Here's what you need to know...
- Set goals, but don't dish out the specifics to everyone you know. Most people will just try to bring you down.
- People who tear others down are cowards who feel inadequate about themselves – usually because they're inadequate.
- Use a training program as a guide, but don't follow it so rigidly that you don't know how to work around unexpected obstacles.
- Your weaknesses originate from avoiding things you hate. Strengthen them by facing them.
- Don't let your attitude get in the way of changing what you're doing in order to improve. Ego inhibits the corrections needed to set records.
This list represents the cold hard truth that many would rather avoid. These "secrets" are pretty easy to understand, and very hard to implement. You might think some of them have nothing to do with training. You'd be wrong.
1 – Set Your Goals High and Keep Them to Yourself
You can't know where you're going without having good goals. But consider this: your goals can limit you.
Too many times I've heard people say, "My goal is to bench 300 pounds." Then when they do it they realize they could've done so much more.
That's why Louie Simmons always taught me to break my PR by five pounds on my second attempt (in a powerlifting meet you get three attempts), and go for broke on my third.
When dieting for fat loss, I set a timetable based on a number of weeks. If I reach my desired percent body fat early, I keep going. If I didn't reach it in time, I shut it down for another cycle.
Also, when setting goals only let a select few know the specifics. If your goal is to bench 400 pounds, keep that as a marker in your mind. If others ask, just tell them, "I'm training for a bigger bench," or "I'm working toward a new PR."
Your goal may be to get your body fat down to 6%, but all the masses need to know is, "I'm dieting right now."
The reason for this is simple: 90% of everyone you meet are negative pricks who will go out of their way to tell you why you can't do something. Once they know your goal, they'll try and tear you down. Just keep it vague, and all they can do is wish you success.
Of course, they may still try and tear you down once you've actually accomplished your goal, but who cares? You've done the work and have the results to show for it.
Sure, there's value in telling those who will hold you accountable, but for safe measures, only share your specific goal with the few who know you can do it. Take a good look at the people around you, and consider yourself lucky if you know people like this.
Don't worry if you don't. Because all you really need is one: you.
2 – Build Yourself Up, Don't Tear Others Down
Nice guys don't feel inadequate. Jerks do. Want to appear as inadequate as you're feeling? Act like a jerk.
There's a story that comes to mind when I think about that kind of jerk. Years ago I made a trip to a meet where I was going to help some great lifters and world record holders.
During one of the breaks I had lunch with a small group of people, one of whom just didn't fit in. He had an opinion on everything, but nothing to show for it in the way he looked, his lifts, or who he coached.
Later, I discovered he couldn't cut it in three well-known powerlifting groups in his area. He got no respect from all the local lifters because of his big mouth, his inconsistency, and his inability to train hard and be helpful.
About a year later, I saw the same guy mouthing off about everyone on a powerlifting forum with an "I'm the man" attitude. I have no idea what happened to this guy, but I bet he's the same crappy lifter he always was.
Most jerks have done nothing of value going on in their own lives. They're cowards who hide behind fake confidence. All they can do is find fault in others because they've got no direction or courage to do hard things.
It's always easier to tear others down than it is to build yourself up. It's easier to demand respect than to earn it. Of course, the easy way isn't always the best way.
3 – Let Your Program be Your Guide, but be Prepared for Detours
While programming doesn't play as high a role as many claim, you still need a plan to help you achieve your training goals. That's your guide.
But a program a trainer wrote for the general public is a far cry from a program designed specifically for your unique needs, strengths, and weaknesses.
Time and experience will give you the best training. Know how to design programs for yourself.
Beginners should use pre-designed programs to help get their feet wet. While these are still not as effective as a personally designed program, they're much better than what you'll come up with on your own. That's why they're written in the first place: not to be the Holy Grail of programming, but to serve as a launching pad.
If you're an intermediate or advanced lifter, think about your program as a highway you're driving down. You need to be on the one that'll get you where you want to go.
As a lifter you have to expect and prepare for detours. They're part of the process. No training phase ever goes as planned. Detours keep you moving toward your goal even when things go wrong.
4 – Do the Stuff You Suck At
Ever wonder where your weak points come from? They're born from your strengths overriding the rest of your skills, and your avoidance of doing the stuff you hate.
If your abs and core stability are weak points, is it because you're training them too hard or too often? Not a chance. Show me a weak point and I'll show you a movement that isn't being trained because the athlete doesn't like to do it.
Let me tell you about how I discovered this secret. It was at the IPA Worlds, my first meet after a nine-month hiatus. I'd taken some time off to heal, regroup, and push my bodyweight up. I was looking forward to this meet, because my training was going well.
My warm-up for the squat attempts felt fast and explosive. I was getting jacked up about the meet.
I was on deck. My wraps were on tight and I was ready. Finally, over the loudspeaker came the words I'd waited nine months to hear, "Load the bar to 860 pounds for Dave Tate." It was a weight I'd squatted several times before, and it was to be my opening attempt. Full of rage, I began chalking my hands.
This is the moment with every big lift that I "detach" from myself and go on autopilot. Rarely do I remember anything from the time I leave the chalk box until after the lift.
However, this lift I do remember, because I couldn't get it out of the rack.
I tried to stand up with the weight but couldn't budge it. It felt welded to the rack. I tried a few times and still nothing. This pissed me off to no end, so I stepped back and increased my rage as high as I could, got back under the rack... and nothing.
My helpers stepped in and pulled me from the rack. This was not a good moment for me. Nine months of training and I couldn't get my damn opener out of the rack.
Just then, Louie Simmons called out, "Dave, you're done. Pull out." I glanced back at him, figuring he was just trying to piss me off. But he looked straight at me and said, "I'm serious, Dave. You're done. Pull out and we'll talk later. It's not worth what could happen right now."
Now, Louie Simmons is one of the best coaches in the world, and I was part of his team, the Westside Barbell Club. This club is known to be the strongest gym in the world and I was one of Louie's boys. I respect this man and trust him with my life.
So I pulled out and spent the rest of the meet watching the rest of my team lift well and wondering what the hell my problem was.
On the drive home, I told Louie, "I don't understand what happened today. My training went well. I was strong as hell on everything in the gym."
Just then he stopped me and said something I'll never forget: "That's exactly your problem."
I sat there thinking that Louie was out of his mind. How could being strong in the gym be a bad thing?
"You know what you need, Dave?" Louie continued. "You need to do the things you suck at. You're at a point where your weaknesses are killing you, and you're doing nothing to address them. Your legs and upper back can easily squat a grand, but your abs and lower back can't squat 860. What you need to be doing is reverse hypers and standing ab work!"
The simple truth hit me like a half-ton of iron. Louie was right. In training, I hated doing reverse hypers and standing ab work. As a matter of fact, I hated all lower back and ab work, so I skipped it most of the time.
Your weak points are caused by avoiding what you hate. And this is the difference between competitive athletics and "working out." You can always get into better shape by doing things that you like to do, but to excel at a sport you have to master doing the things you hate.
So for the next six months I trained my lower back and abs four days a week: once at the beginning of every session, and at the end of each session. At the nationals I squatted 900 pounds for the first time. For the next meet, I increased my torso training to six days a week, with three days being very heavy and three days being light.
I went back to the IPA Worlds, the same meet I had to pull out of the year before. I squatted 860 pounds, then 905 pounds, and onto an easy 935 pounds.
While training for the 935 pounds, my main gym lifts that I had bragged were so strong were actually down 15 percent from the previous year and my torso strength was the strongest it had ever been.
5 – Change Your Damn Attitude
At seminars I explain what to do to get your lifts to come up. Most attendees understand, make corrections, then set new records.
If you know the path the bar is supposed to travel in any lift, then it's easy to see if the problem is technical or physical. Once you realize this, the solution isn't that hard to find, and your lifts should go up.
But there's always the occasional dick who totally disagrees with everything I say. And sometimes it's not a lack of understanding, but an abundance of ego he's using to wrap around his physical limitations. These guys fall into one of two categories.
Category A – The Put-On-Some-Weight Guys
I can't relate to these twerps who want to get super strong but refuse to gain weight. These guys have little or no muscular development, they're around six-foot-one and weigh 135 soaking wet. You can see their collar bones sticking out from a mile away, and their elbows can be used as weapons.
I have no idea what their problem is. They have no muscle to begin with and are terrified of losing their abs. To add muscle, you have to take in a few more calories than you burn off. Yes, you can gain muscle and lose fat, but the people who do this already have some muscle to begin with: a fat-loss "engine."
If you fall into this category, please understand that when I tell you to gain weight I'm not saying to increase your body fat to 20%. All I'm saying is that if you're looking to add size and gain strength, 10-14% is going to be a lot better for you than 4%.
Category B – The Get-in-Shape Guys
You can spot these oafs a mile away. They show up wearing high top Chucks, a shirt that says Go Heavy or Go Home, a shaved head or beard, and what I call proportionate fat.
Hey, I'm all for filling out your weight class, but it's a huge mistake to fill out four weight classes over the muscle you hold on your frame. Certainly not at the expense of your conditioning and recovery.
Seriously, folks, you can weigh whatever you damn well please, but if you can't walk 100 yards without stopping to catch your breath, then you really need to get your fat ass into shape.
If you're in this poor of shape your body won't be as efficient at processing nutrients, thus impeding recovery and gains.
Now, don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying you need to be a marathoner, but I've seen a shitload of lifters who are in such bad shape I have no idea how they even make it through a squat session let alone a meet. If you happen to be one of these guys, you might want to think about getting a sled, or maybe walking every now and then.
Of course, if given the choice, I'd always take a guy from group B over group A. It's much easier to teach a guy who already has some underlying muscle to eat clean, than to try to convince some bean pole that it's okay if his abs disappear for a while.