10 Ways to Succeed in Strength Training and Life

1) Define your goals

At one point in the children’s story Alice in Wonderland, Alice comes to a fork in the road.  She is confronted by the Cheshire cat and she asks which path she should follow.  The cat answers, “That depends where you want to go. If you do not know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter what path you take.”  It is very simple, before you can figure out what path to go down, you have to figure out where you are going!

“If you do not know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter what path you take.”

Strength Training:  Do you want to build muscle?  Do you want to Burn Fat?  Add 50 LBS to your Deadlift?  Become a Powerlifter?  Become a Bodybuilder?  Without defining your goal, you cannot determine what program and protocol is optimal.  Figure out your goal and work backwards from there.  Once you implement a plan, you can determine your progress.  You can track whether or not you are getting better, stagnating or falling behind.  If you are getting better, keep going!  If you are stagnating or failing, assess the situation and determine why.  One thing is for sure; you can’t progress if you don’t have a goal to strive towards.

Life:  The most frustrating feeling in life is to feel that you have stagnated or that you do not have a purpose.  Every time the lottery gets big, people go out and buy the tickets and decide what they will do if they win.  Once they lose, that excitement goes away, but why?  Most of us feel that we have no control in our lives and if you do not have a goal or a list of goals that you want to accomplish then, you are wandering aimlessly through life.  As the story goes, many years ago in the early 1900’s, a consultant named Ivy Lee approached Charles Schwab and asked him what it would be worth to him to discover the greatest productivity enhancer known to man.  Schwab was skeptical and asked what it was.  Lee said to him that every day he should write a list of the most important things he needed to accomplish for that particular day and cross them off as he accomplished them.  After a few weeks, Schwab was so amazed at the effectiveness and results of this seemingly simple piece of advice that he sent Ivy Lee a check for $25,000 as a sign of gratitude!!!  Set long-term and short-term goals that you want to accomplish.  Start simple: make a To Do list and do it. 

2) Keep a Positive Attitude

Strength Training:  I can tell you from personal experience the power of a Positive Attitude when Lifting.  I have had times where I was in the middle of a rep, pushing as hard as I could, and as soon as the words “I can’t” crept into my head, the weight fell.  Amazingly, I can psyche myself up by telling myself that I am a BEAST, FREAK or ANIMAL, I give myself some confidence and I proceed to jack the weight up.  In those seconds between failure and success, did I get stronger?  Did my muscles grow?  No way!  I brought about a positive attitude and was able to achieve my goal.  ALWAYS be positive, nothing good has ever been achieved from negativity.

Life:  I can’t stand negative people.  On public transit, walking through the mall or anywhere else, there are negative people EVERYWHERE.  I am not saying that you always have to be happy.  Heck, if you are out of work or you just had a fight with your spouse or you are just having a bad day, I am not going to come hand you a lollipop and tell you to cheer up.  I can tell you one thing though, you won’t feel better until you have a positive attitude.  Think about when you get great service at a restaurant or there is someone very helpful at the store, do they tend to be negative and miserable?  No, typically they are in a good mood and they probably smile too!  Remember what your Mother said, “It could always be worse”.  There are children with Cancer, people who are starving and plenty of other horrible situations out there so, be happy and thankful for all of the blessings you have. 


Strength Training: You can’t train 3 days one week and 1 time the next and expect to get the results you desire.  You need to stay focused and train consistently to achieve your goals.  If you are an athlete, when you are sleeping or playing video games, there is someone else out there who is training and preparing.  The only way to combat that is to be consistent in your own training so, you can ensure maximum development and progress.  In terms of muscle development, “protein synthesis is elevated after acute resistance exercise and remains elevated for up to 48 hours.” (1)  It is for this reason that it is recommended that you train within 48 hours of your previous training session in order to ensure continued progress, hence you need to train consistently in order get maximum results.

Life:  The same rule applies.  If you have a great idea and you only spend a day working on it and you don’t develop it further, nothing will ever come of it.  Stay the course and see your idea through.  Even if it doesn’t work out, you will have learning experience which will guide you in the future.

4) Do what is best for YOU

It is YOUR life, not anyone else’s so, live it that way!!!  A famous quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet comes to mind: “To thine own self be true”.  Be yourself, discover your passion and pursue it relentlessly.

Strength Training: If your training partner wants to bench 500 pounds, but you want to get huge all around then, don’t do his Chest-Specific benching regimen, go your own way.  Be your own person.

Life:  Maybe one of your parents is a doctor and they want you to be a doctor, the passion won’t be there if you don’t want to do it and you will be a disservice to your patients and yourself.  Be your own person and do what YOU love to do. 

5) Massive ACTION

You may have heard the term “paralysis by analysis”.  Too often I see people concerned with having the PERFECT plan, in both strength training and business.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, JUST DO IT!!!  Don’t talk about it, DO IT!!!  You can always tweak and change things as you go along, but the most important thing is to get moving!!!

Strength Training:  It is more important to put forth the effort than to have the perfect plan.  Besides, you won’t know what is best for you if you don’t go forth and train with different exercises and movements.  As you train, you will be able to optimize and develop the appropriate plan.

LifeYou want to find a spouse?  You want to get a raise?  You want to get more business?  Don’t get stuck on thinking of the perfect approach, go forth and act and change your approach as you go.  Go talk to a bunch of chicks and hone your game.  Go the extra mile and do things to impress your boss.  Service your clients so well that they would feel guilty about not coming back for more!!!

6) Pareto Optimality – the 80/20 Rule

Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist from the early 20th century.  Pareto discovered that 80% of the wealth in Italy was in the hands of 20% of the population.  The extension of this is that 20% of the input is responsible for 80% of the results. There are many examples in business, economics and nature that validate this relationship.

Strength Training: In a very literal sense, if you do 10 reps, the last 2 reps are responsible for 80% of your results.  It just so happens that the last 2 reps are the hardest 2 reps of the set ALWAYS!!!  If you do 10 exercises, 2 of the exercises are responsible for 80% of your results.

Life: If you work 10 hours, 80% of your output is accomplished in 2 hours.  Think about that for a moment…how much time do you spend reading e-mails, drinking coffee, chatting with co-workers and surfing the Internet?  I would bet that it is the majority of your work day; hence a small part of your work day is responsible for the majority of your work output.  When I speak of Pareto, I try to tell people not to focus on being perfect since 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort and it is a great rule of thumb to follow.

7) Surround yourself with the BEST, ideally those who are BETTER

You can tell a lot about a person by the Company they keep.  Are you successful?  If not, take a look around…are your friends and associates successful?  Do people like Michael Jordan, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett hang out with losers, drug addicts and people going nowhere in life?  NO!!!  In fact, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett play cards together, is that a coincidence? No, it is not!!!  The people around you are either making you better or tearing you down, strive to be with people who have achieved what you want or who have the same aspirations as you.

Strength Training:  When the average person hears the name Arnold Schwarzenegger, they probably think of him being a movie star or even his current role as the Governor of California.  Those of us who are into lifting think of his reign as Mr. Olympia and that he set the standard for what it means to be huge and powerful.  Every kid who read “The Education of a Bodybuilder” wanted to be Arnold, eating meat in the woods, lifting boulders and doing chin ups on tree branches, but if you asked me the first name that came to mind when Arnold is mentioned, I think of Franco Columbu.  Franco was Arnold’s training partner through his run of Mr. Olympia titles and they came to America together.  Many times Franco was a runner-up to Arnold, but it is no coincidence that the #1 bodybuilder (Arnold) had a top 5 bodybuilder (Franco) as his training partner.  Train with the best and it will make you better.

Arnold's success is no surprise when you see his training partner Franco Columbu.

Life:  So, you want to be a successful, right?  Thursday, Friday and Saturday night you are drinking you face off chasing some tail at the bar, way to go!  Hey, have you run into Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or Richard Branson yet?  No?  Hmmm…that’s odd.  Got any great business ideas from those adventures?  Made a lot of money during those times?  I think you get the picture.  It is NOT a matter of saying, “don’t go out, just work, no play!”  The point I am making is to look around yourself at the bar and other similar social situations, where are these people going in life?  Nowhere fast?  You are better off surrounding yourself with entrepreneurs and people you aspire to be rather than people who you don’t respect and are not making you better.

’8) Small Goals lead to big goals

Small goals are the stepping stones to larger goals.  Before you graduate college and get a job, you have to do your homework, take tests and pass classes.  One reading assignment is a small goal which leads to the bigger goals of passing a test and eventually the class.

Strength Training:  If your goal is to bench press 300 LBS, you are not going to accomplish that goal by trying to bench 300 LBS until you are able to do it.  You have to start with what you can do and then, little by little, add weight until you are able to lift 300 LBS.  This concept is better known as progressive resistance.  A famous story which illustrates this is that of Milo and the Bull.  Milo grew up around in the 6th century BC in a Greek colony in what is present day Southern Italy.  Milo was an Olympic wrestling champion known for his incredible feats of strength.  As the story goes, Milo’s father bought him a calf and asked him how big it was every day.  Milo proceeded to pick up the calf and show it to his father every time he asked how big it was.  He did this until the calf was a full-sized bull.  Every day as the calf grew, Milo’s strength grew and the concept of progressive resistance was born.  Milo was not able to lift the bull overnight, but by lifting it every day as it grew, he grew as well and was able to eventually lift a mature bull.

Life: Think of anyone who you are impressed by in life.  Those people may be on top of the World today, but what about 5, 10 or 20 years ago?  Those who are considered the best in Sports and Entertainment developed their skills over time until they mastered their craft.  Before someone became a movie star, they had to get a part in their high school play or a small commercial.  These small goals led to larger goals later on.  It is said that you need to put in 10,000 hours to Master a topic area.  The larger goal of 10,000 hours is a compilation of many smaller goals.  Set small goals which will lead to bigger goals in the future.

9) Create a Mastermind Group

This is a concept that I got from Napoleon Hill, the writer of the famous book ”Think and Grow Rich” which I HIGHLY recommend reading.  The purpose of a Mastermind Group is to help you stay on track and maintain focus.  Your Mastermind Group is a small group of people who you can bounce ideas off of, get feedback from and keep you on track towards achieving your goals.

Strength Training:  Get a good training partner or find someone who knows their stuff and have them critique you and make sure that you are staying on track towards achieving your goals.  If you are a Bodybuilder, have someone tell you what areas you need to improve upon.  If you are a Powerlifter, have someone observe your technique to ensure that you are doing the lifts properly.  If you are an athlete, figure out the skills which are important for your sport (strength, speed, quickness, etc.) and have someone determine your baseline and figure out areas of improvement and monitor your progress.

Life: Have a close knit group of friends and business associates who you are able to bounce business ideas off of.  Determine what things are worth pursuing and craft a plan that makes sense.  As you follow through with the plan, meet periodically with your Mastermind Group to find out what you are doing correctly, possible areas of improvement and whether or not any changes need to be made.  This will ensure constant & consistent improvement and progress.


Talk to anyone who is successful and they will tell you that persistence is the key to success.  Thomas Edison famously said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”.  There are plenty of times where you will want to give up, quitting is easy, but achieving success is never easy, yet it is the most satisfying.  When we think of failure, Michael Jordan is NOT a name that comes to mind, but read this quote by Jordan: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”  Failure is a part of success; just realize that failure is only permanent if you allow it to be.

"I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Strength Training: I can’t tell you how many Powerlifters get stuck at a particular bench, deadlift or squat, sometimes for months.  There are also countless Body Builders who measure a particular body part incessantly and feel like it will never grow.  The only way to guarantee that they will stay stuck is if they quit.  Perhaps you need to change something up or bring up a weak area in order to progress, but take the attitude of never settling and be confident that you will succeed and that is what will occur.

Life: Don’t let anyone EVER take your dreams away from you.  If you have a goal or dream, pursue it.  People love to knock you down, but that is because they are jealous and wish that they had your drive and discipline.  I have had people say to me, “How big do you want to get?  You don’t want to be TOO big…right?”  My response is always, “Oh no, I don’t want to be too big, I want to be BIGGER THAN THAT!!!”  This also goes back to the earlier point we made about having a positive attitude.  Don’t let negative people tear you down.  Find like-minded people who will make you better. Let the haters and naysayers say and do whatever they want.  When you are on top of the mountain, you won’t hear their voices anymore.




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(1) Baechle, Thomas R. and Earle , Roger W. “Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning”. 3rd Edition. Human Kinetics, 2008. pg. 100.

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