Author

Marc

Browsing

How to find the best online jiu jitsu training program for you

There are now over 25 online jiu jitsu training libraries at the time of writing. Some of them are created by the best current athletes and instructors in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Below is information on each of them to help you pick the right one for you, plus some quick picks to help you if you’re looking for something specific.

Note: This list doesn’t include one-off instructional videos, dormant/discontinued libraries, or predominantly Portuguese-based video libraries. 

Quick picks for the best online jiu jitsu training libraries

Table of contents (click for more information on each library)

MG In Action

One of the most popular online BJJ training libraries is the great Marcelo Garcia’s “MG In Action” platform. 

Marcelo is consistently named one of the best grapplers of all time, and has a huge list of accomplishments including five black belt World IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championships and four golds in the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship.

MG In Action is a huge video library containing videos of Marcelo teaching different techniques, including all of his specialities like butterfly guard and single-leg x guard. 

The platform was designed by Marcelo’s student, chess champion and author Josh Waitzkin. It’s built to allow you to see a technique taught by Marcelo, and then be able to quickly find the same technique being used in one of Marcelo’s live rolls (and vice versa).

Another great feature of MG In Action is that it has a simple search and filter function which allows you to filter by gi and no-gi videos, positions, techniques, sparring rounds and even discussions.

  • Price:
    • $25 USD per month
    • $250 USD per year (approx. $21 USD per month)
    • $450 USD per year for the deluxe membership (includes limited Marcelo Garcia Gi and one week of training at his gym in New York City)
  • Size: Large
  • Unique factors: MG in Action includes video recordings of Marcelo sparring in his New York gym and allows you to see related videos of the techniques used in the roll

BJJ Library

BJJ Library is another popular online training platform started by brothers Saulo and Xande Ribeiro. Saulo and Xande are both black belts from Brazil with a large number of IBJJF and ADCC gold medals between them. They also run the University of Jiu Jitsu gym in San Diego, USA. 

The library itself is packed full of different technique videos and has a filter and search system to help you find what you’re looking for. There are also discussion videos from Saulo, Xande and other instructors to help with the mental side of training.

BJJ Library also has a separate white belt university which teaches all of the foundational techniques, warmups and drills newbies should know. There are also university video programs for every other belt, each focusing on a different theme, for example the black belt module focuses on submissions.

  • Price: $24.99 USD per month or $249.99 USD per year (approx $21 USD per month)
  • Size: Over 3000 hours
  • Unique factors: Unique video programs for every belt level plus a specific white belt course

RogerGracie TV

Roger Gracie carries a reputation for jiu jitsu excellence surpassed by very few. In addition to his Gracie lineage, he’s a decorated fighter with a large number of World IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championships, ADCC gold medals and professional MMA victories to his name.

His online training platform RogerGracie TV includes not only technique videos from Roger himself, but also sparring videos. 

Roger’s father Mauricio Gomes is also legendary in the sport, and he has a number of videos on the platform dedicated to self defence. 

  • Price:
    • $19.99 USD per month or $192 USD per year ($16 USD per month)
    • £14.99 per month or £144 per year (£12 per month)
    • $27.99 AUD per month or $269 AUD per year (approx $22.40 AUD per month)
  • Size: Over 65 hours / 800+ videos
  • Unique factors: Sparring videos of both Roger and Mauricio, “old school” and self defence videos taught by Roger’s father Mauricio Gomes

The Master Academy

The Master Academy is an online jiu jitsu training platform created by Nic Gregoriades, a third degree black belt under Roger Gracie. Nick is also the host of the Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood and Liberation Mentor Podcasts and runs the Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood website. 

The Master Academy includes instructional videos applicable to all levels of jiu jitsu, rolling analyses and seminars with a focus on concepts rather than just techniques.

There are monthly and annual pricing plans available, but the most unique part of The Master Academy is that there’s a lifetime membership available for only $198 USD.

  • Price:
    • $9.95 USD per month
    • $99 USD per year
    • $198 USD lifetime access
  • Unique factors: Sparring breakdowns, monthly podcast episodes and live Q&A, members-only group, lifetime membership available.

Art of Jiu Jitsu Online

The Art of Jiu Jitsu Online is a training library created by world champion brothers Rafael and Gui Mendes. The Mendes brothers are world famous black belts with 10 World IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championships shared between them. They’re also excellent teachers, especially when it comes to specialties like guard passing.

Their online library includes both gi and no gi instructional videos from a range of positions, as well as:

  • Overview videos of specific positions
  • Sparring videos
  • Q&A sessions

In addition to the Mendes brothers other accomplished instructors on Art of Jiu Jitsu Online include Nick Bohli and Johnatha Alves.

Price: $25 USD per month or $250 USD per year (approx $21 USD per month)

Caio Terra Online

Caio Terra is a world champion jiu jitsu competitor with 10 World No-Gi IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championships and 2 World IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championships in the gi. Because of this success he’s known as one of the most successful rooster weight fighters to compete in the open weight division.

In addition, Caio enjoys extra fame and respect in the BJJ world due to receiving his black belt in a record three years!

His online library contains videos on both gi and no gi techniques, drills and workouts, insights into Caio’s matches and also overall lesson plans covering specific positions. Some of the no gi content in the library is also taught by fellow world champion Yuri Simoes.

  • Price: 
    • $25 USD per month
    • $250 USD per year (approx $21 USD per month) for Silver membership
    • $400 USD per year (approx $33 USD per month) for Gold membership (includes Caio Terra gi)
  • Unique factors: Gold membership comes with free gi, some no gi content taught by Yuri Simoes

Estima In Action

Similar to Marcelo Garcia’s MG In Action platform, Estima In Action is the online training library of the legendary Braulio Estima.

Braulio is an extremely talented jiu jitsu competitor with numerous IBJJF and UAEJJF world championships and a 2009 ADCC win.

As mentioned, because Estima In Action is built using the same platform to MG in Action, you can filter the library down to specific positions, gi and no gi videos, and also videos of Braulio sparring.

Price: 

$25 USD per month or $250 USD per year (approx. $21 per month)

The Grapplers Guide

The Grapplers Guide is one of the oldest and most popular programs on this list and was started by Jason Scully in 2007. At the time of writing Jason is a 2nd degree black belt and he also has a popular YouTube channel covering BJJ topics

The library is comprehensive and covers basically all of the relevant topics and positions in BJJ. There are programs on foundational positions and techniques like open and closed guard passing, triangles, omoplatas and leg locks. There are also video programs about more niche topics like grappling dummies, self defence, partner drills and wristlocks.

There are also great guest instructors such as Craig Jones, Lachlan Giles, Vladislav Koulikov, Mikey Musumeci and more.

The platform has a number of unique features not found in other programs, like the video flow chart tool. This allows you to create flow charts of videos to help you organise your favourite videos in a logical order. 

There’s also a Facebook group for members with over 15,000 participants, and the platform has a one-off lifetime fee which makes it quite cost-effective compared to other platforms.

  • Price:
    • $297 USD lifetime
    • $330 USD lifetime (split into 6 monthly $55 payments)
    • $420 USD lifetime (split into 12 monthly $35 payments)
  • Size: 6000+ videos
  • Unique factors: Video flow chart tool, Facebook group, lifetime membership fee, videos are downloadable.

Keenan Online

World champion Keenan Cornelius is well known for his innovative guards like the worm and squid guard. His online training library Keenan Online is one of the better places online to learn these guards as well as other concepts to improve your game.

Keenan Online also has individual belt courses for white belt, blue belt and purple belt. The white belt course focuses on survival, the blue belt course introduces basic takedowns and specific guards like spider guard and De La Riva and the purple belt course further delves into advanced concepts and guards.

There are also video courses showing Keenan’s private lessons, Q&A sessions, and his sparring matches against other world class athletes.

  • Price: $24.99 USD per month or $239.99 USD per year (approx $20 USD per month) which includes the original Worm Guard 2014 DVD as an extra
  • Size: 100+ videos
  • Unique factors: Squid and worm guard courses

ATOS Online Academy

The ATOS jiu jitsu academy in San Diego, California, has created many champions over the year, not even including its legendary founder André Galvão.

ATOS Online Academy is a library full of videos from André Galvão and other ATOS instructors including rising stars like Kaynan Duarte. Videos cover the full range of jiu jitsu topics including the major positions, drills, sparring breakdowns, and pro tip videos from André himself. There are also over 200 videos in Portuguese too.

There are also female specific videos taught by André’s wife Angelica, an accomplished black belt competitor and instructor.

The library itself is easy to use and includes filters to allow you to drill down into specific positions and gi or no gi videos.

  • Price:
    • $24.95 USD per month
    • $199.95 USD for 9 months (approx $22 USD per month)
    • $249.95 USD for 12 months (approx $21 USD per month)
  • Size: 2000+ videos
  • Unique factors: 3-day free trial, women’s-only videos, Portuguese videos 

Cobrinha Online

Rubens Charles Marciel AKA Cobrinha is a jiu jitsu great with a large number of gi and no gi world championship wins, three ADCC wins, and an academy in Los Angeles.

His online training academy includes a large number of videos covering gi and no gi from different positions. There’s also a detailed filtering and search system so you can watch the videos you want to watch.

In addition to technique videos there are also a number of drill videos to help you perfect certain sequences or techniques.

  • Price: $25 USD per month or $250 USD per year (approx $21 USD per month)
  • Unique factors: 1-day free trial, capoeira conditioning videos, self defence videos

Gracie University

The Gracie family has a major role in starting Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in its modern form. As a result the Gracie University is a very comprehensive and diverse online platform. 

When the Gracies originally started teaching BJJ, self defence was one of the primary aims, and Gracie University embodies this. It includes self defence programs aimed at kids, women and law enforcement offers.

There are also more traditional jiu jitsu instructional programs including Gracie Combatives, which is a program containing 36 core jiu jitsu techniques, and Master Cycle, a program of advanced techniques for blue belts and above.

The Gracie University is different to most of the other platforms on this list in that each program can be bought individually, or you can pay for a subscription to unlock various programs. 

Another unique aspect of Gracie University is the ability to be tested on your knowledge of the online lessons by submitting video footage of yourself. It’s then watched and you’re given feedback by a senior instructor.

  • Price: 
    • Subscriptions. Starts at $20 USD per month (or $200 USD annually) for Bullyproof program all the way up to $99 USD per month (or $990 USD annually) for complete VIP package. 
    • Individual programs. Prices vary. For example, $144 for the Gracie Combatives program and $540 for the blue belt 1 stripe course. 
  • Unique factors: 5-day free trial, self defence programs, kids programs, law enforcement program, some free lessons, online grading

Hidden Jiu Jitsu

Henry Akins is a black belt under jiu jitsu legend Rickson Gracie. He’s also the founder of Hidden Jiu Jitsu, which he explains as being the jiu jitsu taught to him by Rickson.

Hidden Jiu Jitsu is set out in a more sales-oriented way than the other libraries on this list. Some video programs can be bought with one-off payments and other video programs require a subscription.

There are a number of different programs which you can buy with one-off payments, including:

  • Open guard defence
  • Closed guard attacks
  • Inside closed guard 
  • Mount attacks
  • Turtle

Some of the Hidden Jiu Jitsu courses can be quite large. The fundamentals course from white belt to blue belt for example has 265 videos.

Then there’s the “mind blown club” which gives you access to recordings of Henry’s monthly seminars plus a live Q&A session. This is also a monthly or annual subscription.

Finally, there are also other seminar recordings from Henry’s BJJ camps around the world which you can buy for a one-off fee.

  • Price:
    • One-off payment video courses. From $29 USD for the fundamentals seminar all the way up to $499 USD for the white belt to blue belt course
    • Subscriptions. $39 USD per month or $329 USD per year (approx $27 USD per month) for the Mind Blown Club
  • Unique factors: Vale tudo videos, Rickson Gracie Black Belt instructor

Buchecha Online

Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida is another world class jiu jitsu athlete, with a large number of gold medal results in the World IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championships, ADCC World Championships and UAEJJF Abu Dhabi Pro competitions.

Buchecha Online is a medium-size online library with over 460 videos on a variety of positions and techniques. There are also videos by guest instructors including Lucas Lepri, Leandro Lo, Jackson Souza and famed wrestling coach Jacob Harman.

The video platform is simple and easy to use, with filters for positions and for gi and no gi. There’s also a search bar to search for specific techniques. 

Instructional videos make up the bulk of the library, but there are also drill videos and videos of Buchecha rolling to show you techniques being used in real matches.

  • Price:
    • $19.99 USD per month or $165 USD per 24 months (approx $7 USD per month)
    • $27.99 AUD per month or $229 AUD per 24 months (approx $10 per month)
    • £14.99 per month or £129 per year (approx £5 per month)
  • Size: 460 videos / 24 hours+
  • Unique factors: 24 month pricing options, Jacob Harman wrestling videos

Jiu-Jitsupedia

Jiu-Jitsupedia is the brainchild of Sean Apperson from Paragon Jiu Jitsu in California. It’s a medium-sized library with instructional videos taught by Sean, Paragon Jiu Jitsu founder Ricardo “Franjinha” Miller, rising star Nicholas Meregali, Olympic wrestler Stephen Abas and more.

The great thing about Jiu-Jitsupedia is that there’s an emphasis not only on traditional BJJ techniques and positions, but also a large number of wrestling, judo and self defence videos too. 

The wrestling and judo videos are taught by world-class wrestling and judo coaches and athletes. Some examples include the aforementioned Olympic wrestler Stephen Abas, Olympic Judo silver medallist Travis Stevens and Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling coach and athlete Matt Lindland.

There are also four beginner jiu jitsu courses covering survival, passing, the guard and takedowns respectively.

  • Price: $15 USD per month or $150 USD per year ($12.50 USD per year)
  • Unique factor: World class wrestling and judo instructors, beginner courses

Renzo Gracie Online Academy

Renzo Gracie is one of the most well known names in jiu jitsu, with a famous gym in New York where the much respected John Danaher teaches. 

The Renzo Gracie Online Academy is a relatively new library comprised of various programs. Some are recordings of seminars and others are regular style instructionals. Instructors include Renzo himself and also other Gracie family members and affiliated instructors.

Some example programs include:

  • Closed guard fundamentals with Rolles Gracie
  • Roger Gracie’s seminar on the closed guard
  • Matt Serra and Renzo Gracie teaching fundamentals
  • Powerful submissions by Renzo Gracie

The library isn’t large, but the videos are high quality and the content includes fundamentals everyone should know. Some of the programs in this platform are also recorded in Portuguese.

  • Price: $14.99 USD per month or $112.49 USD per year ($9.37 USD per month)
  • Unique factor: 7-day free trial, some Portuguese videos, many Gracie instructors

Roy Dean TV

Roy Dean is a black belt under Roy Harris and a lifelong martial artist, with blackbelts in judo and aikido. He’s also the author of two books about jiu jitsu.

Roy Dean TV has a range of different video styles. These include traditional technique instructionals, concept videos focusing on a certain technique e.g the kimura, seminars and cross discipline videos.

It’s not a large library, but if you’re after technique videos there are still a number of categories including guard passing, top game, bottom game and more. 

Then there’s Roy’s belt requirement series. Roy has built a series of videos for each belt which cover positions, sequences and techniques.

Roy gives many seminars each year and a number of them are recorded and posted on the platform. These cover topics as diverse as double leg takedowns and wristlocks. 

The library also contains seminars from guest instructors. Example topics include Judo and even firearms training and instructors include Dave Camarillo and Roy Harris.

Roy Dean TV also has some shorter clips about a single theme or position related to BJJ, and also general travel clips. These videos tend to be more artistic or philosophical than regular instructional libraries and are more edited.

  • Price: $14.95 USD per month or $149.95 USD per year (approx $13 USD per month)
  • Unique factor: 14-day free trial, alternative content including firearms and aikido videos, comprehensive belt courses

BJJConcepts.net / Rob Biernacki Online Academy

As the name suggests, BJJConcepts focuses more on the ideas and principles behind jiu jitsu rather than being a library of techniques. It’s taught by Rob Biernacki, the head instructor of Island Top Team in Canada. 

Biernacki is also known for his popular Grapplearts instructionals with Stephan Kesting including The BJJ Formula and The Modern Leglock Formula. 

BJJConcepts is split into four courses:

  • Core concepts – Rob is well known for his thinking about the core concepts in jiu jitsu, and this course is made up of over 20 concepts.
  • BJJ 101 – This is a fundamentals course which introduces you to the positions in jiu jitsu and how to move in and out of them.
  • BJJ 201 – This course includes advanced submissions and takedowns.
  • Fuck your jiu jitsu (FYJJ) – A situational rolling system to help you improve your jiu jitsu.

BJJConcepts also has a pedagogy component focused on teaching BJJ which helps instructors to improve in key areas like:

  • Communication
  • Lesson plans
  • Program development
  • Competition coaching
  • Teaching private classes
  • Price:
    • $20 USD per month / $200 USD per year (approx $17 USD per month)
    • $30 USD per month / $300 USD per year for additional instructor videos ($25 USD per month)
  • Unique factor: BJJ core concepts course, pedagogy course for instructors and FYJJ drilling and situational rolling videos 

Mastering the System by 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu

Eddie Bravo is one of jiu jitsu’s biggest modern innovators, and his Mastering the System subscription is no different.

Mastering the System videos are almost like jiu jitsu variety shows, with a mixture of drills and techniques from Eddie himself, updates on 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu news and competitors, and even some conspiracy talk from Eddie thrown in for good measure.

The videos are length at 1hour+ each, and usually focus around a particular technique or drill with the aforementioned other elements added around it. For the price it’s a great way to learn more about Eddie’s unique approach to jiu jitsu. 

  • Price: $4.99 USD per month (approx $60 USD per year)
  • Unique factor: Rubber guard content, Eddie Bravo’s unique musings / conspiracy theories

Other online jiu jitsu platforms to check out

I didn’t include the below platforms in the main list due to various factors e.g some weren’t regularly updated at the time of writing, some had mostly Portuguese videos or the library was too small. Here are some you may still want to check out:

  • Alliance Jiu Jitsu
  • Jean Jacques Machado Online
  • Erik Paulson CSW Online University
  • Draculino
  • Felipe Costa

Did I miss any? Let me know if you have a good suggestion to add below!

The WHOOP Strap 3.0 is a versatile and well designed wearable let down by an expensive subscription model.

Our verdict: 7/10 stars

★★★★★★★☆☆☆

What I liked:

  • Looks great
  • Simple and intuitive app
  • Good for contact sports (with optional accessories)
  • Customisable
  • Innovative charger

What I didn’t like:

  • Expensive
  • Automatic exercise feature is hit and miss
  • No airplane mode

The Whoop Strap 3.0 burst onto the wearable scene in May 2019. It certainly has its work cut out for it, with difficult competition from the new Oura ring, the Biostrap and even more mainstream wearables like the Fitbit Charge 3.

Unlike mainstream wearables, the WHOOP is aimed more at athletes. It keeps it simple by measuring three key metrics: recovery, strain (your daily cardio load) and sleep. Also unlike competing products, WHOOP charges a monthly fee instead of one upfront fee. 

Whoop has introduced some new changes with the 3.0 strap which are discussed in the review below. These include: WHOOP Whoop has introduced some new changes with the 3.0 strap which are discussed in the review below. These include:

  • Improved battery life
  • The “strain” coach
  • Heart rate broadcasting to BLE-compatible apps and workout machines 

I personally bought the WHOOP 3.0 because it seemed like one of the few wearables that could be safely and comfortably used in contact sports like jiu jitsu (more on my experiences with this below).

Table of contents

First impressions, design and unboxing

The WHOOP Strap 3.0 comes in a simple black box and includes the following:

  • The main unit and Proknit band
  • The charging module with detachable USB-A cable
  • A small clip bag

The strap uses a clasp mechanism to lock into place on your wrist. Setting up the band was easy, as is swapping or removing bands.

The contents of the WHOOP Strap 3.0 box

The strap has a simple style, and while it doesn’t have the same wow factor as a brand new Oura ring, it drew plenty of attention from colleagues and friends.

I also purchased the Hydroband for swimming and backup band duties, the Technica bicep band, and the padded bicep sleeve to wear the tracker during jiu jitsu. 

The WHOOP bicep sleeve, Technica bicep band and Hydroband.

The styling of the different items is consistent and clearly a lot of thought has gone into the design of all the WHOOP products and accessories.

WHOOP has a large number of different bands for sale on its store so there’s a higher element of customisation with it versus many other wearables.

Using the strap: Strain, recovery and sleep tracking

The WHOOP Strap 3.0 has three major data outputs: sleep, recovery and strain.

Sleep

Sleep tracking using the WHOOP Strap 3.0 is simple. After waking up, you’ll be presented with a short questionnaire about what you did the night before.

According to WHOOP, the answers to these questions are not used to refine your data. Instead they are used by WHOOP to improve your experience and also to give you suggestions based on your answers.

Once you answer the questionnaire, you’re then presented with a percentage score showing how much sleep you got during the night versus how much you needed.

Post-sleep questions, sleep overview and sleep breakdown.

If you want more data you can also see:

  • Your light, REM and deep sleep throughout the night
  • How long you were actually in bed
  • How many sleep disturbances you had
  • Your sleep efficiency score

Recovery

Recovery works similarly to the Oura’s readiness score. It’s a percentage score out of 100, and is calculated using your heart rate variability, resting heart rate and your sleep.

Similar to the sleep score, upon waking you’ll be asked a few quick questions.

Recovery questions and overview screen.

Strain

WHOOP defines “strain” as a summary of your cardiovascular system strain during workouts and throughout the day. 

The strap and app automatically flags workouts if they’re of a high enough intensity. This worked for me some of the time. The strap registered the sparring portions of my jiu jitsu classes, but not my weights routine. My weights routine is a short 40 minute workout which is still heavy and moderate intensity for me so this was disappointing. I had to manually log these in similar to what I do with my Oura ring. 

Sometimes it incorrectly flagged random periods where my heart rate was elevated, even though I was doing nothing, and then asked me to log an activity.

Once the app flags an activity, you can process it and fine tune the time you were working out, plus select the activity you were doing from 50 different options. There’s a great selection of activities available including meditation and even less known sports like AFL (Australian Rules Football).

Accuracy and technology

It’s difficult to measure how accurate the WHOOP Strap 3.0 is without comparing it to professional equipment. Still, there were discrepancies compared to my Oura ring (which admittedly has almost a year of data to draw from).

One night during my sleep I developed a cold. As a result my sleep quality was terrible and I was constantly waking up because my nose was blocked. Upon waking I felt exhausted. Look at the difference between what the WHOOP Strap told me versus my Oura ring regarding my recovery and exercise readiness:

WHOOP VS Oura tracking of a cold part 1

I dug further into my data. Both wearables showed me being in bed for 8 hours, but the WHOOP added about 50 minutes to my time asleep and almost 10% efficiency to the quality of my sleep. I certainly didn’t feel like I slept for almost 7 hours with a high level of efficiency.

WHOOP VS Oura tracking of a cold part 2

One other nitpicky note I have about WHOOP is the lack of transparency around the product. The website is devoid of any details about the actual technology used in the product such as the sensors. I feel this should be shared with customers similar to how Oura does

Using the WHOOP app

The WHOOP app is fast and pleasant to use. The design is sleek, simple and responsive even on my ageing Samsung Galaxy S8. 

The profile panel gives you an excellent 30 day summary of your activities, strain, recovery and sleep. You can see from the prominence the app places on activities and strain that it’s aimed at athletes.

The overview panel shows your main metrics for the day, including any activities you’ve done. It’s uncluttered and much better than apps like the Oura ring.

WHOOP profile and overview screens.

There are other useful extras in the app too. You can easily get a real-time heart rate read out using the “Strap Status” function for example, and you can also manually add activities for other parts of the day. 

WHOOP real time heart rate.

There’s also a sleep coach which tells you what time to get to bed to get your recommended sleep hours for the day, as well as a strain coach which will guide you through a workout to reach your target for the day.

The strain coach can also be turned off to allow you to simply track activities like meditating. This is a great way to use the WHOOP to track your heart rate during a meditation session.

Tracking meditation with the WHOOP

Less useful is the WHOOP Snap+ feature. This is basically a set of data overlays that you can add to a photo or video. Maybe this is a useful feature for someone who wants to send their coach daily stats, but I found it less useful and a little gimmicky.

A new feature of the 3.0 is the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology which allows you to link with certain machines and apps. According to WHOOP, this includes machines and apps such as:

  • Peloton bikes
  • Wahoo bike computers
  • Concept2 ergometers
  • Strava 
  • TrainerRoad

Using the Strap’s HR Broadcast feature you can link your WHOOP Strap with the machine or app and see your heart rate data displayed.

Using the WHOOP Strap 3.0 in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

I find the WHOOP strap performed well in jiu jitsu using the bicep sleeve. In both gi and no-gi sparring rounds the sleeve only moved slightly, and was never in the way even during particularly intensive movements (read: me getting savagely armbarred by higher belts).

How the WHOOP is embedded into the bicep sleeve
Wearing the WHOOP bicep sleeve under a no gi rashguard

It was very interesting to finally see my heart rate during BJJ sparring rounds. You can see below how my heart rate was low during drilling at the start of the class, and then peaked at 167 during my wrestling rounds.

A breakdown of my jiu jitsu class using the WHOOP Strap 3.0.

Wearing the strap everyday

The WHOOP Strap has a removable and adjustable band so it’s fairly comfortable throughout the day and when sleeping. The new Proknit band and the hydroband were both comfortable for extended use.

I found that the clasp was pretty stiff compared to the band, so when trying to open it I would sometimes just loosen the band while the clasp remained shut.

The WHOOP Strap 3.0 with Proknit band

One advantage of the WHOOP over a wearable like the Oura ring is that your fingers are free when doing exercises like deadlifts, an admittedly small issue for myself but one that others might care about. 

One downside which may be important to some is the WHOOP Strap 3.0’s lack of airplane mode. I personally like to put my Oura ring into airplane mode while sleeping, and it’s a shame the WHOOP doesn’t include a feature like this. 

Battery life and charging

The new WHOOP Strap 3.0 has a claimed battery life of five days versus the older straps two days, which I confirmed during testing.

The real star of the show regarding the WHOOP Strap 3.0’s battery is the charging method. 

The charging module is first connected to a computer via USB. Once charged up, you disconnect the module and then slide it on top of your strap. This will then charge it up without you needing to take it off. This is a great idea and allows you to go about your day while your strap charges. 

The WHOOP Strap 3.0 with charger slotted on top

WHOOP claims the battery charges within 90 minutes and I found it to be a little faster than this.

WHOOP Strap 3.0 pricing: the weak link

WHOOP charges a monthly fee to use the WHOOP Strap 3.0 and accompanying app. You can either pay this monthly or prepay and get a small discount. For most users I see this being the biggest hurdle. 

Let’s say you wanted to keep and use the WHOOP Strap 3.0 for three years. Over that time you’d pay the following:

ProductPricePrice over 3 years
WHOOP Strap 3.0 Monthly membership$30 USD per month$1080 USD
WHOOP Strap 3.0 – 12 month membership$288 USD$864 USD
WHOOP Strap 3.0 – 18 month membership$324 USD$648 USD
Oura Ring$299 USD$299 USD
Biostrap$175 USD$175 USD
Biostrap with leg sensor$250 USD$250 USD

As you can see above, the cost of the WHOOP Strap 3.0 compared to other wearables like the Oura ring or Biostrap and the WHOOP Strap is significantly higher.

A note for Australians buying the WHOOP Strap 3.0

At the time of writing, WHOOP was not selling the strap in Australia. I got my strap sent to Australia using a third party shipping service, but in the time taken to write this review, WHOOP released pricing for Australians wanting to buy a strap. 

Here’s the above table in Australian prices, with shipping to a Sydney metropolitan address.

ProductPriceShippingPrice over 3 years
WHOOP Strap 3.0 – 6 Month prepaid membership$210 AUD$20 AUD$1280 AUD
WHOOP Strap 3.0 – 12 Month prepaid membership$336 AUD$20 AUD$1028 AUD
WHOOP Strap 3.0 – 18 Month prepaid membership$378 AUD$20 AUD$776 AUD
Oura Ring$436 AUD approx ($299 USD)$22 AUD$458 AUD
Biostrap$256 AUD ($175 USD)$40 AUD$296 AUD
Biostrap with leg sensor$365 AUD ($250 USD)$40 AUD$405 AUD

*USD to AUD currency conversion as of 7/9/19 

WHOOP Strap 3.0 Review verdict: 7 out of 10 stars

The WHOOP Strap 3.0 is a competent wearable with an excellent app and charger. It’s easy to use and setup, is customisable and is great for wearing during contact sports such as jiu jitsu. 

On the other hand, the pricing model means it’s significantly more expensive than other comparable products given the features. The accuracy of the data also didn’t feel as robust as the Oura ring.


Do you have a WHOOP Strap 3.0? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Let us know below.

A simple introduction into the colourful world of biohacking

No you’re not dreaming, you’ve definitely been seeing and hearing the word ‘biohacking’ around more and more. The idea has taken off since about 2011 – 2012. 

Google Trends shows that searches for the term “biohacking” have continued to steadily increase since then, with the highest search demand coming from Latvia, Finland, Sweden, Austria and Australia.

Search demand for the term “biohacking” from 2004 – August 2019

What is biohacking? 

Biohacking is the practice of optimising your health and performance through nutrition, technology, sleep, meditation, supplements, your environment and other activities.

For a more in-depth definition head to our Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Biohacking.

Table of contents

The art of controlling your health and performance

The above definition of biohacking was popularised by well known biohackers and authors like Dave Asprey and Ben Greenfield. Asprey created the Bulletproof Coffee company in 2013 and wrote The Bulletproof Diet in 2014, both influential products in the biohacking space. 

In a 2014 TED talk Asprey defined biohacking as “The art of controlling your biology and performance by changing the environment inside and outside your body.” 

Biohacking is an umbrella term and includes a wide variety of different approaches. The majority of biohackers will use scientific research and technology to inform their choices about:

  • What to eat for optimal health and longevity
  • What exercise regime to follow
  • How to best recover from exercise and work
  • How to make home and work environments healthier
  • How to use cutting edge technology to optimise health e.g fitness trackers like the Oura ring or Whoop Strap
  • What supplements to take to increase physical or mental performance

As mentioned, biohackers can have different goals. These can include trying to improve performance in sports or business, increasing longevity or even treating a specific illness or condition. For example notable biohacker Tim Gray started biohacking to solve a number of health issues including kidney stones and various recurring infections.

Other well known biohackers who follow this style of biohacking include entrepreneurs Kevin Rose, Tim Ferriss and Serge Faguet, Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey and athletes like Duncan Keith

DIY biology: the second (more controversial) arm of biohacking

There’s a subset of biohacking known as do-it-yourself (DIY) biology. DIY biology is when people or groups conduct life science experiments using the same methodologies as professional scientists, without the same academic requirements or regulations. These experiments can be for health improvement, fun or even for business reasons.

One of the most well known DIY biology proponents is Josiah Zayner, a NASA scientist who famously conducted a fecal transplant and let a journalist record it in 2016. In 2017 he also injected himself with the gene editing technology CRISPR. Zayner now sells DIY CRISPR engineering kits and biohacking 101 classes on his website The ODIN.

There are other examples outside of Zayner that are no less ambitious or crazy. For example in 2015 a researcher had a chemical injected into his eye to give him temporary night vision

Grinders: the third group of biohackers

Another controversial subset of biohackers are known as grinders. Grinders experiment with implanting objects like NFC chips and magnets into their bodies. 

One well known example is Amie DD, a software engineer who implanted her Tesla 3 RFID chip into her arm so she can unlock it without the key.  

Where did the term biohacking originate from?

One of the first mentions of biohackers was in a 1988 opinion article in the Washington Post which talked about a blue sky version of biohacking. It talked about how in the future, “bio-hackers” might be able to create new plants and drugs and “explore the inner beyonds of human DNA”.

Biohacking was only entered into the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2018. The definition refers to the first known use of the word ‘biohacking’ coming from 1992.

How the quantified self movement intersects with biohacking

The “quantified self” movement is a community of people who collect data about their lives, usually in order to improve them in someway. The metrics collected can be as subjective as daily mood, or as concrete as blood glucose levels.

Biohacking includes an element of self-quantification and data collection in order to measure the various inputs and outputs related to your body and performance. This collection of data enables biohackers to adequately test and decide whether or not to continue with a certain hack. You can read more about how the quantified self movement fits into biohacking in our beginners biohacking guide.

The best science-backed biohacks to research and consider

The best biohacks to start with will depend on your goal in the first place. Below are some which have a large amount of research behind them.

Always be sure to question biohacks before spending your money and time on them. One of the biggest problems I find with biohacking is a lack of good science to support many of the claims behind specific hacks. Some of the more effective “hacks” are also the most boring:

Sleep

Your sleep should be optimised before buying expensive supplements or gadgets or embarking on a new diet or fasting regime. 

Sleep plays a role in many of your body’s vital functions. A lack of sleep can seriously impact your health as well as reduce your time to exhaustion in sports, increase your lactic acid build up and even decrease your peak muscle strength. It can also impact your memory and ability to learn.

Where to start:

  • Buy Matthew Walker’s book Why We Sleep (you can read our review of this book here). This book has a treasure trove of information about how sleep works, how substances like caffeine can impact it, and how to improve sleep.
  • Reduce caffeine consumption and/or confine your caffeine consumption to earlier in the day
  • Keep your bedroom cool at around 18 degrees celsius (approx 64 degrees fahrenheit)
  • Avoid alcohol and nicotine, especially in the hours before bedtime
  • Avoid napping after 3pm
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day

Improving your diet

A cornerstone of biohacking is improving your diet. You can take all the supplements you want but it won’t make up for a shoddy or harmful diet.

Many well known biohackers and those in the health optimisation space advocate for diet as the main pillar in their systems. Some example diets to consider are below.

  • The paleo diet. The paleo or paleolithic diet limits foods to those available during ancestral times. Respected author and blogger Robb Wolf claims the paleo diet is the healthiest way to eat and has a great introductory guide to a healthy paleo diet which include diverse proteins, fruits and vegetables and healthy fats. 
  • The primal diet. Similar to the paleo diet, the primal diet was popularised by author and blogger Mark Sisson and is built on the foundations of not eating grains, industrial seed oils or added sugars. It’s part of the Primal Blueprint, Sisson’s plan for living a healthier life. 
  • The ketogenic diet. The ketogenic or keto diet is a diet low in carbs and high in fat. There’s emerging evidence that the diet can help with weight loss, diabetes, epilepsy and a range of other illnesses
  • The Bulletproof Diet. This is a cyclical ketogenic diet created by Dave Asprey. A cyclical ketogenic diet means you’ll eat a ketogenic diet for 5 – 6 days and then have one day where you “refeed” on a higher amount of carbs than usually allowed on the keto diet. You can read an evidence-based review of it on Healthline.
  • The longevity diet. The longevity diet is the result of Dr Valter Longo’s research into blue zone diets, epidemiology, clinical studies and juventology to discover what he thinks is the optimal diet for long life. It’s a mostly vegan diet with small amounts of protein from fish. It’s also low in sugar, includes good fats and nuts, and confines eating to a 12 hour period. 
Eating better doesn’t need to be boring – this is a delicious sashimi salad from Fishbowl

Fasting

Fasting goes hand-in-hand with diet improvements as another common hack that biohackers use. According to the excellent book The Complete Guide to Fasting by Dr. Jason Fung and Jimmy Moore (which I highly recommend reading before you start fasting), fasting can have the following benefits:

  • Weight and body fat loss
  • Increased insulin sensitivity
  • Improved mental clarity
  • Increased energy
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Improved fat burning

Below are some popular fasting protocols to consider:

  • Intermittent fasting. This refers to regular fasting periods between eating. The intervals of time you might fast can vary significantly. Some might opt to fast each day for a certain portion of the day, such as a 16 hour fast where you stop eating at 8pm and don’t eat again until lunchtime the next day. Others choose to fast for a whole 24 hours one day per week. Healthline has a great article about intermittent fasting.
  • Water fasts. A water fast is when you give up food completely for a period of time. During this time your body cells go through a process known as autophagy. This is when cells start to eat themselves, starting with damaged cell components first. There are other benefits to water fasts of certain lengths such as decreased body fat, lower cholesterol and increased insulin sensitivity. You can read about what it’s like to water fast for five days in my article.
  • Fast mimicking diets. This type of fast was made popular by Dr Valter Longo in The Longevity Diet. A fast mimicking diet is basically a very low calorie diet over five days which Longo claims can give you most of the benefits of a water fast without having to give up food completely for an extended period of time.

Nootropics

A nootropic is a natural or artificial substance that improves mental performance. Many nootropic supplements today contain a combination of different substances including some listed below. Popular nootropic products include Qualia Mind, Onnit Alpha BRAIN, Mind Lab Pro and even some mushrooms such as Lion’s Mane.

Below are five popular natural nootropics you can consider. You can find out more about the evidence behind each one in Healthline’s review of nootropics.

  • Caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate and other foods and drinks. It has been shown to increase alertness, attention and decrease tiredness.
  • Creatine. Creatine is an amino acid traditionally used in the bodybuilding community to increase energy during weight lifting. There’s also evidence it can improve short-term memory and reasoning skills in some people, and according to Healthline is one of the most tested supplements around. 
  • L-Theanine. L-Theanine is an amino acid found in tea and some mushrooms. Research has shown L-Theanine can have a calming effect and can increase alpha waves in your brain, which have been associated with creativity.  
  • Bacopa Monnieri. Bacopa is a traditional Indian medicine plant which research has shown can boost brain function including learning rate, memory, attention and more
  • Rhodiola Rosea. Rhodiola is herb which research has shown may decrease stress and improve brain function.

Meditation

Meditation comes in a number of different shapes and forms. Regardless of the style, there’s a growing body of scientific evidence behind the benefits, which is why it’s a good hack to consider.

My favourite style is mindfulness meditation, where you sit down, close your eyes and become aware of your breath coming in and out of your nostrils. Every time you lose track of your breath, you just gently note it and move your attention back to your breath. 

I recommend anyone interested in meditation watch this excellent video of John Kabat Zinn, one of the most important mindfulness evangelists, explaining the concept in a Google talk.

Scientific evidence suggests that meditation may:

  • Reduce stress and control anxiety
  • Increases attention span
  • Improve sleep
  • Decrease blood pressure
  • Decrease depression

There are other great articles showing the science behind meditation on the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health website and the Headspace app website.  

Floatation tanks / sensory deprivation tanks

Using a float tank simply involves lying down in a saltwater tank for an extended period of time (usually an hour). During that time you meditate or simply just float and think. 

Because the water is so high in salt you will effortlessly float, and the tank is usually very dark and soundproof, so you can’t see or hear anything. This helps to reduce all outside distractions from your thoughts.

Floatation or sensory deprivation tanks can have many benefits for those looking to relax or recover from strenuous activities. They’re also easy to find in many capital cities across the globe.

According to research from the STRONG US Air Force program and the University of Cincinnati, flotation tank use can rebalance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems for better recovery. The study also showed a 25% drop in blood cortisol from floating, perceived reduction in muscle soreness and improved moods

Other research-backed benefits of using a sensory deprivation tank including treatment of anxiety and improvement of cardiovascular health. 

A flotation tank at a float centre in Sydney.

Sauna

Sauna use has become increasingly popular today, partly due to evangelists like Dr Rhonda Patrick who are discussing the scientific research behind it. 

In a nutshell, research has shown that using a sauna causes heat stress, which causes your body to activate mechanisms and processes that make it better able to cope with high heat in the future. This causes the body to repair cell damage among other things.

Sauna use has been shown by scientific studies such as the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor (KIHD) Study to have many benefits including:

  • Cardiovascular health. The KIHD study found that men who used a sauna 2 – 3 times per week were 27% less likely to die from cardiovascular-related causes than those who didn’t use a sauna.
  • Longevity. Those who used a sauna frequently were 40% less likely to die prematurely from all causes.
  • Inflammation. Sauna use has been shown to reduce the inflammatory protein CRP (C-reactive protein) and increase the anti-inflammatory protein IL-10.
  • Mental health. The KIHD study found that those who used a sauna 2 – 3 times per week had a 66% lower chance of getting alzheimer’s and a 65% lower chance of dementia compared to those who only used a sauna once per week. Those who used a sauna 4 – 7 times were also 77% less likely to develop psychotic disorders.
  • Hormonal and metabolic function. Sauna use has a range of beneficial impacts on hormonal and metabolic function including increasing growth hormone levels in the body and reducing fasting blood glucose levels.
  • Physical fitness and athletic performance. Studies have shown that sauna use can increase endurance and maintain muscle mass.

For more information, including the full list of benefits and all of the studies mentioned above check out Dr Rhonda’s full guide.

How safe is biohacking?

This depends on what specific biohacking activity you’re referring to and what you’re trying to achieve. It’s important to note that certain supplements and therapies can be dangerous in large enough quantities or intensities, or harmful to certain people e.g children or pregnant women. Always seek professional medical advice if you’re not sure before taking a new supplement or trying a new biohacking treatment.

In other cases, the incorrect use of certain biohacking technologies or treatments may have adverse or opposite effects to what is intended. For example in The Non-tinfoil Guide to EMFs, Nicholas Pinealt talks about how incorrect installation of a grounding mat (a popular biohack in recent years) can actually significantly increase the amount of voltage your body receives rather than reduce it.

When it comes to the more controversial biohacking practices within DIY biology and grinder groups, it’s clear there can be additional risks. In these cases it’s crucial to seek professional medical advice first.

Notable biohackers

There are a number of great biohackers to research, including:

Dave Asprey

Dave Asprey is a well known author, biohacker and the CEO of Bulletproof Coffee. Bulletproof Coffee is claimed to be free of mold toxins through a washing and testing process unlike other coffee beans. 

Asprey is also the founder of Bulletproof Labs, Bulletproof Labs is an organisation with two locations in California where you can use the latest biohacking gadgets and therapies including cryotherapy, light therapy and even a virtual float tank.

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield is an ironman, athlete, biohacker and author. He’s well known for his podcast The Ben Greenfield Podcast and is a prominent speaker at various health, longevity and biohacking conferences.

Duncan Keith

Professional hockey player Duncan Keith also calls himself a biohacker. In a New York Times article he delves into his daily routine which includes light therapy, supplements and a PoV Sport machine.

Kyle Kingsbury

Kyle Kingsbury is a retired professional MMA fighter and the Director of Human Optimization at Onnit. Kingsbury also hosts the Kyle Kingsbury podcast, which explores a range of topics relevant to biohacking.

Bob Trioa AKA Quantified Bob

Quantified Bob is a biohacker, speaker, entrepreneur and self-quantifier. His blog delves into his biohacking experiments as well as his resources on everything including lab tests, training and recovery, sleep and how to start tracking your own health and performance metrics.

Serge Fauget

Serge Fauget is a tech entrepreneur famous for his radical approach to biohacking which you can read on his Medium blog. He estimates he’s spent approximately $200,000 on biohacking and has made numerous changes to his lifestyle. He’s also has an interesting podcast with Kevin Rose too if you want to find out more about his approach.

Jack Dorsey

Jack Dorsey, the co-founder and CEO of Twitter, is also a biohacker. His recent appearance on the Ben Greenfield podcast created headlines around the world when he went through his regular biohacking practices which include cold exposure, fasting, supplementation, infrared light therapy, standing desks, meditation, sauna use and more.

Where to next?

For more information about how to start biohacking you can read the following guides

Lift your jiu jitsu game with the best BJJ podcasts around

There are now several great BJJ and grappling-specific podcasts available for free. Some are hosted by well known personalities and instructors like Nicolas Gregoriades or Stephen Kesting, and others are hosted by pro-athletes and enthusiasts like Daniel Strauss and the guys at FloGrappling. 

Regardless of who hosts them, many of these podcasts include interviews with jiu jitsu greats, rising stars and everyone in between. This gives you a great range of perspectives and ideas about jiu jitsu to incorporate into your own journey.

We’ve decided to include in this list only podcasts which are active and regularly releasing new episodes. If we’ve missed a good podcast, let us know.

The best BJJ podcasts for 2019

The Raspberry Ape

The Raspberry Ape Podcast Cover

The Raspberry Ape podcast is an interview-style podcast hosted by Daniel Strauss, a black belt under Roger Gracie. Daniel is an avid competitor with numerous championships and high level matches in his career, and he’s also a strongman. 

Most episodes are in-person interviews, which are always better conversations compared to skype/phone interviews, and Daniel injects his own personality into the conversation too. Episodes cover a great depth of topics relating to each guest but are also flowing and conversational.

Good episodes to start with:

  • Episode 38 – Sebastian Brosche. Sebastian is the founder of Yoga for BJJ, a website and app which gives you different yoga programs for different body parts. As you can imagine, the episode explores how yoga can benefit you when doing BJJ. Sebastian also talks about how yoga helped him heal a back injury, how you should approach yoga when you train BJJ, nutrition, sleep and even breathwork.
  • Episode 71 – Braulio Estima. Braulio is one of the greatest BJJ competitors of all time, so this episode focuses a lot on his history and road to becoming a champion. It also includes his thoughts on drilling vs rolling, the evolution of his game style, mindset, visualisation, injuries and the mental comedown after an important competition. 
  • Episode 69 – Lachlan Giles. Lachlan Giles is one of Australia’s great BJJ coaches and competitors. This episode is a great conversation about his thoughts on leg lock popularity over the past few years, different competition rulesets, BJJ fads, BJJ in Australia, specifics training, gradings and more. Lachlan is also a qualified physiotherapist so the conversation also delves into injuries in BJJ.
  • Episode 74 – John Will. John Will is one of the original “dirty dozen”, the first 12 non-Brazilians to earn a blackbelt. He has a rich history in jiu jitsu, and this episode includes great stories about Chuck Norris, the Machado’s and the Gracie’s during the early decades of Brazilian jiu jitsu. It also explores John’s thoughts about teaching jiu jitsu and much more.

Listen to The Raspberry Ape on:

The Grappling Central Podcast

The Grappling Central Podcast Cover

The Grappling Central Podcast is an excellent interview-style podcast hosted by brown belt Ryan Ford. Ryan is an attentive host with great questions and great guests. The best thing about Grappling Central is that there’s no filler – from start to finish each episode is packed with questions and answers. There’s also a great segment in the middle of each episode called “The Pummel” where Ryan asks quick fire questions about BJJ and other interesting topics too.

Guests on Grappling Central include Craig Jones, Gordon Ryan, Kurt Osiander, Steve Maxwell, Amanda Leve, Demian Maia and much more.

There are both free and paid episodes are on offer, with over 700 hours of past episodes available if you become a Patreon member for $5 per month. The guests on these episodes read like a who’s-who of BJJ: Royce Gracie, Andre Galvao, Rigan Machado, Relson Gracie, Dean Lister, Ricardo Liborio, Matt Sera and many more.

Good free episodes to start with:

  • Episode 353 – Gordon Ryan. Gordon Ryan is always an interesting guest on any BJJ/MMA podcast or show. In this episode Gordon talks about how he got into BJJ, how he trains, techniques vs concepts, balancing ego as an elite athlete, leg locks and the common issues he notices, and how to get BJJ into the mainstream.
  • Episode 342 – Craig Jones returns! Craig Jones is an entertaining and down-to-earth guest (and a fellow Aussie). In this episode he and Ryan talk about his beginnings, lessons from wrestling, Craig’s thoughts about gi vs no-gi and his most important matches.
  • Episode 356 – Demian Maia. This episode goes through Demian’s start in BJJ, his more well known matches, who he thinks the best gi and no gi grapplers are and tips for taking and keeping the back.
  • Episode 357 – Bernardo Faria. Bernardo Faria is one of the co-founders of the hugely popular BJJ Fanatics instructional video website. He’s also a very successful competitor, known for his half guard attacks and over under passing. In this episode Bernardo talks about finding the right game style for your body type, the power of specialisation, the progression of Bernardo’s game, over under passing and half guard, the importance of taking your time in a match, plus the story of BJJ Fanatics.

Listen to Grappling Central on:

The Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood Podcast / Liberation Mentor Podcast

Liberation Mentor Podcast Cover

The Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood Podcast, now rebranded to the Liberation Mentor Podcast, is hosted by Nic Gregoriades. Nic is a Roger Gracie blackbelt, author, well known BJJ personality and previous podcast host on London Real. 

As touched on above, as part of the rebrand this podcast will now be a broader-themed podcast about helping listeners find freedom, passion and connections in life. 

Regardless of if you’re interested in the new direction of the podcast, there’s still almost 70 BJJ episodes to listen to. Each episode includes an interview with a new guest from the BJJ world, such as top level competitors and high level blackbelts like Roger Gracie, Henry Akins, Robert Drysdale, Roy Dean and much more. 

Nic brings his own unique interview style to each episode and tends to delve into not only the physical side of BJJ but also the spiritual and intellectual. 

Good episodes to start with:

  • Episode 25 – Kit Dale. Nic and Kit have a great relationship and co-hosted the excellent Beyond Technique series of instructional videos. In this episode they have a great debate about drilling versus concepts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. They also talk about Kit’s start in BJJ and his incredibly fast journey to black belt, his thoughts about the way BJJ is currently taught in many schools, why he thinks the 80/20 rule is his competitive strength and how he uses conceptual teaching.
  • Episode 12 – Roger Gracie. Roger Gracie is known as one of the best gi grapplers of all time, and this episode is a great exploration of his life in BJJ and his thought process in the sport. It also touches on his legendary fight with Buchecha in 2017, his training regime leading up to competition, living with the Gracie name and his hardest fights.
  • Episode 28 – Henry Akins. Henry Akins is a Rickson Gracie 4th degree black belt and teacher. In this episode he talks about his journey through jiu jitsu with Rickson and how he dealt with the pain of his son Rockson’s death. He also tells some good stories about Rickson and his sparring matches with greats such as Fabio Gurgel and Saulo Ribeiro. The episode also touches on teaching jiu jitsu and what separates average teachers from great ones.  
  • Episode 31 – Oliver Geddes. Oliver is a Roger Gracie blackbelt who has had over 1000 competitive matches! This conversation is an interesting look into what it’s like to compete so many times, and also delves into Oliver’s approach to jiu jitsu, how he treats competitions now, and how he’s made a career out of BJJ. Other topics include how he increased his weight and approached weight training while training jiu jitsu regularly.

Listen to The Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood Podcast / Liberation Mentor Podcast:

The Strenuous Life Podcast

The Strenuous Life Podcast Cover

Many of us know The Strenuous Life Podcast host Stephen Kesting from his large library of YouTube videos covering most aspects of jiu jitsu. He also has one of the best free ebooks for those beginning BJJ and wanting to make sense of the major positions.

His podcast is broader than just BJJ and includes guests from a number of related areas. There are also shorter episodes covering single topics too.

Stephen is a great host and asks interesting and useful questions, and each episode is practical and includes entertaining side notes. Some of his older episodes sound like they’re phone call recordings but are still packed full of useful information.

Good episodes to start with:

Listen to The Strenuous Life Podcast on:

The Chewjitsu Podcast

The Chewjitsu Podcast Cover

The Chewjitsu Podcast is hosted by Nick “Chewy” Albin and one of his students Eugene. The podcast has a range of different episodes including shorter episodes covering one specific topic, longer episodes diving deeper into a single topic and also interviews. Overall the podcast (and the excellent Chewjitsu YouTube channel) cover topics in a simple but effective way, with plenty of great content for beginners.

The episodes are relaxed and conversational in nature, and the interview episode feature thoughtful questions. Most episodes also include many listener questions and answers too.

Good episodes to start with:

  • Episode 43 – Become the grappler you hate. There’s always a training partner in BJJ that you “hate” to roll with, not because you don’t like them but because their BJJ style is your kryptonite. This episode is all about harnessing losses in BJJ to motivate you to grow. There’s also a large number of listener questions and answers in this episode covering topics as diverse as considerations for belt promotions, the primary areas a white belt should focus on and how often to train weights.
  • Episode 47 – Preparing for your first BJJ tournament.  This is a great episode for beginners who are thinking of competing. Eugene and Chewy cover how to prepare for your first competition, how to ensure you won’t back out of a competition, rules around equipment and clothing, preparing for the unexpected, and much more about the philosophy behind competition and how to prepare for your match on the day.
  • Episode 40 – Richie “Boogeyman” Martinez. Richie Martinez is a jiu jitsu practitioner and competitor who earned his black belt in only three years. He’s part of Eddie Bravo’s 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu system, and has his own school in San Diego. In this episode Chewy and Eugene chat to Richie about how he got his black belt so fast, the role of individuality in BJJ, how his breakdancing career has impacted his BJJ and what he thinks is important for high level jiu jitsu.

Listen to The Chewjitsu Podcast on:

A Fistful of Collars

A fistful of collars cover

A Fistful of Collars is the official FloGrappling podcast, and covers the latest competition and grappling news as well as longer interviews with well known grapplers.

It’s a great way to stay up to date with the latest goings on in the world of jiu jitsu, and would be amazing it had more regular episodes.

Good episodes to start with:

  • Any post-competition episode. These are great episodes which keep you up-to-date with the results of the biggest competitions throughout the year and keep you aware of the newest up-and-coming grapplers.
  • Keenan Cornelius mega interview. Keenan is always an entertaining personality in the jiu jitsu world, and this episode is no exception. He talks through his thoughts on how gi and no gi are diverging in high level competition, how BJJ is evolving, his thoughts on MMA, and a deep dive into the origins and uses of the worm guard. Keenan also talks about his thoughts on referee bias in competition, the problems with regular BJJ training and much more.
  • Special guest Rafael Lovato Jr. BJJ often goes hand-in-hand with MMA and Rafael Lovato Jr is a great embodiment of this. Lovato Jr is not only a high level BJJ competitor and black belt who was the second American to win the IBJJF World Championship, but also an MMA fighter in Bellator. This conversation was recorded in April 2019 before his scheduled fight against Gegard Mousasi and covers his preparations for the fight. It also delves into his reflections on training and competing in his mid-30s, mobility, his thoughts on how well BJJ translates into MMA, and the adaptations one must make to their BJJ game when transitioning into MMA.

Listen to A Fistful of Collars on:

Grappler Union Podcast

Grappler Union Cover

Grappler Union is a podcast focusing on BJJ in the Midwest of the USA. It’s hosted by Javier Palomo and Anthony Zito and is mostly an interview-style podcast. Javier and Anthony are both experienced grapplers and ask great questions. Some of the episodes cross into casual non-BJJ banter at times, but it’s still an interesting podcast with lots of great guests, not only in BJJ but also MMA.

  • Episode 119 – Carlson Gracie Jr. Carlson Gracie Junior is one of the pioneers of BJJ and the son of the legendary Carlson Gracie Sr. He’s an accomplished competitor and instructor, and his thoughts on the sport are honest and refreshing. This episode is a candid chat with Carlson, touching on his early history in BJJ, BJJ’s self-defence roots and the modern move towards sports. Carlson also talks about rifts within the Gracie family and his thoughts on the modern state of BJJ. Finally the episode also covers Carlson’s teaching methodology, thoughts on how to introduce beginners to jiu jitsu and even social media and BJJ.
  • Episode 106 – Omar Ocasio & Manny Vazquez. This episode covers plenty of topics given that Omar is a 10th planet black belt and instructor and founder of the Midwest Finishers sub-only tournament, and Manny is a purple belt and Belator fighter. Topics include the origin of the Midwest Finishers tournament, the importance of competing as a teacher and regularly rolling with students, takedowns and wrestling in BJJ, thoughts on points vs submissions in BJJ competitions and more.
  • Episode 111 – Vlad Koulikov. While this episode eventually becomes quite a casual chat between the hosts and Vlad, it starts as a great exploration of how sambo, judo and BJJ can fit together. Vlad is a judo black belt, BJJ black belt and sambo Master of Sport. The episode delves into his thoughts on fusion-based grappling, teaching in BJJ and how sambo can be an effective takedown system for jiu jitsu. 

Listen to Grappling Union on:

BJJBrick Podcast

The BJJBrick Podcast Cover

The BJJBrick podcast is an interview and conversation podcast with friendly hosts Byron, Gary and Joe. The interviews are where this podcast shines, with some insightful questions and great guests including some of the biggest names in the sport right now. 

There’s also a variety of extra content in each episode, including breakdowns of recent articles relating to BJJ and sports psychology, reader questions, and general thoughts that the hosts have about BJJ. 

Good episodes to start with:

  • Episode 221 – Learning Jiu Jitsu with Kit Dale. Kit Dale is an interesting personality in the BJJ world, and this episode explores his philosophy about BJJ training including the debate between concepts and techniques. It also explores how Kit thinks BJJ should be taught, his thoughts on competition and much more.
  • Episode 298 – Finding your way in Jiu Jitsu with Emily Kwok. This episode with Emily Kwok is particularly great for females getting serious with BJJ, but is also great for males interested in BJJ from a female perspective. Emily also delves into kids starting BJJ, how to pick a good gym if you’re a female, training while pregnant, the value of competition, and making a business out of BJJ.
  • Episode 217 – Australia’s rising grappling star Craig Jones. Craig Jones is a larrikin and champion grappler from Australia. This episode is an excellent deep dive into Craig’s z-guard game style and evolution. He also talks about what it takes to be a world-class BJJ competitor, how to train for different competitions and how you should train BJJ if you only have a small amount of time each week.

Listen to BJJBrick on:

Bonus podcast: The Joe Rogan Experience

The Joe Rogan Experience Cover

I’ve mentioned the Joe Rogan Experience so many times on this blog that I could fairly be accused of being a fanboy, but his podcast has a lot of value for grapplers. Joe himself is a black belt under Jean Jacques Machado, and has many guests on the show who train in BJJ. 

These include masters like Rickson Gracie, current and past MMA champions, visionaries like John Danaher and Eddie Bravo, and even comedians who now regularly train such as Russell Brand, Russell Peters and Joey Diaz.

Few episodes revolve solely around BJJ (I’ve listed these below), but many more involve broader topics which have tangents into BJJ/MMA depending on the guests.

Episodes to start with / guests that train:

Listen/watch The Joe Rogan Experience on:


Did we miss a good BJJ podcast? Let us know below. There are also some great self-help podcasts to listsen you which you can find in our guide.

The 30 best biohacking books to improve your diet, sleep, exercise and longevity

Here are the best books to consider if you’re a biohacker or looking to optimise your health and nutrition in 2019. Many are short reads and some of them come in kindle versions which are incredibly cheap, so there’s no reason not to buy them. 

Below are our top three picks, and you can scroll down further for the full list broken up into topics.

Note that Strive Diary is a reader supported website. If you click on the links below and purchase a product, we will earn a commission. This comes at no extra cost to readers and we only recommend products which are genuinely helpful.

Our top three biohacking books for 2019 (scroll down for the full list)

1. Biohacker’s Handbook

This is a great book to start with. It’s a general guide to biohacking and includes information on most topics you’ll be interested in.

2. Beyond Training

This is written by well known biohacker Ben Greenfield. It’s great value and full of tips and information to optimise your health and performance. 

3. Why We Sleep

Why we sleep book cover

Sleep should be one of the first factors you optimise. This book explains everything you need to know about how sleep works and how to improve it.

Browse books by topic/group

Books covering multiple biohacking topics 

Biohacker’s Handbook by Olli Sovijärvi, Jaakko Halmetoja and Teemu Arina

Biohacker’s Handbook is a great introduction to health optimisation and biohacking. It’s written by doctor Olli Sovijärvi, nutritional expert Jaakko Halmetoja and technology expert Teemu Arina. 

Each chapter explores a different aspect of biohacking including sleep, nutrition, exercise, work, mind and immunity. The pages are also beautifully laid out with illustrations, diagrams and more, so it’s one book you might want to buy physically. 

Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health & Life by Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield is one of the most authoritative biohackers right now, and his book reflects this. Beyond Training explores multiple topics of interest to biohackers, including:

  • Improving your fitness
  • Enhancing mental performance
  • Upgrading your nutrition
  • Measuring and improving your recovery
  • Explaining which blood and saliva tests you should be taking

It’s a treasure trove of useful information if you’re a biohacker or even if you’re just interested in getting healthier. 

The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson

Primal Blueprint Front Cover

The Primal Blueprint isn’t strictly a book for biohackers, but is a great read for anyone looking to improve their health. This book originally got me into biohacking in the first place, and is an excellent gift to give to family members looking to start their own journey towards getting healthier. 

It’s written by well known health blogger Mark Sisson, and is based on his “10 Laws of the Primal Blueprint” which cover everything from exercise to food and sleep. The book itself also covers ancestral living, unhealthy habits to avoid and the neglected topic of play. 

Lifespan: Why We Age―and Why We Don’t Have To by David A. Sinclair PhD and Matthew D. LaPlante

David Sinclair is a professor in the Genetics Department at Harvard Medical School and a co-director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biological Mechanisms of Aging. When it comes to ageing, he is at the scientific forefront. 

His book Lifespan discusses a number of key ideas, the biggest being that ageing is a disease which is treatable. He then explores the ways current science shows we can live longer and healthier by activating “vitality genes”.

Lifespan also explores the societal implications of living longer and what the future might hold for humanity if we apply these learnings.

Sinclair recently gave a great talk at Google about Lifespan which explores many of the book ideas too.

Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge

Younger Next Year Live Strong Fit and Sexy Until You're 80 and Beyond Front Cover

If you’re a mature-age biohacker or looking for a great book for older family members, Younger Next Year is one to add to your list. Younger Next Year is all about how men over 50 (although some reviews from female readers suggests it’s helpful to them too) can reduce the negative impacts of age and reduce the possibility of illness and injury. 

The book explores recent science related to ageing, and shows you how exercise, aerobics, strength training, nutrition and more factor into ageing well.

The Four Hour Body by Tim Ferriss

The Four Hour Body Front Cover

Tim Ferriss is a well known author and blogger when it comes to the topic of productivity and exiting the 9-5 grind, but he’s also a biohacker at heart. The Four Hour Body is an optimisation manual of sorts for a range of topics including dieting, exercise, sleep, injuries and even sex.

Food and fasting

The Bulletproof Diet by Dave Asprey

The Bulletproof Diet Front Cover

The Bulletproof Diet is written by Dave Asprey, one of the pioneers of biohacking and the CEO of Bulletproof. The Bulletproof Diet is all about optimising your health, weight and performance through your diet. It also includes information about sleep, exercise, supplementation and even cooking.

The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting by Dr. Jason Fung and Jimmy Moore 

The Complete Guide to Fasting Front Cover

The Complete Guide to Fasting is a comprehensive but easily understandable fasting resource. It has information on all forms of fasting, from intermittent fasts all the way up to extended fasts of multiple weeks. Along with The Longevity Diet below, these two books should prepare you adequately for your own fasts. 

It also includes plenty of scientific evidence and lists the various mechanisms and benefits of different fasts particularly for fat loss, diabetes, heart health and longevity. Another great feature is that it includes interviews about fasting with global health personalities and experts including Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson and Dr Bert Herring, the pioneer of intermittent fasting. 

The Longevity Diet: Discover the New Science Behind Stem Cell Activation and Regeneration to Slow Aging, Fight Disease, and Optimize Weight by Valter Longo

The Longevity Diet Front cover

The Longevity Diet is another must-read book you should buy before starting your own fasting regime. Not only does it include an excellent evidence-based examination of the benefits of longer-term fasting for autophagy and anti-aging, but it also dives into author Valter Longo’s “longevity diet”. 

The longevity diet is Longo’s science-backed take on the optimal diet for a long life. It involves eating only a little meat, lots of plants, and overall reduced quantities of food. 

Another reason why you should pick this book up is Longo’s research into the “fast mimicking diet” or FMD. The FMD is a reduced calorie diet which gives you most of the benefits of a 5 day water fast without you having to give up food completely. 

You can also read our review of The Longevity Diet for more information before you buy it.

Medical Medium Life-Changing Foods: Save Yourself and the Ones You Love with the Hidden Healing Powers of Fruits & Vegetables by Anthony William

Medical Medium Life Changing Foods

Medical Medium Life-Changing Foods is a simple reference guide listing fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs and wild foods which can be used to improve your health and heal certain conditions. 

Each chapter examines a specific food and shows you the conditions and symptoms the food helps with, and then gives you tips for preparing and consuming it.

Genius Foods by Max Lugavere

Genius Foods Front Cover

Genius Foods was initially written by science journalist Max Lugavere in response to his mother’s dementia diagnosis. It’s all about the role of food in the function, performance, optimisation and health of the brain. 

The book contains information about the various “genius foods” which can increase memory, rejuvenate the brain and improve mood. It also includes recipes to incorporate these foods into your diet. 

Healthy Gut, Healthy You by Dr. Michael Ruscio

Healthy Gut Healthy You Front Cover

The gut is of particular interest to biohackers because it has a big impact on our overall health and performance. Healthy Gut, Healthy You is a detailed explanation of:

  • How the gut works
  • What you should eat for optimal gut health
  • Lifestyle factors that impact the gut
  • How to heal your gut 

It also has an eight-step plan to help you implement the takeaways from the book to get your gut health on track. 

How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease by Michael Greger M.D. FACLM and Gene Stone

How Not to Die Front Cover

How Not to Die is all about how you can use nutrition and lifestyle changes to prevent or reverse the top causes of premature death. Each chapter is devoted to showing “how not to die” from a different disease or illness including heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes and more. 

The book also includes a helpful list of foods you should eat every day for disease prevention which the authors call the “Daily Dozen”.

No Grain No Pain: A 30-Day Diet for Eliminating the Root Cause of Chronic Pain by Dr. Peter Osborne

No Grain No Pain Front Cover

According to Dr Osborne’s research, eating grains can have damaging effects on the body. These effects can include inflammation, autoimmune responses and vitamin and mineral deficiencies. No Grain No Pain dives into the science behind these findings and presents a plan to help you get off grain.

Metabolic Autophagy: Practice Intermittent Fasting and Resistance Training to Build Muscle and Promote Longevity by Siim Land

Metabolic Autophagy Front Cover

Siim Land is a well known biohacker, and his book delves into the topic of longevity and muscle building through intermittent fasting and resistance training. It also explores other relevant topics for health optimisation and longevity too including ketogenesis, sugar, circadian rhythms, supplementation, nutrition and sleep. 

The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance by Jeff S. Volek and Stephen D. Phinney

The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance Front Cover

The ketogenic diet offers plenty of benefits for biohackers and those looking for more optimised health. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of good evidence-based resources for athletes looking to implement this diet. 

The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance is written by low carb experts Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney, and includes plenty of information and strategy relevant to athletes. The book is particularly useful if you’re worried about the possible effects the ketogenic diet may have on your performance. 

The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes

The Case Against Sugar Front Cover

Many well known health organisations, experts, nutritionists and biohackers now recommend avoiding sugar. The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes is an excellent foray into why this advice should be noted. It explores how sugar is a major cause behind obesity, diabetes and other major illnesses, and also shows sugar’s interesting role in the history of America.

Gary Taubes is a best-selling author and award-winning science writer. His other books include Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It which explores how and why people become overweight. 

Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food By Catherine Shanahan M.D.

Deep Nutrition Front Cover

Dr Shanahan’s book Deep Nutrition is all about the nutrition commonalities between the longest living human populations. Shanahan blends this information into what she calls the “Human Diet”. The Human Diet is based on the four cornerstones of fresh food, fermented and sprouted foods, meat cooked on the bone, and organ meats. 

Deep Nutrition explains the mechanisms and reasoning behind these four factors, plus recipes and other information about how to implement them in your own life.

Sleep

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker PhD

Why We Sleep Front Cover

Why We Sleep is an excellent introduction into the topic of sleep and how you can improve the quality of this critical bodily process. It’s an excellent summary of why sleep is important for the body, what it does, and the numerous negative effects lack of sleep can have. It’s also jam-packed with scientific evidence for each claim, although it’s written for a non-scientific audience.

After reading this book, you’ll be convinced that sleep is the original biohack and the most important factor to address when optimising health. The book ends with a practical list of the 12 things you should do to improve your own sleep which is worth buying for alone. 

If you’re interested you can also read our book review of Why We Sleep

Exercise

Body by Science by John R. Little and Doug McGuff

Body by Science Front Cover

Body by Science explores the concept of only working out once for 12 minutes per week in order to optimally build muscle and minimise injury risk. You’ll find great value in this book even if you’re happy with your current training regime. It has plenty of good science-backed information and questions much of the status quo about exercise. This includes the myth that health equals fitness and vice versa, and that athletes are the healthiest of us all (hint: they’re often not).

Body by Science could be a great book for you if you want the benefits of exercise without the large weekly time investment current popular thinking tells us is necessary. 

Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery by Christie Aschwanden

Good to Go What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery Front Cover

If you’re a biohacking veteran Good to Go might be confronting. It challenges much of the sports recovery trends seen in the biohacking and health optimisation space right now. Regardless, it’s a great examination of the science surrounding many of the sacred cows of the sports recovery industry including hydration, supplements, icing, infrared saunas, massage, float tanks, sleep and much more.

I highly recommend you read this book if you are interested in sports recovery. It could save you plenty of time and money on recovery modalities which require more science.

Cold therapy and breathwork

What Doesn’t Kill Us by Scott Carney

What Doesn’t Kill Us Front Cover

What Doesn’t Kill Us is a great introduction to the icy world of Wim Hoff and his cold exposure and breath program. It’s an entertaining look into Wim’s unique story, how his system works and the benefits it comes with. 

The great thing about What Doesn’t Kill Us is that it’s written by investigative journalist Scott Carney. Carney actually met Wim multiple times and learned the system from him directly. You’ll find this book to be not only entertaining and easy to read, but also honest and full of the science behind Wim’s program.

The Healing Power of the Breath by Richard P. Brown and Patricia L. Gerbarg

The Healing Power of the Breath Front Cover

The Healing Power of the Breath is a short book which lists different breathing techniques and explains how optimal breathing can improve your physical and mental health. The included techniques can be used to help with a variety of issues including depression, anxiety, insomnia and stress to great effect. It also comes with a CD full of timed tracks to practice along to.

The Oxygen Advantage By Patrick McKeown

The Oxygen Advantage Front Cover

The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown is all about fixing your breathing to improve your performance, health and weight loss. It explains how you can utilise different techniques such as nose breathing, light breathing and breath holds to improve your health and performance. 

The book also explores the Body Oxygen Level Test (BOLT) which you can take to measure your improvements. The system outlined by McKweon is both similar and different to that of Wim Hoff, and you can read more about the differences in McKeown’s article on the Oxygen Advantage website

Mental performance and brain health

Head Strong: The Bulletproof Plan by Dave Asprey

Head Strong The Bulletproof Plan Front Cover

Head Strong is the second book written by biohacking authority Dave Asprey. It focuses on how to increase brain performance through food, supplements, avoiding toxins, meditating and much more. 

Unlimited Memory by Kevin Horsley

Unlimited Memory Front Cover

Enhancing mental performance and memory is a key pursuit for many biohackers. This can help you accomplish more work or output with your time. Unlimited Memory is an interesting, concise and cheap read about how to improve your memory using various techniques from memory champion Kevin Horsley. Some of the techniques are ingenious, such as using your car or body to remember lists.

Lifestyle

The Awakened Ape by Jevan Pradas

The Awakened Ape Front Cover

The Awakened Ape is akin to a biohacking guide for your spirit. It’s a mixture of techniques and tips from ancestral lifestyles and buddhist meditation practices. 

It includes a range of chapters devoted to how you can enjoy life more. These include topics like meditation, the optimal diet, how to improve your attention span, how to reduce negative thinking habits and how to adopt the beneficial aspects of living like a caveman in the modern world.

The Non-Tinfoil Guide to EMFs: How to Fix Our Stupid Use of Technology by Nicolas Pineault

The Non Tinfoil Guide to EMFs Front Cover

The Non-Tinfoil Guide to EMFs is a refreshing take on the impact that electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from wireless technologies and electricity have on the human body. It doesn’t take a ‘scare tactics’ approach of the topic but talks about the current science around the risks these technologies might come with. It then arms you with knowledge and solutions to reduce your exposure. 

This is a great starting point for research into the topic, but fair warning: it may make you want to live on a farm well away from the nearest mobile phone antenna or heavy power line. It’s also a short read that I was mostly able to get through in one sitting. 

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky

Why Zebras Dont Get Ulcers Front Cover

If you’ve ever wondered how stress works and how it impacts the body and mind, this book is for you. Author and neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky dives into stress and its role alongside various states and processes including pain, memory, sleep, immunity and more. 

While not strictly a self-help book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers is an interesting read for addressing the problems associated with stress using analogies and parallels from the animal world.

Deskbound by Dr. Kelly Starret with Glen Cordoza

Deskbound Front Cover

Following on from his excellent book Becoming a Supple Leopard, Starret’s more recent book Deskbound is all about the health problems associated with sitting for long periods of time and how to avoid them. 

This book is excellent if you work a 9 – 5 desk job. It includes explanations of the problems associated with sitting for long periods of time and also:

  • How to have good posture when sitting
  • Guidelines for creating a healthy standing desk setup
  • How you can maintain your body after long periods of sitting
  • Mobility guidelines for the different body parts

Dirty Genes: A Breakthrough Program to Treat the Root Cause of Illness and Optimize Your Health By Ben Lynch

Dirty Genes A Breakthrough Program to Treat the Root Cause of Illness and Optimize Your Health Front Cover

Dirty Genes is all about how genes play a role in many health issues. We can either be born with these “dirty” genes, or genes can respond to unfavourable conditions provoked by our environment, nutrition and other factors to cause health problems. 

The book starts by identifying various “dirty genes” and then explores tactics and plans for reducing the symptoms of dirty genes and improving health.


Are there any great books for biohackers or health optimisation that you think should be on the list? Let us know below and we’ll add them to the list!

Want more?

A day-by-day account of what it’s like to do a 5 day water fast with exercise

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest fasting is important in increasing longevity. Dr Valter Longo’s excellent book The Longevity Diet and Dr Jason Fung and Jimmy Moore’s book The Complete Guide to Fasting both explore how fasting promotes autophagy.

Autophagy is a regular process where your cells are broken down and recycled, starting with the damaged parts first. There are many other benefits to fasting too including increased body fat loss, increased insulin sensitivity, lower blood cholesterol and more.

With all these benefits I decided to try a 5 day water fast. Before we get any further, let’s not mince words: fasting for five days was quite difficult. It wasn’t intense like lifting a very heavy weight or getting through a 3-minute sparring round, but it was a monotonous, unpleasurable and hazy five days.

By the end of the fast I definitely saw the bright side: I’m now much more grateful for the food I shovel down my mouth each day.

Note: This is a reader supported blog, so some of the links to books in this article will earn us a commission.

Table of contents

Before you do your own fast: Do plenty of research from trusted sources and speak to a health professional if unsure. I’ve included a list of videos, books and podcasts at the bottom of this page to help. Note that according to The Complete Guide to Fasting, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, children under 18, those who are severely malnourished or underweight, and people suffering from some conditions should not fast. I’m not a health professional and this is just a recount of my own experience.

Before and after results from my 5 day water fast

  • Bodyweight went from 77.4kg to 72.4 kg
  • Ketones went from 0.1mM to 3.6mM
  • Strength and endurance stayed the same
  • Mental clarity decreased during the fast
  • Mood dropped significantly during the fast

5 day water fast before and after: weight

5 day water fast before and after: ketones

How I structured my 5 day water fast

  • 5 days of zero calories
  • Unlimited water including sparkling water
  • No food or supplements including coffee, tea and bone broth
  • Zero-calorie unflavoured electrolyte sachets containing sodium, potassium and magnesium were allowed to help with workouts (I used unflavoured LMNT sachets)
  • To preserve muscle, I would attempt to workout as normal (2x weight sessions and 1x 45 minute street run)
  • Photos and weigh-in each morning after waking, ketones taken throughout the day
  • Fast started at Sunday 4pm and ended Friday 4pm

Day 0 – Pre-fast – Sunday

My pre-fast day started with some bodyweight and ketone measurements to get a control to compare against during the fast.

I ate normally until my fast began at 4pm and by 9pm I was already feeling a little hungry. Doubt started to gnaw at me and I wondered how I would fare during the crucial first 48 hours where hunger hormones rise and then plateau according to Dr Fung.

  • Morning mood: 7.5/10 – Excited, a bit anxious, and a little hungry (already!), but ready to rise to the challenge.
  • Weight: 77.4kg (170.6lbs)
  • Ketones: 0.1mM

Day 1 – Monday

I woke feeling refreshed after a great night of sleep. I’m not usually hungry in the mornings so I couldn’t tell a major difference yet.

By mid-morning the reality of the fast kicked in: time goes by slowly when you have no food or coffee to look forward to!

My coffee break was instead replaced with a morning walk watching people around the city devour fresh pastries and hot drinks. My sense of smell had already started picking out food from what seemed like a mile away.

Later in the day I started to feel a little less sharp in my reactions and a bit more sleepy, but chalked it up to the lack of caffeine.

At 4pm I realised I had completed the first 24 hour period of fasting. It was funny seeing my colleagues’ reactions to my fast, with reactions generally being supportive and amused.

By the end of the day I started to feel more tired and mentally foggy. I was easily distracted and sleepier than usual. I decided to pass on my regular Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class to see how I would feel the next day.

  • Morning mood: 5/10 – Tired and unfocused, and not bothered for intense exercise.
  • Weight: 75.6kg (166.6lbs)
  • Ketones: 0.6mM

Day 2 – Tuesday

I woke up again feeling good. My morning weigh-in showed that I had lost a little more weight and my ketone levels were steadily rising.

I was already sick of only drinking water. I got some slight taste relief by drinking my morning sachet of electrolytes though.

My trusty water bottle and electrolytes.

Today was my first fasted workout. I was anxious to see if I would be able to squat or if I would just buckle. My workout went surprisingly well, and I hit my target weight and rep range. I did feel a little dull during the workout, but the results were better than I expected.

According to The Complete Guide to Fasting, growth hormone rises during a fast, which helps to preserve muscle and help with workouts.

After the workout my mood and energy improved somewhat. I felt a little bit more energised and less hungry.

The biggest realisation I had on day two was how much pleasure I derive from eating. I enjoy eating a big meal after training, buying a hot coffee on a cold winter morning, and coming home after work to cook a fresh dinner. We take these rituals for granted and this fast was reminding me of that.

  • Morning mood: 6.5/10 – Not feeling hungry, but generally feeling unsatisfied. The weights workout improved mood and energy.
  • Weight: 75.1kg (165.5lbs)
  • Ketones: 0.8mM

Day 3 – Wednesday

Today I woke up feeling drained after yesterday’s workout. My sleep was also low quality and full of tossing and turning.

On the plus side my ketone levels jumped to 2.2 millimolars (mM), which is expected on day three of a fast. This fast had put me squarely in ketosis for the first time in my life. My body had run out of fuel from the glycogen (sugar) stored in my liver and was now using my fat.

Apart from this I felt slow, mentally unfocused, dull, and more sleepy than usual. I also had a slight headache all day.

At lunch I left the office and picked probably the worst place to do some writing: a nearby food court. My mood plummeted and my feelings of weakness were made worse by the smells, sights and sounds of people eating.

My sense of gratitude for being able to eat food continued to rise. My free thoughts turned to food, especially what I was going to eat once I broke my fast!

  • Morning mood: 5/10 Almost gave up at lunch as I felt weak and cloudy.
  • Weight: 74.2kg (163.5lbs)
  • Ketones: 2.2mM

Day 4 – Thursday

I woke up on day four with even more muscle soreness from my Tuesday workout. It was interesting to see how my recovery was lagging without food.

My bodyweight had fallen by another kilogram. I now weighed 73.3kg, 4kgs lighter than what I started. My ketone levels hadn’t moved.

Today was deadlift day and I was unsure I could do it feeling so tired and dull. Surprisingly, as with Tuesday, my workout didn’t really suffer. I lifted roughly the same amount of weights for the same number of reps as usual. I felt quite slow and clumsy throughout the workout though.

After the workout my mood and energy levels improved as was the case on Tuesday.

I ended the day relieved that I’d come this far. All that was separating me from completing my fast was one night’s sleep, a full day of work and my normal morning run.

  • Morning mood: 6.5/10 My mood is lifting now that I’m almost done! But still feeling very tired.
  • Weight: 73.3kg (161.5lbs)
  • Ketones: 2.2mM

Day 5 – End of fast day! – Friday

I woke up feeling somewhat energised and fresh with the promise of food later.

My morning weigh-in showed that I’d now lost 5kg (11lbs) since starting the fast five days ago. My ketone levels had also jumped higher to 3.6mM. Overall though I was feeling tired and sluggish. I had never walked so slowly in my life.

My final weigh-in

I reluctantly started my usual friday morning run. It was more difficult than usual and I had to mentally push myself to even finish it. Somehow I only ended up being a minute or so slower than usual.

At about lunchtime I was painfully close to throwing in the towel early. The office lunch of burritos looked amazing and I still had another four hours to go!

30 minutes before I reached the 4pm finish line I prepared my first meal. Taking the instructions in The Complete Guide to Fasting by Dr Fung and Jimmy Moore on board, I chose a small bag of plain macadamia nuts to break my fast. I put the bag on my desk as I waited for the time to tick by. The book also recommends drinking a tall glass of water before you eat, so I also got this ready.

I mentally limped through to the 4pm finish line. I drunk my water and thrust my hand into the bag of nuts and greedily munched down a handful with a huge grin. The book says to chew thoroughly, which I tried at first but quickly forgot. The macadamias tasted so great.

Following the instructions in the book, I waited 30 minutes to make sure my stomach was feeling okay and then basically ran to get a sashimi salad.

The delicious sashimi salad

It was one of the best tasting meals I’d ever eaten in my life. Every little texture and flavour was magnified, from the bursting roe to the crunch of toasted shallots.

I felt so happy to finally be eating again. Once again this fast drove home the importance of food in my life and the gratitude I have to be able to eat whenever I want to.

By the end of the night after a huge tapas dinner I was already feeling like myself again.

  • Morning mood: 7/10Feeling happier since I’m on the home stretch, but quite tired
  • Weight: 72.4kg (159.6lbs)
  • Ketones: 3.6mM

What would I do differently next?

For my next fast I will:

  • Be more careful with my transition back to normal eating. I will follow Valter Longo’s suggestions of eating predominately complex carbs and minimal fats and proteins – I was visiting the bathroom numerous times after breaking my fast!
  • Get into nutritional ketosis prior to beginning a fast to help reduce the brain clouding effects
  • Try a fasting mimicking diet (FMD), which allows you to eat a small amount of food each day for five days, getting you many of the benefits of a 5 day water fast but without the strain of not being able to eat. This also means I can drink coffee!
  • Collect more data (unfortunately my replacement Oura ring was still in transit at the time of this fast) including:
    • Sleep
    • HRV
    • Resting heart rate
    • Blood pressure
    • Blood glucose
    • Body fat percentage before and after the fast
  • Think about ways to maximise the effects of my fast. Leading UK biohacker Tim Gray offered me the advice of consuming proteolytic enzymes, and there are also other foods and fluids like apple cider vinegar which may help lower blood sugar.

5 day water fast resources and information

I did a lot of reading and listening to podcasts before I fasted. Here are some great resources which you should work your way through before attempting your own water fast:

Books

Videos / Podcasts

Closing thoughts: My 5 day water fast results

Measuring autophagy is impossible, so I can only hope and assume this fast got me the benefits that come with this cell cleaning process.

I didn’t realise I would lose so much weight during my 5 day water fast, but my worries decreased after I saw my weight steadily rising each day after.

The fast was a rewarding experience and something I will definitely do again, albeit with either a period of ketosis prior to fasting or using a fasting mimicking diet.

Have you done a 5 day (or even longer) water fast yourself? Tell me about your experience below!

Luck has played a major role in some of the biggest successes in history

Luck is a key ingredient in success which we’ve already delved into deeply on this blog. There are also some experts such as Professor Richard Wiseman who believe you can even increase your luck in four steps. Regardless, luck is a force that’s behind much of our success.

Here are a few high profile examples of luck to ponder. They’re mostly based on information from three great books about luck: The Luck Factor by Richard Wiseman, Success and Luck by Robert H. Frank and The Success Equation by Michael J. Mauboussin.

1. Bill Gates and Microsoft

Bill Gates’ benefited from a healthy dose of luck in his early years.

First off, he went to a private school which gave students access to computer programming terminals where you could build computer programs and get them running in real time. Others had to go through convoluted processes which added days and weeks to what could take Gates hours to complete. Gates himself estimated that there might have been 50 other students in the world who could have done the same thing at that time.

Gates’ mugshot after allegedly running a stop sign in his early 20s

Next, Gates and his partner Paul Allen were able to acquire the precursor to MS-DOS for $50,000 and then organise a rare and lucky deal to get paid royalties for every IBM computer MS-DOS was installed on.

At the time IBM had a pessimistic forecast for PC sales, which helped Gates seal this lucrative deal. Because Microsoft retained rights to their new operating system, when IBM’s huge success selling their PC caused other companies to start selling PCs, Gates was able to sell even more software.

2. The Mona Lisa

Another example from Success and Luck is the Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo da Vinci. This was a relatively obscure and ignored Da Vinci painting until an Italian maintenance worker stole it from the Louvre in 1911 and tried to sell it to an Italian art gallery.

The resulting global news outrage included countless reproductions of the painting, catapulting it to fame.

3. Al Pacino

One of my favourite examples of the impact of luck is the good fortune Al Pacino had early in his career.

When The Godfather was being made, director Francis Ford Coppola was adamant that the actor who played Michael Corleone should be unknown and look Sicilian. The executives had other plans and wanted to hire someone like Robert Redford. Coppola threatened to leave the project unless the executives followed his request and Al Pacino was cast as Michael.

This was a good turn of events for Pacino, who was a relatively new actor with only two small roles under his belt.

Adding to Pacino’s luck was the fact that Coppola’s adaptation of the Godfather book by Mario Puzo focused on Michael Corleone’s story instead of his brother Sonny Corleone.

The film was a huge success and this pushed the obviously talented Pacino into the spotlight.

4. Bryan Cranston

I loved Bryan Cranston in Malcolm in the Middle, but it was his role as Walter White in Breaking Bad which catapulted him into the spotlight. Cranston’s story is also told by Frank in Success and Luck, and was the definition of a lucky break.

Cranston was originally suggested to play the part of Walter White by the producer of the show, Vince Gilligan. His idea was rejected by studio executives in favour of John Cusack and Matthew Broderick who in turn both rejected the role. Cranston was subsequently accepted and the rest is history.  

5. Scott Adams / Dilbert

The success of the hit comic strip Dilbert is a testament to the power of luck. According to its creator Scott Adams, the comic strip was extraordinarily lucky to be picked up and syndicated across the USA and the world. Some examples of luck include:

  • Adams’ first comics editor was married to an engineer who was a “real life Dilbert” so she instantly connected with the comic and pushed hard for it within her company against heavy objections from colleagues.
  • One day an employee at the Boston Globe went on a road trip holiday with her husband. She was driving and her husband was bored, so he picked Dilbert up from the sales packet she had left in her car. He thought it was funny, and because of her husband’s response the Boston Globe picked it up.
  • The Dilbert comic came to prominence during the mid-1990s when news was dominated with stories of corporate downsizing, technology and the dot com bubble. Dilbert happened to be about the same subject matter which resonated with audiences.
How to fail at almost anything and still win big Book Cover

This story is from Adam’s excellent book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big which delves into his story, and includes some simple but effective tips for success.

6. Penicillin

Another great story from The Luck Factor is the origin story behind penicillin. Sir Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin in the 1920s after coming back from holidays and noticing a petri dish of bacteria he was testing was accidentally left uncovered.

Sir Alexander Fleming immortalised in stamp form.

A specific type of mould called Penicillium notatum had fallen into the dish and killed the bacteria, leading to the eventual discovery of the antibiotic which has saved millions of lives.

7. Warren Buffett

Buffett was famously rejected from Harvard, which led him to consider other education options, one of which was Columbia. At Colombia he was able to study under Benjamin Graham, one of the fathers of value investing and the person who taught Buffett the famous two rules of investing.

Warren Buffett has a great short interview on Forbes alongside Jay-Z about the role luck has played in his life.

8. Jay-Z

Jay-Z was gifted in music during his formative years, which led to him travelling to London to help his mentor Jaz-O record an album. During the two month trip, Jay-Z’s close friend was caught in a sting operation and jailed for 13 years, and Jay-Z says the only reason he wasn’t with this friend was because he was in London at the time.

9. Lost

The show Lost was originally pitched as a cross between the reality TV series Survivor and the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks. Michael Eisner, the CEO of Disney at the time rated the pitch for Lost at a 2 out of 10 and later called it terrible. But because it was already in production Lost was still released, and was a surprising hit which spanned six series.

10. Joseph Pulitzer

The famous reporter, newspaper owner, congressman and namesake of the Pulitzer Prize came to the USA from Hungary in 1864 at the age of 17. He had no money, bad eyesight and no job prospects.

To pass the time he played chess at a local library in St Louis, until one day he met the editor of a local German-language newspaper. The editor gave him his first job , and Pulitzer eventually ended up owning part of the newspaper.

11. Evelyn Marie Williams and Donald Smith

What list about luck would be complete without some incredible lottery stories?

Evelyn Marie Williams won $4 million in 1985 in the New Jersey Lottery, and then four months later won another $1.5 million.

Donald Smith was even luckier and won the Wisconsin State Lottery three times! He won it in 1993, 1994 and 1995 and won a total of $750,000.

Both of these stories are also from Richard Wiseman’s book The Luck Factor.

12. John Woods

While not a success story, a great story from The Luck Factor is that of John Woods. Woods was a senior partner at the Thacher, Proffitt & Woods legal firm. He survived not one but three potentially deadly occurrences.

He was originally booked on the ill-fated Pan Am flight that was bombed over Lockerbie, but cancelled his ticket shortly before the flight so he could attend a Christmas party.

Next, he was working on the 39th floor in the World Trade Centre in New York during the 1993 bombing and escaped unharmed through the fire escape.

Finally in 2001 he narrowly avoided being in the second World Trade Centre tower during the September 11 attack. He left the tower seconds before it was attacked.

13. Leicester City winning the 2016 Premier League Championship

In 2016, English Premier League football team Leicester City had 5000-1 odds of winning the championship. The team was underfunded compared to many of the other teams, and the closest it had come to ever winning was coming second in the 1928-29 season. Even with these odds, Leicester City somehow won the championship in what the BBC called “One of the greatest sporting stories of all time”.

As Janice Kaplan and Barnaby Marsh explain in the book How Luck Happens, after the championship many pundits suddenly had various explanations for why the team won. These included coaching and the analytics used to find players, the poor performance of the top four teams and more.

Closing thoughts about good luck in history

Luck is an interesting and important feature in our daily lives. It’s had a measurable impact on some of the biggest success stories in the 100 or so years this article has covered, and undoubtedly much further back. If you’re interested in learning more about how luck actually works read the following two guides we have:

Do you have a good story about how luck has had a big impact on your own life? Share it below!

Luck can be the deciding factor in success, even if it only plays a tiny role

Luck is one of the most important ingredients in success in addition to hard work and talent. It’s had a hand in the meteoric success of Bill Gates, Al Pacino, Warren Buffett, Jay-Z and countless others.

It’s also resulted in life changing discoveries such as penicillin, and has been blamed in the spectacular failures of objectively good products like the Sony MiniDisc.

We have a complex relationship with this mysterious force that often creeps into superstition. Many of us will question other beliefs we take for granted such as religion, but research shows 70% of people crossing a street would still rather walk around a ladder rather than under it.

The main ideas in this article

Luck is important for success when combined with ability and effort

Experts have varying opinions about just how important luck is for success. The consensus is that luck plays an important role in success when combined with hard work and talent. You need all three components.

As we’ll discuss below, luck isn’t equally as important for success in every activity. It’s also not static. In some activities, luck’s role in success is actually getting bigger with time.

At the base level, luck dictates what country you’re born in, the environment you grow up in, who your parents are and what their incomes are. According to various studies, these factors have significant bearings on the opportunities you’ll receive when growing up and as an adult. Research has even shown that the strength of the economy when you graduate can have an impact on your income up to 15 years in the future!

In the book The Luck Factor, author Richard Wiseman suggests a startling 95% of success is the result of luck and 5% is the result of ability.

This may sound staggeringly high, but a recent 2018 simulation backed this idea up when it suggested that a large ingredient to success was randomness. The study went on to say that according to their simulation “…almost never the most talented people reach the highest peaks of success, being overtaken by mediocre but sensibly luckier individuals.”

Luck plays a role in everything from the success of art to sports and business

As mentioned above, luck can have a huge impact on our basic opportunities. It also has an impact on a large range of specific activities from the popularity of a song to picking stocks. We’ve delved into real-life examples of luck helping some well known people to attain crazy levels of success in another article, but here are a few more.

The Music Lab experiment is one such example talked about in many books and articles about luck. The experiment allowed people to download and leave a rating for 48 indie songs from a website. Some of the participants were put into an independent group where the songs were presented randomly with no ratings, and other participants were presented with the songs along with ratings, and in some cases the download numbers for each song.

The experiment showed that in the groups where ratings and download numbers were displayed, the highest quality songs didn’t necessarily become hits. Instead, the most popular song in this group was actually the same song the other group ranked number 26. The experiment showed that luck plays a big role in the success of a song regardless of whether or not it was the highest quality song.

Luck also has a big impact on the performance of businesses. In The Success Equation by Michael J. Mauboussin, a study by Michael Raynor, Mumtaz Ahmed and Andrew Henderson is described where 288 companies regularly referenced in 13 books about high performance were analysed to see how skill and luck contributed to their success.

The researchers found only 25% of the 288 companies mentioned in these books could be confidently called high performers, and that the rest might have benefited from luck and could be “random walkers”.

Mauboussin also shows an excellent illustration of just how much of a role luck can play in investing. In 2006 TradingMarkets asked ten Playboy Playmates to choose five stocks to try and beat the market. The highest gain was 43.4% by Deanna Brooks, during a time period where the S&P 500 only rose 13.4%. This beat 90% of the money managers actively trying to do the same thing during the time.

Luck isn’t equally as important in every type of activity

Luck’s role can be bigger or smaller depending on the activity. The more skill-based an activity is, the less of a role it plays.

In The Success Equation this is illustrated using the luck-skill continuum. The continuum categorises activities from those based totally on luck on the left to those based totally on skill to the right, with many activities falling somewhere in the middle.

Based on The Success Equation by Michael J. Mauboussin

Using the continuum above you can see just how much of a role luck plays in certain activities. For example, luck plays a larger role in baseball versus basketball and tennis where there are plenty of scoring opportunities in a game. Roulette is totally luck based while running is completely skill-based.

Entertainment-based outcomes including the success of a song or movie have a huge luck component because of the social influences we have on each other as we saw in the Music Lab experiment above. The phenomenon of cumulative advantage also plays a role in the success of entertainment-based activities or products. This is where two songs of similar quality can sell radically different to one another if one is a bit more popular than the other.

There are different ways to assign activities to different places on the continuum, and it can get complex. In The Success Equation, Mauboussin gives three steps for deciding where to place an activity on the continuum:

  1. Is there a clear cause and effect relationship? This usually means an activity is more skill-based.
  2. How quickly do results return to the average? If they return quickly to the average the activity is likely luck-based and vice versa.
  3. Where are experts useful? If predictions among experts about the outcome of the activity are similar this usually indicates the activity is skill-based.

Different aspects of the same activity might even exist in different parts of the continuum. For example the interaction between a pitcher and hitter in a baseball game is based more on skill compared to the overall performance of the whole baseball team where there are more aspects that can influence the outcome.

In activities which are based more on skill, history and the past can be a good teacher. In luck-based activities, history doesn’t help us much.

Knowing if your activity is more skill or luck-based can give you better results

The way you improve your results in an activity depends on how much skill is involved versus how much luck is involved.

According to The Success Equation, skill-based activities require deliberate practice to improve. Deliberate practice is the difficult and time-consuming process of intentionally practicing to improve weaknesses. You can read a quick summary of it in our book review of the book Grit by Angela Duckworth.

To improve in luck based activities you should focus on the process you’re using. A good process has three ingredients:

  1. Analysis – Identify the causes of success in your activity and find a competitive edge
  2. Psychological – Be aware of common psychological biases that may be impacting your process. For example, we tend to give extra weight to recent activities when making a prediction.
  3. Constraints and influences – Be aware of the constraints you’re working within. In your job these might be the influences of your company and industry, and in sports it might be the rules

You’ll also need to realise that even if you have a good process you still might lose in the beginning until you gain expertise.

The larger a “competition” is, the more of a role luck plays

In the book Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy author Robert H. Frank shows that as a “competition” (e.g business, financial, sports or employment) draws more and more “contestants”, luck plays a bigger role in success.

He gives the example of a competition where 98% of contestants’ performance is caused by talent and effort, and 2% is caused by luck. In this competition, all of the top competitors will likely be as talented and hardworking as each other, so the winner will likely be the luckiest of these.

This phenomenon is known in The Success Equation as the paradox of skill, which basically states that as the skill level of participants in a given activity rises, performance becomes more consistent and the importance of luck also rises.

Luck’s role is getting bigger in some activities

The paradox of skill also means that as more and more people take part in an activity, the average skill level is also raised, and therefore luck becomes a more important deciding factor.

Not every activity works this way. In the NBA the average height has risen, and this has the side effect of having the opposite effect because the pool of athletes tall enough to play is shrinking.

The effects of luck are also more magnified today due to technology. In Success and Luck, Frank calls these “winner takes all markets”. In a winner takes all market technology extends the reach of the lucky top performers. Examples of this include tax returns, which are now mostly dominated by one software program: TurboTax when in the past they were completed by local accountants.

We tend to minimise the role of luck in success

As humans we downplay the role of luck in success and celebrate the role of skill mostly because of our own cognitive biases.

In The Success Equation this is blamed on our desire as humans to link cause and effect. Once an event takes place we create a story to explain it which almost acts as if the outcome was a sure thing. Statistics unfortunately don’t have much of a place in these stories.

According to Frank in Success and Luck, other reasons why we downplay luck include:

  • Successful people are frequently confronted with the reality of hard work every day, but only infrequently reminded of the luck and fortune they’ve had
  • Removing the emphasis on luck might encourage you to put and submit the effort that is also required to be successful
  • Emphasising skill over luck strengthens your claim to the results of your successes e.g money

There are also inherent issues in how we study success in the first place. The Success Equation explores how authors and experts study successful businesses to find out how other businesses can apply the same strategies.

This is flawed because unsuccessful companies aren’t included in these studies by definition. To truly see which companies are skilful and which are just lucky, Mauboussin says we should really be asking how many of the companies using a particular strategy were successful. This concept is known as the under sampling of failure.

Closing thoughts about luck and success

The purpose of this article isn’t to say you should stop working hard towards your goals. In fact, it should reiterate that hard work and ability are still essential in success. My hope instead is that this article simply makes you aware of the role luck and randomness could play.

There are two additional reasons why it matters if luck plays a role in success.

Firstly, if successful people acknowledge the role of luck in their success they might be more willing to give back to the institutions and people who helped create that luck. This is one of the main ideas Robert Frank talks about in Success and Luck.

Finally, if you’re better able to account for luck when forecasting or making predictions, you may be able to better plan for the outcome. This is one of the main ideas in The Success Equation.

The scientific approach to becoming luckier

Short summary: Professor Richard Wiseman believes you can become luckier by acting on any lucky breaks you receive, listening to your intution, expecting good luck and bouncing back from bad luck more effectively. Authors Janice Kaplan and Barnaby Marsh recommend taking less competitive routes and having multiple diverse backup plans to improve your luck.

Luck is an underestimated ingredient in success. It has a role in the outcomes of the average person all the way up to the most spectacular success stories in history.

It was a crucial success factor in Bill Gates’ and Microsoft’s meteoric rise in the software space and it helped launch the acting careers of Al Pacino and Bryan Cranston. It made Dilbert one of the most popular comics of our time, and it was responsible for the discovery of penicillin.

Some experts think we can actually increase our good luck

Professor Richard Wiseman’s book The Luck Factor explores the idea that we can improve our luck. His research found that good luck is largely a result of your behaviour. It’s a state of mind rather than the result of magic or divine power.

He conducted research on lucky and unlucky people and found that lucky people were creating their good luck in four key ways which he called the “four principles of luck”.

The crux of his book is centered around these four differences or principles, and the 12 sub-principles underneath each of them.

How to improve your luck with Richard Wiseman’s “four principles of luck”

1. Create, notice and act on the chance opportunities in life

Lucky people consistently seem to meet people who can help them in life. They build strong lasting networks with friends and colleagues, and because of this are more likely to receive lucky breaks compared to unlucky people. Unlucky people on the other hand are more likely to meet people who negatively influence their lives.

Lucky people are more relaxed towards life and so notice more opportunities. They also try new experiences regularly which exposes them to unpredictable outcomes.

This principle is all about maximising your basic opportunities, and it’s something we can all do. Imagine the following two people:

Person 1

  • Age 35 with 10 years of work experience in a professional role
  • Makes a strong effort to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues e.g goes for coffee, makes weekly calls etc
  • Strikes up conversations everywhere they go: their favourite cafe, their regular supermarket etc
  • Frequently tries new activities, hobbies and places to eat

Person 2

  • Age 35 with 10 years of work experience in a professional role
  • Doesn’t make much of an effort to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues
  • Keeps to themselves in public
  • Has the same routine and places to eat

Now imagine both of our hypothetical people were out of a job. Who do you think would find a new job quicker? Which of the two would encounter new opportunities for jobs generally? Person two is my bet. They would have a larger pool of possibilities from their own network and activities.

How to work on this luck principle:

  • Call one a friend, family member or acquaintance you haven’t spoken to in a while and speak to them for 10 minutes. Find a new person to call each week.
  • Strike up a conversation with someone you haven’t spoken to before each week e.g a work colleague, sports acquaintance, someone in a cafe or supermarket queue
  • Have open body language when in public e.g smile and don’t cross your arms
  • Make a conscious effort to try new things e.g pick six new experiences you want to try and roll a die to decide which you will do.

Note: Go into this being genuinely interested and curious in what your friends, family and colleagues are up to. This principle was a good reminder for me that I actually enjoy touching base with the people around me and seeing if I can help them in anyway.

2. Improve and listen to your intuition and gut feelings

Lucky people tend to make great decisions by following their hunches. Their business and personal decisions tend to work out great for them, whereas for unlucky people the opposite tends to happen.

How to increase this luck principle:

  • Meditation
  • Returning to a problem after some time and reflection
  • Finding a quiet place to relax and calm your mind before making a decision

3. Expect good luck

Lucky people usually have good expectations about the future and this helps them to reach their goals. They’re more likely to work harder and deal with setbacks when trying to achieve a goal compared to unlucky people, who tend to give up more easily on their goals. Lucky people will try to reach a goal even if the chances are slim.

How to increase this luck principle:

  • Visualise yourself being lucky
  • Write and repeat a luck affirmation e.g “I am a lucky person and my luck will continue today”
  • Write a cost/benefits analysis of any goals you have to motivate you when you encounter a setback
  • Set short, medium and long term goals

4. Bounce back from bad luck more effectively

Wiseman noticed that lucky people tend to move past bad luck events better than unlucky people. He found that unlucky people feel ruined by bad luck, whereas lucky people have a habit of seeing bad luck as opportunity. Lucky people don’t dwell on bad luck events and make efforts to avoid similar experiences in the future.

How to increase this luck principle:

  • Think about how any bad luck you’ve encountered could’ve been worse
  • Question the importance of a bad luck event in the long term. It’s usually not as bad as you think and you may learn something from it
  • Compare yourself to unluckier people you know. Don’t compare yourself to luckier people you know
  • Think about how bad luck events can actually positively benefit you in the future
  • Distract yourself when bad luck happens by exercising, watching a comedy, seeing friends etc
  • When bad luck comes your way, create a plan to address it and execute it right away

I strongly recommend reading The Luck Factor to get the nuts and bolts of Wiseman’s ideas. The book also includes a 12-part questionnaire which identifies which of the four principles you’re lacking in the most.

I found that I was most lacking in the first principle. I needed to genuinely work on maintaining my extended social circle. I also wasn’t smiling enough, my body language was closed, and I was sometimes a bit closed off when meeting new people. These were things I’ve wanted to improve about myself for a while, so having another reason to address this has made me feel more connected to the people around me.

5. Zig when others zag (Bonus tip)

In the book How Luck Happens by Janice Kaplan and Barnaby Marsh, one way to increase your luck is to pursue ideas outside the regular. By aiming for an alternative route to success you reduce the competition you face, and therefore make it easier to reach success. This is similar to the blue ocean strategy, where you create a product so unique and valuable to customers that you enter a class of your own.

How to work on this luck principle:

  • What is the regular route people aiming for success in your chosen field usually take? How can you get there differently?

6. Have multiple eggs in multiple baskets (Bonus tip)

Another great idea from How Luck Happens is that of diversification. When aiming for success you should throw yourself fully into your primary plan, but also have a number of backup plans. By spending some time preparing these backup plans you can switch quickly if your primary plan doesn’t work out. Having more options gives you more chances of success.

How to work on this luck principle:

  • Think about one or two other jobs, sports or business pursuits you could do if you had to stop working on your primary plan tomorrow.

Can introverts follow these principles?

Wiseman’s research found that lucky people were generally more extroverted than unlucky people. You can mostly see this in the first principle, which includes plenty of “lucky” behaviours which some extroverts do naturally.

I myself am naturally introverted. As I mentioned above I was most lacking in the first luck principle, which mainly centers around maintaining a larger network, striking up conversations and having more open body language.

My solution was “fake it till you make it”. I thought of the most sociable people I knew, and wondered how they would approach certain social situations. Then I just started acting on these thoughts before my inner introvert could stop me.

On a recent business trip I struck up an hour long conversation with my seat buddy and we learned about each other and the flight went by much faster. I got off the plane a little bit more mentally fatigued than normal but also felt charged up from the conversation.

Final thoughts: Can you actually improve your own luck?

Some luck experts such as Michael J. Mauboussin, the author of The Success Equation, disagree with Wiseman’s ideas. Mauboussin’s rebuttal is that you can’t technically improve luck because it’s not a skill. Any effort you spend supposedly improving your luck in the way above is actually just improving your skills.

According to Mauboussin we should approach luck with equanimity regardless of the possibilities. We should realise that any outcome is made up of an element of skill which we can control, and an element of luck which we can’t. If we have approached an activity in the correct way but have still lost due to luck, we should shrug it off and try again. Good or bad luck says nothing about us personally.

Regardless, I’ve still found the four luck principles useful in creating positive opportunities for myself, and maybe this is all that matters in the end anyway.

Learn more about luck with the following resources

Many of us worship competitiveness in business and sports, but according to research, we may need to rethink our love of this trait.

I’m not a very competitive person. I’ve never been one to obsess over competitive sports, video game multiplayer matches or cut-throat board games. And while I’m fascinated by challenge and high stakes performers in sports and business, I’m not the type to rush out and compete. I was comfortable with my level of competitiveness until a recent experience in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class.

During the class I was wrestling someone who was the same level and weight as me but much more competitive. He seemed to want to win a whole lot more than me, and it felt like this desire helped him to eventually beat me.

After the round I started wondering if my lack of competitive nature was hurting my performance. If I were more competitive would I have held on, pushed further and tried every trick in the book to win? More broadly, if I were more competitive would I have a better career or earn more money? Armed with these questions I dug into the science, and what I found was fascinating.

Sports and business is littered with stories of highly competitive individuals and companies who did great things. Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods are legendarily competitive and two of the best in basketball and golf respectively. Goldman Sachs has been known to have a highly competitive culture and has had its share of successes.

There are also the infamous stories too. Enron was a company known for its ultra-competitive company culture which was one of the ingredients behind its spectacular bankruptcy in 2001.

Table of contents

Science finds that competition has no direct impact on performance

An interesting meta-analysis (a study merging the results of numerous individual studies on the same topic) of competition research from 2012 showed that competition had no direct impact on performance.

This finding was true regardless of whether the studies were measuring individual competitiveness, perceived environmental competition (e.g the perceived competitiveness of the classroom or office) or structural competition (e.g an actual contest or competition).

According to the meta-analysis, competition produces two substantial direct effects which actually do impact performance. But because these two effects cancel each other out competition has no direct impact on performance. The study called this the “opposing processes model”.

On the positive side, competition causes you to set performance approach goals. This is when you set a goal to outperform others. Performance approach goals are associated with behaviours positive to your performance such as eagerness, task-absorption and persistence.

On the negative side, competition causes you to set performance avoidance goals. This is when you set goals to avoid performing more poorly than others in a competition. Performance avoidance goals are associated with behaviours which can negatively affect your performance such as worry, task-distraction and self-handicapping.

Being too competitive can be detrimental

All this research points to the conclusion that being extra competitive won’t give you a performance boost, and lacking competitiveness won’t hurt performance. But what if you’re already highly competitive? The research shows that this can come with a range of detrimental effects.

A great roundup of research in this study about the ethical implications of competitiveness showed that competition is more likely than cooperation to cause conflict and damaged relationships in small groups. In team settings, highly competitive people struggle to collaborate, are liked less and also don’t contribute much. Being hypercompetitive was also shown to be associated with poor ethics.

Echoing what the meta-analysis above mentioned, the study also showed that being highly competitive also doesn’t necessarily equate to being more successful. Highly competitive people are “rarely high performers” in jobs, tasks and in school. Even highly competitive nations generally have poorer GDP and national wealth. One study of elite tennis players found that their competitiveness didn’t have a bearing on their rankings.

Competitiveness in business

The difference between healthy and unhealthy competitiveness

But the above findings miss one crucial point: sometimes competition is unavoidable. Going for a promotion, playing a team sport or putting extra effort into a school or university assignment are forms of competition that many of us are expected to take part in. It makes sense to want to tackle these forms of competition in a healthy way.

There are two ways to be competitive. On the one hand there’s hypercompetitiveness, and on the other hand there’s the personal development competitiveness attitude (PDCA), otherwise known as the self-developmental competitive orientation.

Hypercompetitive people try to compete and beat you in everything, even seemingly trivial activities. They try everything to avoid losing and to make others lose. Research suggests that for a hypercompetitive person, winning might enhance their feelings of self worth.

Those with a PDCA or a self-developmental competitive orientation don’t compete solely to win. Instead they compete because it encourages self-development and enhances mastery and enjoyment of the task being completed.

People with a PDCA tend to avoid comparing themselves with others, and they respect their competitors. In fact they see their opponents as valuable partners in their self-growth.

As you can see, being competitive can be healthy and contribute to your growth if you have the right type of mindset.

How to build a healthy attitude to competition

The first step is to recognise that the objective of competition is actually personal growth. The reason why you’re competing is to further your skills, learn something and have fun. Winning is still important but it’s not the primary aim.

If we deconstruct the ingredients of a PDCA or self-developmental competitive orientation we can see that it’s a mindset shift. Someone with a healthy attitude to competition will think the following compared to a hypercompetitive person:


Personal development competitiveness attitude (PDCA)Hypercompetitive mindset
Aim of competitionTo beat my previous performancesTo beat others and win
Outcome of competitionPersonal growth and increased mastery and enjoyment of the activityIncrease of self-worth by winning and demonstration of superiority
“If I win…”I have learned something valuable and enjoyed the dayI have proved I am superior and dominant in my field
“If I lose…”I have learned something valuable and still enjoyed the day. I will apply these learnings and improve my performance next timeI am worthless and embarrassed
“My opponents and training partners are…”Teachers who are providing me with important lessons both in my chosen field and personallyRivals who need to be beaten, not befriended

What to do if you’re too competitive

Author and coach Brett Ledbetter gave a great TEDx talk in 2016 which helps answer this.

Similar to what has been mentioned above, he thinks that highly competitive people can benefit from changing their mindset. Instead of seeing competition as a rivalry between yourself and other competitors, you can instead view it as a healthy way to improve yourself.

His idea is that we should stop viewing competition as “me vs you” and instead view it as “me with you”. We need our training partners and opponents in order to push us further to reach our own achievements, so we should push each other in a healthy way as opposed to an unhealthy rivalry.

What to do if you’re not interested in competing or you actively dislike competition

Join the club! My personal interest in competition ranges from “not bothered” to sometimes actively avoiding it.

According to a recent study called The Four Faces of Competition: The Development of the Multidimensional Competitive Orientation Inventory there are actually two other categories you can fall into in addition to hypercompetitiveness and a PDCA / self-developmental competitive orientation.

These two attitudes are anxiety-driven competition avoidance, and lack of interest toward competition.

Those with anxiety-driven competition avoidance feel that winning or losing in a competition could cause rejection or dislike from their peers, so they avoid it.

If you lack interest toward competition you don’t necessarily avoid it, but you don’t seek it or put additional effort into winning any competitions.

Based on
The Four Faces of Competition: The Development of the Multidimensional Competitive Orientation Inventory

It’s important to note that if you don’t like competition, you can still be incredibly successful. There are business strategies like the blue ocean strategy below which are built on non-competition.

If you’re not interested in competition or actively avoid it, the mindset shift table above might help. I personally feel more motivated to compete when I remove the aim to win and instead focus on the personal growth that will come out of competing.

Can you be non-competitive and still be successful?

Some of the most successful people and businesses have used non-competitive strategies. Warren Buffet was reportedly delighted to buy the Buffalo Evening News newspaper because it was the only newspaper in town. In the past he has also spoken about avoiding competition by building a protective “moat” around a business.

There are whole books devoted to the strategy of avoiding competition. Blue Ocean Strategy is one such example. It explains how businesses can unlock huge profits and more customers by creating a product which provides so much value for users that it leapfrogs competition and lands you in your own market altogether.

Non-competitiveness in business

One successful example of the blue ocean strategy is Cirque Du Soleil, which is now an immensely popular hybrid circus-theatre show. Cirque Du Soleil avoided competition in the relatively small and crowded circus market and created a show where there were stories, acrobatics and artistic performances. It charged higher ticket prices and reduced costs by removing animal shows and “circus celebrities” which didn’t fit with the new concept.

Rather then become a circus competitor, Cirque Du Soleil became an alternative activity. It appealed not just to those who might be interested in going to the circus, but for those who might usually go to a theatre or comedy show.

Curves, iTunes and Lexus are other examples of successful products which sidestepped head-on competition to create products with immense value for consumers. Each of these products resulted in new markets being created for women’s only gyms, high quality legally downloadable music and affordable luxury cars respectively.


Do you have any thoughts or experiences with competition and competitiveness? Share them below!


Sources