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I’ve recorded hundreds of episodes of Muscle for Life on a huge variety of things related to health, fitness, and lifestyle, ranging from the basics of diet and exercise like energy and macronutrient balance and progressive overload and training frequency and volume to fads like the ketogenic and carnivore diet and collagen protein to more unfamiliar territories like body weight set point and fasted cardio.

Some episodes resonate with my crowd more than others, but all of them contain at least a few key takeaways that just about anyone can benefit from (that’s what I tell myself at least).

And as cool as that is, it poses a problem for you, my dear listener:

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Well okay, some people do make the time to listen to most or even all of my podcasts, but my wizbang analytics tell me that while many listeners tune in on a regular basis, they don’t catch every installment of Muscle for Life and thus miss out on insights that could help them get a little better inside and outside the gym.

People have also been saying they’d like me to do more shorter, multi-topic episodes, like my Q&As.

And so I got an idea: how about a “best of” series of podcasts that contains a few of the most practical and compelling ideas, tips, and moments from my most popular episodes?

This way, people who are new to the show can quickly determine if it’s for them or not, and those who enjoy what I’m doing but don’t have the time or inclination to listen to all of my stuff can still benefit from the discussions and find new episodes to listen to.

So, in this installment of The Best of Muscle for Life, you’ll be hearing hand-picked morsels from three episodes:

Sal Di Stefano on Mastering the Mental Side of Dieting

(Originally published May 1st, 2019)

3 “Everyday” Weightlifting Mistakes That Keep People Small, Weak, and Frustrated

(Originally published November 23rd, 2018)

Motivation Monday: The Wrong Way and Right Way to Set Goals  

(Originally published August 20th, 2018)

And we’ll be starting with number one, Sal Di Stefano on Mastering the Mental Side of Dieting


5:07 – Sal Di Stefano on Mastering the Mental Side of Dieting

11:35 – 3 “Everyday” Weightlifting Mistakes That Keep People Small, Weak, and Frustrated

21:08 – Motivation Monday: The Wrong Way and Right Way to Set Goals 

Mentioned on The Show: 

Sal Di Stefano on Mastering the Mental Side of Dieting

(Published 5/1/19)

3 “Everyday” Weightlifting Mistakes That Keep People Small, Weak, and Frustrated

(Published 11/23/18)

Motivation Monday: The Wrong Way and Right Way to Set Goals        

(Published 8/20/18)

Books by Mike Matthews

What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!


Hello and welcome to the latest and greatest episode of Muscle for Life. I’m Mike Matthews and thank you for joining me today. Now, I have recorded hundreds of episodes of Muscle for Life and I’ve. Talked about a huge variety of things related to health, fitness, lifestyle, mindsets, ranging from the basics of diet and exercise, like energy and macronutrient, balance and progressive overload, and training frequency and volume to.

Fads like the ketogenic and carnivore diet and collagen protein to more unfamiliar territories like body weight, set point and fasted cardio, and some episodes resonate with my crowd more than others, but all of them contain at least a few key s that just about anyone can benefit from. At least that’s what I tell myself.

That’s what helps me sit down in the chair every day and do this, and as cool as that. It poses a problem for you, my dear listener, especially if you are new here, and that is, ain’t nobody got time for that. We’re talking about probably a thousand plus hours of content at this point. And while some people actually do make the time to listen to most or even.

All of my podcasts, my Whizbang analytics tell me that while many listeners tune in on a regular basis, they don’t catch every installment of Muscle for Life. Thus, they miss out on insights that could help them. Get even just a little bit better inside and outside the gym because if you just get a little bit better consistently enough, that can add up to big results in the long run.

And people have also been telling me that they would like me to do more shorter multi topic episodes like my q and A’s and says you episodes. And so I got an idea how about. A best of series of podcasts that contains a few of the most practical and compelling ideas, tips, and moments from my most popular episodes.

Going all the way back to beginning this way, people who are new in particular can quickly determine if this is the droid they’re looking for, if this podcast is for them or not. And then those who are regulars and enjoy what I’m doing, but just don’t have the time or inclination to. All of my stuff, and I do understand that I don’t take it personally.

you can also then benefit from the discussions and the episodes that you are not listening to in full. And you can also find new episodes to listen to without having to give an hour of your time to determine whether it was worth it or not. So here we are with the best of Muscle for Life, and in this episode you’ll be hearing handpicked morsels from three episode.

One is an interview that I did with Sal DeStefano of Mind Pump on Mastering the Mental Side of Dieting. And this was originally published back in May of 2019. And then the next one is a monologue of mine called Three Everyday Weightlifting Mistakes That Keep People Small, weak, and Frustrated. And that was published back in November of 2018.

And then there is a Motivation Monday monologue of mine called the Wrong Way and Right Way to Set Goals, and that was published. August of 2018. Also, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my health and fitness books, including the number one best selling weightlifting books for men and women in the world.

Bigger, leaner, stronger, and thinner. Leaner, stronger, as well as the leading flexible dieting cookbook, the Shredded Chef. Now, these books have sold well over 1 million copies and have helped thousands of people build their. Body ever, and you can find them on all major online retailers like Audible, Amazon, iTunes, Cobo, and Google Play, as well as in select Barnes and Noble stores.

And I should also mention that you can get any of the audiobooks 100% free. When you sign up for an Audible account, and this is a great way to make those pockets of downtime, like commuting, meal prepping, and cleaning more interesting, entertaining, and productive. And so if you want to take Audible up on this offer, and if you want to get one of my audiobooks for free, just go to Legion, that’s b u y and sign up for your account.

So again, if you appreciate my work and if you wanna see more of it, and if you wanna. Time proven and evidence-based strategies for losing fat, building muscle, and getting healthy, and strategies that work for anyone and everyone, regardless of age or circumstances, please do consider picking up one of my best selling books, bigger, leaner, stronger for Men, thinner, leaner, stronger for Women, and the Shredded Chef for my favorite fitness friendly recipe.

Okay, so let’s start with the highlights from my interview with Sal DeStefano from Mind Pump on mastering the mental side of dieting. Most of the times when people eat, it’s a very kind of unaware, unconscious type of act. Like, I’m hungry, I feel like eating this. I’ll eat that. I eat it, and I’m done. And people don’t connect their food to, unless it’s an immediate reaction.

Like, oh, I ate that and I threw up. They don’t connect it to like, maybe some chronic fatigue or bloating. You know, I’ve had people tell me, oh, I just get bloated and you know, I ask ’em, well, what makes you bloated? Well, I don’t know. I’ve, it’s just have a tendency to get bloated and I’ve, you know, been like this for 10 years.

It completely slips their mind that it could be their nutrition that’s causing some of these. Issues. And so awareness around food really, really helps. And so what I’ll have people do is I’ll have people journal, and what I’ll have them do is I’ll say, okay, before you eat, I want you to write down how you feel while you’re eating.

I want you to take a few notes about how you’re feeling while you’re eating. And then after you eat, take some more notes. Now, this sounds tedious and it can be, but what it does is it starts to reveal things to people. People start to notice things like, oh, I noticed. That when I’m sad, that’s when I start to crave these types of food.

Or I notice when I’m bored that I want to eat more of these other kinds of foods, or I notice when I eat this, I tend to be more fatigued about two or three hours later in the day. So that’s real important. And you also wanna make positive connections too, so not just negative ones, but more positive ones initially when you do this kind of journaling process.

You’ll actually find a little bit more anxiety around food. So I do want to give people that caveat because increased awareness will increase that at first. But then if you, as you continue it, it becomes, it starts to get better and better. One of the most powerful single tools you can use to. Modify your behavior around food and really understand your true cravings and hunger is a fast, a prolonged fast.

Fasting from food for 48 72 hours really allows you to feel bored, feel stressed, feel happy, feel sad without having that food that you normally would put in your mouth. It also allows you to connect. What real hunger feels like. And then from a more physiological standpoint, not eating does seem to kind of reset the, all the receptors that perceive taste and smell and, and all those things from food.

And so what you end up finding. When you fast is that when you consume a food like a strawberry, for example, afterwards it tastes so much sweeter and it’s so much more palatable and you find it much more enjoyable. And so for certain people, when I’m getting ’em down this path, I’ll have them start with a 48 hour fast and then we’ll start.

Introducing foods because for some people it’s an easier approach. And you know, when it comes to fasting, I fast on average between once a month to once every other month for about 48 to 72 hours. And I do it for those effects, the psychological or spiritual effects, if you will. And you know, fasting’s been, gosh, that’s been, that’s in every major religion and spiritual practice for a reason.

I think, you know, the ancient spiritual leaders of mystics kind of identified that the power behind the abstaining from one of our most. Powerful pleasures, which is food. Here’s the deal, okay? At the end of the day, if you eat and exercise for aesthetics, you might get some aesthetics, but you won’t get good health, and at some point, your poor health will eliminate whatever aesthetics you achieved.

On the flip side, if you eat an exercise for a good health, you’ll get a great deal of health and a great deal of aesthetics. So it’s actually the smart approach for aesthetics. Is to focus on good health. It’s just the, the only way to do it and the only way to do it long term is to focus on that, cuz the other way doesn’t work long term.

It just doesn’t. You just, if you keep pushing the aesthetics, at some point your health will rebel and you’ll lose both. The other side of it is the motivation behind why you work out. If you’re only focused on aesthetics, and that’s the main 90% reason why I work out and I eat a particular way. Much of that is driven by self.

Self-criticism, I’m too fat, I’m too skinny, I don’t look good enough, so I need to change this. I need to change that. And when your motivation to train and eat is, is self-hate, it’s not going to direct you in an appropriate way. You start to treat exercise like a punishment. Oh God, I ate that burrito yesterday, so I’m gonna beat the crap outta myself in the gym.

Or you start to restrict your food because you deserve to be restricted because you’re a bad person. Or, um, then you start to binge because you give in. You don’t want to tyrannize yourself anymore, and you can’t handle the guy that’s, you know, forcing you to not eat. And so now I’m gonna eat again. So you go this kind of binge, uh, restrict cycle versus training, eating because you love yourself because you care about yourself.

I mean, think about that. Like if you go to the gym because you’re trying to take care of yourself, the decisions you’re gonna make. Are gonna be the more appropriate ones. You’re more likely to train properly, you’re more likely to train intensely when it’s the right time to train intensely, and you’re more likely to train in a way that’s recuperate when that’s what you need.

You’re more likely to feed yourself appropriately when you’re taking care of yourself, because just like when you. Take care of your kid. You know, I have two kids and I love them to death. Does that mean I give them cookies all the time because that’s what they want all the time? No. No, of course not. I’m gonna give ’em stuff that’s good for them, but every once in a while I’m gonna give them a cookie too, cuz I care about them and I want them to enjoy that part of it as well.

So you’ll find that if your motivation is. Health and your motivation is caring about yourself. The result of that is what most people are chasing, which is an aesthetic, healthy looking physique. And at the end of the day, now in pictures it may be different cuz you can Photoshop them and you can change the, the tint and all that shit.

But here’s the reality in person. Health is the most attractive thing. So people want to be attractive. I’ll tell you what, go to a body building show. Go to a a physique competition. Go to a a bikini competition with all these shredded athletes. Go look at them in the face in person, and you tell me how many of ’em look attractive.

They don’t, cuz they’re totally unhealthy at that moment. They’re super shredded, super depleted, probably guided, guided shoes. Real health is the most attractive thing in real life. And so the whole irony of it is don’t chase that. Chase the health and then you’ll get.

Okay. That’s it for a few of my favorite takeaways from that episode. And if you wanna go listen to the full interview again, you can find it back in May of 2019. That’s when it was originally published. And it is called Sal DeStefano on Mastering the Mental Side of Dieting. And let’s move on now to the featured snippets from three Everyday Weightlifting Mistakes that Keep people Small, weak, and Frustra.

I want to talk about weightlifting mistakes that keep you small and weak. And I am speaking from experience here because while I am not exactly small and weak anymore, I once was smaller and weaker. And one of the major reasons why is I was making all of the mistakes that I’m going to share with you.

So the first mistake is spending too much time doing high. Burnout finisher type work. So many years ago, before I started educating myself on the science of training and muscle building and strength building, I thought that muscle gain was mostly a matter of volume of doing a lot of reps. The more reps that you did over time, or the me more reps that you could cram into a given period of time.

The more muscle you would gain. That’s what I thought at least. And I also used to think that getting a big pump was also very conducive to muscle gain. And so what I used to do is I used to go to the gym five or six days per week and do a lot of reps, a lot of volume, a lot of high rep sets. I also mostly followed body part splits for the first six or seven years when I was doing just magazine workouts, traditional bodybuilder type workout.

Just to be clear what I mean by high rep sets, uh, I was doing. , pretty much all of my work in the wrap range, anywhere from 12 to 20 reps, depending on the exercise and how I was feeling. I guess there wasn’t that much thought that was going into the programming, at least on my end, because I was just following stuff that I had grabbed from magazines or the internet.

And a lot of those workouts also often included various training techniques that are mostly used to just cram more volume into your workouts, like drop sets, giant sets, super sets, and so. What’s the problem here? Why is this a mistake? Well, first there is the rep range itself. If you are training mostly in the rep range of 12, uh, to 20, or even if it’s 12 to 15 reps, there are a couple problems here.

First, it’s very hard to accurately assess how many reps you still have in reserve, how many reps you still have left in the tank, and that messes with your progress. Because while you can gain muscle working in a variety of rep ranges, you do have to ensure that you are taking the majority of your heavy sets, your working sets close to technical failure.

A good rule of thumb is you should be ending most of your hard working muscle building sets with one or two reps still left in the tank, one or two reps shy of technical failure. And if you’re not familiar with that term, technical failure is the point where your form starts to break down. You might be able to keep the bar moving or keep the dumbbell moving, but your form is going to start breaking down.

That is technical failure. Okay, so that’s it for the first big mistake, which is doing too much. Work. Let’s go on to the next one, which is ascending pyramid training. Now, if you are not familiar with that, it is simply your traditional pyramid style of training where you are starting your first set with a lighter weight and a higher number of reps, and progressing to heavier weights and lower number of reps in your successive.

Now, depending on how it’s laid out, this can have a place in some people’s work workout routines, sometimes, but for most people, and how most people do it, it is a mistake. The reason why is by the time you get to the heavier weights, by the time you get to those heavier sets, which are. Really the ones that are going to drive muscle and strength game, you are already fatigued from the lighter stuff that you were doing, which means it makes it harder to do a lot of high quality work with the heavier weights.

And this is especially true when your lighter sets are ending with five plus reps still in the tank when they’re very sub maximal. Because a 12 reps set ended with six reps still in the tank is not nearly as anabolic as, let’s say a six or an eight reps set. Ended with two reps left in the tank, or a 12 reps set for that matter ended with two reps left in the.

and then, so all you are really accomplishing here with this traditional setup is in the first few sets you are getting some volume in. It’s usually very sub maximal, but you are getting some volume in. But you are mostly just fatiguing yourself, which is going to reduce your performance in your heavier sets, which you are going to be taking closer to failure, and those are the sets where you want to maximize your perform.

You know, the same goes even if you are taking each of your sets close to failure. In that case, if you are, let’s say you are periodizing your training and you are taking each of your working sets close to failure, even though they’re in different rep ranges. And in that case though, I would rather have you switch it around.

I’d rather have you do a proper short warmup. And if you are not sure how to do that, head over to Muscle Life and search for warmup or warmup. Separate words. Either one should pull it up. And I do think I’ve also recorded podcast on that as well. And so you do your warmup and then you do your heaviest training first, which again requires the most energy.

It requires the most effort, it requires the most focus, it requires the most attention to form. So you do that first. and then you do your higher rep stuff later in your workouts. Now that style of training is known as reverse pyramid training, and if you want to know more about that, head over to Muscle for Life and search for Pyramid and an article that I wrote on it will come up.

Okay, so the third and final mistake that I want to share is resting too little in between sets, and this is an insidious one because it seems a bit counterintuitive. We are in the gym to work out, to move to sweat, and. Yet, if we are going to follow proper evidence-based protocols for our weightlifting and we want to maximize muscle and strength gain, we should be resting a fair amount in between our hard muscle building heavy sets.

So what I used to do is I would either superset muscles that were antagonistic in their relationship or just disc related altogether. Um, like for example, I might do a set of squats and then just go do a set of shoulders or a set of biceps or triceps or whatever. Although I didn’t do very many sets of squats for the first number of years, but, uh, that’s an example of how I might have done it or maybe a.

Biceps into a tr set of triceps or a set of biceps into shoulders and so forth with no real rest. So theoretically, the first muscle group that was trained, yeah, it got some rest. So let’s say I was squatting and then I go do some biceps. Yeah, my leg muscles are getting some rest, but because I’m going from one exercise into another, my heart rate is staying up.

Like my body is not getting a rest, per se. And so then what would happen? When I would go back to the squat, even though it may have been a minute and a half, two minutes, which is not even that much time, which I’ll get to in a second, my heart rate hasn’t come down and my body’s not ready to give maximum effort on this next set of squats, which just means lowered performance.

It means less reps. And when I wasn’t super setting, I just wasn’t resting enough, I would rest a minute, maybe two, maybe two and a half at most, but most common would probably be a minute to a minute and a half in between any and all sets, regardless of exercise, muscle group, rep range, and so forth. Now, while I didn’t personally do this, you do see it a lot around the gym.

Many people will do cardio stuff in between their weightlifting sets. They will do the ropes or they’ll do the fancy obstacle course, you know, like NFL running back, uh, ladder drill or something like that in between their weightlifting sets just to keep their heart rate up and keep themselves. Now, that’s fine if you are in the gym, primarily to exercise primarily to just burn calories and reap the many benefits of moving your body a lot.

But if you are there lifting weights or doing some form of resistance training, and really what you want out of that is maximum muscle growth and maximum strength gain. You are shooting yourself in the foot by not resting enough and not fully resting in between your heavy hard sets.

And that’s it for the highlight reel from that one. And again, it was published back in November of 2018, and it is called three Everyday Weightlifting Mistakes That Keep People Small, weak, and frustrated. So you can go find it and listen to the full episode. If I have peaked your interest, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my health and fitness books, including the number one best selling weightlifting books for men and women in the world, bigger, lean, or Stronger.

Thinly or stronger, as well as the leading flexible dieting cookbook, the shredded chef. All right, let’s move on to the final episode that we are featuring in this episode, in this installment of Best of Muscle Life, and that is a motivational monologue called the wrong Way and Right Way to Set Goals the wrong way and right way to set goals.

Even if you fail at your ambitious thing, it’s very hard to fail completely. That’s the thing people don’t. Larry Page, if you’re like most people, you start goal setting by asking a simple question, what do I want? This is a fine place to begin, but if you don’t answer this question in a very specific way, your chances of actually achieving anything worthwhile plummet.

The first step in processing your reun desires into functional goals is getting specific, because while vague goals may seem more motivating at first, they quickly lose their steam if left that way. This has been demonstrated in a number of studies, including one conducted by scientists at Rasmus University Rotterdam that tested how writing down, clarifying and planning long-term goals would affect the academic performance of college students.

This was mediated through an online writing exercise that asked the students who ranged from top of class to bottom percentile performers to explain why they were going to school and how they were going to make the most of the opportunity. The students answered questions like, what would you like to learn more about in the next six months, two years, five years?

What habits would you like to. Where do you want to be in six months, two years, five years? Why? What are you trying to accomplish? Then they were instructed to prioritize their goals, break them into sub goals, and create a list of potential barriers in ways to deal with them should they arise. One year later, the researchers reviewed the progress of the participants and the results were striking.

Every single group of participants earned more college credits and were more likely to stay in school after their first year. And most surprising were the results seen with ethnic minority students who earned 44% more college credits and were 54% more likely to remain. Keep in mind that this exercise wasn’t difficult either it didn’t take much time, effort, or thought, yet it produced the kind of results that can be the difference between leaving school and landing a high paying job versus languishing around the poverty line.

A good first step for crystallizing our wishes is asking of them, how will I know when I have succeed? For example, I wanna lose weight might turn into, I want to fit into my size. Five genes I want to be healthier might turn into, I want to have normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels. And for a woman I want to get fit might turn into, I want to gain 10 pounds of muscle and reduce my body fat to 20.

From here, the common recommendations to strengthen your commitment and follow through. Mirror the general approach of the writing exercise outlined above. Write down your goals, make a plan. Make sure the first couple of milestones are easy. Anticipate barriers. Track your progress either in terms of how far you’ve come or how much you have left.

Focus on whichever is smaller and reward yourself as you make head. These are all valid and valuable tactics, but before you do any of that, you first need to reflect on another question. What kind of pain do I want? Stating A desire is easy and especially when it’s something everybody wants, like a better body, more time and freedom, or more income or savings.

The hard part is taking the stars out of our eyes and considering how much pain we’re willing to endure to get these things. The pain of sacrifice, tedium, doubt, disappointment and despair. The pain that can shatter self-confidence, stifle self-expression, and squash self-actualization. This means that before committing ourselves to a reward, we have to first assess the cost and see if we’re willing to pay it.

If we’re going to have any chance of success, we have to first face the terrain that lies ahead before setting out to traverse it. We’re often told that the failure to achieve goals is due to a lack of motivation, passion, or some other elusive feeling. We’re often told that we just need to think bigger or deeper to hitch our wagons to a star and meditate on what success looks like and what we really want to achieve.

Failure is rarely solved along these lines. Instead, you have to embody your answer to the question, Brady has been answering every day for the last 25 years. What are you willing to give up when you view objectives in this light? You quickly learn that effective goal setting is more a matter of effective goal selection than anything else.

In other words, you must first decide which goals are worth the pain and which. And then focus all of your attention and efforts on the things in the first bucket and abandon the rest. As Ray Dalio says in principles, I learned that if you work hard and creatively, you can have just about anything you want, but not everything you want.

Maturity is the ability to reject good alternatives in order to pursue even better one. If you don’t do this, if you try to push yourself in too many directions toward too many goals, you’ll experience what psychologists refer to as goal competition. Your goals will compete with each other for your time and attention, and the thinner you try to slice these resources, the more afraid and frazzled they and you will become.

This is why less is often more with goal setting and why you must be brutally honest with yourself about what you’re truly willing to pay to have the things you say you want. Imagine your life is represented by a stove that’s fueled by your time and effort and that your goals are meals you want to cook on the.

you only have so many burners to work with and you can only burn so much fuel for so long before, while burning out. So you have a choice to make. Do you bring a smaller number of meals to completion before starting others, or do you try to cook a dozen meals simultaneously by rotating them on and off the range in a frenzied act of culinary juggling.

You don’t have to know much about cooking to know that while the ladder approach might eventually turn out food, you’re probably not going to want to eat most of it. Alrighty. Well, I hope you liked what you heard there, and if you wanna listen to the full episode, it was published back in August of 2018, and again, it is called Motivation Monday, the wrong way and Right Way to Set Goals.

And while that’s all I have for you in this episode of Muscle for Life, thanks again for joining me today. I hope. You liked it and I also hope you are gonna like what else I have coming for you. I have a q and a where I talk about resistance bands versus weightlifting, uh, including resistance band contraptions, like this X three bar getting laid.

As a married man, how do I convince my wife to have sex with me? But that was an interesting question and I’ll be sharing my thoughts on. As well as female lean gaining, please do leave a quick review on iTunes or wherever you’re listening to me from in whichever app you’re listening to me in. Because that not only convinces people that they should check out the show, it also increases search visibility and thus it helps more people find their way to me and learn how.

Get fitter, leaner, stronger, healthier, and happier as well. And of course, if you want to be notified when the next episode goes live, then simply subscribe to the podcast and you won’t miss out on any new stuff. And if you didn’t like something about the show, please do shoot me an email at mike muscle for

Just muscle o r and share your thoughts on how I can do this. I read everything myself and I’m always looking for constructive feedback. Even if it is criticism, I’m open to it. And of course you can email me if you have positive feedback as well, or if you have questions really relating to anything that you think I could help you with, definitely send me an email.

That is the best way to get ahold of me, mike muscle And that’s it. Thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you.

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