Tip: To Get Strong, Be the Weakest Guy in the Gym

Sounds contradictory, but it's true. Here's why.

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Train alongside people that make you feel (and look) like the weakest person in the room. Nothing motivates you more than to train around like-minded individuals who want to work hard, will push you, and play both encourager and caller-outer at the same time.

Back in 2005-2006, coach Eric Cressey and I drove an hour both ways to South Side Barbell in Stratford, CT, a few times per week to train. It was the best training year of my life.

I remember showing up the first night, a Friday, max effort bench night no less, and trying all I could not to destroy the back of my pants when I first walked in. Standing around were 8-10 ginormous human beings tossing around weights I'd only read about up until that point.

Here I was, some slap-dick 200 pound dude who thought he was strong 'cause he had deadlifted 500 a few weeks prior. Hahahaha, that's cute. Vincent Dizenzo was over the corner raw benching 600. (Gulp.)

As intimidating as the environment was at first, it didn't take long to understand the rules and to become a part of the group:

  • Come to work hard.
  • You're not above helping others with spots and hand-offs.
  • Put your shit away when you're done.

It was such a treat to have access to those men for a year. The ball-busting, the training advice, and the camaraderie was unparalleled, and I was never stronger than I was that year. It's hard to find this at your local big box commercial gym.

There are exceptions to the rule, but it's hard to be motivated for a heavy squat day when boy band music is blaring over the stereo and you have fake CrossFit-hero guy working out next to you performing a circuit of kipping pull-ups, high-rep deadlifts that are more like bouncelifts, and bear crawls over a broken glass.

Even if it's only one time per week, try to make an effort to find a gym where you can train amongst your people. It's all the motivation you'll need. Even if it's a little out of your way, it's more than worth it, trust me.