Dr. Andrew Huberman — The Foundations of Physical and Mental Performance
Tim Ferriss: Hello, boys and girls, ladies and germs. This is Tim Ferriss for a rare in-person podcast. I know that's become the norm on YouTube and elsewhere, but this is a rare occasion and I am thrilled to have Andrew Huberman here with me. So great to have you here in person, Andrew. So Andrew Huberman, who is this Andrew Huberman? Dr. Huberman, PhD, on Twitter @HubermanLab, is a neuroscientist and tenured professor in the Department of Neurobiology at Stanford University's School of Medicine.
He has made numerous important contributions to the fields of brain development, brain function, and neuroplasticity. Work from the Huberman Laboratory at Stanford Medicine has been consistently published in top journals including nature, science and cell. For those who don't know, that's like having a sweep at the Oscars. But back to the bio, Andrew's the host of the podcast Huberman Lab, which is often ranked as one of the top five podcasts in the world by both Apple and Spotify. The show aims to help viewers and listeners improve their health with science and science-based tools. New episodes air every Monday on YouTube and all podcast platforms.
You can find all things Andrew at hubermanlab.com, on YouTube that is Huberman Lab, Instagram, HubermanLab, and also on Twitter as mentioned @HubermanLab. Andrew, nice to see you. Andrew Huberman: Great to see you. So happy to be here. I want to say I grew up listening to your podcast, although I think I was in my 30s when I started listening.
And so for me, I'm really tickled to be here because so much of how I ran my laboratory when I first became a professor was based on principles from The 4-Hour Workweek. Now mind you, my work weeks were like 100-hour work weeks. I actually lived in my laboratory with my dog — my students and postdocs can attest to that — but I incorporated a ton of the principles. I was following The 4-Hour Body slow carb diet. I was training. I had my cheat days and on and on and on.
So for me, this is kind of being transported forward and back in time. Tim Ferriss: Oh, man. Andrew Huberman: Yeah. Well, I can't say enough positive things about you and your podcast and what you've done, and as you know, this is not just because I'm sitting here in front of you because I text you all the time. In fact, I will say this, I have a notebook that dates back over a decade where at the time I was pretty lonely.
It was just me and my dog. Eventually, a great girlfriend at the time came along. But I was running my lab and there's a lot of social buffers between professors and students, understandably and necessarily. And so I was pretty lonely, and I thought, who are my friends going to be? I was in a new town, I didn't know many people, and I have this list, and I read the list the other day, I'll send you a photo, and the list was of about five or six people that I really admired and whose principles and work I was trying to incorporate into basically every aspect of my life. At the top of the list is a guy named Tim Armstrong, lead singer for Rancid, who I've recently become friends with. And so totally, that's another amazing story.
Joe Strummer, who unfortunately I never met, the great Joe Strummer, which explains my attire. He always wore a buttoned-down black shirt in his adulthood, so I decided to do that. At some point and much more related to your name, because The 4-Hour Workweek and your podcast which eventually came along, Rick Rubin, who I've had the great blessing of having on my podcast and learning from, and then Oliver Sacks, who unfortunately passed away before I ever had the chance to meet him. But anyway, I had to tell you that you were already my friend before you knew who I was.
And I did that because I would look at that list and think, okay, who do I want to try and embody in terms of ways about going through life and trying to do things right in my professional and personal life? So that was my shortlist, and I'm very proud of that shortlist. I still have it. I sent Tim the list the other day and he was like, "No way, man. This is pretty wild."
And I'm like, "You think it's wild for you, just imagine how wild this is for me." So anyway, to set the context. Tim Ferriss: Yeah, well, I appreciate that, man, and I've been incredibly impressed, not just with your research and academic bonafides and what you've accomplished there, which is a lot in and of itself.
And of course we've spoken before, but the incredible focus and force with which you have just blown the barn doors off with the podcast, which is really a service to people. So I am happy to have you here, thrilled to be spending time in person after COVID and recording remotely. So we have a ton to dive into, and hopefully I will not be the hero with clay feet.
As they say, it's all downhill from here as far as what I can do in this conversation. But I thought we could begin with perhaps revisiting in some respects, our last conversation, not to rehash it, but to simply ask the question. Since we last spoke, which was a while ago, I guess it was about maybe two years ago, what have you changed your mind on and what have you doubled down on if you have answers to both of those? Andrew Huberman: Yeah, I'll start with what I've doubled down on. I've doubled down on the idea, which perhaps I stated last time we spoke, and perhaps not. But I certainly believe that our state of mind and body at any point in time is strongly dictated by our state of mind and body in the hours and days prior to that.
And on the one hand, people are going to hear that and say, "Well duh, if you're sleep-deprived, you're going to feel like garbage. And if you're well-rested, you'll feel great." That's kind of the top contour of it.
But when one looks at the neuroscience, for instance, of sleep, you start to realize that the amount of rapid eye movement sleep that you're going to get in any 90-minute bout of sleep, because your sleep is broken up into these 90-minute segments, more or less, is strongly dictated by the ratio of slow wave sleep, AKA deep sleep and rapid eye movement sleep that you had in the previous 90-minute bout. And then when you start to look at the research in terms of waking states, you start to find that your ability to be focused, say, for a bout of work in the morning or the afternoon, or a creative brainstorm session, or I don't know, to maybe drill into some personal issue that you're dealing with during therapy or just on a walk or while journaling is not a square wave function. None of us should sit down and expect ourselves to just drop into that state.
Much of our ability to move into that state effectively, whatever effective means, whatever the target or goal of that bout as I'm calling it, is going to be dictated by what happened in the previous moments and hours. And so when I zoom out from that, what I've doubled down on in this is this idea that there are just a core set of foundational things that we have to re-up every 24 hours. I think thanks to the incredibly hard work of Dr. Matt Walker at Berkeley, The Sleep
Diplomat on Twitter, it's such a great name because it's so appropriate. A decade ago or so, it was like, "I'll sleep when I'm dead." That was the dominant mentality out there. And yeah, sleep's great, but getting stuff done is more important.
Matt has really impressed on everybody that our mental health, our physical health, and our ability to perform is so strongly dependent on our ability to get quality sleep — maybe not every night of our life; we have to be realistic — but that sleep is vital. So a hat tip is insufficient. So sleep is critical, but sleep is just one of about, I would say five things that really set the buoyancy or the foundation upon which our nervous system is able to accomplish these transitions that I'm talking about at all. And those five things are sleep — in the absence of quality sleep over two or three days, you're just going to fall to pieces. In the presence of quality-sufficient sleep over two or three days, you're going to function at an amazing level. There's a gain of function and a loss of function there.
It's not just if you sleep poorly, you function less well. You sleep better, you function much better. So sleep, I would say, is at the top of the list. Nutrients, and there you can think macronutrients and so your carnivores are only eating meat and your vegans are only eating plants and your omnivores, which is I think probably 90 percent of the world, is eating a combination of those. But quality nutrients, I think that when I look at all of the nutrition, literature, and arguments out there, it seems that everyone can agree on one thing, which is that probably 80 percent or more of our nutrition should come from unprocessed or minimally processed sources.
Minimally processed would require some cooking, but it survive on the shelf as opposed to packaged foods or highly palatable foods. So you've got sleep nutrients. But then we should also put in micronutrients, and this is where maybe we'll get into a discussion about supplementation. I think that there's supplementation or supplements is a bit of a misnomer because it implies vitamin supplements and people say, "Well, can't you get all that from food or that whey protein, isn't that just food? Wouldn't you be better off with a chicken breast?" Okay, well then when you talk about convenience and the absorption, okay, but then there's this huge category of things ranging from the kind of esoterically named things like Ashwagandha and Shilajit and tongkat ali and Fadogia agrestis — Tim Ferriss: I'm in! I'll buy all of them! Andrew Huberman: Exactly. All the herbal stuff, right? Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Andrew Huberman: You're not going to get that from food. Tim Ferriss: Yeah, totally. Andrew Huberman: So should we call them supplements at all? And so let's just say the third thing is, or the second thing is nutrients, and that includes macronutrients, and that includes micronutrients as well. So those two things. Then the third would be movement.
And this has also been an enormous transition in the last, I think just five years, which is not just for people interested in body building or power lifting or for competitive athletes, but now it seems everybody, including the elderly, understand that you need a combination of cardiovascular exercise and you need resistance training, whether or not it's with body weight or weights or machines, etc, that you need both. Not a week goes by without seeing an article in one of the major publications out there, standard media, let's call it traditional media, we'll be nice to them, traditional media that highlights some study showing that resistance training in elderly people can offset Alzheimer's or that as our friend Peter Attia has pointed out so many times that many of the end-of-life-creating injuries are due to older people stepping down, the eccentric movements. So you need movement, that's the third category. Fourth, I will argue, and I like to think that maybe I've helped this movement, if you want to call it that, is light.
In particular, sunlight in the early part and throughout the middle of the day, and trying to minimize the amount of artificial light that you're exposed to in the evening and late night hours most of the time, because you have to live life, just fundamental. And then I think the last category that's important is social connection, AKA relationships, let's just call it relationships, because that can include relationship to self. So those things set up the core foundation. And I think one way to think about them is just as a list. Another is to think about them in terms of a schedule basis.
And that's how I've really doubled down is I realize that every 24 hours I need to invest something into each one of those things. So I think that 10 years ago, or five years ago, or even two years ago, I used to think, okay, what's the workout split? Or how am I going to eat for the next couple of months? What am I trying to optimize for? Is it muscle? Is it fat loss? Is it just maintaining? Is it energy? Is it focus? That's all fine and good. But sleep, nutrients, exercise, light, relationships, those really establish the foundation of what I consider to be all of the elements that create our ability to move as seamlessly as possible between the states that we happen to be in and the states we desire to be in.
And when I zoom out and I think about what are the major struggles that I, and it seems everyone deals with, it's like how to get more focused. So we can talk about what do you take, what's the supplement? But you have to say, "Well, how are you sleeping? Have you done any exercise?" You really always find yourself, or I find myself taking 10 steps back and then moving through the sequence of five things before you can even begin to talk about whether or not taking three or 600 milligrams of Alpha GPC and how often to do that and does it work, and yes, it works, etc. But those things really set the foundation. And so I like to think of those five things every single day. You have to re-up on sleep every 24 hours or try to, you have to re-up on movement every 24 hours. You can go a day or so immobile, but you better move the next day.
And ideally, you're moving seven days a week. Doesn't necessarily mean trained to failure and running a marathon seven days a week. You can Goggins your life or you can not Goggins your life. For those of you who don't know, I'm referring to David Goggins there, by the way, who seems to never stop moving. Although I just learned meditates two hours every night, every night. And I'm inclined to believe when he says that, that he indeed does that.
You need nutrients, even if they come from stored sources, even if you're going to fast. You're going to fast for a day or two, okay fine, I've done that. I know you've done that.
I would put hydration under nutrients too. So you can drive nutrients from stored fat, protein, etc, glycogen. The relationship it's light is you're going to need that every 24 hours. You're going to need sunlight, even if through cloud cover, and you're going to want to avoid bright artificial lights at night, not every night, but most nights of your life. And then that relationship's one is the one that maybe we can go into in a little bit more depth at some point, but it requires focus, it requires attention, every 24 hours.
Now, that doesn't necessarily mean you have to see friends, talk to friends, text friends every 24 hours. Some people are far more introverted than others, but then you're working on your relationship to yourself in that solo time, and hopefully when you're spending time with others as well, that has some internal repercussions. So if I've doubled down on anything, it's the understanding that there is no so-called optimization. There is no real interest, at least from me, in trying to layer in other things unless I'm paying attention to each and every one of those things every 24 hours. You have to re-up on each and every one of those five things every 24 hours.
And if you don't, you can get by for a day or two, but pretty soon you're going to hit that wall where you won't be able to do any of the things that most people are actually seeking to do. And the last thing I'll say about that is I think people hear a list of those five things and they think, "Gosh, okay, well that must be nice for you, Andrew and Tim. You wake up, you look at sunlight, you guys don't have kids, you don't have to worry about kids running around. You can exercise."
There are ways of layering in the protocols that re-up as I'm referring to, these five things every 24 hours that also include other people in your life, kids, pets, etc. Exercise certainly can include that as well. But I would argue that there is no showing up properly for yourself and for the other people in your life unless these things are being handled.
And it's not about becoming soft and cushy, it's actually about becoming quite resilient and effective. And I think this for me it seems so simple, but as our friend Paul Conti said to me recently, he said, "After all the analysis and pouring through things and the complicated notions of the subconscious…" he's a psychiatrist, after all, "...in the end, really great mental health is about simple practices, like first principles of self-care."
So to which I raised my hand and said, "Well, what is a first principle of self-care? I'm a biologist, after all." And he said, "Aha. It's basically the things that we were just talking about." There's those five things.
And so I'm doubling down, I'm tripling down on those as essential to the point where nothing else really happens for very long unless those five things are tended to. Tim Ferriss: Question. Of those five, let's just say, if you had to pick one that you were — neglecting may be a strong word, but underweighting, that you are now weighting differently, what would it be and what have you done? What have you added or changed or subtracted? Andrew Huberman: I'll have to pick two. Let's do — Tim Ferriss: Both, then. Andrew Huberman: Yeah.
The two are movement, really changed the way that I train and exercise to some extent. And actually my whole philosophy on what's possible in terms of training and how to incorporate it into a week in a way that really works to build strength and endurance and feel really good in one's body all the time. And then the other one is relationships, which probably reflects place in life where I'm 47 now. I've chosen to delay having a family, but that's a primary focus. But also having done a lot of personal work toward my mid-40s, I thought I was "there." And then realizing that — Tim Ferriss: It's a trap door.
Andrew Huberman: It's a trap door. And then realizing that, I guess here again, I'll use a language that Paul uses, which is that there were some unresolved core conflicts. And this idea of core conflicts is really, I think, the most appropriate way to put the important psychological stuff that people need to work through. Everyone has them, many people have trauma, not everyone has trauma, but as defined as an event that fundamentally changes the way that you nervous system works, such that you function less well in some or many domains of life. Again, I've robbed that definition from Paul Conti.
I'm far less eloquent than he is in delivering it, but I think realizing that there's still some core conflicts that I needed to resolve. And I'm going whole hog on that, and it's been interesting to say the least. Tim Ferriss: So let's start with perhaps the easier one. Movement.
What have you implemented? What have you embraced or cut back on in the movement category? And I'm very interested in this personally because I have really taken this as one of a few of those five to focus on myself in the last, I would say year. Because I've done a lot of training, let's just say in the last 10 years, but I've not done a lot of competition and I miss developing athleticism. And if I take as an assumption that we have largely evolved to move through space to actually move and navigate, ski touring is just one example. So putting on skins, these are actually, they used to be actual animal skins, now they're synthetic, but you put on skins on the bottom of skis and you effectively NordicTrack your way up the mountain with switchbacks, and then you take them off, you do a transition, you ski down, you rinse and repeat. But the experience of being, if you choose your environments in a location where you get lots of sunlight in the morning and early afternoon, symmetrical exercise, movement where you're not too heavily weighting one side or the other, there are benefits to asymmetrical types of exercise.
But I have found this to just be absolutely, I don't think it's an overstatement to say revolutionary for my physical and mental well-being. And you also get, in this particular case for me, a degree of hip extension that I really just do not get in my day-to-day existence otherwise. So I'm putting that out there just as an example and an explanation for why I want to dig a little bit deeper on the movement side. So what have you ended up implementing? Andrew Huberman: Well, first of all, let me just say that your statement about movement being so fundamental to who we are as a species, the Nobel Prize-winning — physiologist is really what he was — Sherrington said that, "The final common path of the entire nervous system is movement." Which I sometimes think about because we often think that our emotions somehow impact the world, but they really don't, except insofar as we say things or do things.
The other way to put this is the evolutionary biologist will say, "There is no fossil record for the brain." If you look at brains, it's only what people actually did with the internal architecture of their brain. It all boils down to movement or vision, I would say, because I'm a vision scientist. But when you look cubic millimeter by cubic millimeter through the brain, if you take the circuits devoted to movement and the circuits devoted to vision, you've got about 75 percent of the human brain. So that's a lot. The rest is important too, of course.
Movement wise. Okay, so we did a guest series. This was a six-episode guest series with Dr. Andy Galpin, who's a professor of kinesiology, Cal State Fullerton, and his laboratory works on, does everything from muscle biopsy all the way up to working with competitive athletes. So they'll do deadlifts or boxing or whatever it is, or students running on treadmills, huge range of subjects, and then they'll stab out some muscle — the little cork of muscle.
And you've had this done right? This was in The 4-Hour Body. Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I did a muscle biopsy and videotaped the entire process in the Sports Science Institute of South Africa. "Tim tartar" is what I called it when it came out.
So good. Turns out my muscle enzymes are, if it's possible to be below some type of graph representing Homer Simpson, like citrate synthase and these various elements, it would be very helpful for endurance which I seem to lack. Andrew Huberman: Bur you're built for explosiveness.
Tim Ferriss: I'm built for a very short-duration explosiveness, which is ironic when you consider that I'm embracing ski touring because I am — I'm not like Kílian Jornet or any of these folks who would be very well-built for such a thing. Andrew Huberman: Well, we make a good team because I've never had a muscle biopsy. But I assure you that when I start running distance, I can progress very fast. I'm not particularly strong, I'm not particularly weak, but I'm just not particularly strong and very little explosiveness, very little hops, which is why skateboarding wasn't the right sport for me.
Despite my deep desire, it just didn't happen. But in terms of what I learned from Andy, a couple of key principles fell out of the, and keep in mind, these are peer-reviewed studies from his laboratory and many other laboratories of which he's an expert. And I went deep into this literature with him for that series. Concurrent training, meaning getting better at distance and getting stronger is absolutely possible. I did not think that was possible. I'm a big fan of the late Charles Poliquin and others who said, "You want to build muscle, build muscle.
You want to be a runner, be a runner." And I think at the extremes, that's true. But the data really pointed to the fact that you can train for many things concurrently. I took a step back from everything I learned from Andy over the last few years in that series and resculpted my training program so that on any one given day, I'm training for something very specific with the understanding that one can make progress in a lot of different domains of fitness. In fact, the way that Andy puts it, I think, is better than fitness.
He says techniques and methods are many, but they're only a few set of core adaptations that your body can make. So you're really just trying to create adaptations. Whether or not you do it with a kettlebell or a bar or a dumbbell or a hammer strength machine doesn't really matter. You're trying to create certain adaptations by using certain loads, moving things at different speeds.
But that is also true of endurance and running. So what I figured out was that there's an optimal training schedule for me that allows me to target one specific thing each day. Tim Ferriss: What are some of those specific things? Andrew Huberman: Yeah, endurance, strength, hypertrophy, VO2 max, heat and cold tolerance.
I can talk about why that is. And also, I should mention each one of those days, and I can spell this out very, very simply for you, each one of those days is also designed to indirectly support one of the other adaptations I'm trying to accomplish. So let me explain in short form, and if you want more detail, I can give you more detail. My training week starts on Sunday because Sunday sits leftmost on the calendar. Sunday, I make it a focused effort to move as much as possible, ideally outdoors.
I'm thinking endurance. I essentially want to be like a mule. I'm just thinking "Be like a mule."
I actually have this shirt — Tim Ferriss: That's going to be in the headline of this episode. Andrew Huberman: Yeah, yeah, exactly. I actually have this shirt that I sometimes like to wear on those days.
It's not a black buttoned-down shirt, but it has a picture of a sloth and it's crossing its three sloth fingers like Wolverine, and that's like what I'm trying to embody. I'm trying to embody the sloth. So what I'll do on that day is, because sometimes it's a social day with other people in my life, if I'm on my own, I'll throw on an eight or 10-pound weight vest. They have these thinner ones now that aren't these mirror vests that where you don't look like you're in law enforcement or you're trying to pretend you're in the seal teams, which I'm not, never was. But they have these thinner ones that sit a bit more flush. I forget the brand name now, but I don't have any relationship to them.
I'll get it for you, but I really like this one. And I'll head out for probably a 75-minute to a 90-minute slow jog with some hills. And I'll try and nasal breathe the whole time. I'll often listen to a podcast or a book.
Sometimes I'll just let my mind drift. That's if I'm on my own. If I'm with other people, what I will do is I'll fill up a backpack with a bunch of heavy stuff, usually some water in there too, and drink it as I go. And I'll do three or four or five hours of just hiking and just trying to be outside as much as possible. The specific goal of that day is endurance.
Just keep going. And what I notice is because of the other things I do in the previous days, the 10 or 20 minutes, which come at the start, really suck. I either want to go faster, like these little aches and things.
But what's amazing is somewhere in that 25, 30-minute period, you start to feel really good. You actually start to adapt to it right then. You kind of go, "Okay, this is about the heart rate I'll use.
This is about the breathing rate. So this is zone — Tim Ferriss: What is happening at that point physiologically or neurologically or both? Andrew Huberman: I'm glad you mentioned neurologically. I think physiologically, they're the standard things that happen during exercise. You're getting warmer, so joints are more fluid. If your cardiovascular system is able to fuel the relevant muscles, but you're not over, not shuttling too much fuel to specific muscle groups, etc. Because of course, I could be stressed when I start that.
I could be relaxed, I could be tired, depending on how well slept the night before. But neurologically, what happens is really important, and we know this from data, what you're starting to do is you're starting to incorporate what are called central pattern generators. Central pattern generators are what allow you to engage in a repeated movement without voluntary attention to it. Very different than say, squatting or front squatting or doing curls or something where you're trying to focus on each rep, fundamentally different. Tim Ferriss: So it's like the autopilot button appears on your steering wheel after 30 minutes.. Andrew Huberman: That's right.
And at that point your mind can really attend to other things. And of course, as your body warms up, you're also able to achieve much more output. So you actually are getting better and more efficient as you progress. Now that that's weird. Most exercise doesn't work out. Tim Ferriss: It is weird.
But as an intrepid, pseudo-endurance athlete who's at least really embraced this ski touring, I've done a lot of it in the last six weeks, the first 30 to 45 minutes are generally terrible for everybody. And then you click into a rhythm and you feel like you've accessed an extra set of batteries. Andrew Huberman: Yeah. It's neural, and I think Andy would agree, it's neural. You're engaging the proper amount of what are called upper motor — you have upper motor neurons and lower motor neurons. Lower motor neurons reside in the ventral spinal cord.
They're the ones that degenerate in ALS. They're the ones that, fortunately most people don't degenerate and cause contractions of the muscle fibers. They are directed by upper motor neurons, which are the ones in your brain that allow you to generate voluntary movement. However, the upper motor neurons and the lower motor neurons are happy to engage in a central pattern generator type circuit if you carry out something repetitively for long enough.
So as you are able to take your mind off of the voluntary parts of the movement, it just becomes easier. And what you end up finding is that your system becomes very, very good at doing, forget small steps or jogging, I'm not going excruciatingly slow, but for some people it seem really slow. But that run or that long-weighted hike accomplishes the endurance piece. It checks off the box of the zone two cardio requirement. Not all of it for the week, but a lot of it.
Tim Ferriss: And for the lay folks out there, zone two would be, you could have a conversation, but you really don't want to. Andrew Huberman: That's right. Tim Ferriss: As Peter might describe. Peter Attia. Andrew Huberman: Yeah.
And Peter's big on doing long Sunday rucks. He throws on a rucksack because he's tougher than me. Tim Ferriss: Well, you're doing the same thing.
You're just filling it full of water and other heavy — Andrew Huberman: I have a feeling his rucksack is heavier than mine. Peter is, I've trained with Peter. Peter likes to push himself. These Sunday long, slow jogs or hikes are really for my mind as much as they are for my body.
And I'm convinced that they also carry over to my ability to endure boring stuff during the week. But also it just my ability to work longer for longer bouts. So that's Sunday, also gets me outside a lot. And oftentimes on Monday, because of the constraints of the work week, I'm not going to be able to be outside as much as I would like. So you get a lot of sun and movement on Sunday.
You feel pretty terrific on Monday. And let's just earmark what we, or go back to that earmark earlier, which is that the state that we're in on Monday has a lot to do with what we did on Sunday. So I'm trying to optimize for Monday in some ways too, but it's really about endurance.
Then Monday is, the goal for me is to train my legs, just get a leg workout on Monday. First of all, I just like the way that sounds to myself, like legwork workout on Monday, but it also sets up the work week really nicely. Here's why. I'm going to train my legs the way that's always worked best for me for training, which is a warmup, and then two to three, maybe four hard sets, kind of Mike Mentzer or Dorian Yates. It's not with four straps and all of that. But what we're talking about is warming up and then doing hard sets that are heavier or more repetitions than the last time.
Tim Ferriss: And just so I'm clear, are we talking about multiple sets of the same exercise, single sets of four different exercises? What are we talking about? Andrew Huberman: Yeah, we're talking about two to four sets, but usually two to three of two exercises per muscle group. And I'll explain what that is in a moment. I should mention that the reason we're training legs is that everyone should train legs. So your large muscle groups, I'm trying to maintain some lower body strength or build lower body strength and explosiveness. The data that I see on longevity and just simply ability to perform different sports and to just feel strong throughout the body is strongly rooted in the legs. So don't skip leg day.
Tim Ferriss: Legs and hips, folks. Andrew Huberman: Yeah, exactly. Tim Ferriss: Feed the wolves.
Andrew Huberman: It's kind of funny how glutes have become the new biceps. This is what I heard, glutes are the new biceps. Growing up, this was not the case.
It was like, the '90s,. everyone was like these waify — I went to a school of waify hacky sacker dudes with the flowy hair. I wasn't one of those. All the girls liked those guys, a bunch of skateboarders, the skinny skateboarders, and it was the kind of waif era. I don't know what it is now, it doesn't matter, but train your legs, folks. Having strong legs is great and — Tim Ferriss: Or learn to hacky sack.
Andrew Huberman: Exactly. Hacky sack. I'm sure that's a great skill for the mind for other reasons. So the '90s are coming back popular in a popular — Tim Ferriss: That's huge. Andrew Huberman: Style.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. You see the youngsters with the Nirvana shirts. Andrew Huberman: That's amazing.
Tim Ferriss: It's all coming around. Andrew Huberman: Amazing. Tim Ferriss: What was old is once new again. Andrew Huberman: Exactly. Those were good years.
So good years, bad clothes. So Monday is really about getting that leg work workout in to make my whole body strong. Tim Ferriss: And what exercises do you perform? Andrew Huberman: It's walk in. Oftentimes I'll do calf work because, unlike you, I need work there. Tim Ferriss: Oh, I need calf work.
That was the weak link in the chain for all of the winter sports I've been doing for the last six weeks. Andrew Huberman: I definitely do a lot of calf work. So I'll just walk through it, I am really big on tib raises. I warm up with tib raises. Training the front — Tim Ferriss: Tib raises meaning the tibialis anterior? Andrew Huberman: Yeah. Tim Ferriss: Like dorsiflexion, raising your toes towards your knee? Andrew Huberman: Yeah, so this is a huge addition.
My program, I'm a huge fan of Ben Patrick, Knees Over Toes Guy, as he calls himself on Instagram. I started doing tib work about two years ago, seriously doing tib work. So tibialis raises, you can do this also leaning against a wall at an angle with your back against the wall and your feet out in front of you with your heels on the ground and touching your toes to the ground, and then lifting them up for repetitions of 25 to 30. Or if you can have a tib raise machine, as they're called, that's great. I warm up with tib work. Why? Training my tibs, as they're called, definitely makes the calf work more effective, never could grow calves or getting my calves strong, gotten them substantially bigger and stronger by training tibs, but more importantly perhaps helps posture, got rid of my right side sciatica.
I always had this right side leaning in pain, and I'm going to get teased for saying this, for me, anyway, I can run like a beast now. No knee pain, no back pain, no shoulder pain. I can just run and run and run. So training your tibs turns out to be key and it turns out it has everything to do with the, we'll avoid jargon here, bringing your toe closer to the kneecap as you generate your stride, not having the floppy feet. So if you lay down every night and your toes are just flopping towards the end of the bed, your tibs are weak. A lot of people with knee issues have weak tibs.
Tim Ferriss: Well, hold on. So if you're in the bed, you've got your sheets and blankets on top, and your feet are flopping forward, are you sleeping like a G.I. Joe figure with your toes pulled up to your knees, or what's happening? Andrew Huberman: No, I just mean that if your toes are in a state of flaccid relaxation, if your feet are flaccid, not good. Tim Ferriss: flaccid toes, folks, red light. Andrew Huberman: A lot of people who run are smacking their feet against the ground.
Ben cued people to this, tib work is great for the calves, it's great for the knee, it's great for the hip, that's all very clear. And I think just a lot of people have overtrained their calves and not balanced it out with tib work, it would be doing a lot of bicep working and not a lot of tricep work, or a lot of quad work and not a lot of hamstring work. You have to work both sides of the limb. And I think our friend Kelly Starrett would agree. Tib work has changed everything for me. Posturally, I have no pain any longer.
Tim Ferriss: I just want to lodge a formal complaint against Kelly Starrett, people should look him up, because he is a large man. Andrew Huberman: Very. Tim Ferriss: He's Quadzilla. He's 230, maybe, former high-level competitive kayaker. I think he celebrated his 40th birthday by doing a standing back flip, running an ultra, and something else, and he's a really good skier. And I just want to say it really upsets me.
That he has no discernible physical weaknesses. It's very irritating. Andrew Huberman: And a nice guy.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, and a nice guy. Andrew Huberman: And a nice guy. He's very, very strong. 600-pound deadlift. Tim Ferriss: Yeah, he's a strong unit. Andrew Huberman: He's a beast.
Tim Ferriss: So tib work. Andrew Huberman: Tib work. So I start with tib raises, so it's going to be a couple warmups, maybe a 12-rep warmup, an eight-rep warmup, and then I'll do three sets per tib of anywhere from six to 10 reps. Andy Galpin told me, and the literature supports — people like Brad Schoenfeld and others have shown that for hypertrophy, for muscle growth, six to 30 reps, anywhere in there can get you hypertrophy if you go to failure and if you go hard.
I personally like to keep my work resistance workouts an hour or less. I like to train in the more or less the five to 10 repetition range for strength and for hypertrophy. And I'm going for a mix of both. So I train tibs, then I do calf sled or standing calf raises, same thing, two to four sets, five to eight, maybe 10 repetitions.
Tim Ferriss: Are these sets to failure? Andrew Huberman: These are sets to failure. And long ago I had gift of learning from the great Mike Mentzer and these are sets to failure. I can't budge another micro inch, but I'm not quaking and I'm not breaking form.
I'm trying to keep everything nice and taught and rigid because I can't afford an injury at this point. Not because I'm a competitive athlete — Tim Ferriss: No flaccid feet. Andrew Huberman: No flaccid feet, yeah. I'm telling you the tib work is a game changer, and Knees Over Toes Guy, Ben Patrick, is the one who's been teaching people that, yes, everyone can dunk, most everyone can dunk. He does dunks into back bends and all this stuff. And it largely hinges on tib work and quality posterior chain work, things like Nordic curls.
So I'm training calves, that takes about 10, 15 minutes total. I try and move relatively quickly through that. It's only two to three minutes rest, maybe four if I'm going for a heavy set. Then I'm weaker in the hamstrings than I am in my quads so I do two warmups and then two to four working sets of lying leg curls, pretty standard stuff, and then I go to — Tim Ferriss: Lying leg curls meaning on a machine? Andrew Huberman: Yeah, on a machine. Tim Ferriss: Not reverse hamstring? Andrew Huberman: I have a Nautilus machine or something. Not seated, doesn't work for me, just lying leg curls, and not the hoist machines that move with you to make it easier.
No. And maybe the occasional forced rep if somebody's there to help me. Then I go do two to four sets, but typically three, of glute-hammer raises, which is an incredible exercise.
The equipment isn't in every gym, but I'm doing about three or four sets of glute-ham raises going slow. And this is basically if you were going to do a deadlift, everyone knows what a deadlift is, but now take the ground and rotate it 90 degrees and make it the wall. That's what a glute-ham raise really is. It allows you to do a deadlift, but then at the top do a leg curl. So if you think about it that way, you just tilted the ground, you just rotated it counterclockwise 90 degrees. Tim Ferriss: We'll get a link to a YouTube, folks.
Andrew Huberman: Yeah, exactly. Glute-ham raise is a great lower back, so entire posterior chain. So then I'm done with calves and hamstrings, and then I'll do two or three sets of leg extensions, so maybe a warmup and then two or three sets of working leg extensions, which for whatever reasons are incredibly painful, I hate them, but they work to isolate the quads, and then two or three sets of working hack squats after a warmup hack. Hack squats, heavy, heavy, heavy, heavy. And then I'm done. I'm out.
Monday's done. Now this is, again, going back to the overall theme, the idea is to — Tim Ferriss: Why hack squats specifically versus other forms of squats? Andrew Huberman: Back squats, for me, I always got a internal hip pain, I had every squat coach in the world tell me how to do it better, even tell me I was doing it, and then I end up with the same thing, and I don't really care if I can squat X amount of weight. I'm doing it for strength.
Tim Ferriss: You're not doing it for a power lifting competition? Andrew Huberman: No, doing it for strength and aesthetics. Aesthetics just because it's some balance. I'm not trying to get huge legs, but I'm 6.1, 220. I sit more or less right there all the time.
My body fat goes up and down, might gain five pounds or lose five pounds, but I'm hovering around there. I don't have any interest in being much larger or much smaller. I want to keep my strength, maybe build some as I get older.
And so hack squats allow me to put a lot of weight on there and keep my nice right angle between the hip and my back. Tim Ferriss: Can you describe for folks, just in case they're going to go searching for this, what is the visual of a hack squat? Andrew Huberman: Hack squat, you're sitting back, you're back is against a sled, you're holding the handles up near your ears, and then you're squatting down, your feet are on a 45-degree or, ideally if you can find it, a 30-degree platform below you. So it's not a leg press, it's a hack squat. Now for people that don't have access to these, and unfortunately a lot of gyms don't have them anymore or just don't keep them around for whatever reason, weighted sissy squats, as they're sometimes called, can work where you're holding onto a plate and you're squatting down while holding onto a pole.
Tim Ferriss: It's deceptively hard to do if you do it under control and with good technique. Andrew Huberman: And if you're doing your tib work, you don't have to — Tim Ferriss: Great way to stretch your quads in ski boots too, if you're going up in — Andrew Huberman: Recently our podcast team took a little ski trip, I was snowboarding, and it's been a long time since I've been on a snowboard, but you start to feel how many of these movements translate, as you've pointed out. And I should say that the sissy squats, a lot of people think you can't bring your knee out over your toe. And this is what Ben Patrick has really been trying to impress on people, look at skateboarders land, their knees go out over their toes, a foot beyond their toes. Look at parkour, gymnasts — Tim Ferriss: Olympic weight weightlifters.
Andrew Huberman: This whole knee can't pass the toe thing is just silly. So you can feel very comfortable and very strong at the bottom of one of these sissy squats or hack squats that way. And so the whole purpose of that Monday workout, it's the opposite of what I'm doing on Sunday, it's get stronger, maintain some size, but really get stronger in the legs. Tim Ferriss: And just for people listening who are like, "For fuck's sake, it's going to take us six hours to get to Saturday," part of the reason that I want to dig into this day specifically is because it's so neglected. People do not tend to exercise with a focus on their legs, but the direct and collateral benefits are so numerous that I want to just drill into this.
Andrew Huberman: When you look at the literature on cognitive improvements from resistance training, it's not from bicep curls, it's not from bench presses. I suppose it could be from things like dips, which are like a upper body squat of sorts, especially if they're weighted or with rings or something, but training the legs is key. And so, as I said before, there are two goals. One is to get the legs stronger, the other is that I'm trying to create a systemic anabolic effect on the body. Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I was just about to say, if you want to lose body fat also, the systemic endocrine/anabolic effect from doing this lower body exercise is significant. Andrew Huberman: It's real work.
And resting long between the sets, especially the hamstring and quad work, four or five minutes, so you start to feel lazy, but you're going all out, you're breathing really hard after the set, sometimes you feel like you're going to pass out. I haven't puked from a leg workout yet, which people tell me means I haven't really trained hard, but I just say that I just don't have a weak stomach like the rest of them. Tim Ferriss: Look, as Kelly Starrett would say, "20-rep squats work just great and you'll puke into a bucket, but you're not going to be able to do much else for the next week if you do them really intensely." It's going to hurt you every time you sit on a toilet seat, so you're not going to be doing a whole lot of basketball very well.
Andrew Huberman: I want strong legs, I want a strong body, I want a body that can accomplish endurance, and I want the cognitive effects. So you get that systemic anabolic effect. There's another practical reason for doing this on Monday, which is sometimes I might not train again until Thursday.
And if you've trained your legs properly, you can know that you initiated a number of good processes in your brain and body. Tim Ferriss: Made a down payment for the week. Andrew Huberman: You made a bit of a down payment. Also, if you think about the neural circuits involved in generating the kinds of movements I just described for the Monday workout, they're fundamentally different than the kinds of movements and neural circuits required for generating movements.
So the Sunday long workout, they're both legs, you're running on your legs or walking your legs, of course, but very, very different. Different muscle fiber types, different motor neurons involved. Tim Ferriss: Different range of motion too. Andrew Huberman: Different range of motion and different mindset required.
And keep in mind the entire leg workout takes 10 minutes of warm up and about 55.0 minutes of training. Tuesday is very different. Oh, and by the way, Monday is a very heavy workday for me. Typically, we launch podcasts, I do all my own social media, so I post the assets, I really like doing that, respond to comments, dealing with grants, dealing with papers.
So Monday is heavy work day, so getting the leg workout done early on Monday is really key for me. These days, I don't ever really do resistance training past 11:00 a.m. and ideally earlier in the day.
And we won't go into whether or not it's fasted or fed or other because I've covered that. I have a toolkit where I list out some of that and how different processes layer together, and I can link to that. Tim Ferriss: I would also say, not to interject, but I will, if people are like, "But wait, I can't start until I know if it's fasted, or non-fasted, or if I should be swinging the dead cat over my head on Tuesday or Wednesday night." It's just get started.
You've got plenty to get started. Andrew Huberman: Yeah, I do it fasted, but I drink caffeine first, and water. And listen, I usually eat a bit more on the weekend. This is great. Sunday night you're putting in your fuel sources for your Monday workout.
There are all sorts of ways this layers together. Tim Ferriss: Cookies. Andrew Huberman: I'm not a cookie guy. Tim Ferriss: I'm just kidding. Andrew Huberman: For me it's like pizza is the — I do love pizza.
No cheat days anymore for me however, I haven't done one in a while. I'm actually thinking of going back on The 4-Hour Body, just try it and do it. It's got to still work.
Tim Ferriss: I said cookies, I'll make a very embarrassing admission, which is I am going to be going back onto strict slow carb, and so I had these incredible cookies last night. We're not going to spend a lot of time on this because we do need to get to Tuesday, but it was my last hurrah before locking down the fort. So yes, I'm getting back on — Andrew Huberman: Let me know, I'll start with you. Lots of stories about cheat days.
My ex-girlfriend, we used to do the cheat days together, and at one point, I'll blame myself, we were in couple's therapy and they were asking, "So describe a week for yourself." And she's like, "Well, then on Sunday we're eating eight croissants." And this therapist was looking at us, laughing so hard, trying not to laugh like, "What in the world is this?" But we had a good time with it. She was one of these mutants that could just eat anything, drink anything, and feel fine the next day, and never put on pounds. Tim Ferriss: I know the type. Andrew Huberman: So the Tuesday is very different.
Tuesday, I don't want to call it a recovery day, but Tuesday I'm doing something really different. First of all, my legs need recovery, so what I'll do is substantial amounts of deliberate heat exposure and deliberate cold exposure. Yes, I do cold showers in the morning first thing nowadays.
Yes, it is a bad idea to do cold water immersion after hypertrophy training. So just for the record, you don't want to get into an ice bath in the six hours after a hypertrophy training because it can blunt the hypertrophy. It blocks the inflammation, which is exactly what you want to trigger the adaptation of hypertrophy.
But Tuesday is really about getting the maximum effect of heat exposure and cold exposure. I've done multiple episodes on each one of those, I learned about deliberate cold exposure from you, so thank you, Tim. I do a protocol which is pretty intense, designed to amplify growth hormone, stimulate a bunch of positive, mood-promoting hormones that last not just days but weeks, say the literature, and just get better at it. So I'll do 20 minutes of sauna, hot sauna. Tim Ferriss: What does hot mean? Andrew Huberman: I'm up to 260 now.
But I worked up to that. You can check out the Banya, I'll give a plug to these folks, they're Spa 88 on Wall Street in New York. They are amazing. They are incredible.
They have a hot Russian sauna. Tim Ferriss: They have very hot sauna. Andrew Huberman: And Archimedes Banya in San Francisco is great.
A couple of notes about that one, it's clothing optional. I wear my swim trunks. Tim Ferriss: Boo! How are you going to show off those glutes you're working so hard on? Andrew Huberman: But it is, so just know what you're getting into, it's co-ed and clothing optional. And it is in Hunters Point, Bayview, which is a rough neighborhood.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I wouldn't go for a jog. Andrew Huberman: Yeah, don't leave anything in your car, but don't do that anywhere in San Francisco now. So 20 minutes in the sauna, very hot, three to five minutes in the cold plunge up to the neck, back into the sauna for 20 minutes, back into the cold plunge for three to five minutes, back into the sauna for 20 minutes, back into the coal plunge for three to five minutes.
It's work, but it's amazing in the sense that you recover very well from the leg day, you generate all the hormone neurotransmitter type of adaptations that one wants, and you get very, very good at tolerating heat and cold. And I should mention, during these times, if there isn't someone else there, I'm listening to books, I'm thinking, I'm putting this work and time to use, so there's multiple things going on there. Then Wednesday, I do one of two things. I'm either going to do a shorter duration than Sunday cardiovascular training workout, so I'm thinking about five minutes of warmup and then about 25 to 30 minutes of usually running for me, where I'm just trying to get out and cover as much distance as I can at a fast clip but steady, so I'm not sprint, stop, sprint, stop. That's typically what I'll do on Wednesday.
Although, if my legs are still a little bit sore, and here the body builders are just going to go, "Ugh," they're going to scoff, I train what I call torso. What do I do? I try to get pushing through the chest and shoulders, I'm trying to pull for the back. I already got my lower back with the glute-ham raises, so what I tend to do is overhead shoulder presses after a warmup, two to three sets, working sets, or maybe four.
I like ring dips and dips these days, those are hard for me, but I do two or three work sets of those, so chest, shoulders. And I'm going to upset some people here, but I don't tend to train back every week, I do it every other week because just I have some genetic abnormality where those grow really easily and I can throw proportions off really quickly. But I might do three or four sets of max rep chins slow, with slow, eccentric movements, the lowering as well. Tim Ferriss: Now, slow eccentric, four seconds, 10 seconds, what are we talking about? Andrew Huberman: Yeah, usually about four or five seconds, and then slowly pulling up, contracting whatever muscle group.
So all of the movements are done trying to move as much weight as possible as quickly as possible on the concentric phase, and then lowering it anywhere from two to four seconds, loading it like a spring and then trying to explode. I want strength and I want explosiveness, and some hypertrophy sneaks in because I'm working in that five to eight rep range. So that's what I call torso because it's chest, shoulders, back, every other week I'll throw in those chins. And I think everyone has a muscle group like this where if they train it just grows like a weed, but I want to keep proportions right, strength proportions as well.
And I do train my neck that day as well. I know you wrestled. I can tell very easily looking at somebody whether or not they need neck work or not, if your neck comes down where your jaw is, you don't need to do a lot of neck work, you don't look like a head placed on top of a little neck. Laird Hamilton's neck is out to the lobes of his ears, genuinely. Danny Way, great skateboarder too, he trains his neck quite a lot. He broke his neck surfing years ago.
So having a strong neck, why is that so important? Well, it's important because you want a strong spine and it's the upper portion of your spine. The other thing that I notice that it does is it completely changes my psychology to train my neck. I just naturally stand more upright, I find it easier to look people in the eye, it's not hard for me to look people directly in the eye when I speak to them, but I find my posture and presence is just better in a chair or standing when I train my neck. And I think it's because my head, let's just use the word again, it's not flaccid, falling of the chin towards the chest, that word just freaks everybody out.
You want flaccid feet, you don't want a flaccid neck, so neck work is very important. Tim Ferriss: How do you work your neck? I've been thinking about it for decades, I bought a four-way neck machine, and it's actually, I got it on — Andrew Huberman: Wait, you got the full four-way neck machine? Tim Ferriss: I was going to get a Hammer or one of these great, giant contraptions. And look, do your homework folks, because you can hurt yourself on these things if you get too aggressive too quickly. I bought a four-way neck machine on Amazon for 350 bucks.
I was like, "You know what? Let me try this before spending five grand." Works great. Nothing fancy, but it works. Andrew Huberman: You have great proportions.
Why do I say this? It's not just about aesthetics, it's about, in general, balanced proportions are synonymous with balanced strength, which is synonymous with not getting injured. One of the things that looks ridiculous and frankly is ridiculous, you see these guys with big delts, wide shoulders, long clavicles, and their head is placed on this little neck — Tim Ferriss: It's just a popsicle on a stick. Andrew Huberman: And they look especially ridiculous, there's no other word for it, in street clothes, it looks mutant, and not in the good sense. So strong neck is great.
Strong neck has helped me also avoid injuries