We all have to start somewhere, but it’s where you finish that counts. Let iconic trainer Charles Staley show you how to get the middle bit right by abolishing your bad practices and embracing the best ones


It’s a common instinct to assume that most fitness experts have always been fit or that they never make mistakes. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Case in point: me.

When I was 18, at 6’2” and 140lb (with a gut) my most memorable gym session was the one where I got stapled on the first rep of a 95lb bench press. Humble beginnings. Through my 30s and 40s, I was a lot bigger and stronger, but was fat. Now, in my 50s, I’m stronger and leaner than I’ve ever been and I have no orthopedic issues despite consistently lifting heavy four days a week. How did I get here? Like everyone else, I’ve done some things well and other things poorly.

Here are the biggest mistakes and best habits I’ve used for success.


What not to do:

Mistake #1 Not enough attention to developing muscle mass

At 56, I’d love to have more muscle, but at my age and with my training background that’s a tall order to say the least. Work on gaining lean body mass while you’re still young because later in life it’s fairly easy to maintain what you’ve already built, or even drop some muscle if you want.

Mistake #2 Insufficient protein intake

Protein is the least entertaining of the macronutrients, but it’s a key driver for staying lean and strong. Protein prevents the loss of lean body mass and keeps you full on fewer calories so you’ll be less inclined to binge on less productive foods. One gram per pound of bodyweight per day does the trick for almost everyone, and more isn’t a bad thing as long as your total calorie intake is appropriate.

Mistake #3 – Poor work ethic

I’m pretty lazy if I’m being honest. Sure, I train consistently, but my tendency is to focus on things I’m good at or consider to be fun. Rather, zero in on a weak point in every session because this will make you more powerful in the long run.


What you need to do

Best Habit #1 – Seek progress, not perfection

Maybe it’s because I’m a slacker but I’ve always thought that consistency trumped intensity. After all, how important is that killer workout you did yesterday if your typical sessions are uninspired? Similarly, who cares if you eat perfectly today when you’ve eaten horribly for the previous six days? It’s your typical habits that determine your success, not your occasional high points.

Best Habit #2 – Enlist social support

Self-improvement can be a lonely game. It involves hard work, discipline and the willingness to delay gratification. Not a lot of people are down for that, so it helps if you can find people who share your passion. A good training partner or coach is absolutely vital to keep you consistent, inspired and accountable. I’ve got three training partners and I’m the runt of the litter. As the old saying goes: you never want to be the smartest guy in the room. And this applies to the weight room.

Best Habit #3 – Cultivate a beginner’s mind

I’ve been in the fitness business for 25 years now and I’ve never felt less certain than I do today. Saying that you’ve mastered a subject is proof that you haven’t. I’ll often seek advice from young colleagues who I consider to be brilliant at what they do, and they’re often shocked to field questions from someone they consider to be their mentor.


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