel Healthier
The secret to living a great life? Create great days.
I have revisited this excerpt from The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss at least once per month since I first read the book 4 years ago.
In times of anxiety, stress, muddled thinking, and when I feel a general lack of direction in my life, these words reign my mind back in to focus on what’s important.
“Based on everything I’ve seen, a simple recipe can work: focus on what’s in front of you, design great days to create a great life, and try not to make the same mistake twice.
That’s it. Stop hitting net balls and try something else, perhaps even the opposite. If you want extra credit, try not to be a dick, and you’ll be a Voltron-level superstar.
The secret to winning any game lies in not trying too hard. Feeling as though you are trying too hard indicates that your priorities, technique, focus, or mindfulness is off. Take it as a cue to reset, not to double down. And take comfort in the fact that, whenever in doubt, the answer is probably hidden in plain sight.
What would this look like if it were easy? In a world where nobody really knows anything, you have the incredible freedom to continually reinvent yourself and forge new paths, no matter how strange. Embrace your weird self.”
🧠 Cultivate Purpose
Crafting An Essential Intent: The one decision that makes 1,000 others.
In his best-selling book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown writes about crafting your Essential Intent.
An Essential Intent is both concrete and inspirational. It is the one strategic decision that eliminates 1,000 later decisions.
It eliminates a universe of options to make space for the one option you choose. It will map a course for your life for the next 5, 10, and maybe even 20 years.
To craft your own Essential Intent, ponder two questions:
If I could be truly excellent at only one thing, what would it be?
How will I know when I have succeeded?
As Greg writes:
“Only with real clarity of purpose can people fully mobilize and achieve something truly excellent.”
If an opportunity, task, or activity does not align with your Essential Intent, the answer is “No.”
For inspiration, here is my Essential Intent:
To educate and inspire change in 100,000 people (particularly Type As) on living longer, feeling healthier, and cultivating a purposeful life while reducing complexity, living simply, and creating more space in their lives for the things that truly matter.
And, as always, please give me feedback on Twitter. Which bullet above is your favorite? What do you want more or less of? Other suggestions? Just send a tweet to @jackrossdixon.
Much love to you and yours,
P.S. If you enjoyed today’s newsletter, follow me @jackrossdixon on Twitter for daily tweets and threads on how to live longer, feel healthier, and cultivate purpose while living simply.