My lifting career has played out in two parts so far.
The first was all about me. Like most young folks I was on a mission to prove myself. I hadn’t done anything really, and I knew very little. The only way out of that place was to fight, to take advantage of any opportunity.
You have to grind every damn day to build and grow your voice. There’s no other way. It something that comes with time.
So far the second half of my career has been about others. That wasn’t by design. It was a trial and error type of thing. Barbell Shrugged was just something we thought we should do because we could do it. We thought we had things to say, and we wanted to be heard, sure. But that phase closed out quickly. What the show really is for us now is a chance to reach people. It’s a platform from which we can share ideas, teach, and maybe change things in a small way for the better.
If I’m honest, a teacher is all I ever wanted to be. I’m fortunate things have worked out this way, and eternally grateful to our audience. Thank you for listening and reading, we really do appreciate it. But I still get a little bummed from time to time that my physical peak is behind me. It’s been a long 23 some odd year journey of football and powerlifting that has left my flesh a little worse for wear. I’ll never have 1,000 pounds on my back again, which is fine by me! Giving all that up allowed me to build this platform, and now from that platform I can look back on my history and pull out a lot of lessons. I can do what I’d rather do, which is to teach and help others become stronger than myself.
I get way more energy and satisfaction from that, it’s great.
What do you think matters most when it comes to getting strong? I mean really, really strong?
Sure, programming counts. You have to have a really good and thoughtful plan. You also have to eat like a strong person eats, and work on recovery like a strong person should. But that isn’t enough. There are always more secrets, little pearls or sparks that become obvious in time. These lessons emerge in time, and they make extraordinary results possible.
I couldn’t really see those pearls while I was fighting so hard to prove myself. Maybe that’s at least one advantage of getting older. I’ll gladly forfeit the big lifts to a younger generation in exchange for the wisdom.
I can think of a few great pearls right now, things I picked up along the way that might really make a difference. If you take this advice, it will work. Maybe you have to fight for a while, or longer than you expected, but you will grow stronger. Just try.
First things first, mindset counts for just about everything
I’ve always been amazed at the site of coaches and athletes that appear eager and willing to exploit every advantage when it comes to programming, diet, supplementation, recovery protocols, you name it. Yet, for some reason training the mind doesn’t fit into the planning. What a shame that is.
Your body can be strong and able, like an ox, but it won’t matter one bit if your mind is weak. Setting big goals is the easy part, but holding onto them is quite another.
I won’t toss psychology mumbo jumbo at you, at least not the sort you expect. I will instead share my favorite quote, which is from the beloved author Kurt Vonnegut. It reads, ”We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
There’s a ton of power there.
I don’t want to freak you out or anything, but you are exactly what you think you are and nothing more. Do you see someone weak in the mirror? Is it impossible for you to gain 20 pounds of muscle, or add 100 pounds to your squat? It really is true if it’s what you repeat to yourself every damn day.
On the flip side, try pretending that you are strong, and that more strength is just a matter of time and effort. Don’t worry if you don’t feel up to the grand vision now. Just pretend. Do it and do it, again and again.
You will change in crazy ways.
Please, learn to fight for what you want
I spend most of my time now training in my garage gym. In many ways it’s a dream come true. This is my personal sanctuary, a place where I can lift anytime I want and listen to any tune that suits my mood. On the walls I proudly hang my christmas lights year round because it’s what makes me happy.
This is its own kind of bliss, but it’s not great for the fight.
From this platform I can look back and see where I was at my peak strength. It didn’t matter much what exercise variations we chose, or the number of reps and all (really, it doesn’t matter nearly as much as you think). But what DID matter was the daily fight. I was being pushed very hard by my training partners.
Every time my crew trained we came to kick some ass. There was no room for half-efforts or weak mindsets. No one liked getting their butts kicked during those vicious round-robin style sessions, so, you found a way to put more weight on the barbell. It’s as simple as that.
I’ll tell you, you’d be surprised by how far that kind of stimulus can take you. You just have to be willing to fight for what you want. You can be very strong, I know. Just start by believing it’s possible.