I have been in the lifting game for a long time, and most of my knowledge was learned the hard way. That means I have made a lot of mistakes, but each one gave me a valuable lesson. I was also fortunate to be around some of the strongest people in the world and smart enough to actually listen to them.

During my 38-plus years of lifting experience, I have lifted for sports, for fun, to get in shape, to increase mass, to lose mass, to control my temper, etc. Mostly, I trained to gain strength and became one of the strongest powerlifters on the planet. I love lifting to this day. I have never lost the hunger to keep learning or the will to help teach others what I have learned.

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Here are five things I continue to see so many beginning to intermediate lifters misunderstand or not even think about at all.

1. Strength and lifting are long games.

There are no shortcuts, and gains do not come fast or easy. This is just a reality of strength, physiology, and lifting. Our bodies can only take so much and can only adapt so fast. Our egos will try to tell us differently, and sure, we can do all the stupid crap our egos tell us. We can believe we will recover from insane training even though we don’t sleep enough and eat like shit.

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We can believe we will squat 1,200 pounds in less than a year of training. Believing, on its own, does not create real-world strength, though. I continue to come across lifters who think this way and have yet to see one actually accomplish anything. Most of the people who think this way end up quitting in just a few months because they find out what it really takes to get strong. I just cannot understand this mentality.

I can honestly say when I decided to dedicate myself to powerlifting, I felt I could be really good at it. I had some lofty goals but never focused too much on them. I knew I had to focus on a 700-pound squat before I would ever go over a grand. I never claimed insane timelines because I knew it was going to take years.

Do these beginning lifters think they are supposed to be over-the-top arrogant and that is where strength comes from? Big lifts come from being intelligent, working your ass off, working smart, setting smart goals, and confidence over arrogance. Building real strength takes years and even decades. It does not happen overnight, in a week, in a month, or even in a year.

2. Stop believing, listening, and trying all the bullshit out there.

We are in an amazing era of access to so much incredible knowledge, but if we are not able to weed through the bullshit that comes with it, then what good is it? This ability starts with realizing there are no secret supplements, no secret exercises, no secret piece of equipment, and so secret prayer that is going to automatically make you a beast.

Stop believing there is a bullshit miracle out there, and you will find it’s pretty easy to see quality information over crap. Just because someone has a shit ton of likes or followers does not mean they are knowledgeable about strength or that they can make you strong. All it means is that they are really good at marketing themselves. The same thing goes with the Joe Buff trainer in the gym. Just because they look good does not make them strong. Just because someone manages to be the strongest in a small local gym does not mean they actually know what they are doing.

In general, I would say you can judge a person’s knowledge about strength by their accomplishments in strength or the accomplishments of their athletes or clients. Do not listen to some Joe Lifter that won some world championship in backwoods Tennessee that had 20 lifters competing.

MEET REPORT: 2019 USA Nationals with Dan Dalenberg

Use your brain, people. Is the information coming from a reputable source? Can they back up their information? Is this information too good to be true? If it sounds that way, it most likely is.

Someone saying they can increase your bench 100 pounds in 12 weeks is full of shit and trying to sell you a program.

3. You don’t have to feel beaten to shit all the time.

There is this misconception that you must train balls to the wall all the time and that you should train so hard to where you’re always feeling sore and beaten up. There's an idea that if you feel good, then you did not train enough. This idea says you’re supposed to come to the gym already beaten up then tough through another session, and that is supposed to make you stronger.

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It seems to me that lifters are taking pride in the fact that they have to lay around foam rolling for an hour before they can lift. This is followed by another 40 minutes of warm-ups. If only they knew what I am really thinking when I see this! This does not make you tough or a badass, it just makes you dumb.

If your training is spot-on, you’re going to be sore on some days. Injuries are a part of lifting, so sometimes you will feel some pain in areas. Some days after super intense sessions, you’re going to feel like you’ve been hit by a truck.

In the long term, you should not feel beaten up all the time. For the most part, you should be able to walk into the gym and start warming up. If you can’t do squat without 30 minutes of rolling on a foam roller, stretching with bands, or digging into various areas with hard objects, then you’re doing too much, you’re doing it wrong, or you have massive holes in your training. It’s likely you’re under-recovering, skipping mobility and flexibility work, missing weaknesses, etc.

4. Remember that the ability to adapt is a gift and a curse.

It allows us to train hard and gain incredible strength as it adapts to that training. On the flip side, it can trick us into thinking we are good when we are most definitely not. We so easily forget what it is like to feel good and so easily get used to feeling beaten up and sore. We begin to think it is normal to feel that way. This is a rabbit hole that leads us to a downward spiral of severe over-training.

Ironically, as strength gains slow, we come up with the brilliant idea that we need to lift more often and harder believing we feel fine. The body is also designed to have optimal movement patterns that we are born with, but again, our ability to adapt, along with our massive egos, can destroy these.

As we train hard, there are times we get too sore, too beaten up, and too injured. We force our bodies to keep going so they start moving incorrectly to help deal with the pain or to just manage to finish the movements. Again, this leads us down the rabbit hole. Before we know it, we have jacked up movement patterns that, in the long run, lead to bad joints, tendon issues, ligament issues, and even more injuries.

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Remember Number 1 about this being a long game sport? It’s hard to stay in the long game when your body is getting destroyed. Our body is based on fight or flight and thinks in terms of surviving the moment. It does not think long term. It is up to us to see the best long-term path.

5. Steroids are not the answer you think they are.

They are called Performance-Enhancing Drugs for a reason because they enhance what you have. If you are a weak, shitty lifter, steroids will make you a slightly less weak shitty lifter. I do not know one world-class lifter who got there based solely on steroids.

I am sick of seeing lifters jump to drugs looking for the quick gains because if they used their minds, they could make way more gains without ever even using PEDs. World-class strength comes from building a solid base. It comes from good technique and an even better understanding of what that is. It comes from training intelligently and understanding weaknesses. It comes from understanding that the gym is only a small percentage of a solid strength program. It comes from understanding Number 1 and why it is so true. I am not against steroids, but they have a time, place, and use, most of which are definitely not for a beginner, intermediate, or novice-level lifter.

Strength is not complicated, yet it is not simple, either. Do not be overwhelmed and think it is beyond understanding or that there are too many complexities to it. Do not be overconfident and think you know it all and that it is just a meathead pursuit.

Have respect for strength and what it takes to gain it. Be willing to put in some serious hard work and understand it takes time. These are some of the things that make it such a rewarding endeavor. Look to learn and understand about strength, the mind, and the body. Don’t overcomplicate things, though, and don’t try to make them harder. Just lift, learn, live, and get strong(er).