Where’s Your Head at? – by Ben Coker

The mental aspect of any performance is crucial. Performance under the bar is no different. So I ask you, ‘Where’s your head at as you set up for a big lift?’

For experienced lifters the difference between nailing a big lift and failing or even getting injured is all in the head. Many lifters don’t get fired up enough for lifts. Instead they doubt and they fear.

I’ve had back surgery after suffering an injury whilst playing rugby a few years ago. Every time I load up a bar and get under it do I think about how my discs can pop, or how my muscles can spasm, like I know from previous experience they can?

Hell no!

Those thoughts are as far removed from my head as possible. Im invinceble. A beast.

Before you are even allowed to think about lifting a PB you need to be convinced that you are going to smash the lift. All thoughts of injury and failing must go out the window. Spotters are in place, your technique is grooved (or so it should be by this time!), rehab is done and sensible and adequate progression has lead you to this moment. If injury occurs it’s not due to your errors its due to bad luck, chance or whatever you want to call it. It’s the nature of the game.

Forget that all. Don’t be scared. Become aggressive. Don’t hold back.

In the weight room we strive to be ‘not normal’. We want to do what no one else does and become our alter egos. Therefore it seems only logical to develop a cognitive state that is out of this world too.

Think what you need to think. Visualize tearing shit up. Mumble to yourself self mantra. Grunt. Ask to be slapped. Do whatever it takes. Forget what others think. Just know that when you grip that bar you’re gonna own it!

Observation of the all the big lifters I know tells me that these guys are 100% convinced that the lifts are theirs! Observation of all of the guys I witness who hopelessly un rack bars, with no purpose in their approach, nor conviction in their thoughts, shows that most of the time they fail the lift.

If you think you might  not make the lift, or you aren’t feeling psyched, go home brother… because you’re right.

This isn’t a call to arms to start screaming randomly in the gym or to start throwing weights around like an idiot. It is a reminder though that you need to attack each lift with a maelstrom of mental energy.

I’m a very quite, reserved lifter from an external perspective. I usually sit in corners, and stare long into the floor. But In my mind, all sorts are going on. I’m on fire. I’m ready to go to war and the bar is going to know it.

I leave you with the example of NFL safety, Brian Dawkins. This video is inspiration in its fullest and testimony to the power of mental aptitude. Approach your lifting like he approaches gameday and PBs will crumble.

Go out there and ‘act the fool’.

Train hard. Train smart. Be strong.


Inspiration 24/06/11

Its been a while now since we last posted some inspirational videos for you so here are another 4 great videos with powerful messages to motivate you in you training. Enjoy.

The guys from EliteFTS prove the impossible.


Are you  just making excuses?


You are your maker. Go achieve.


Do you have passion in your eyes?


 Train Hard. Train Smart. Stay Strong.

5 reasons for the success of my hypertrophy phase – by Ben Coker

Well the beloved bulking phase has passed for me and I am now 2 weeks into a mild trim. Looking back on the months since Christmas in which I put on 11kg, I reflected on the things that contributed to my success. My previous articles on the mistakes of bulking 1 and 2 went a long way in keeping me on the road to success but this article explains 5 more personal reasons.


1) I set quantifiable, challenging but realistic goals.

For me I had two post-its on my wall; one saying 150kg for 10reps = 170kg and the other 114.3 kg / 18stone, both surrounded by inspiring quotes I hold close.

The first refers to benching 150kg for 10 reps which should equate to a 1rm of 170kg + by the end of my bulk. The second refers to the body wight I wanted to achieve by the end of my bulk.

These notes were glaring at me every time I sat in my room, there was no escape. I had held myself accountable. Looking back those notes where instrumental in me smashing both targets.

I feel that simply entering a bulk phase with the notion of ‘I want to be bigger and or stronger’ will undoubtedly lead to poor or sub optimal results. Have a fixed finish point and make it visible to you everyday as a reminder to yourself; are you doing everything you can to reach your best?


2) I built my calories up slowly but ultimately if I wasn’t eating when I felt I shouldn’t have then I was stunting my growth.

A recent article about leaving something in the toolbox applies here. When starting a bulk dont go over crazy on the food. Trust me simply by giving your body as little as 500kcal extra a day from its maintenance or dieted levels it has been on between bulking phases is enough to make the body  put on muscle at impressive rates.

BUT here’s the twist. This rate of growth slows as you put on weight so you have to keep increasing your calories over the hypertrophy period to get that surplus of calories above your RMR!

And boy did they the calories have to go up!  Two thirds of the way through my bulk I plateaued. I wasn’t eating enough, but surely 6000kcal a day was enough?

‘Obviously not you idiot’ I told myself.

I went and revised my list on the mistakes of bulking and all boxes were checked barring the fact I wasn’t eating when I felt I shouldn’t!

So up went the calories to 7000kcal and even 8000kcal on some days. What happened? From being stuck at around 110-112kg bodyweight I flew up to 114kg then continue up until 116kg.

So build up those calories conservatively but keep building them up! Don’t fear fat gain as long as your building muscle as fast as humanly possible. There will be another time for you to ‘unveil’ your sculpture later…


3) I walked everywhere

This one is so important especially when you get REAL heavy but also if you put on a decent level of mass in a relatively short period of time. Last weeks article also touched on it.

By walking everywhere everyday you body doesn’t notice the effects of the extra mass gradually being put on. You feel lighter on your feet, and your cardio-respiratory systems are much better adapt to cope with the larger mass.

Honesty call, I love being big but even to me an out of breath mass monster don’t look (or feel) too good! Everyone should be able to walk briskly for at least an hour whilst still holding a conversation. And I’m glad to say that despite impressive gains in muscle mass I don’t feel ‘burdened’ with the extra weight.


4) Adapt to setbacks: I got outside the bodybuilding world and fell in love with a sled

At one point my knee was playing up a bit and so I sought different ways to hit my legs. Pulling a sled caused no pain in my knee and so there was the answer.

If I’m stuck with this I thought then I may as well load the thing up to the max and put a lot of work through my legs. 4 weeks of puke inducing sled training and my legs grew by an inch.

A slap in the face reminder that different is good sometimes, even for a bodybuilder. Any bodybuilder would settle for an inch on their legs but for me the benefits went further. Since quitting rugby some time ago I had not run for years. Despite my strength I was now slower and struggled to sprint under my new weight.

The sled training got me right back on track; my legs were not only bigger now but their power had also been increased. I was now functional again despite being kilos heavier and I loved it! I also enjoyed the sensation of high intensity cardio believe it or not. It made me feel healthier and that’s priceless when piling on size.


5) Deadlift, Deadlift, Deadlift.

I have had issues with my low back for a while and have spent a long time rehabbing and tentatively dabbling in deadlifting again in the process of recovery. But by this bulk phase I was ready to hit them in ernest. I knew deadlifts were the missing link to gorilla muscle, and gorilla muscle was what I wanted.

Gorilla muscle: built by deadlifts.

So I deadlifted and deadlifted a lot. Not always super heavy but I made a point to work hard on form and intensity. Some days I did heavy singles, some days sets of 5 and some days I even did super volume on them like 10×10 or sets of 30reps at 1.5 x bodyweight.

The results of fanatical deadlifting?. My low back and core is now a whole lot stronger and my discs far more protected. A movement that had crippled me even to think of, I now loved. My legs ballooned. My back got super thick. Oh and finally all my other lifts sored up and as a result all their relevant muscle groups grew in a crazy fashion.

The deadlift is the king at building the whole body as the whole body is used. This hypertrophy phases owes a lot of its success to the fact that in it I could for the first time deadlift pain free.  I took full advantage and the scales and measurements went through the roof as a result.

Fortress You – by Ben Coker

‘I bargained with life for a penny,

And life would pay no more…

Only to learn, dismayed,

That any wage I had asked of Life,

Life would have willingly paid.’

-Jessie B. Rittenhouse

We all would like to have things in life that we don’t currently have but what is it that enables some of us to achieve those things and others not to? The poem extract says it all, those that fail bargain for a penny with life.

Life will reward you with anything you want as long as you’re willing to give no less than everything you have in order to get it. This all stems from desire and having a clear vision of what you want.

A lot of quotes and speeches speak about having dreams and pursuing them, and though the intention behind such uses of the word dream are correct, I personally don’t like the word ‘dream’. To me, it’s too soft – a whim. To me it represents someone half heartedly hoping to just have something and resultantly they will never have it.They aren’t fully prepared to sacrifice everything they have within themselves in order to achieve their ‘dream’.



I prefer the word ‘desire’. Desire is not a dream, it is definite. Desire is an all encompassing obsession to  achieve a goal or vision you have. You will give everything you have within your ability to the life you pursue and in return, life will reward you accordingly.

How many of you are struggling to improve in performance or physique goals?  The problem may lie with the answer to this question,‘What is your vision statement?’ If you cannot answer this definitively then how do you expect to improve.

You need a definite vision statement to set the course of your progression. My bodybuilding vision statement is “I will weigh 20 stone, have 20 inch arms and 30 inch legs within a year and a half”.

How many of you out there have a clear vision of what it is you are going to do or how you are going to look? Notice my choice of words here. Merely saying ‘I want to be bigger’ or ‘I want be stronger’ won’t cut it.

Never use the word ‘want’ or ‘wish’. They are synonymous with ‘dreaming’ and in my eyes failing. Get definitive, be bold, and write out a clear vision statement with the words ‘I will’ and put this within a specific time frame (micro and or macro).
Success is all about faith. Faith in yourself. I Know I will achieve my statements because I 100% believe I will and can achieve them and that I will never quit along the journey. It’s that simple.
If you don’t truly believe then your vision statement is just a dream, something you are wishing for. Don’t dream. Kindle a fire within you. Look yourself in the mirror everyday and tell yourself that you are going to do whatever it takes to achieve your vision and that you will get there. You must adopt the notion that the only thing truly holding you back is yourself. If you want more than a penny from life, don’t make the deal with life for that penny. Demand a better deal and life will pay.
For some this is a hard concept to completely engross themselves with, they simply can’t make themselves believe. Unfortunately this belief is without a doubt the key to success. Enter the practice of auto-suggestion.



This is daily spoken mantra that is charged with emotion. Make a point to say a short statement aloud to yourself using the words ‘I will’. When times are tough and you feel you can’t go on or you get set backs you need to be continuously saying and thinking ‘I will…

‘I will deadlift 300kg’, ‘I will reach 4% body fat’, ‘I will throw 60m’, ‘I will recover from injury and be better than I was’ etc.

‘You are what you think about all day long’ – Dr. Robert Schuller.

Performed often enough the brain ‘becomes magnetized with the dominating thoughts which we hold in our minds, and…these “magnets” attract to us the forces, the people, the circumstances of life which harmonise with the nature of our dominating thoughts’ – Napoleon Hill. The result is that with time and dues we achieve our vision.

It is essential to understand that you must be willing to give everything you have to a vision statement in order to achieve it. It is no use saying ‘I will do x’ if you are not giving everything you have to get x.

You must commit all your energy, all your will power and all your effort to achieve your vision statement. Life is full of little tests and you only get one shot at them. Every rep, every set, every lap, every meal. They are all tests and if you only settle for your best at each test, you will amaze yourself with the results.

Give it everything...


Plan your sessions, your meals, your recovery and your kit in advance. Eat what you know you should eat. Do what you know you need to do. Don’t get lazy and cut corners or as I like to put it ‘don’t skip rear delts’!

People are often afraid to commit everything they have into something but this is essential. They get told its crazy and ‘all your eggs in one basket isn’t good’. To hell with them. Everyone who has achieved greatness and fulfilled their vision statement for life has whole heartedly pursued it and never lost faith in themselves despite adversity.

If set backs come confront them with ‘I will’. Setbacks are part of life and those that achieve learn to view them in positive ways.

For me spinal surgery wasn’t defeat. It didn’t equate to me giving up bodybuilding and lifting heavy stuff, though many thought it should have. Instead it lead to extra focus on my lumbar musculature, my core strength and balance of my total musculature. The results: bigger weights lifted with correct form, bigger mass and a more balanced physique and no more back pain.

If I had listened to the surgeons consultant at the time and believed him when he implied that I should lay off the weights then I would have accepted defeat as a reality. I didn’t. Reality for me was what I knew I wanted and what I knew I was prepared to give in order to get there.

Fortress You will never be defeated until it accepts defeat as reality.

Inspiration 20/03/11

As it’s sunday, we’ve got your weekly dose of inspirational videos to get you fired up for the training week ahead! Enjoy.

First up, we’ve got footage from the rugby six nations – Invictus


Next – the beauty of bodybuilding


And finally, a VERY inspirational piece from Kai Greene – ‘Champion of Mind’


 Until next week. Train Hard. Train Smart. Stay Strong.

Inspiration 13/03/11

To get your fired up for the week of training ahead, today we’ve got 3 more inspirational videos:

 Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard. Hands down, every time. If you want it enough, you’ll get there.


Next up is an awesome motivational remix from NFL coaches.


Finally, a reminder – be first. No-one remembers second place!


Until next time. Train hard. Train smart. Stay strong.

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