Big Rocks vs Small Rocks: Key To Dieting & Training Domination

You have a day to make $100,000 or you’re dead – literally – what do you do?

A) Start selling old paperback books on Ebay for $1 and have a garage sale to get rid of clothes you haven’t worn in years.


B) Sell your car. Sell house. Sell your kidney. Sell your neighbor’s elephant while he’s at work (gotta do what you gotta do).

Any of the above will bring you closer to your goal, but the first option ensures that you’ll never eat another piece of delicious birthday cake again while the second keeps you on this side of the dirt for at least another day because it gives you the biggest return on your time investment.

Let’s take this out to the gym. You have a year to radically change your physique for the better and can only choose two exercise:

A) Chinups and deadlifts.


B) Bicep cable curls and leg extensions.

When it comes time to train, look around the gym and you’ll see people using all these small rocks (aka choice “B”), day after day, with very little to show for it – these are the people who will look exactly the same a year or five from now.

Big rocks are big for a reason – they’re damn awesome, make things happen, and accomplish far more than small rocks alone. They’re all about synergy and multiple parts working together. Want big arms? Chins ups and dips will get your far better results than bicep curls and overhead tricep extensions, plus you’ll receive a better looking back and pair of shoulders as a bonus for your troubles.

Big rocks give you room for growth, for expansion, for year after year of becoming better than you were the day, week, month or year before. Are there limits? Absolutely, but the average person is so far from them that their time and energy is better served not even thinking about limits and more about what actions they can take to reach their goal.

Small rocks are isolation exercises, little ideas and obsession over the minutiae that doesn’t matter – they’re self-limiting and self-defeating by nature. You’ll have to work long and hard – much more than you would if you were employing big rocks – to make progress. You need a helluva lot more small rocks to equal the impact of just one big rock.

Small rocks asking nothing from you at all. It’s easy to stay within your comfort zone, do what you’ve always done and get what you’ve always gotten.

Big rocks don’t ask – they demand – that you become better.

Big rocks are also big because their potential for growth is ginormous. You may start bench pressing with just the bar, but after a few years of consistency and dedication to pushing yourself further and further, you’ll be far beyond that; you’re giving yourself a fighting chance from the start.

Tricep extensions? No matter how strong you get, you’ll always be limited by the amount of weight on the machine; your potential is capped at a low level. It”s like being the world’s smartest ant: no matter how much if a genius you are, you’re still an ant.

As much as I love training I have other interests outside of the gym, so I like to limit my time to 2-3x a week for between 45 & 60min. I also want to get the biggest bang for my time invested, which only leads me in one direction: towards the big rocks.

Very rarely does my training change. 3-5 exercises each training day, 2-3 sets with no more than 10 reps depending on the exercise. Variety isn’t a factor because boredom comes from a lack of results, and I have a small victory every session that keeps me going.

I’m not alone in this Eric Cressey, JC Deen, Martin Berkhan, Nia Shanks & Tony Gentilcore are just a few other fitness professionals walking the talk and filling the majority of their training with big rocks. I’ve yet to meet anyone who focused on what mattered in terms of training & nutrition and didn’t look good while doing it.

If you’re not on track, then you’re about to be. Here’s a quick rundown of what matters in terms of dieting and training. Focus mainly on these (throw a few small training rocks in there if it makes you happy, but they’re not necessary), be patient enough to see results and you’ll be rewarded by lifting yourself above the herd and actually achieving the Sexification goals that you set.


Big Rocks: Chinups, Pullups, Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press variations, Overhead Presses, Dips, Leg Press, Pushups, Hip Thrusts, Lat Pulldown variations (pretty much any compound movement that you can add a lot of weight to in the long run).

Small Rocks: Cable Fly, Tricep Kickbacks, Calf Raises, Wrist Curls, Lateral Raises, Hamstring Curls, “inner thigh” machines, crunches x infinity (pretty much anything you’re not able to add a significant amount of weight to in the long run).


Big Rocks: A caloric deficit/surplus. Adequate protein intake. Consistency to the deficit/surplus. Movement.

Small Rocks: “Fat burning foods”, meal frequency, fad diets requiring you to swear religious allegiance to certain foods, excuses.

Questions? I’m here to answer any that you may have, so let me know!

Sexification Note: Martin Berkhan dropped a bomb of a post recently that I know you’ll definitely get something out of. Check it out here.

Photo Credit: GorillaNut

Never Miss A Post Again…

Sign up for one of the best fitness newsletters, ever. I'll send you nothing but practical and actionable content.


  1. kevin says

    OK am 32 was fat at new year did p90x stuck to diet lost 50 pounds and got pretty ripped. Only problem now I weigh 150 same as skinniest wimpiest guy at work and feel small now. Was thinking of starting strength by rippetoe for a few months then lean back out with p90x again. What do u think? Should i skip 90x and just change my diet and add a little cardio to lean back out? Rippetoe equal big rock 90x equal small rock?

    • says

      Hey Kevin,

      You got it man – Big Rocks = Starting Strength, Small Rocks = P90X.

      You can use the same principles that you used during Starting Strength to lean out, so no need to even switch to P90X.

      What’s stopping you from getting going with Starting Strength on Monday? I say stop whatever you’re doing now and get thee to a barbell!

      Lemme know if you have anymore questions, Kevin, and thanks for stopping by.

      – Rog

  2. says

    Atlas sure as hell didn’t get big from liftin a pebble! Great read!

    Always good to have a reminder to cut out the small stuff and improve on the big lifts

  3. says

    Absolutely AWESOME post. Hopefully more people start focusing on the big rocks.

    P.S. – digging the butt shot at about the 2:30 mark in the video. 😉

  4. Gayla says

    Great post. Sexy training video. It’s the Batman shoes, right? Where you get your power? 😉

  5. says

    Thx 4 being there just a moment ago 2 answer my question about my post that disappeared (stupid computers/Internet!) & 4 inviting me 2 retry!

    OK, long-story-short, is I like using the ‘Big Rocks’ method u outline (I’m currently using 5/3/1) with a goal of getting stronger in the classic lifts.

    But 2 do that right, I gotta add in ‘conditioning’ to my ‘lifting’ so my recovery is faster & more complete (I won’t recover properly from ‘power sets’ of heavy lifting if I’m not in good ‘cardiopulmonary’ aka endurance / aerobic condition).

    However, there’s also the danger of ‘overdoing’ it & compromising the strength portion.

    So, my question 2u is, what if I don’t like ‘equpitment’ conditioning (prowlers, sleds, etc.), & wanna stick 2 sprints, 5k cross-country, and such, how much (& how often) is about right?

    Maybe twice a week for about an hour each time –where I mix sprints, jogging, & walking, as fast as I can??


    -Gordon in FLORIDA

    • says

      Hey Gordon,

      You don’t need to add conditioning to your lifting sessions in order to get stronger – there are a ton of strong people out there who have the conditioning of a pregnant sloth (I’d be a good example of that). Recovery is primarily about food intake as well as sleep, so I would get both of those in line before I worry about anything else.

  6. says

    Too true man!

    Today I was in the gym and a personal trainer was telling this guy to do curls and triceps extensions the entire time. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the guy. He’s made zero gains in months and hasn’t changed a thing.

    Also, I love the image of Atlas outside the Ayn Rand Institute. Have you read any of her books? If not, you have to read “Atlas Shrugged.” Best book ever written.



    • says

      That makes me a sad, sad, panda, especially when people paying good money for services like this.

      My client actually sent me a copy of The Fountainhead but I’ll add that one to my ever growing list of books to get to. At least I’ll never be bored!

      Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Mark Kelly says

    Hi I moved from a 5 day bodypart split routine about 3 months ago. i was doing along with hitt for about a year. I went fform 14 st to 10stone 10 bl’s. I am 9 foot 9 and was too skinny so I wanted to add some muscle and started doing only BIG ROCKs compound moves and a full body routine 3 days a week.

    I did this for a bit then started stonglifts 5 x 5 6 weeks ago. I am now squatting 240(pounds), Benching 195, Deadlifting 250, Over head press121, pendly row150,

    Im starting to feel it in my joints do you think its time to start move to a 2 day split A,B upper lower body type workout to give the joints and stuff time to heal? Im 39 and im eager to get back to doing weighted dips and pullups.

    or should i continue with 5×5 until i stall deload etc ?

    thanks Mark.

    • says

      Hey Mark,

      Did you only start getting joint pains after the 6 weeks on 5 x 5?

      You could cut down the volume from 5 sets down to 3 – this would knock off 10 heavy reps per set and may help with your joint pain.

      You could also stay at the same weight for a few weeks to see how you respond.

      Lemme know how this goes for you man,

      – Rog

  8. Mark Kelly says

    hi Rog,

    yea pain is in my hips and lower back. Had the back pain before but hips is new.

    i think ill lower the sets in squats as you said . I have room to push more as it isnt a
    struggle but i end up walking a bit like an old man so thanks.

    Have just found your site last night and wanted to say its top notch. Reading through all the old posts and finding some great stuff.

    Keep up the good work and thanks for the reply.

    Ta Mark

    • says

      I’d check your stance on the squats and make sure it isn’t too wide as sometimes that can aggravate your hips.

      Are you incorporating any kind of mobility drills into your warm up? If not, I would start doing them regularly as you’d start to see a world of difference.

      I’m glad you like my stuff, Mark – thank you so much *respect knuckle*

      Feel free to film some form videos and send them my way and I’d be glad to take a look at them.

      • Mark Kelly says

        Hey Rog,

        was the stance thanks. I dont do any mobility work just warm up by 40 60 80% then into work sets. Im looking into myofascial rolling. Do you have advice for mobility drills?

        thanks Mark

        • says

          Yep, definitely.

          Speaking in generalities, most people have issues with their hips, lower/upper back & ankles, so here are some drills that you can throw in at the beginning of your training session.

          Low Back
          Upper Back

          1-2 sets x 10 reps for each side at the beginning and end of your training sessions would put you in a good place.

  9. says

    Man, are you coming from a financial background? We think in the same terms )

    This are high yielders, blue chips, call them how you want. this is what we need to focus

    • says

      Haha, I’m much more of a gamer but a lot of financial terms relate to me as well.

      Big moves entail the most risk (injury, mental letdown, etc) but also the most reward usually.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *