Muscle for life

6 Lessons for Training Hard Like a Motherfucker

6 Lessons for Training Hard Like a Motherfucker

Let’s face it:

The fitness game is difficult.

Sometimes we can’t resist the allure of the snooze button. Sometimes we procrastinate in the parking lot, waiting for our preworkout to give us the will to get started. Sometimes we have to fight tooth and claw just to get through workouts.

Some of that may never change, but the right mindset can make all the difference.

If you can just stay focused and motivated to succeed in the face of adversity and setbacks, then you’re already halfway home.

And that’s what this article is all about.

In it, I’m going to share six lessons I’ve learned over the years that have always helped me keep the flywheel turning, both in the gym and life in general.

These lessons are going to feature a lot of unladylike language, inappropriate metaphors, and crass vulgarity, too.

Inevitably, at least a few someones are going to say, “You didn’t have to use so many VIOLENTLY OFFENSIVE AND PSYCHE-RENDING words, you know.”

I do know.

But that leads me to the first item on the list…

Would you rather listen to this article? Click the play button below!

Want to listen to more stuff like this? Check out my podcast!

1. Say It With Me: “Fuck It, I’m Doing It Anyway”

Throughout this POWERFUL AND TRANSFORMATIVE AND OCCASIONAL MISERABLE FITNESS JOURNEY, you’re going to meet a lot of people that are going to tell you a lot of things.

Many of these fleshy automatons will have so much advice that if you scribbled it all down on pieces of paper, you’d singlehandedly decimate entire swathes of the world’s forests.

Keep your eyes and ears open, but don’t let their moonshine move you off target.

“You shouldn’t do that,” they’ll say, wheeling out a litany of reasons why it’s not going to work out, why you should put time and effort elsewhere, and why you’ll regret it if you keep going.

And then you’ll say, “Fuck it, I’m doing it anyway.”

“Fuck it, I’m going to count my calories and lose those 20 pounds.”

“Fuck it, I’m going to follow that workout program for a couple months.”

“Fuck it, I’m going to clean up my diet.”

You’ll probably be afraid, too. Anxious. Uncertain.

All that is normal. Remember the first time you rode a bike? This is no different.

You move past all the head trash by getting to work. You put in work, and you get better. You get better, and you build confidence. You build confidence, and you want to do more. It’s a virtuous cycle.

The hobgoblins of fear and doubt will always hop around in your mind, sometimes more noisily than others, and that’s okay.

Some of it is even good; it keeps you moving, doing, working. It reminds you that the way out is always the way through.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

2. Stop Giving So Many Fucks


Life doles out enough pressure and stress, so why should we allow fuckfaces to carve out pounds of mental flesh, too?

That’s right, we shouldn’t, and that’s why we need to learn how to not give a fuck.

You only have so many fucks you can give at any given point in your life, and if you give them too freely, you’re going to make everything harder than it has to be.

You’re going to constantly feel victimized by everyone and everything, including trivial pissers like the snipe that bitch made about how your dress fits, the smelly asshole in the gym sweating on everything, and the shitbird curling in the squat rack.

If you learn to reserve your fucks for things that are actually fuckworthy, though, you gain a tremendous freedom. A superpower, even.

You become one of those singular, superb individuals that simply doesn’t give a fuck.

I’m not talking about apathetic indifference. It’s not “who gives a fuck?” but “who gives a fuck about that?”

I’m talking about caring about the things that are worth caring about–the big, important things like your health, fitness, family, and future–and otherwise, not having two ratfucks to rub together.

Being liked, being accepted, being admired, being comfortable and comforted, these things really don’t mean shit if your goal is live a happy, healthy life.

Strength of character and integrity; personal, emotional, and spiritual growth; exemplifying your values through your behaviors; building meaningful relationships; helping others–those are the things that really matter. Those are the things that deserve your fucks.

So, your secretly jealous and self-loathing little “friend” says you’re such a party pooper because you don’t get wasted and binge yourself into oblivion every weekend?

Who gives a fuck. Fuck that fucking fuck.

Your fatass coworkers say that you should stop body shaming yourself and just be fat as fuck, too?

Zero fucks given. They fucking suck and want you to suck, too.

You have to wake up at the crack of dawn and snort a pile of caffeine so you can drag your ass into the gym?

Who. Gives. A. Fucking. Fuck.

The ants wake up every day and go to work until they die, too, and I don’t hear them complaining.

3. Stop Fetishizing Future You


One day, we say, we’re going to live a beautiful life. The best life.

We’re going to wake up at the best time every morning, do the best workouts, eat the best foods, and do the best things with the best people.

One day, we say, we’re going to lose that belly fat, learn that instrument, get that corner office, write that poem about the goat that fucked the pumpkin.

The kicker, though, is that day will never come because it’s always tomorrow, next week, next year, next lifetime.

So fuck “one day.” You have today. Now. Don’t let it go to waste.

4. Make Time, Not Excuses

Whenever someone says, “I would do X, but I can’t because Y,” it’s almost always bullshit unless Y is “I don’t really want to.”

That’s what most everything in life really comes down to: necessity, the mother of all invention. There’s very little we’re actually incapable of, there’s only our sense of urgency.

When you lie to yourself and say otherwise, what you’re really saying is that you find alibis more attractive than achievements, excuses more seductive than excellence, and comfort more desirable than challenge.

When you refuse to believe that it’s okay to give up, though, to take the easy road out, to look for reasons to be weak, to blame anyone or anything else for your circumstances, you tap into something primal and powerful that sets extraordinary people apart from everyone else.

That’s the big secret.

So think twice before you say “I can’t.”

I can’t get into the gym a few days per week, or I don’t really want to?

I can’t make a meal plan work, or I don’t really want to?

I can’t stop eating sugar and junk food, or I don’t really want to?

5. Ships Suck. Burn Them.

Want to know ONE WEIRD TRICK for being more of a badass?

Stop dreaming up exit strategies.

When you say that you’re going to do something, whether it’s dropping 10 pounds of fat, gaining 10 pounds of muscle, or challenging your fruity neighbors to naked badminton, the thinking stops there.

No second guesses, maybes, or loopholes. No “if’s,” “or’s,” or “but’s.”

In your mind, you should see it–no, feel it–as already done, and all that remains is simply going through the motions of manifesting it physically.

When you can do that, you can do anything.

6. Laugh When You Fuck It Up

News flash:

You’re going to fuck shit up.

Yes, you. And me. And everyone we know and love. We’re all going to be this guy from time to time:

There was an attempt

Fortune’s wheel is always spinning, and she brings ups and downs, highs and lows, peaks and valleys. Such is life. How you respond to the wonderful mess is up to you.

For my part, I choose to laugh and learn.

Sometimes a fuck-up confirms suspicions and helps you realize that your instincts are sharper than you thought. Sometimes you gain a new perspective, broadening your horizons. And sometimes you just get a chance to chuckle at the absurdity.

A great life isn’t always pleasant. Sometimes you get kicked in the crotch and you just have to ask, “What Would James Bond Do?”


See how that works?

What do you think these about lessons? Have anything else you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

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  • MarkH

    Amazing article! I keep seeing you’re making motivational articles again, is this maybe a sing of your latest project?

  • Ryan

    Fucking great article! (sorry couldn’t resist). Today I had a bad workout day (legs) my adductors were tight, I couldn’t squat low enough or hit 4 reps. Everything just felt off. But I stuck at it, dropped the weight a bit to hit 5 reps and managed to finish my sets. I was really pissed off because I couldn’t lift my new weight target. But took some consolation that I still completed my workout. Now reading Greg Nuckols guide on squatting to see where I can improve.

    • Haha thanks Ryan! I’ve been there myself. Growing pains. Literally. 🙂 Keep it up!

  • Sean Steinmetz

    Dude. I need this article in audio form so I can start my day by listening to it in the car, haha.

  • Caleb L.

    My favorite part is your coworker line because that is precisely what has happened to me at my office: fat people trying to tell me i am too skinny now or that i really shouldn’t lose any more weight.

    mike, thank you for opening my eyes to fitness and to health. without you i would not be where i am today. i am still going as this is a lifelong commitment for myself to be better. for no one else. thanks, mike.

    • So glad to hear you’re doing well Caleb. Keep up the good work. 🙂

  • Terrie Lane Hilbun

    I enjoy the info, but I can do without the foul language.

    • What can I say…swearing is fun. 🙂

      • Terrie Lane Hilbun

        So is eating an entire chocolate cake, but… 😉

    • BlackJack

      Wow. Stop being so sensitive.

    • JunkMonkey

      Most of his stuff isn’t like that. I think he just gets emotional about people who make up excuses instead of just doing what they dream of.

  • Joe

    Hey Mike,

    I was wondering how you feel about the effect fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers have on choosing your rep ranges. Initially, I chose to use the 4-6 rep range, as it’s what you suggest in your book. However, as more research and plenty of heated discussions with fellow fitness nuts, I’ve learned that some people are fast-twitch dominate and some are slow-twitch dominate. And then they’re are the ones thatre a mix.

    Slow-twitch dominate people would benefit more from higher rep workout (8-12 range) and fast-twitch would benefit from lower rep ranges. Now knowing this information, wouldn’t it be a smart thing to include this in your book and now just leave it at “4-6 is the best range, period”? I’m looking to maximize my progress and although I have gotten bigger, I wonder if I could’ve been doing much better with a different rep range, based on whatever my dominate muscle fibers may be.

    • The whole argument is more or less a moot point. There isn’t as much variation as many people think. Nuckols has written about this recently.

      In terms of “best” rep ranges, there are optimal rep ranges for gaining strength, and as gaining strength is the most reliable way to gain muscle (especially as an intermediate+ lifter), it’s therefore optimal to spend a lot of time training in the “strength” end of the spectrum.

      That isn’t to say that higher rep/volume work has no place in someone’s routine, though. Of course it does. It’s best suited to intermediate+ lifters, though, who have to work MUCH harder to continue gaining strength than newbies.

  • Christopher Williams

    What are your thoughts on time under tension training?

  • Larry Greg, Coral Palms

    Nice article! Slightly off topic but can you please clarify how you’re meant to do a front shoulder raise – i’ve seen people hold the dumbbell in a hammer position and then you see those like Arnold (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4wvk5o-cN0) who hold it horizontally?
    Also how far do you lift it? I’ve only ever seen Arnold lift it higher than shoulder height? WTF? Though he is one bad MF… 😉

  • Jeffrey

    Good article Mike, sad about the trend started by Mark Manson about mindless swearing about not giving a fuck. It’s what really put me off about the first half of his book as well, making it seem like an edgy kick in the pants to swear about how you only have so many fucks in a day, etc.

    That being said, I don’t like that I haven’t commented on any of your posts before even though I get a lot of value out of them. But comment on this one in not the most positive light.

    • Hey Jeffrey, first of all, thanks for the support and I’m glad you still got a lot out of the article.

      And I understand, it would definitely get old if I did that in every article, but I figured one with a few extra expletives would be fun. 😉

      If you ever need anything or have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

  • Geoff

    I fucking loved this fucking post.

  • jilly
  • Geoff

    Mike, somewhat related: You are an advocate for lifting heavy, even though there are conflicting studies on the “ideal” rep range. I saw this post from Nuckols (who I know you respect), and it made sense. Do you agree with him?

    “Instead of asking, Is this rep range better than this other rep range in some physiological sense?, you’re better off asking, What allows me to get in the most high quality sets during each session and during each week?

    In the 6-15 rep range, the weights are generally manageable enough that you can maintain good technique, and you’re not doing so many reps that you’re metabolically crushed after your first couple of sets. On the other hand, the weights are generally heavy enough that you’re still putting a fair amount of tension on the muscle, you’re more likely to be limited in each set by muscular fatigue than systemic anaerobic fatigue.

    Essentially, I think people have gotten the cause and effect mixed up: It’s not that there’s something magical about the “hypertrophy range”, it’s that simply being able to do more quality training tends to produce better results, and most people tend to be able to do the most quality training in that intensity range.”

    • Hey Geoff!

      That’s a great way of looking at it but there most definitely is a difference between 6-rep sets and 15-rep sets.

      Have you listened to my recent interview with Greg on my podcast? I think you’ll really like it…

  • George

    Loved this article. It’s exactly what I needed. Thanks

  • Neil Carlile

    Great reminder Mike, well done. I have been trying to purchase your book, bigger, leaner, stronger, but Amazon tells me it is not available. Any advice?

    • Thanks Neil! Really? Amazon US or?

      • Neil Carlile

        Not sure? I was in the Middle East, maybe that interfered? I am home on leave (in Australia) I will try to purchase again now.

        • OK. Let me know if you are still having issues, so I can help!

  • Ronald ter Veen

    Great, now I have to clean up after pissing myself. Awesome article Mike, true to the bone!

  • Justin Forsyth

    “Who gives a fuck? Fuck the fucking fuck.”
    Never a truer phrase.

  • TrevorL

    Not offended by the language but it doesn’t feel authentic Mike. I always see you as quite a thoughtful writer and trainer. This could have been written by any meathead. Sorry!

    • Haha really? I had fun writing it. 🙂

    • Lee Williams

      I actually second this, it almost discredits the information he’s trying to get across. Doesn’t flow well and feels generic sadly.

  • Toni Gainey

    Best article I have ever read 😂

  • John Elkins

    Fuck Ya Mike! Great article. Intensity pushes people and sometime you can’t sugar coat the message. Life ain’t all unicorns rainbows and safe spaces and to reach your goals you got to be passionate and intense. No body will hand this to you. Most people will quit when things get hard. Motivational shit like this keeps me going! Thanks Mike. Oh And by the way I have followed your lifting advice for 4 years but it wasn’t until I really dialed in my nutrition and added 4 days of 20 min HIIT sessions that I finally broke single digit body fat levels. Thanks for all your advice

    • I agree John and congrats on the milestone! Keep up the good work!

  • Lyndon Phillips

    You can preach so much of science and study to convince people, but sometimes, just sometimes, people use the right side of their brain and take in a passion and the truth of plain aggressive speech. You can use a lot of this article in many parts of your every day life. I loved it so much I’m gonna share it with me girlfriend. Well done Mike, love the emotion seeping onto the page. Fuck it, I’m going to the gym to hit something.

    • Totally agree Lyndon. I’m working on a new book that’s going to go at motivation in a very “right brain” manner with some personal stories and science woven in. Go have a good workout. 🙂

  • Pink

    Lol.Why was this article my favorite…?

  • jaime arellano

    Damn! That really got to me. I’m going to get my ass up tomorrow at 5 A.M in the morning to go to the gym and disable the snooze button. One of the best article I’ve read in a long time. Time to get in shape for the summer. Very motivating article. Truer words have never been spoken! Thanks!

  • kellyetaylorsmith

    This was so so good. ALL THE YESSSSS! Can I like this a million times? Droppin the hammer with some serious intensity. Can this become White House policy? You dropped the mic on this one.

  • itsrealtome

    This was just what the fuck I needed to fucking read this morning. Fucking great!!!

  • JR

    Agree! Become unfuckwithable!

  • Liz Wright

    Three words. Fucking love this.

  • Jay

    Really nice article. You familiar with markmanson? The not giving a fuck reminded me of his work.

    • Thanks Jay! Yeah I am. Haven’t read his book but have read a few of his articles and liked them. He’s a witty dude.

  • Lauren Clark

    I am going to print this out and hang it on the wall in front of my weight bench so I can read it EVERY day!!!!!

  • Stefanilou

    I was making progress I’ve had setbacks that fucked shit up but I’m not making excuses and giving up now!!

  • Heidi from Seattle

    Thank you for this. It’s actually a powerful feeling to know there’s nothing wrong with me when I don’t feel motivated and delighted about doing what needs to be done. On those dark, rainy days when it just sounds miserable to get that workout in, the most motivating thing I can say to myself is “suck it up, buttercup”. Doing it anyways makes me feel strong!

  • Justine

    “The ants wake up every day and go to work..” They’re actually even more hardworking than that: ants don’t sleep!

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