10 Primal Commandments 1
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Must Follow Principles to Maximize Your Strength
Underground Strength Coach
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Bottom Line: Don’t be a jerk. I write these things FOR YOU for
FREE. Don’t go pawning it off as your own.
First off, I want to say thanks for checking out Primal Strength Camp and this eBook. I
sincerely believe that following these simple rules will help you. These are not meant to be
earth shattering. Maybe you’ve heard them before. If that’s the case, let them serve as a
gentle reminder of what you should be doing!
Primal Strength Camp is built around the “old-school” fundamentals of strength training,
taking us back to the glory days of weight lifting, where men were focused on STRENGTH,
first and foremost. You may not care about getting strong or becoming better athletically;
you may just want to look good. Fair enough, but looking good and not being able to do
anything with it is false advertising and is a criminal offense.
I’m not bashing the “look good” crowd. We all want that; it is basic human nature. But one
of my goals through Primal Strength Camp is to shape your mindset, help you realize the
connection of brute physical strength and how it leads to mental toughness and life changing
experiences. Being strong is a lifestyle; it doesn’t stop at the gym. Strength builds confidence,
happiness, vitality; a stronger you is a better you. Besides, the stronger you are, the likely
better you will look.
I use these commandments every single day. These are all essential. If you are not already
living by some of these, add them to your lifestyle. Start with just 1 if you have to, and
continually add more of these over time.
Following these commandments are natural to me, I don’t even have to consciously think
about them. Over time, if you live by them, you won’t either. They will become your
About the author
Charles “Tank” Tankersley was born and raised in
Fort Worth, Texas. I grew up playing baseball,
idolizing Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior,
and worshipping the Dallas Cowboys.
Despite repeated attempts to get me in the weight
room during high school by my dad and coaches, I
decided I’d rather be out chasing girls or nerding out
playing video games. After high school, I went to
Texas A&M University and started running as a
hobby. I was in great cardiovascular shape but I was
scrawny and weak.
After graduating, I took a job with the Department
of Defense (DoD) in Washington DC. It was here
that I ditched the running game and fell in love with the iron. Gold’s Gym Capitol Hill is
where this journey gained its traction and I started to pound the weights with a passion.
In the beginning I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and just mimicked other guys in
the gym. It actually worked and I put on 40 pounds of muscle in less than 6 months. This is
when I got hooked. I was fascinated with how my body responded and I started learning
anything and everything about training.
I got certified as a personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and
then as an Underground Strength Coach through legendary coach Zach Even-Esh. It was
after I trained with Zach that I knew I didn’t want to train in some corporate box gym. I
wanted to train my way, with my principles, and with my kind of clients. Primal Strength
Camp (PSC) was born.
Despite still holding down a full time job with the DoD, I trained and educated my ass off
before and after work, building up PSC from absolutely nothing. Now, Primal Nation is
6,800+ followers strong and growing by the day. In addition to running PSC, I have
contributed to two huge Facebook pages (Male Health Motivation and AlexBodyRevolution)
serving over 200,000 followers on a daily basis. Oh, and I still have that DoD job…
Life is a daily grind, but when you want something bad enough, you will stop at nothing to
see it through. And I will stop at nothing to ensure I help people get stronger, both physically
Thou Shalt Think Positive
To me, this is the most important thing on this list. I'm always amazed at the power of positive thinking. Thinking positive is not only important in strength training, but it's one of the most important things in life. Positive people attract positive people. Good things just seem to happen to people that stay positive. I'm sure every one of us knows someone who is always negative, the proto-typical pessimist. Chances are they are miserable all the time right? And chances are they aren't that successful, or at least not living up to their potential. Who wants to be like that? You gotta think positive. When trying to get stronger, nothing is more important. If you tell yourself "I can't", you are probably right most of the time. That's sad, because in reality, if you said "I can", you probably could do it. Don't sell yourself short.
Anyone that knows me well knows of a life changing event that I had back in November of 2007. Long story short, I ran a marathon on a whim, no training, no experience, cold turkey. The last time I had even jogged before I ran those 26.2 miles was nearly 6 months before. I don't tell this story to get a pat on the back and to look like a badass. I tell it to convey the power of a positive mindset. I finished the race because of my mind, not my body. I told myself I could do it, and that was that. I wouldn't let myself quit. Positive thinkers are happier people. If you are happy, you are probably confident. If you are confident, you have higher expectations. Higher expectations lead to more accomplishments. More accomplishments lead to bigger success. Do you want to be successful?
Becoming a more positive person also requires you to remove yourself from negativity. Don't let negative people creep into your world. They will bring you down. I don't care who they are. Get rid of them. Sounds harsh right? Well, it kind of is I guess. But it must be done. It's not easy. I've let go of some important people in my life because of their negativity. Misery loves company. Don't be a companion.
Thou Shalt Lift Heavy
Lifting heavy should be the foundation for most
strength training programs, and at least a part of
all of them. Lifting heavy makes you strong, so
what's the point of strength training if you aren't
getting strong? Think the dude in the pic looks
that way because he does 20 rep sets of soup can
curls and bodyweight squats on a BOSU ball?
It cracks me up whenever I'm in the gym and I see
some jacked dude walking around, oozing
machismo, only to find out he is weak. Don't be
that guy. It’s false advertising and criminal.
Nothing wrong with looking good my friends.
We all want that. But wouldn't you rather look
good and be able to back it up with some actual
strength? Cut down the volume, jack up the
weights and intensity, and move some iron. Make actual strength training a part of your
routine. If you want to train Primal, make it your focus. I tend to stick to a strength focused
period of training for at least a few months, and then throw in a month of high volume.
Not sold? Let me put it to you another way. At the end of a 12 week program, which of these
two dudes is going to have put on more muscle mass? The dude who can bench 275 for sets of
8, or the dude who can bench 205 for 8? I'll take 275 dude any day. He's stronger, so he can lift
more weight in the rep range you need for mass gain.
Once I started training for strength, something kicked in for me that I had been missing for a
long time in my training. I had a new competitive edge. I went to the gym to crush people.
There is nothing more empowering and motivational than being able to lift eye popping
amounts of weight and have people envy you.
Heavy weight = more strength = more mass. Simple as that.
Thou Shalt Not Isolate
Nothing drives me more nuts than seeing some skinny dude in the gym progress through 3
different variations of bicep curls, do a few sets of lat pulldowns, do some front raises, throw
in some abs, and there is your hour long workout. C’mon man!
Compound exercises are king. You should be focused on multi-joint exercises like bench
press, squats, deadlifts, military presses, pushups, and pull-ups. There is your base.
Even if your goal is build more muscle mass and not just pure strength, compound exercises
will get you there. Compound exercises recruit more muscle to complete the movements. So
if you want to build more muscle, you must use as much muscle as you can for the limited
amount of time you spend in the gym.
For those bodybuilder types that are obsessed with "the pump" as Arnold so fondly talked
about in Pumping Iron, you can still throw in isolation moves here and there, but they must
be few and far between. For me, the only isolation moves I use are triceps focused
movements, and I only do them to supplement my big lifts like the bench press or overhead
Thou Shalt Be Intense
I don't care where you train or who you train with, if you want to get strong you need to be
intense. Get your game face on, crank up the tunes, and be a damn animal.
If I'm not intense in the gym, I notice an immediate difference. I've failed at personal record
lifts before, sometimes 20 lbs more than I've ever attempted, only to dominate it on my 2nd
attempt minutes later just by amping up my intensity level.
It doesn't matter what kind of person you are to begin with. I'm a quiet and reserved dude,
but I get serious and angry when it counts. I'm not telling you to start screaming and
grunting, throwing weights around, and Hulk smashing everything. Just sharpen your focus,
visualize the lift, grip it and rip it.
The gym is not a social scene. If it is for you, you aren't getting sh*t done. Plain and simple.
You are there to work, not talk, update your Facebook, check out chicks, or take selfies in the
mirror. Focus on the task at hand and do work!
Thou Shalt Embrace Failure
If you haven't failed at something recently, you are living life too safe. Pretty presumptuous
huh? Well, sorry my friend, but it's true.
You can't be afraid to fail. You must have goals and aspirations and some of them must be
hard to attain. If they are all easy, what's the point? I have goals I set out to accomplish
EVERY DAY, and guess what? I don't reach all of them.
Failure is motivational. Failure is a learning experience. Failure is an opportunity. Give me a
room full of success stories, and I can guarantee you that you will get a room full of stories
about failure. You may fail at something, but you will learn from it, come back stronger, and
eventually conquer that same obstacle.
Here is a little story for ya. Saturday mornings are a ritual for Primal Strength Camp
members. We gather outside ready to tackle an hours worth of heavy lifting, carrying odd
objects, pulling sleds, and pushing each other. This was something I started, so therefore I try
to be THE MAN. I need to be the strongest and set an example. I can't have people beating
me at my own game.
Well, on one particular Saturday, I got dominated. Before setting out that day, I made some
dietary choices that came back to haunt me, and within 10 minutes of starting I was ready to
puke. Never could shake the feeling for the rest of the workout, and I looked pathetic. No
excuses. I failed. But the two dudes that were with me crushed it. One of them was my
training partner. Our wives are friends, and later that day I found out through my wife that
he was strutting his stuff around the house gloating.
That's fine, he earned it. But man was I pissed. That day stuck with me for that entire week
until the next Saturday arrived for me to prove myself all over again. I embraced the failure.
I let it fuel me, I was motivated on an entirely new scale, and I came back the following week
and kicked ass.
Don't let fear of failure prevent you from having big dreams. Dreams are only realized after
many failures. Nobody gets it right the first time.
Thou Shalt Covet Thy Training Partner
Training partners are a dime a dozen, but good training partners are few and far between.
I've been through a lot of them, but I can count only two in my years of lifting that pushed
me beyond my limits.
A good training partner brings a lot to the table; that extra spike of intensity that you may
not feel when you go solo; a sense of accountability that you may not always have; friendly
competition that makes you go past your normal limits because you want to kick his ass or
preserve your dignity whenever he is kicking yours; and friendships that are built on
common goals and interests that keep you motivated and interested in getting STRONGER.
You should learn from your partner and he should learn from you. My current training
partner is a beast. I've slowly brought him over to the dark side of strength focused training
and the dude digs it. But I gotta tell ya, he loves the pump. Hell, I kinda like it too every once
in a while. The point is, he makes me do sh*t I don't want to do. He'll sneak in extra reps to
one up me, and it pisses me off to no end, but in a good way. Extra sets? No problem. I've
even done curls with him. The point is, I know day in and day out, that I'll have the hardest
working dude in the gym by my side, no excuses, no "I can't do this" crybaby BS. Everyone
needs that guy to push them. Find one and don't let them go.
Thou Shalt Eat Like a Beast
If you want to train like an animal, you have to eat like one as well. You can't expect to get
stronger or gain more mass without taking in the calories.
When I first started training, I was admittedly a big wuss. I was about 145 lbs soaking wet,
and couldn't lift sh*t. Pathetic. I cranked up the weight training routine, but my real gains
came because I ate like a beast.
Tigers can eat up to 70lbs of meat in one night. Eat like a beast!
Here is how I used to eat:
7am: Protein shake
2pm: Lunch #2
9pm: Post workout shake
Doesn't sound too bad right? Well, these
were no typical meals or protein shakes.
For starters, the shakes I made were
over 1000 calories a piece. I was young and dumb and spent a lot of money on weight gainer
protein powders, which are really just loads of carbs and empty calories. And my actual
meals weren’t boiled chicken and broccoli dishes, I'm talking about massive Philly
cheesesteaks, bacon sandwiches, instant potatoes, all kinds of horrible stuff. I didn't know
what I was doing. I just thought “Must.Gain.Weight.Must.Consume.Calories." The above
doesn't even include all the "snacks" I had in between meals.
Miraculously, I didn't become a fat ass, and went from 145lbs to 185 lbs in under 5 months.
Damn! Crazy huh?
Now these days, I work my ass off just to gain a pound here and there, but the point is, you
aren't going to get anywhere eating like a bird. Eat a lot, but make it quality calories. Don't
go binge eating like I did when I was younger. I'm no nutritionist, but I tend to go heavy on
the protein and carbs, and light on the fat. If you want to cut some body fat, you gotta cut the
Generally people equate eating more to strictly gain mass, but overlook the positive effects
eating like a beast may have on your physical strength. It seems obvious right? But some
people who have goals of simply getting stronger don't think about getting bigger. I'm in that
position right now. I like the way I look and reached my weight goal a while ago, but my
quest for more strength has me reconsidering my ideal weight.
If you want a badass book about strength training, check out “The Purposeful Primitive”. In
the book, power lifter Marty Gallagher talks about eating past your sticking points. The
concept is that whenever you plateau, you simply eat more and put on more weight to your
frame to achieve bigger lifts. So, like mommy and daddy always told you, if you want to
grow to be big and strong, you gotta eat!
Thou Shalt Rest
While the hour a day you spend in the gym is important, the other 23 hours a day are
probably just as crucial. When you aren't lifting iron, not only do you need to eat like a beast,
you gotta rest like one too.
There are several rules to live by when it comes to rest.
1) Get at least 8 hours of sleep per night. A lot of your physical growth comes while you
sleep. Lack of sleep causes stress, depression, mental and physical fatigue, and doesn't allow
your body to recover from the stresses you put on it day in and day out.
Make a schedule, get into a routine, and get to bed by 10 every night. Turn off the TV. a
couple hours before you go to bed and stay off the computer. Both of these will keep your
mind in an active state and may prevent you from falling asleep easily. Try to read a book,
write in a journal, do something relaxing that will ease your mind and wind down your body.
2) Avoid training heavily more than two days in a row. Typical rest periods are 24 - 48 hours,
depending on the intensity and volume of your workout. I usually follow a two days on, one
day off approach.
Working out more than two days in a row can lead to many negative effects. If you don't
strategically place your days off, your tissues will simply not have enough time to repair
from previous workouts. Your central nervous system (CNS) may be stressed as well,
especially if you are following the 2nd Commandment and lifting heavy. CNS fatigue can
send your strength gains into a crashing halt.
Days off don’t have to be spent completely inactive, although I do recommend taking at least
one full day off and do absolutely nothing. Your other rest days can be spent in “active
recovery”. Shoot some hoops, take a hike, go mountain biking. Do something fun. You can
be active but do not stress your body too much.
3) Listen to your body. Sometimes you may just feel beat up, but maybe it isn't your
scheduled rest day. Doesn't matter. Your body is the ultimate messenger, and when it's
sending you a message, you need to listen to it. While I tend to believe it is very hard to
actually send your body into a state of overtraining, if you are feeling worn out, it might be
time to back off a little bit.
With that being said, it is important to distinguish between mental fatigue and physical
fatigue. Physical fatigue can be misleading. Often times I'll head to the gym even if I'm
feeling tired, crank out a couple of workout sets, and I'm good to go. I just needed a jolt, and I
end up having an ass kicking workout. If your body still isn't cooperating after a brief
attempt to warm it up, heed its message and back off.
Mental fatigue is a whole new ballgame. If you are mentally tired, take that day off. If your
mind isn't there, you won't have a good workout, and your gains won't be the same. Taking a
day off will re-energize you for the next day.
Thou Shalt Plan
Planning your workouts is crucial. A well developed plan can make a huge difference in your
strength training gains. Most trainers recommend planning your routines in cycles, usually
broken down by weeks and months. If you are working out on your own, or are new to the
game, it may seem daunting. Once you gain some experience, this will come more easily. But
no matter where you are in your training, you need to at least have a daily plan.
Think about how you build a house. You start with a blueprint. Strength training is no
different; you are building your body. Your plan should target your weaknesses, take
advantage of your strengths, and most importantly, be conducive to meeting your goals.
Depending on what your goals are, your blueprint needs to be built around them. If my short
term goal is to add 10 pounds to my bench, you better believe I’m increasing my triceps work,
adding in floor presses, and cranking up the weight I’m doing on all of my chest work. If my
plan is haphazard and not well developed, I’m probably not going to meet my goal.
Simply planning your daily workout will also save you a lot of time in the gym. Workouts
should last no longer than an hour, and need to be intense. Don't waste that time wandering
around aimlessly. Have a plan and execute it. You need to write it down as well. Basic
psychology shows that a person is far more likely to follow through on a commitment if they
write it down than if they just have the thought in their head. By writing it down, you now
have a contract with yourself, and you will be much more emotionally attached to that plan
and far more likely to stick to it.
Though Shalt Seek Variety
Nobody got anywhere in this world by doing the same ol thing over and over again. In the
world of strength training, you gotta switch it up.
If you are a rookie, you might make some serious gains in the first few months, only to see
them come to an abrupt halt. Veterans are painfully aware of this and know that eventually
Variety also includes the tools you use.
At Primal Strength Camp, we use all
kinds of things; chains, sleds, kegs,
punching bags, kettlebells, as well as the
standard barbells, etc. Gotta be creative.
the body will adapt to the stimulus you subject it to. You have to shock the body to make it
adapt, whether it be muscle growth, strength, better conditioning, whatever.
You can't make it adapt from doing the same tired routine over and over again. I NEVER
repeat the same workout. Every day is different. My splits remain the same, upper/lower,
my goals remain the same, but the exercises are constantly changing.
Variety helps keep things interesting, keeps your body
guessing, and helps you discover new movements that
you may really like or give you really good results. Like a
lot of people, in my younger years of training, I did the
bodybuilding sh*t I read out of these awful muscle
magazines. Looking back, damn my routine was boring.
Newbie gains kept me hitting the gym, but as soon as I
plateaued, man was I bummed. But when I learned a new
exercise, I felt rejuvenated. Now my schedule is full of
different movements, and my strength levels are through
Switching things up doesn't just mean your exercises
either. Switch up the time of day you work out, switch
up the length of your workouts, and experiment with
your eating habits. These are all things that your body
adapts to, and after a while, you plateau. Don't let this
happen. Try something new. Starting now, change one
thing about your routine and see where it takes you. I
promise you it will help.
Now let me be clear. I’m not saying seek variety in your
programs. If you are training for strength, train for strength. If you want to put on mass, do
that. Stick to the program. It could take months to see noticeable results. Too many people
these days will do something for a few weeks, not see results, and abandon it and switch to
something else. Don’t give up that easily. But also don’t go doing the same biceps routine,
same rep scheme, same weight, etc. for months on end…
Putting It All Together
Well there you have it people. 10 must follow principles to maximize your strength.
If you follow my blog, or monitor Primal Strength Camp, you will see me talk about these
Take these and use them. They aren’t too difficult, but can lead to huge progress for you in
your strength evolution. And not doing one of these could prevent you from making the
progress you are seeking. These are not debatable. Make the Primal way a lifestyle.
No excuses. No questioning. Just do it!