Strength training is a just like any other topic – people like to get lost in the minutiae. Rep ranges, periodization models, various permutations of each exercise, and all the rest. In the midst of the noise, people forget to look for the commonalities – the things the cut across most programs for great lifters and great programs across time. So, I want you to think today about the very basics required to reach your strength potential.
You MUST have the proper mindset. If you’re going to reach your potential, you need a mental approach to the game that will allow you to push yourself as far as your body will allow. People set false limits by setting their long-term expectations too low, or they burn out by setting short-term expectations too high. You have to convince yourself that anything’s possible over the span of years of hard training, but that 5 pounds here and 10 pounds there is the way you’re going to get there once you exhaust your newbie gains. Also involved in having the proper mindset is having intentionality about your goals. You aren’t training to just get a little stronger; you aren’t training to be the strongest person in your gym; you’re training to be brutally strong. You need to wrap your mind around that intention and expectation, and develop the utmost confidence in yourself, your abilities, and your potential. In this pursuit, it helps to talk to other lifters who have walked the roads you want to walk and accomplished the things you want to achieve; ask them about how they prepare to push their limits further, both mentally and physically.
You MUST optimize your training to YOUR needs. You can get a long way using the cookie cutter programs floating around on the internet, sure. However, if you’re going to approach your full potential, you have to learn how to tweak things and tailor programs to your individual needs. In the beginning, you’re not a special snowflake – if you put more weight on the bar, you’ll get stronger just like everyone else. Past a point, though, you are a special snowflake – you need to adjust your form to your particular leverages, you need to learn how to address strength imbalances or weaknesses that develop, you need to learn how to tailor training volume, intensity, and frequency to your individual needs. Going on the internet, getting a cookie cutter program, and simply rolling with it doesn’t work past a point. You need to learn, either through expert guidance or via trial and error, how to build a program that’s perfect for YOU.
You MUST have something or someone to keep you accountable. It’s easy to lose a sense of urgency. A lot of the hardest working lifters I’ve trained are guys in their 40s or 50s who realize they need to put in work now because their window of opportunity is closing. Having a coach, a team, or a community to keep you accountable helps immensely by keeping you honest for your actions day-to-day and week-to-week when you may otherwise get distracted. Some people may object and point out people like Mike Tuscherer – a champion lifter who does his own programming and trains alone in his garage. However, someone like that is still held accountable by competition – the understanding, always in the back of your mind, that you’ll have to get on a stage and perform at your best in front of hundreds or thousands of people. Even for most people who train to compete, though, an outside source of accountability, such as a coach, is tremendously beneficial.
You MUST be willing to ask for help and continuously learn. You don’t know everything, and you never will. But the larger the knowledge base you have, the better you’ll be able to optimize your training to your needs, as previously discussed. Static programs will only work but for so long, at which point you need one better suited to your needs. If you’re knowledgeable, you can build one for the purpose. If you’re not, you’re going to take random stabs in the dark in the hopes that something works. Seek our credible sources of information, asks experts in the field about how to progress, and find a mentor. The more you learn now, the fewer roadblocks you’ll encounter ahead.
That’s it. No magic bullet. No secret recipe. Just a dedication to the pursuance of strength and a willingness to seize every opportunity to learn and grown in that pursuit.