To say that there are many aspects of 2020 that fall under the title of tumultuous is a gross understatement.

Although I was born in the late 1960s, a time of tremendous turbulence, upheaval, social strife, and unrest, I was merely an infant during those last years of the decade. Thus, I was far too young to understand the volatility of that decade. My formative years actually occurred in the 1970s and 1980s. After finishing graduate school, I began my adult life and career in the 1990s through till today.

So excluding the decade of the 1960s, when I personally reflect back over my five and a half decades on this planet, I find these most recent few years and especially 2020, far more volatile and divisive than at any time over the previous five decades of my life.

Today’s cauldron of toxic societal stew is comprised of an array of key albeit rancid ingredients. Included are hearty portions of haves vs. have nots, partisan politics, growing racial division, systemic prejudice, a worldwide pandemic, rampant conspiracies that cascade the political landscape, as well as an abundance of overflow from the slop sink that is today’s social media.

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As a result of this perfectly prepared and noxious meal that now feeds our society as a whole, we find ourselves searching for fundamental truths as individuals within this 2020 global society. We find ourselves searching for the ideas and ideals that are constants. We find ourselves seeking for the North Star, that guiding light, that beacon in the darkness that can lead us to anything real, lasting, unwavering, reassuring, meaningful, purposeful, and positive. As lifters of weight and steel and iron and stone, we look for these truths as we continue to strive to be better, strive to lift more, strive to become more—as that is what lifters do.

Are there any undeniable, non-debatable truths left in this world as it is currently in 2020? Is there anything that we, as men and women of muscle, power, and strength, can still hang our collective hats on? The answer to this question is a resounding, absolute, and emphatic yes!

In this world of vehemently opposing sides, where valuing one another’s differing opinions has been replaced with “my way or the highway,” here is a list of five things that you as a strength athlete and lifter of weights can still count on and believe in today as well a lifetime of tomorrows.


Something You Can Still Believe in During These Unbelievable Times

1. Hard Work Still Pays Off!

Countless barriers are surrounding us throughout this journey of life. In your life of work, you might be the best at what you do, but your employer might also fetter you. Your hard work at the office might put the next person at your job to shame, but if that next person is friends with the boss or related to the boss in some way, or the boss has issues with your race, religion, or orientation, among other aspects, your efforts at work may only take you so far. That said, even if the boss was impressed with your performance and hard work, the boss has a boss or a CEO, or a board of directors that could impact you negatively regardless of your efforts.

That all said, in the gym, you are not the employee fettered by the boss, nor are you the boss held at bay by the CEO, nor the CEO held in place by the board of directors. If you want the promotion, you can attain it as it is self-promotion and self-promotion is granted or denied by your own hand.  The bigger bench, the larger quads, the deeper squat, the wider shoulders, the heavier stone, the bigger total, whatever it is you are striving for, you and you alone control those outcomes, and those outcomes are established by your inputs. You alone can improve as your work ethic is pure and true and unobstructed by other’s values, unobstructed by other's influences, unobstructed by systems, and uncontrolled by other’s views or judgments.

If you put in the work at the gym, the hard work, the consistent work, the disciplined and well-educated work, success will be achieved. Likewise, if you don’t do the hard work, the failure to achieve falls soundly, directly, and squarely on your shoulders. Training with weights is one of the few things in this world that you can be 100 percent sure, “You get out of it, what you put into it.”

Hard work pays off in weight training, and that is a truth you can still believe in during these unbelievable times. The results you achieve in the gym that you worked hard to bring to fruition can not be negated by social media, political rhetoric, or systemic racism. The 500-pound bench you put up is YOUR 500-POUND bench. The 20” biceps you have built are YOUR 20” biceps. Your 350-pound loaded stone is YOUR 350-POUND successfully loaded stone.

In situations involving judges, biases do exist. In your gym, in your garage, in your basement’s weight room, there is no bias. Ultimately you will either achieve these things through your hard work and efforts, or you don’t. Your hard work will determine these outcomes, and that is and always has been and will always be the magic of the weights when combined with hard work.

In the late 1980s, I remember a bodybuilder named Victor Richards (Google him, it is worth the search). He was a mass monster, but with a V taper, and came onto the scene over a decade prior to the emergence of today's mass monster bodybuilders. Victor was massive and symmetrical, without merely just adding mass for the sake of adding more mass and minus the distended belly we have sadly grown accustomed to seeing on stage.

Victor competed only four times and became quickly disenchanted with the negativity surrounding the competitive bodybuilding scene. But as a lover of lifting weights, of building his physique, of the meditative nature of training with weights as he would describe it, Victor continued living the bodybuilding lifestyle. Victor would continue doing all of the photoshoots that he enjoyed doing for the muscle mags of that era, but he passed on the Mr. Olympia stage, he passed on the money and passed on the fame as he was all about the work in the gym and the spirituality he felt while training.

Victor Richards is an example of not only benefitting from the self-satisfaction of hard work but that his hard work paid off as it created his massive build by his own hand that nobody could rob him of. And to that end, he is arguably the best known non-Olympia competitor to this day for his ahead-of-the-time size, symmetry, proportions—all created by his hard work. More importantly, his results are what mattered most to him and his hard work absolutely paid off for him. The hard work you put into your personal training goals is something you can believe in today, believe in tomorrow, and believe in every single day that follows. It is something you can still believe in during these unbelievable times.


2. It Is Always Simpler Than We Make It Out to Be 

As lifters, we often go hunting and searching for the “secrets.” We can become unsuspecting victims to those snake oil salespersons who promise amazing results from a magical potion, that never before available to the public elixir, that newly discovered concoction, that training program claiming to be the one and only road toward success.

The secret to muscle and power, as the legendary Dave Draper states to this day, is that there are no secrets. In the world of weights, it is always simpler, always less complicated than we make it out to be. Be it voices from the past like Vince Gironda, Chet Yorton, Vasily Alekseyev, Robby Robbinson, Paul Anderson, Ernie Frantz or the contemporary knowledgeable voices of today, they all tout that there are no secrets to success in the weight game, but rather the simple, the tried and true. They discussed an array of avenues that have worked for them as well as what can work with virtually anyone. There is no one road and only road.

Although they all have achieved great success, they all did so with different training programs and routines. Vasily Alekseyev won his Olympic gold medals and set his Olympic records without a coach as he, like most of these others, trained himself. The motto of these champions in short; train with correct form, train with intensity yet not recklessly, take your nutrition seriously and be consistent and diligent with it. Train hard yet compliment that hard training with adequate and requisite recovery. Stay hydrated as that matters more than you realize. Attain the proper sleep and recuperation and make each training session count as all sessions are the building blocks for the sessions to follow. Find the sets and reps and weight scheme that works best for your body, your goals, your future success—each wonderfully simple but also with tremendous depth and appropriate nuance vs. complexity for complexity's sake.

If success were found in a pill, if success was achieved by wearing brand X’s squat shoes or if success was located within pages of that top-secret Russian 8-week training program, EVERYONE would be an Ed Coan or EVERYONE would be an Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Even during these unbelievable times when so much is rubber-stamped with fake, “It is always simpler than we make it out to be” is something you can still believe in, something you can bet the farm on, and something you can count on as everlasting truth. Toward that end, there is a saying, “Don’t do what the champions do...rather do what they did.” Meaning, do the basics that build a strong foundation that serves the infrastructure that is the framework for all development of strength, power, and muscularity to come. A newbie lifter can make their program as complex as possible with the widest array of specialty bars and combination of chains, and bands but sometimes it just comes down to plain old sets and reps, good form, intensity, and back up to item number one, hard work.

Brand new and shiny, complex, multi-layered and multi-faceted all wrapped up in a big cost and available with the click of an app often falls short when juxtaposed with time-tested, dulled and faded, linear and single-purposed with no cost and available as free content at elitefts or from the veteran lifter who is still at it after all those years and decades.

Bottom line, when it comes to our training and programs, it is always simpler than we make it out to be, and it is something you can still believe in during these unbelievable times.


3. Talk is Still Cheap

This is never more true than in today’s socialookatmedia society. If someone is spending their time online yelling their views, that is because most likely they have nothing of value to provide and shouting or ALL CAPS keyboard screaming is the only way they can be heard over the quiet voices of those who actually have something of value to offer.

Volume is often the only way they can gain the social media attention needed to nurture their fragile ego and attain the attention that they clearly lack. One would hope the cheap talker’s rants are founded in something more complex than the need for attention and to feel more relevant than they really are, but alas, that is not the case. Jean Piaget’s theory of the stages of cognitive development is still the highly accepted clinical explanation of these unfortunate types.

Talk is still cheap is a simple way to also explain in part the Dunning-Kruger effect. The what? In brief, the Dunning-Kruger effect is psychologist David Dunning and Justin Kruger’s explanation of a cognitive bias. Specifically, those who perform poorly reach wrong or erroneous conclusions and make poor and unfortunate choices. But because of their incompetence, they lack the ability to realize this, thus they hold inflated views of their actual skills and abilities. Said another way, people with a low ability to perform a task or function overestimate their ability to do the task but their inability to recognize their lack of ability in that task or function.

This is precisely why you see the struggling powerlifter, the one who continues to bomb out, or who is simply not as strong as others, pointing out the shortcomings of everyone else. Yet they do not possess the requisite insight to see their own lack of ability.

You hear this all the time from those whose talk is cheap…"Sure, he won the bodybuilding show, but his calves are nothing.” “Sure, he benches 600 pounds, but that bench shirt does all the work.” “Sure, he squatted that much, anyone could if they took that much gear.” And so that story goes. Even during a worldwide pandemic and during times of great social injustice, you will find the cheap talkers looking to spend their energy criticizing rather than building others up.

Regardless of the era, generation, decade, country of origin, profession, socioeconomic status, etc., cheap talk has and always will be the business card of “those who can’t...criticize.” This is a constant, but knowing this arms you with the ability to stay far away from those negative souls and continue on your path toward your lifting goals. You choose to lift others up vs. point out their shortcomings. During these unbelievable times, talk is cheap, and that is something you can still believe in, as that also means that some walk the talk and spend their energies and efforts lifting others up vs. working to bring others down.

All that said, I leave this point emphasized with the words of President Theodore Roosevelt:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."- Theodore Roosevelt


 4. Knowing Yourself Never Goes Out of Style 

Rober Frost is a multi Pulitzer Prize winning writer, famed for his poem, The Road Not Taken. The well-known excerpt of the larger poem goes like this:

”Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

There are many roads we as lifters can travel down. Knowing oneself helps us choose the best one that'll make all the difference. With regard to lifting, this is something you can still believe in this year, next year, every year, and has been the case for centuries since the dawn of humankind.

Knowing yourself, knowing what you believe in, knowing why you do what you do in the gym, knowing what is right for you in the gym, and being true to your own beliefs is part of knowing one’s self. Jean-Paul Sartre, the French philosopher, spoke about man’s existence preceding his essence with regard to his works on existentialism. In layman's terms, every person is individually and solely responsible for who they are and who they become as we are the constructors of our own actions. Sartre submits that we are born with a blank slate future. That our essence (our purpose) precedes our existence ( our physical presence in this world). So we fill that blank slate with our actions and deeds and the results or consequences of those actions and deeds. In regards to the lifter, this is forever a truth, forever something one can believe in even during the most unbelievable times. Something we can believe and trust in, as training is part of every lifter’s essence, part of every real lifter’s life-blood and existence.

The Greek philosopher, Socrates, spoke of consistency of life, and that an unexamined life is not worth living. As lifters we know that we must not merely go through the motions, not merely move through aimless sets or rep schemes, random programs or half thought through plans for a meet’s training cycle. This too is a large part of knowing yourself. We see “monkey see, monkey do” training all too often where the newer lifter sees the successful veteran lifter and does what they currently do at the expense of missing the years of doing what it took to get to where they are today. Further, what works for one lifter might not work for another. The legendary powerlifter and mentor Ernie Frantz would put out a framework, a template for a lifter to train within. But it was up to each individual to know what does and does not work for them and carefully and deliberately modify and improve the nuances within that framework, within the scope of that general template.

All lifters need a starting point, a general set of guidelines which within they can start a process, but knowing themselves, their strengths and weaknesses and internal motivations is something often lost, overlooked, or completely negated as many programs today are touted by those sharing information not so much for the sake of serving as a mentor, but those selling a program, making a buck and serving their own financial purpose.

As within the pages of William Shakespeare’s, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, and with regard to something you can still believe in during these unbelievable times, you can still believe in, “to thine own self be true.”


5. The Words of The Beatles 

Even during these unbelievable times, you can still believe in the words of The Beatles. The Beatles song, The End, off the 1969 album Abbey Road written by McCartney and credited to Lennon-McCartney, pretty much sums it up. “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” What does that have to do with weights...only everything.

What Lennon and McCartney wrote all those decades ago, is in its essence, the same message elitefts' proclaims with “Live, Learn and Pass On.” “Live, Learn and Pass On” is more than a catchphrase, more than a motto, more than words to heat-press onto the front of a t-shirt. “Live, Learn and Pass On,” is a way of life for the lifter. It is a way of giving back to the world of weights to those lifter mentors that gave so much to Dave Tate, to those columnists and coaches of elitefts, to all those who write and publish columns and logs as they share aspects of their love and knowledge of weights with those still finding their bearings in powerlifting, weight lifting, strongman, bodybuilding and all sports where weights are the tools used to become better, to become more.

Make no mistake about it, your time on the platform, your time ‘under the bar’ and the spoils that come from your victorious performance on the day of the competition are exclusively yours. That said, powerlifting, strongman, any weight moving pursuit is a pursuit where giving to, and taking from, are a symbiotic dance where the balance between the two is the essential key. No lifter arrives at greatness either in the sense of personal achievement or achievement against the collective without encouragement, affirmation, guidance, truth-telling, and the motivation and mentorship from those who came before. Those individuals who took the time to look back over their own lifting career and lifting life-lessons, and who strive to help their fellow lifter up onto the rungs of the ladder to success.

Thus exists the unwritten universal rule that giving back as much as you took in, is the appropriate measure to ensure you as the recipient of the gifts from others are subsequently the giver of such gifts as you aspire to the status of mentor. Those gifts are of course the gifts of experience and knowledge

Training with weights is a brother and sisterhood. A tight-knit community of those cut from the cloth of steel, iron, muscle, strength, and power. The “love you take is equal to the love you make” might as well have been written for training partners as to when heavy weights are being lifted, we are our brother’s keeper. When a true group of lifters train with one another, they put political ideation, petty grievances, their differing ways and self-serving needs aside and focus on one another’s training session, one another’s safety, one another’s competition, and one another’s goals and aspirations.

The love you take is equal to the love you make,” can be translated into ‘lifterease’ to simply this, ‘you get from the world of weights what you have put into the world of weights.’ So even in these unbelievable times, you can still believe in the words of The Beatles, you can still believe in your fellow training partners, and for the most part, you can still believe in the collective good of humanity.

Wishing you the best in your training and meet preparation. Stay well and Ever Onward!