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Some people—my favorite people—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 do at least a little better inside and outside the gym.

That’s why I do “best of” episodes that contain a few of the most practical and compelling ideas, tips, and moments from the more popular episodes I’ve published over the years. This way, you can learn interesting insights that you might have otherwise missed and find new episodes of the show to listen to.

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

How Jake Gained 20 Pounds of Muscle on My Bigger Leaner Stronger Program

(Originally published 3/25/2019)

Why Your Hip Flexors Are So Tight (and What to Do About It)

(Originally published 3/20/2019)

Motivation Monday: Are You a Fox or a Hedgehog?

(Originally published 5/14/2018)

And we’ll be starting with number one, how Jake gained 20 pounds of muscle on my Bigger Leaner Stronger program. 


0:00 – My free quiz to answer all your diet questions:

2:38 – How Jake Gained 20 Pounds of Muscle on My Bigger Leaner Stronger Program

11:05 – Why Your Hip Flexors Are So Tight (and What to Do About It)

17:39 – Motivation Monday: Are You a Fox or a Hedgehog?

Mentioned on the Show:

Take this free quiz to get science-based answers to all of your diet questions:

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


Mike: Hello there, and welcome to another episode of Muscle for Life. I’m your host, Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today to listen to another installment of the Best of Muscle for Life. Now, what is that? Well, some people, my favorite people they listen to most, or even all of my podcasts, but my analytics tell me that while many listeners tune in on a regular basis, they don’t catch every.

Episode and thus they miss out on cool stuff, on insights that could help them do at least a little bit better inside and outside of the gym. And that’s why I do these best of episodes. These episodes contain a few of the most practical and compelling ideas, tips, and moments from some of the more popular episodes I’ve published over the years.

And this way you can learn. Interesting stuff that you might have otherwise missed. And you can also find new episodes of the show that you might want to listen to in their entirety. And so, in this installment of the best of Most for life, you are going to be hearing handpicked morsels from three episodes.

The first is an interview I did with a guy named Jake, who gained 20 pounds of muscle on my bigger, leaner, stronger. Program and a lot of people really enjoyed his story and found it helpful in their own journeys. And then we’re gonna be talking about hip flexors. Uh, the next episode featured is a monologue called Why Your Hip Flexors are so tight and What to Do about It.

And then the last episode featured in this episode is another monologue that I recorded called, are You a Fox or a Hedgehog? Before we get to it, how many calories should you eat to reach your fitness goals faster? What about your macros? What types of food should you eat, and how many meals should you eat every day?

Well, I created a free 62nd diet quiz that’ll answer those questions for you and others, including how much alcohol you should drink, whether you should eat more fatty fish to get enough omega three fatty acids. What supplements are worth taking and why and more to take the quiz and get your free personalized.

Diet plan, go to Muscle for Life show slash diet quiz, muscle fo r Life show slash diet quiz. Now answer the questions and learn what you need to do in the kitchen to lose fat, build muscle, and get healthy. Alright, so let’s start with the interview I did with Jake, who gained 20 pounds of muscle on my bigger, leaner, stronger program.

Jake: In the spring of 2014, after a few years of just sort of bullshitting my way through it, I think I discovered you like, I think you had done an interview with like Grego Gallagher, one of those guys. I saw. It was like you came up on YouTube and I, I remember watching some of those and then I saw some of your own video, like, I think you had just started doing your podcast, so I started listening to some of your episodes.

Early on I saw b l s, like on Amazon, it was like 12 bucks or something. I was like, well, I mean, if nothing else, this is. It’s worth checking out. And right about that same time I had the space at my house, so I installed, I bought and installed a home gym. One of those, like the bench set that is, uh, adjustable with the squat rack thing on the back.

I bought that and like a barbell off of a guy on Craigslist got a few hundred pounds and weights. I read B L Ss like. I don’t know, probably in like a week or two and started immediately just implementing the, not only the nutritional stuff, basically rewiring my brain as to how to lift. ’cause it was completely alien to everything I had done up to that point, you know?

’cause I was actually still traveling, working on the road during that time. I had to get really creative with my meals.

Mike: How did you make that work? What were some of the little tips you can share with people who travel? It’s a question I get fairly often, so.

Jake: Yeah. Uh, it was, well it depends. Like, I, it was gross at one point.

I remember I was staying in some hotel rooms and I remembered I would go and like buy like a George Foreman and, uh, you know, you would just, you maybe cook like your chicken breast or whatever. Trying to do that stuff got exhausting. Um, I quit doing this job a few years ago in the last place that I stayed when I did was I just stayed in a suite.

I found a cool like little old school hotel and suites type place that had a kitchen at. Just got a asked for like a pot in a pan and I would just go to the store and just kind of just cook my own meals. Make like a, yeah, kinda like meal prep, like a, or

Mike: some, some version of that.

Jake: Yeah. Yeah. Like maybe buy like rice and like stuff to make vegetables or a salad or whatever.

And then just buy like some lean proteins to last me for a handful of days. And then, um, protein powder.

Mike: Sometimes I’ll grab rotisserie chicken because then you don’t have to cook it. It’s already cooked. If you can just keep it cool.

Jake: Yeah. Um, I’ve done that too, and then do that. And then, um, I, I don’t, I’m not a big fan of deli meats, but I’ve done that too.

And then stick to like that and like protein powder, try to keep carbs, like easy as I can. Um, I would buy like cliff bars or Quest bars just as something else to munch on. I, I started going after a bachelor’s in health sciences. By the time I enrolled and I started taking these classes, I was just kind of cruising through ’em because a lot of this information I had already, I had sort of already learned from reading all of your books and watching your Q and ass.

I was already sort of a nerd, kind of cruising through like PubMed and other, um, you know, like other websites that were open to the public. I was like reading up on research studies all about nutrition and diet. And you know, the workouts and stuff. So within the span of a few years, I went from being a guy that was sort of doing the workouts that were on and not having no idea what a calorie was or what a carbohydrate really was or any of that stuff to being an informed individual who, um, people come to me now all the time asking me for advice or.

On how to lose weight or how to build muscle and, and I always tell them unequivocally, I say, well, you could sit down with me and listen to me ramble for two hours, or I could just tell you to buy this guy’s book.

Mike: Just so for people wondering, so you started this journey in somewhere in the mid one fifties, I guess somewhere around what, 14% body fat or so give or take.

And then, uh, where are you at now?

Jake: Yeah. So very ectomorphic biotype. In the last handful of years, I’ve done two proper, like bulk and cut cycles. The first one where I was bulking, like where, where I, I mentioned earlier when I was still on the road traveling a lot, I was probably on some of those days still more at a maintenance level.

My calories were still kind of tapered to the lower end, like in a slight surplus on those days. Got back comb. I remember that first cut. I went pretty hard on it. I was doing fasted training using, I think you would just come out with like Forge. So I was like using Phoenix and Forge. Trying to, um, quickly burn the fat, which I did during that time.

I was walking around in like the mid one seventies and I would cut and maybe get down to like around one 70 or like the high one sixties. And then the following year I did a full, I went really hard on my bulk, not like in a, um, the so-called dirty bulk kind of way. I didn’t, I wasn’t eating like frozen pizzas for every meal or anything, but I was really going hard on like my carbohydrate intake eating probably.

3,500 calories plus a day. That’s good. I mean, standard. Yeah. But training, you know, four to five days a week hitting like I’ve got my highest numbers during that point. And then the following spring slash summer I cut down again. Got back down to the one seventies and during this entire time, like this was several years where I was also doing like intermittent fasting most of the time, and I was using like a workout app, tracking all my calories, really watching every little thing that I was doing.

And these days I haven’t tracked a calorie or a macronutrient in probably about two years now. And right now I’m walking around around 1 65 and I’m probably the leanest and most muscular I’ve ever been. And that’s just basically eating intuitively and just lifting about four days a week, sometimes five, depending on my schedule.

And I’m not tracking anything anymore. I, I still track my workouts. I use your app for every workout. I haven’t actually used like a, a calorie tracking app in a couple of years.

Mike: And, and your body fat is, well, it looks probably around 8% or so.

Jake: I’d say it’s probably about seven, 8%. Yeah. I’ve got like abdominal vein, like lower abdominal veins that like I’ve never had otherwise.

Like I used to have just like one that was there and like if maybe I went too hard on a meal or something, it would go away and like a day or two later it would come back. But now I’ve got like a whole bunch of ’em and I was like, where did those come from? It was like this last year I started just leaning out and people were like, what are you doing differently?

I’m like, uh, honestly, I. I kind of cut the desserts at night. I don’t have like the late night sweet tooth that I had for a while. I’m like you in that. I’m sort of robotic in that I eat pretty much the same meal like every day. I think that tends to help and keep things simple. Yeah, I have to say that discovering like your work and it segueing into, and you know, even though it sounds cliche, turning it into a lifestyle, My work ethic was suddenly informed by a physicality, and that really segued into everything else I was doing because while I was a student, I became, you were also the first person that introduced me to the Amazon’s K D P system, and just this past summer, I became a published author as a result.

Oh, nice. What’s the book? Uh, it’s called Marro, M A R O O N E D. It’s on Amazon. It’s like a, a crime noir thriller that I wrote over. I wrote it while I was a student actually. I was kind of like moonlighting as a writer at night, like when I would get home from work and get done with my schoolwork. I was kind of doing that in my free time.

People that had liked it or whatever, have to ask me and they said, how do you do this and how do you that? So, well, I don’t, I tend to just quote Henry Rollins and I say, I don’t have talent. I have tenacity. I just kind of run at things and hope that something sticks. I just keep, I guess I would use using as an example as well.

You. You just kind of work really hard and you put in the time and you get better. That’s really what it comes down to. Well, what I’ve always found interesting about your work and with like b l s and everything is that I’m someone that really does not identify with today’s fitness space. I really don’t like, I’m not into the Instagram influencer thing.

I don’t follow any, I don’t, you know, I’m not into those people. I just sort of see it all as faux pa. I just don’t buy it. But like, so reading your material I found interesting and different because like, For one, it’s a book. This is like a tangible thing that I have to hold in front of me and read. I’m not just like doing some like P D F workout that I bought for 20 bucks off some guy’s website or anything.

It brought forth something that I identify with and that I like reading and that it feels. You put together sketches and nutrition plans and all this stuff that it, tying it all together, it, it seems like a lot, but really it, it isn’t, it just sort of requires, um, a different kind of dedication that I wasn’t used to.

Your work has really informed my work ethic. I think I meant to say this earlier, but I mean, I went from like, you know, sitting on my ass playing video games and stuff to exercising and having, um, an addiction to endorphins, and now I’m writing books as a result.

Mike: That’s awesome.

Jake: Yeah.

Mike: That’s it for a few of the highlights from the interview I did with Jake, and if you want to listen to the whole interview, it was published in March of 2019, so you can go back to that point in the podcast feed, find it and give it a listen.

Next up is why you’re hip flexors are so tight and what to do about it. That’s the name of the episode. Hip flexors are a group of muscles around the top of your thighs that connect your upper leg to your hip, and these muscles are involved in just about every kind of movement that involves your lower body, including exercises like the squat, deadlift, overhead press, and even the bench press.

What causes tight hip flexors? The scapegoat du jour for. Tight hip flexors is sitting. That is definitely the number one culprit these days, according to various popular mainstream experts slash gurus. As far as the hip flexors go, the theory is that sitting tightens these muscles by forcing them to remain in a contracted and thus shortened.

Position for extended periods of time. Another popular theory is that tight hip flexors are caused by overuse. So the idea here is that the more you punish these muscles with intense exercise, and especially weightlifting and especially heavy compound weightlifting, the more likely these muscles are to become and just remain tight.

All of these things sound plausible enough. But basic physiology disagrees. It indicates otherwise, for example, sitting cannot permanently or even temporarily, quote unquote, shorten your hip flexors. Because muscles cannot change in length. They can only become bigger or smaller. It’s also unlikely that weightlifting is to blame for tight hip flexors.

Research shows that strength training generally improves. Muscle and tendon function and is actually often used as a tool for rehabilitating joint pains and problems. So where does all that leave us then? What the hell really causes tight hip flexor muscles? Well, as you’ve probably guessed by now, we haven’t quite figured it out yet.

Muscle pain and muscle tightness are rather mysterious phenomena in many of the things that have been long assumed to produce them have been debunked. The good news though, is you don’t have to suffer through life with the condition of incurable shitty hip flexors. While science tries to sort the whole mess out with a handful of stretches and exercises, you can get relief and probably also improve your lower body workouts.

So let’s start with stretches. The best stretches for tight hip flexors. If a muscle is tight, our first instinct is to stretch it. I’m gonna give you a few stretches, and I would recommend that you do one of them several times per day for several days and see if it helps. See if it makes your hip flexors feel looser and less aggravated, and if it does, make a note and then move on to the next stretch.

And after trying all of them, continue doing those, that helped. So the first stretch, Is called a kneeling hip flexor stretch. It’s one of the best stretches for targeting the hip flexors and work on that stretch for two to three minutes per stretching session. You can just Google it or search around on YouTube for a form video.

It’s very simple. The next stretch that you should check out and try is the SOAs quad stretch. This is. A stretch for the SOAs muscle, which is a powerful pelvic muscle that plays a key role in hip flexion. And when the SOAs is tight, it is common to experience low back discomfort, and it makes heavy squatting more or less impossible.

I’ve been there myself. The next stretch is the walking knee hug. It’s called. It’s another simple but effective hip flexor stretch that might help loosen up your hips. It also targets your glutes, which are often tight. If you are training hard in the gym, and especially if you’re doing a lot of lower body work, I recommend you do 10 to 12 knee hugs per leg per stretching session.

Holding the top position for one to two seconds each time. So you know by now that eliminating hip flexor tightness is not an exact science. You just gotta try out various things and see what works. And strengthening your hip flexors is one of those things. As with stretching, you’re not gonna know for sure whether or not it’s gonna help unless you do it.

So the first exercise is the barbell back squat. If you’re not doing at least some form of squatting regularly, your lower body is missing out. The hip flexor exercise number two is the barbell front squat, so this is a variation of the back squat, the barbell squat that emphasizes the quadriceps in the core a bit more than the back squat and requires less flexibility.

The front squat also creates less compression of the spine and less torque in the knees, which makes it particularly useful for those with back or knee injuries or limitations. Alright, the next hip flexor exercise is the lunge, and this is a simple but effective leg exercise that everyone can benefit from.

It builds strength, muscle, and balance. It also builds stability in the hips, which is very important. And because it’s a single leg movement, it can help address muscular imbalances as well. The next hip flexor exercise. The next exercise that is good for strengthening your hip flexors is the leg press.

And many people consider the leg press an inferior version of the squat and say that you shouldn’t be leg pressing, you should just be squatting. And I disagree. The leg press. Not only requires less technical skill than the squat, making it more newbie friendly, and it requires less from stabilizing muscles, which allows you to load heavier weights.

It’s also a fantastic exercise for building hip strength, particularly due to its large range of motion. There are so many conflicting opinions on what actually causes hip flexor tightness and what you can do about it. Fortunately, you can likely get relief by following the simple plan outlined in this.

Podcast, which is do one stretch several times per day for several days and note if it helped, do the same with the rest of the stretches and keep doing those regularly. That did help. And then do exercises that, uh, strengthen your hip flexors. And if you want an added bonus, check out that article that I wrote on my little yoga routine because there’s some good lower body stuff in there that could help as well.

Again, Google Muscle for Life Yoga, and it’ll come up. Okay. That’s it for that episode. I hope you liked the snippets I chose for you, and if you did and you want to learn more, that episode was also published in March of 2019, so you can go back and find it. Last up is another monologue. Are you a Fox or a hedgehog?

Would you consider yourself a fox or a hedgehog? What’s the difference? What am I talking about? Well, Jim Collins wrote about this in his bestselling book, good To Great. Which I highly recommend if you are an entrepreneur and you have not read it yet, I. And the metaphor is based on the famous essay, the Hedgehog and the Fox, written by Isaiah Berlin.

In it, he divided the world into hedgehogs and foxes based upon an ancient Greek parable. The Fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing I. The fox is crafty and resourceful when he wants to go hunting for the hedgehog. He tries to think of many different plans, dig into the burrow, lion, an ambush and attack when the hedgehog comes out and so forth.

But he can’t focus on one’s strategy. He is scattered and he chases many trails at once. The hedgehog, however, knows one thing and can do it very well. When the fox comes to eat him, he rolls up in a tight spiky ball and all the fox gets is a bloody nose. Yet the fox tries again and again hatching new, unusual methods of attack.

He just doesn’t learn. The fox is the person who starts the trendy diet or exercise program only to quit after three weeks in favor of some new better plan or fad in business. The fox is so busy trying to juggle all of his ideas and all of his excitement to start something new and promising that he just has no time to really understand what he’s.

Doing and get down to the hard, uncomfortable work that most people don’t want to do. In short, the fox simply treads water and the foxes of the world rarely succeed. The lion’s share of success and wealth belong to the hedgehogs, the people who focused on one thing. And became a true specialist at it. So let’s break this hedgehog concept down a bit.

So here’s how Collins explains it. He says that it’s based on three circles, all the same size and equally important. So we have a Venn diagram here and they intersect, and that combined middle is where the magic happens. That’s the sweet spot, right? So circle one involves, What you can be best at. It’s not a goal or a strategy or plan, and it’s not just a a core competency.

It’s the place where you can really shine, and it’s determined by your personality, your interests, and your purposes. Okay, circle two is the economic part of the equation. All very successful people I know, were very smart. With choosing endeavors that can provide a lot of cash flow and a lot of very unsuccessful people that I know chose things that simply were not economically viable.

Nobody was ever going to pay them a lot of money for what it is they were pouring all of their time into bad choice. That’d be a bad circle two. Good. Circle two is something that is established commercially that you can make a lot of money with. Circle three is what ignites your passion. This is similar to circle one, but circle one is more the logical side of things.

Looking at yourself and what you know about yourself, what could you be very good at? And circle three is more the emotional side of things. What makes you really feel something? Now, many people would say you have to find what makes you passionate. I don’t entirely agree with that. I think you need to find something that you are curious about and then cultivate passion by applying yourself.

Because let’s face it, nobody’s passionate about something that they’re not good at, which of course, in the beginning of anything, you are not good at it and you don’t know much about it. It’s hard to be passionate about it, but in time, if you take something you are curious about, you are drawn toward and you pour a lot of your time and effort into it to develop skill and develop knowledge that can turn into passion.

So your hedgehog concept lies in the intersection of these three circles. If you can live your life in the middle of them, then you have it made. You’ll be doing something that you truly can excel in, that you are passionate about, and that can make you great money. All righty. Well, that gives you an idea of the gist of that episode, and if you want to go listen to the whole thing, it was published in May of 2018.

Well, I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful, and if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes. And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people.

Who may like it just as much as you. And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you have, uh, ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share, shoot me an email, [email protected], muscle f o r and let me know what I could do better or just, uh, What your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future.

I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode and I hope to hear from you soon. I.

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