In my last article I talked about some things that irritate me and I thought I would keep rolling with it. I feel like too often lifters want to be told what to do instead of wanting to learn how to be better lifters. Do you want to be a lamb or a lion? A leader or a follower? Do you want someone to feed you a fish or teach you how to fish? Do you then want to become the best damn fisherman you can?

Maybe it is my alpha wolf nature and the fact that I never wanted to follow anyone, but it irritates me to see so many lifters just following blindly. Too often I see lifters doing the strangest stuff in the gym, and sometimes I get irritated enough to actually ask them about it. More times than not their answer is something along the lines of having seen so-and-so do it on social media. When I ask them what they are doing it for or how they are incorporating it into their program, they have no idea or they give me the stupidest answer ever. Pretty much they think so-and-so is strong, and if they do the same, they will get strong. What is even better is when they are doing the exercises completely wrong but somehow they manage to coach other people like they know what they are doing. The people they are coaching are thinking, “He learned this from so-and-so, it must be good!”

No, he did not learn from them, he saw a video of them doing it! I have seen lifters doing programs or exercises developed by top lifters I actually know. It is sad to see something so thought-out and developed get so messed up. If this was just every now and again I could let it slide, but it is way too often that I see it.

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I see this same type of thing with training programs. So many lifters just want someone to tell them the exact reps, sets, rest periods, and days to train on. They want everything all worked out for them so all they have to do is lift. If they don't get stronger, they just blame the program and move on to the next one. On the flip side of that, some people will change it but with no real thought (or maybe I should say logic) to how they are changing it. Again, if it doesn't work, they blame the program and start a new one.

Even better yet is how they pick the programs they do. It seems like it is based of popularity and social media like the latest fashions. A lot of times it is also based off a lifter or gym they like, for whatever reason. I just do not understand this. Isn't it more important to find a program that is intelligent and backed with results than one based on who you like?

learn to BP

With our modern technology, getting personalized programming has become a very popular thing to do. In fact, I think it has actually become a status symbol. I have seen many lifters brag about who does their programming. Personally, I don't give two shits who does your programming; I care about gains and improving as a lifter. If you tell me who is training you, there will be a little monkey in my head banging cymbals together until you start telling me about your progress as a lifter.

I know for a fact that there are a lot of online trainers that are making good money handing out cookie cutter programs. They should be asking to see videos of your lifts to see technique, speed, and weak areas. They should be programming you week-to-week based on what they see. They should be asking you questions to see how you are handling the training so they know what they need to change. They should be asking if you are completing the sessions, reps, and sets. If none of these things are happening then it would be cheaper to just buy a one-time program and follow it. But then you have no status symbol so that you can brag about how so-and-so is personally working with you.

I can go on and on about lifters following blindly without thinking at all, but that is not actually the point of this article. I want to help lifters see that if they ever want to be the best they can be, they need to learn. They need to fully understand strength training and should have the goal of eventually programming their own training. Almost all of the top lifters I know do their own training, or at the very least have a lot of say about it. They learn what they personally need to get the strongest and they do it. There is this huge misconception out there that top strength athletes and even bodybuilders do these strict written out programs that they follow perfectly, and then they keep following that same program for years.

I am here to say that is very untrue. There is no one set program that will always work for everyone all the time. We are humans and we are all different. What works now may not work later. Your weak links are in a continuous state of change. Your strength should always be in a continuous state of change. You are aging continuously, which means your are changing continuously. Injuries seem to be a constant in weight training. Nothing stays the same and the faster we adapt, the better our gains. I will say that the better the genetics you have, the bigger margin for error you have. If you have great genetics, almost any program will make you stronger. The worse your genetics are, the smarter you are going to have to be. Still, if you have amazing genetics and you want to meet your true potential, you have to learn.

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I have known plenty of guys that have written programs and I have known lots of owners of top gyms producing tons of high-level lifters. There seems to be this general conscious that those people do that same exact program or that everyone from that gym does the exact same thing. Again, this is not true at all. The people I have known that have written programs are usually very intelligent and they take the knowledge they have earned to write a general program that they hope will help most lifters get stronger. What irritates me is that they rarely talk about how to modify these programs to fit an individual lifter's needs. Granted, this would be a huge undertaking to try to put in words, because it takes a lifetime of knowledge.

Ideally, a lifter would start on a program like this and get stronger. Then they would learn how to modify it to keep the gains coming. How many times have you seen or heard of a lifter making gains at first and then those gains stop so the lifter writes the program off? I have heard and seen this a lot. It is not the program; it is the user not making it fit them.

Those famous named gyms are a perfect example of the ability to adapt a base program. The reason they have so many great lifters is not that everyone follows that exact program; it is that the intelligent owners and members know how to adapt a program to the lifter's needs through careful study. In most cases, the knowledge helps advance the program and the name of the gym. This is because the lifters know they need to learn and take control of their own shit. They come up with new exercises and adaptations to the program. These things end up helping other athletes who again add to that. These gyms are brain trusts of strength training. They learn by doing and put what they come up with into actual practice. It is a living and evolving monster.

strength talk

The skill of being able to modify a program and the ability to know what you need is one that takes a lifetime to master. You're not going to pop into strength sports and just be able to do this. We all have to start at the bottom and build ourselves up.

I began training by reading bodybuilding books and magazines. Once I got into college I had a coach teach me about strength training. After college I followed a lot of the same stuff I always had, changing things up whenever I stopped making gains. It was not until I found powerlifting that my knowledge really began to grow. I quickly realized I did not possess the knowledge I needed to get where I wanted. I was reading as much as I could, but it was not until I brought elitefts into the picture that things really changed. My first seminar was the best thing ever for me, because I was not just reading and having a shit ton of unanswered questions. I was able to ask questions and get immediate answers. I did not attend this seminar just looking to be told what to do — I was there to learn how to strength train. I was there to learn how to make myself strong, not just learn a program to follow. Once I went back to training and putting what I had learned to use, I did not rest on my laurels. I knew that this was a journey in which I would have to keep learning in order to keep gaining. All lifters have to start somewhere, though.

The best way to become a powerlifter is to start lifting weights. It is that simple. You find a program and start following it. Learning by doing is always best, in my opinion. The key thought is to have a goal of becoming a leader instead of a follower. This means you need to learn. Take notes and keep a log to see how your progress on a program. Remember the things that work and the ones that don't. Keep in mind what doesn't work now may work later, or vice versa.

If you do get a trainer or go to a seminar, ask questions. If these people do not want to answer your questions, they do not know what they are doing or they are the type of people that want to rope you into having to rely on them. I always wanted people I helped to learn and to get even better. If you develop a ton of awesome lifters, you will always have plenty of new clients. Plus, as these people learn, I usually end up learning more too, just like the brain trust at the famous strength gyms. It is always better to surround yourself with other smart people that want to learn. I think we all start our journey as followers, or students. A good student always strives to become the master!

We dedicate so much to our training, so why not get the most out of it? I know I have been repeating that statement a lot lately, but I just don't understand not getting the most. At this point in my lifting career, I do not take it as seriously as I did, and I do not dedicate to it what I once did. Still, I put my time in and I work my ass off when I do. I want to be the absolute strongest I can with the time I am giving to it. I want to train smart and efficiently. I make sure to give the recovery and get the nutrition I should outside the gym. I for damn sure still want to learn and to progress. Don't go through your strength training journey as a blind follower. Get the most out of it by learning and understanding everything you can. I guarantee it will show in your strength.