The Importance of Strength Training

A client I’ve worked with and coached for about 6 months now approached me last week and said, “Uncle Steve, I hear you talk all of the time about the importance of strength training, and I guess I sort of get it. What I don’t understand is just how to go about doing it and why, so much.”

I smiled, then said, “It’s what we do every day in our training sessions. I know it seems a little complex, the way I structure things, but I do it because I this is my area of expertise. It’s really not that complicated, so let me break it down for you.”

I went on to tell her what I’m about to reveal to you in this article. I hope you like it.

Principle #1 – It shouldn’t take you a lot of time.

If your training time in the gym lasts more than 40 minutes, you’re either lolli-gagging or spending too much time talking. Get in, get it done, and get out.


Perform brief and intense (15-30 minute) strength training sessions that allow you to lift moderately heavy weights (60-85% of your max) 3-4 times each week focusing on decisive, total-body strength with basic full-body exercises for moderate sets and reps, which translates to 3-5 sets of 3-5 repetitions per exercise.

Principle #2 – Strength Training for Women Is Imperative.

Strength training serves a far greater purpose, especially for women. Women should strength train because:

  • Strength training is empowering!
  • Strength training allows you to discover and appreciate what your body is capable of doing, so it can then do more!
  • Strength training makes you feel and look awesome!
  • Strength training positively affects your entire life. From bone density to increased muscle mass to lessening your risk of injury, strength training has a wide range of benefits.
  • Strength training builds you up physically, mentally & emotionally.
  • Strength training “tones” muscle, burns fat, boosts your metabolism, improves your health & increases your quality of life.
  • Strength training is the foundation for ALL your health, fitness and wellness goals, and that includes endurance, etc.!

Bottom Line: Strength training is something everyone should do no matter their age!

Remember, you can be whatever you want to be, but make being strong first a priority!

Principle #3 – You’re Not Bodybuilding…

Bodybuilders are fond of “training to failure”, or in other words lifting and lowering a weight until they can’t lift it any further. Dr. Fred Hatfield proclaimed that one ought to “train to success,” as opposed to failure.

When it comes to strength & conditioning, you should avoid training to failure (momentary muscular failure, technical failure, etc.).

This requires stopping your sets 1-2 reps short of failure; resting long enough to maintain strength & form; or performing less than your repetition maximum (doing 3 reps with a 5-rep max).

If you think you need to push past your limits, get sweaty, feel tired or exhausted, feel beat down, or breathe hard during a workout to get stronger or improve your conditioning, you’re doing it wrong!

Bottom Line: For strength & conditioning, avoid training to failure.

Principle #4 – Muscle and Strength Are Life!

After the age of 30, we lose up to 10% of our muscle mass each decade while gaining 3 times as much fat during the same time.

Building muscle & strength should be at the top of your list to slow down or reverse the aging process and subsequent loss of muscle while preventing fat gain, not to mention the loss of bone density.

Bottom Line: You NEED muscle & strength to shape your body, improve your health & increase your quality of life.


What Really Works

This is Part 3 of the series. If you missed it, you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.


A returning female client recently approached me and said, “Uncle Steve, the reason I decided to train with you again is because I wasn’t seeing the results I had hoped for from that other exercise routine. I had hoped I’d lose more weight than I did. I mean, I was exercising in the gym for an hour 3 days per week, and then the other 3 days I either biked or walked. Why didn’t I see better results?”

I explained to her there could have been a myriad of reasons, from a stunted metabolism from years of yo-yo dieting to performing too much cardio to high levels of cortisol from excessive stress.

Come to find out, it was much simpler than that.

My client had fallen into a complacency trap, and her actions were not congruent with what she said she wanted. She had 2 distinct impediments to her progress. Number one was that she drank 2-3 glasses of wine each night, and number two was that she added sugar to her coffee and tea each day.

Suffice to say that when she eliminated those things and made simple corrections to her daily habits, she began to see the results she was after.

I get quite a bit of flak from my colleagues in the fitness field because I do not advocate or hold “transformation contests” any further. I did at one time, but have stepped away from them for one simple reason: the results don’t last.


A lot of fitness types use them because they are great up front money makers for them. It gets people in their door, initiated into their training program and puts a little cha-ching in their pocket.

I have no inherent problem with that.

My umbrage stems from people not getting lasting results from their efforts during that 21 day to 6-week period. Despite my best efforts to encourage people to adopt a healthy living, long term supportive nutritional regimen AFTER the challenge or contest is over, most do not…and this just bums me out. So, I don’t do them anymore.

So What DOES Work, Uncle Steve?

If your goal is fat loss, a flatter stomach, a tighter butt or anything else physique or fitness related, I’m going to suggest to you 6 things you MUST do in order to have what it is you want.


  • Get your mind right. This is where the rubber meets the road. Without a solid and congruent mindset, you’re simply setting yourself up for failure. Your actions and your words must align. You cannot state, “I want to lose 20 pounds” while shoving a slice of cheesecake down your throat. (Not that you’d do that, but you know someone personally who would…)
    You must make a decision, then stick to it every day.
    Will you fail? Yes…occasionally. It happens. Get over it.
    So you screw up at one meal. Get back on track the next meal. And the meal after that. And the one after that. Build on your successes.
    If you’re looking for some great tools on mindset, I have two friends who’ve written spectacular books on the subject (.99 cents each on Kindle versions) that you must get:
    Mindset Over Matter by Greg Justice
    Mindset Matters Most by Brian Grasso
  • Stop Chasing Fat Loss and Start Seeking Better Health. Remember, your health is the measure of how well your body’s natural functions work. Things like blood flow, heart rate, eyesight, endocrine and hormonal function, excretory functions, etc. By focusing your efforts on getting healthier, your body will inherently “know” what to do, and fat loss will be a happy by product.
    So just how does one focus on health? See #3 below…
  • Eat Foods Like God Makes Them. Single ingredient, whole foods nutrition just works. There is a reason there are no tortilla trees, 7Up rivers or doughnut plants. Eating a variety of foods as you would find them in their natural state means more food value in terms of vitamins, minerals and other valuable nutrients. It also means you really don’t have to worry about calories, because it’s REALLY hard to over eat the good stuff. I’ve tried….
  • In The Gym, Lift Heavy Stuff. Lifting heavy stuff means building muscle.
    Building muscle means a more efficient metabolism.
    A more efficient metabolism means more fat burning potential.
    Less fat means a healthier physique.
    P.S. Building muscle does NOT equal bulk. Bulk comes from fat.
    P.S.S. Lifting heavy stuff also builds bone density and stronger connective tissue, like tendons and ligaments. This makes you a seriously wicked human specimen of strength, power and resolve.
  • Regulate Your Hormones. “Just how in the heck do I do that, Uncle Steve?”
    Sound, solid and supportive nutrition.
    Just like I stated previously: eat foods like God made them. Doing this helps the body to better regulate because it doesn’t have to duck and weave around an excess of sugar, artificial ingredients and preservatives as much. Clean water is natural. It does good things in the body. Anything else is a gamble.
    If you have to add sugar to something, you’re jacking with your bodies regulatory system. Keep it to a minimum.
    I also recommend you take these minerals: from my good friend Donald Maher.
    Minerals are your first line of defense in terms of better bodily function and hormonal regulation. Get some.
  • Sleep and Rest. I shouldn’t have to emphasize this, but I will.
    People who do not sleep enough are fatter than people who do.
    End of story.
    Get your sleep.

So there you have it. If you’re after a healthier, leaner, stronger and sexier physique, you now have some “tools in your toolbox” to get started with.

And if I can assist or lend a hand with anything, please do let me know.

Yer Uncle Steve

End Result vs Process Based Better Health and Fat Loss

This is Part 2 of a 3 part series. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.


Let me set the stage for you:

A potential female client comes in (although it could be a male, but since I work primarily with women, this story is about her) who is in her mid-50’s, 20+ pounds over fat, midway through menopause and has a wedding to attend in 3 months and wants to look good for it.

Writer’s note: I’m being overly generous on the time frame here. Most people who come to me for this sort of assistance tell me they have two weeks to a month to prep, and that’s when I have to be the bearer of truthful and painful, reality based bad news and let them know it ain’t-a gonna happen. Ahh…the life of a fitness professional…

In other words, this woman is looking for an outcome.

An achievement.

An end result.

And remember, everyone gets results from their efforts. The issue is in the clarification defining just what result we’re after.

A bank robber gets a result.

So does a rapist.

Likewise, so does a mechanic.

And a professional baseball player gets a result.

The difference is in whether the outcome is a positive, measurable one or one that is negative in nature.

Inherently, there’s nothing wrong with wanting an outcome, but I think there are much better ways to get said measurable, positive results and also to gain so much more personally in the process.

“How?”, you ask?

By focusing on the process versus the outcome.

Here’s an over-simplification of what I mean: by embracing and focusing on the process, the outcome will take care of itself.


Listen, losing body fat is a daily grind. It takes a long time, it’s tedious and it can be very frustrating. If all you’re focused on is the outcome, every day you don’t achieve it will be like having a mental root canal.

The time is going to pass anyway. If you started the process today, a year from now seems like an eternity away. But standing where you are today and having followed a success based process, looking back at where you were a year ago will seem like the blink of an eye.

Can't quit now2


Based on interviews with 76 individuals with obesity, researchers from Monash University found a few common themes among the participants. One of those themes was that “people living with obesity have been ‘socially conditioned’ to turn to diets for a cure for their obesity, and to blame themselves when diets fail”.

This is outcome based thinking.

Further interview research suggest that many people do try to diet and have done so multiple times in their lives only to gain their weight back. To quote Dr. Spencer Nadolsky in his book, the Fat Loss Prescription, “it is not your fault if you have gained weight and have not been able to lose it. Many factors are working against you”. An unsustainable diet plan is one of those factors. Not only do we tend to gain weight back but multiple failed diet attempts can have long term devastating effects on our confidence to try to lose weight again. To quote social psychologists Charles Carver and Michael Scheier:

“Because the environment often does not allow a permanent disengagement from the cycle of being unable to reduce discrepancies from ideal self and present self, the cycle continues: inability to attain higher order goals, awareness of that inability, and the negative feelings following from that awareness. All of this is further exacerbated by the fact that continued failure causes the expectancies of future failure to become more stable, leading to even lower likelihood of exerting sustained effort toward goals.”

I took these statement from this article and you should read it.

I understand the frustration having worked with literally hundreds of people who so desperately wish to shed their canvas of unwanted weight. But focusing on the “end result” will lead to anxiety, frustration, boredom and feelings of inadequacy.

By instead focusing on the process and creating a lifestyle that seeks healthy living versus just fat loss by eating supportively, exercising regularly, getting plenty of rest, building and maintaining bone density and muscle mass the result will, I 100% personally guarantee you, take care of itself.

However, by focusing solely on the end result, in other words the outcome, you will repeat the cycle you may be in, or have been in for years, for longer than you may care to participate.

Follow the process and the outcome will take care of itself.


The Least Sexy Thing You Can Do

What’s the one thing everyone in America is most concerned about with respect to their health and fitness?

It’s having an excess of body fat, right?

So let me ask you some really easy questions:

If everyone is so concerned, and with all of the advances in modern medicine and technology, why do we have an ever increasing obese populace? It doesn’t seem that obesity issues are going away anytime soon, does it?

What about folks with high blood pressure?

Or those individuals with diabetes?

Or how about all of those people with heart related disease issues?

Do we see the numbers of incidences and prevalence of these diseases decreasing, or increasing?

Let me ask you this: What do all of these maladies have in common?

I’ll get to that in a minute.

I’ve been in the business of fitness, health and strength for decades, and I’ve had hundreds of overfat people solicit me for coaching telling me they’ve tried this exercise program or that one, with little to no success. But here’s the real kicker; I’ve never once…in over 33 years as a coach…had one of them tell me first about their nutrition program or how they’ve revamped it.

I’ve had to drag it out of them. And the first question I always lead with is, “What can you tell me about your eating habits?” It’s usually followed by a blank stare and some form of mumbling gibberish, or they tell me they eat really well, at which point I say, “Sure you do. That’s why you’re 65 pounds over fat.”

I’m subtle that way.

I don’t mind so much someone being overfat. That’s a simple fix. What troubles me is people in this condition being under healthy, and not even realizing it.

So they want to jump into an exercise program to “fix it”, without really addressing the real cause for their condition.

See, I believe that people have forgotten that we are “human beings” rather than “human doings”.

Don’t get me wrong, exercising is a huge part of the success equation in terms of getting more fit and achieving a higher level of health. But it isn’t the biggest part.

Please understand this: fitness is what your body can do, like run and jump and lift and throw. Health is how your body functions, like pumping blood well, and breathing and eliminating waste.

You can be fit, and still be unhealthy. Likewise, you can be healthy and not be very fit at all.

If you’re overfat, you’re neither of these.

I asked you earlier what the person who was overfat, or had high blood pressure, or diabetes or heart disease all had in common.

9 times out of 10 it stems from a lifetime of poor food choices.

In the words of Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”

You see, looking good and being lean primarily because you’re eating supportively (non-processed, single ingredient, whole foods) on a consistent and regular basis doesn’t sound as sexy as saying, “I do P-95XFit 4 days per week and swim 400 laps in the pool on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s!”

But who cares how it sounds, if you’ve got the health, fitness and wellness to fall back on…right?

And that’s what consistently eating a supportive nutrition program will do for you.

Like I said at the start of this article, it’s the least sexy thing you can do.

But it’s also the most important thing in terms of better health, quality of life and longevity.