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Phil Chubb
How Testing and Experimenting Helps Me in My Strength Training Journey

Phil Chubbs Stats When We Talked with Him 💪

United States
28 years
175 cm
75 kg
(165 lbs)

Follow Phil on Instagram

👋 Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training

My name is Phil Chubb, I got into strength training from a young age when I read about the benefits of fitness and exercise in middle school when I was 13.

I didn’t know much or have access to much at the time, so I would do whatever I could think of like performing 1,000 sit-ups in a day (this resulted in some serious DOMS – delayed onset muscle soreness).

I later got into martial arts and breakdancing. During a breakdancing session, one of my friends told me that with my particular style in breakdancing (I really liked freezes which are the various poses boys do on their hands that makes it look like they’re beyond gravity), that I should try something called a “Planche” which is a movement where you hold yourself in a pushup position, but with your feet in the air. I looked it up and saw that not only Planches were a thing, but various other bodyweight movements too.

I got into bodyweight strength training and later, weight training for the legs. Then, together with my wife, we later started MindfulMover: an online training that focuses on blending bodyweight strength training for the upper body, weight training for the lower body, and getting trainees the most gains they can get in the least amount of time training possible.

⏱ Describe a typical day of training

It’s about working hard on a few lifts that give you gains in all lifts.

A typical day of training for me is actually no training. It sounds funny, but I train once a week.

Most fitness coaches and trainees focus on fitting in as many sessions as they have time for and recovery for. I try to get the most out of less sessions, so I train relatively infrequently. But when I do train, I pretty much try to put all the intensity I can into each session.

I use a lot of accommodating resistance. For example, let’s say I am doing Back Squats. Not only will I load the barbell up, but I will have my wife literally push me down to the bottom of the movement on the way down. It’s basically a forced eccentric.

Instead of lowering down when I want to, I have to resist as she pushes me down to the bottom. Then, on the way up, she keeps pushing (though a bit lighter than when she pushed me down) and I have to push against the weight and her force to complete the rep. Each rep takes a while to hard, right? Well it’s not over.

After a couple reps of that, you can imagine some fatigue happens. But instead of stopping, I go until my wife has to reduce the added resistance and actually start to provide assistance. Over the course of the set, she will have to go from adding extra resistance to actually helping me on the way down and up.

So it’s basically maximal effort reps that are taken past failure. It’s pretty grueling but like I said, I want to get the most out of the least amount of sessions possible.

I do some variation of this with all our “Big 5” exercises. The Big 5 is the Back Squat, Planche Pushup, One Arm Chin-Up, Handstand Pushup, and Front Lever Row. What we have found is that these movements give what we call “free gains” towards other movements.

By performing these, you can improve in other movements that you don’t even do like Weighted Dips, 90 Degree Pushups, static holds, straight arm strength, Deadlifts, and more.

It’s about working hard on a few lifts that give you gains in all lifts. And that’s what our training and coaching is all about.

👊 How do you keep going and push harder?

I would do it anyway because I knew I “had” to.

So this is a funny question because something I have found is that now that I train less, I have plenty of motivation to go to the gym.

Back when I used to train 4-6 times a week, motivation was an issue. I would wake up and sometimes not feel like training. I would do it anyway because I knew I “had” to. But I often had issues with motivation and a bit of a “love-hate” relationship with fitness. When I was finished, I felt good. But starting sometimes was hard.

These days, I have no such issues. Since my sessions are less frequent, when they come around, I am usually pumped to do them. And the best part is if I am not pumped for a session, it’s not a problem at all. When you train 4-6 times a week, missing a day throws off the whole schedule. But when you train less frequently and train hard on those sessions, taking an extra day or two off is no problem. Often times, the extra rest actually makes the next training session feel even better.

The biggest challenge I had was figuring out what to do with my free time when I went from training so frequently to training less frequently. But that challenge was fairly easy to overcome. I just picked up some new hobbies. I got more into martial arts, read more books, learned about skepticism and stoicism, developed a meditation habit, got into movies and gaming again, and so much more.

Basically, I took all the extra free time I had and put it into other fields and endeavors. And now, instead of just being good at fitness, I have a much wider range of interests and more skills I am developing. Estoy aprendiendo Espanol tambien. (I am even learning Spanish too)

🏆 How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

At the moment, my training is doing great. A big part of it now is actually experimenting and testing for our trainees. So the general idea we have is testing “Via Negativa” or by way of removal. We do that to see how we can help our trainees make more gains in less time!

Here’s an example. People often want to have a strong Back Squat and a strong Deadlift, now we could go with the standard route of having our trainees train both, but that would take more time or mean that our trainees have to divide their time up for the goals they have.

So instead, what we did is made a test. We tested the Deadlift max and then removed Deadlifts from our training and just worked on Back Squats and pulling work like One Arm Chin-Ups. When we came back, we found our Deadlifts had improved. By removing it, we could see that the Deadlift could be improved without actually doing it. That means that we can have people work on other things and still make Deadlift gains.

We run tests like this all the time. On cardio, upper body lifts, mobility, and more. We test a lot now and the future holds more testing for us there too. The goal is to continue to find out how we can make the most gains with the least amount of work so that we can save people’s time. Then, they can use that time for whatever else they want to do in life while also having the gains to make it better.

I love video games, especially games where you make “builds” (stats and abilities) for characters. I always want to try to make the best builds for characters and these kinds of test sort of let me do the same thing for people training in real life.

🤕 How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?

You haven’t slept until you have slept in a pitch black room.

Injuries are another thing that I think benefits from managing your training frequency well.

So I think there are generally two kinds of injuries:

One is the traumatic kind that happens all of a sudden. For example, someone getting hurt during a sports practice. I think for those kinds of injuries, the key is to manage the intensity of your training practice.

I do martial arts and when doing that, I try to make sure I keep the intensity of the training at a level where both me and my partner are safe. If you’re sparring like you’re at the Olympics, it’s a bit easier to get hurt. But if you train at a pace where you can see a potential injury about to happen and make sure that you and your partner avoid it, that’s a way to make sure you stay injury-free in practice.

Two is the chronic type of injury like tendinitis. This is where I think frequency comes into play. A lot of people go back to the gym for another session before they have even recovered from their last session. If you keep beating yourself down and never give yourself a chance to recover, it’s not really a surprise when chronic injuries show up. So I think one of the ways to manage this is to use less training frequency and instead, focus on getting the most out of your session.

Train hard then recover and don’t come back to the gym until you’re ready to surpass last session. That’s how I think you can stay away from those chronic type injuries.

The other things are making sure your diet and sleep are good. We sleep 8-10 hours a night usually in a pitch black room. If I could give one sleep tip, get some blackout curtains and make sure your room is pitch black at night. So dark that you can’t see your hand in front of your face.

You haven’t slept until you have slept in a pitch black room. The first time I did that, I wondered what I had been missing my whole life. Now, I sleep like that daily and it really helps to ensure waking up feeling refreshed and recovered.

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Another one is taking time to do nothing. Literally, my wife and I will take some time each day to do nothing. No phones. No podcast. Just nothing, usually for about 20 minutes.

I think a lot of people are also constantly connected to something or taking in some sort of stimulus. Taking some time to do nothing is oddly refreshing and mind clearing. Give it a try for 10-20 minutes and see how you feel after. It’s been a huge help for us.

🍎 How is your diet and what supplements do you use?

Everyone is different and no one can tell the future.

Our diet is all about risk-management. Everyone is arguing about what’s best. Paleo versus Plant-based. Carnivore versus Vegan. Keto versus Carbs. The list goes on and on.

The problem is that we can’t be 100 percent sure about any of these diets or how a certain person will react to them. Everyone is different and no one can tell the future. And worst of all, there is evidence for and against all these diets. So how do we choose?

What we are most concerned about is unknown risk. We don’t want to take a new pill that is reported safe and then find out in 50 years that it actually has terrible side effects. We don’t want to try a new diet and then in 50 years, find out that it actually has a terrible cost after the damage is done. So we focus on taking the “de-risked” path.

Basically, eating the way our ancestors ate which is meats and paleolithic plant foods as well as certain foods that have been shown to be safe for a long time like white rice. We tend to mostly stay away from newer foods that have shown to have health issues like trans-fats, for example. It’s about staying in line with the more “de-risked” path. That doesn’t mean optimal. One of these other paths might actually be the optimal one. But we choose the de-risked one since we know more of the risk with that one rather than the newer ones where we could find out that they have issues in another 50 years.

So a good example of that is fasting. Our ancestors probably didn’t wake up and have food ready for them unless an animal decided to kindly cook itself over a fire around morning time. So we do intermittent fasting daily and every now and then, engage in longer fast where we do things like no meat or a keto fast or a very low calorie fast since our ancestors would have also likely experienced times of famine.

It’s all about what’s more known. Our ancestors ate this way a long time and many of the risk of eating this way have been uncovered. Some of these newer eating styles may be better or worse, but we haven’t seen yet and we don’t want to take that risk.

A lot of people make their nutrition about fitness, numbers, sizes, etc. We make ours about risk management.

👍 What has inspired and motivated you?

And if they don’t pass, they should be tossed out.

Hands down, the best advice I have received was from a friend who told me that I shouldn’t be afraid of testing and experimenting with fitness. He showed me that at worst, I would lose some gains. More likely would be just maintaining the current gains I have. But at best, I would learn something that would positively affect my training and our trainees training for the rest of our lives.

See, like most people, I had a bit of “loss aversion”. You know that feeling when you get something and you worked hard for it so now you are afraid to lose it? And you kind of want to stick to what got you that thing in the first place? I had that issue. I was very loss averse with my fitness.

But fitness is a place where one shouldn’t be loss averse. Unlike nutrition, where we talked about risk above, fitness doesn’t have too many hidden risks. Unless you do daily marathons or something, you’ll probably be fine and won’t do permanent damage unless you do something obviously bad like depth jumps with a heavily loaded barbell on your back off a ten foot drop.

So now, we test all the time and that helps a lot because it forced me to challenge many of the things I used to think were true.

For example, I used to think you had to train 4 times a week to make good gains. Now, we tested that and found it isn’t true. I used to think you had to do core work, we tested that and found it isn’t true either. I thought you had to do “prehab” (external rotations) or you would get injured? We found out that wasn’t true.

I don’t even warm-up for training sessions anymore and I have a lot of trainees who don’t either. Turns out, the whole idea of “you must warm-up or you will get injured” isn’t true either. You can ditch the warm-up, stay injury free, and still gain. And the best part is, you save time and develop the ability to perform without a warm-up. How awesome is that?

Without a doubt, that was the best thing I learned on my fitness journey. All fitness beliefs are to be put to the test. And if they don’t pass, they should be tossed out. Having that mindset allows us to keep testing and creating new things for our trainees.

✏️ Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?

You can test things, see if they are true, and if they aren’t, toss them and try something new.

Easily one of the things I would say to not do if you want to improve yourself is to get caught up in what we call “Blind Beliefs”. A Blind Belief is a belief you have about fitness that you don’t put to the test. You just believe it as a fact. We all know some.

  • “Don’t let your knees go past your toes when you squat.”
  • “You need to train 3-4 times a week for optimal gains.”
  • “You have to eat 1g per pound of bodyweight for muscle gain.”
  • “If you don’t warm-up, you’ll get injured.”
  • “You have to train your core.”
  • “Static holds are important for joint strength.”

And the list goes on. The problem with these Blind Beliefs is that people treat them as facts when they aren’t facts at all. They are just things people believe to be facts.

Those beliefs can slow your training down and reduce the gains you make. So don’t let them live in your head without “paying rent”. Put them to the test and see if they hold up or not. And if they don’t, evict them.

Just because a study said something or a coach proclaimed something doesn’t make it true. This is fitness. You can test things, see if they are true, and if they aren’t, toss them and try something new.

🤝 Are you taking on clients right now?

Even if your time is unlimited, it’s still “limited”.

We are taking on clients and I would definitely say we work best with people who understand the value of time.

On the one hand, we work great with the person who has a lot of other life responsibilities happening but still wants to make gains. The kind of person who may run a business, have a spouse, has kids, has other passions outside the gym, has other athletic endeavors they are into, or just doesn’t want to spend all their time in the gym.

If you are someone who can’t dedicate a lot of time but still wants to make gains, you’re someone we want to work with.

Something that makes us smile is taking someone who thinks they don’t have enough time and helping them realize that they don’t need much time to make gains. Small time investments for big gains is the name of the game.

On the other hand, we also work well with people who have no responsibilities and have more “unlimited” time but also understand that they want to spend that time on the most effective exercises.

People who basically understand the concept of opportunity cost and understand that if they take their unlimited time and focus it on particular exercises, they can pump a good amount of energy into those particular exercises and make gains in all the other exercises that they aren’t even working on.

Even if your time is unlimited, it’s still “limited” in the fact that you can’t do two exercises at one time (unless you are a mutant). So by taking that time and putting it towards the most effective exercises, this person can make gains in all their goals with just a few tools.

Trainees who understand the value of time are a great fit to work with us since they already understand what our method is about and by working with us, you are working with coaches who are constantly testing and experimenting to find even better ways to get the most out of your time.

How many coaches do you know who are risking their own gains to test on themselves so that they can help you gain more?

📝 Where can we learn more about you?

We post daily on instagram, so if you want the latest about what we are thinking these days follow us here: the_mindful_mover

We also have Mindful Mover Mail. We send a newsletter out weekly. To sign up for that you can do that here.

And if you want more info about our online coaching you can send us an email to: [email protected]

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