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I often wonder if people are really listening to what they hear. If they do, I wonder if they are listening when they should be and just hearing when they shouldn't be. This probably sounds a little confusing, but in my tilted mind, it makes complete sense.

To me, hearing is just that—hearing. We hear stuff like the hum of the refrigerator, the rain hitting the roof, kids playing next door and the birds in the morning. Most of the time we really don't listen to these things. We just hear them. We know that they're there and we understand that they make a noise, but we don't give it much thought. On the other hand, listening is much more cognitive. It actually involves a thought process. We are actually taking in the noises that we're hearing and understanding them or at least trying to understand them. Hopefully, we're also storing it to memory. I think sometimes we get so overwhelmed with life that we only hear things we should be listening to. Then sometimes we listen to things that we should only me hearing.

OK, you’re probably already wondering how all of this pertains to lifting. First, we must take a look through my crazy eyes and mind. I love lifting. It’s a cross between an art form and a science to me. I'm always trying to teach myself more about it. I do this by watching and always listening. Even when lifters don't realize it, I'm doing this, and my brain is going a million miles a minute. I'm always trying to see things from different angles and perspectives. I truly believe that this is one of the main reasons why I was able to get as strong as I've been. I try to show all of this in my articles because I believe that there are so many more things involved in strength that never get written about. It seems like the great majority of articles out there are just about training. Listening is one of these things that never gets written about and one that I've found to be common in top lifters. I also find it to be very lacking in so many lower level lifters.

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I've worked with a great number of lifters throughout my years and it's always been a question as to whether or not they really listened to me. Of course, I'm sure they hear me because I can be a bit intimidating and loud, but do they really listen? Time is always the answer to that one. Once I work with someone, I can tell if he listened to me or if he just heard me by what he looks like the next time I see him train. The vast majority of lifters just hear. They don't listen. The proof is in the pudding, as they say.

There are many very skilled lifters and coaches out there who train an enormous number of athletes, yet the number of seriously strong lifters is still fairly small. The number of lifters with solid technique and a strong understanding of training is also limited. I don't earn my living through lifting and even I have worked with many lifters through seminars, private sessions and one-on-one coaching. Only a small percentage of these people reach elite levels. On countless occasions, I've talked to and watched lifters who claim to have been taught by some of the great coaches and athletes I know. From what I saw and heard, they obviously didn't listen because I know these great coaches and athletes and guarantee that they didn't teach the crap I witnessed. I've also heard similar things from these same coaches and athletes about me. They know that I wouldn't have taught or allowed the crap they were seeing either. We're talking about tens of thousands of lifters or more being taught by top coaches and lifters. If everyone is listening, why aren't there even more top lifters out there? Why aren't there tons of lifters with solid technique doing strong training programs?


On the flip side of this coin, it's always easy to pick out the athletes who do actually listen. It almost always shows in their lifts. I've seen lifters whose technique impressed me, and after talking to them, they tell me that they worked with some top lifter or coach. I've seen lifters come back to a seminar or I see them at a different seminar and it's obvious that they were listening the first time. This always gets me excited because I know that what we work on next will also be executed.

One of the greatest examples of this has been a few athletes I've had the pleasure of working with at elitefts™ seminars. These athletes eventually became team members and ended up becoming top lifters. Some even became world record holders. From the beginning, you could see how much drive these lifters had and how much they listened. I would watch them working with all the different coaches and you could tell that they weren't just hearing. They were listening. They were focused on what was being taught and they asked questions when they didn't understand. They feed on the knowledge being laid out before them. They are a great example of listening, learning and executing. There is a small number of lifters at this level compared to how many people are being coached by exceptional trainers and lifters.

So why do people spend money or take up someone’s very precious time only to hear them? Do people not know how to listen? Are they trying to listen, but they just can't comprehend? I ask myself these kind of questions, hoping that if I can answer them, maybe I can reach more lifters. My best answer is still that our lives nowadays are so clustered with shit that it becomes habit to just hear stuff and not really focus on or listen to anything. I know that I can definitely be accused of this in certain areas of my life. When it comes to lifting though, or for that matter anything we strive to be great at, we need to learn to listen.

Strength isn't just about grunting it out in the gym. If you have the very great opportunity to spend time with a top lifter, don't waste it by just hearing what he has to say. If you have the financial means to attend a strength seminar, don't waste your money just hearing. Listen. Focus on what the coach is saying and think about it. If you don't understand, ask him about it. All of the coaches and lifters I've ever worked with would much rather answer questions and know that the person really understands. Listening isn't some great mystery. Really, it isn't all that difficult either, but it does take energy and focus. Lifters will put an enormous amount of energy and focus into their training, yet some will only put a tiny bit of that into listening. This doesn't make any sense because there are huge gains to be made from listening to the right coach or trainer.

A big part of listening is opening your mind and setting aside preconceived ideas. I would like to think that if you’re paying someone to train you or if you’re attending a seminar, you do have some respect for that athlete, trainer or coach. Isn't it respectful to really listen to him or her? Is it enough to open your mind to what he or she has to say? Are you willing to give whatever he or she says a chance or are you actually going into it with your mind already blocked to anything said that differs from what you already think?

This may sound crazy, but I've actually experienced this on many different levels. It always dumbfounds me when someone pays me money only to argue with me. One of the best things I did at my first seminar with elitefts™ was open my mind. I realized that I was there to learn from Dave, not the other way around. I wasn't there to argue or criticize him. I was there to listen and learn everything I could. Keep in mind that what he was teaching was completely different than anything I had ever done, learned or even been around. I changed everything after this seminar and found it really strange that not one other person who attended that seminar got anywhere close to the level of strength that I achieved. What I remember is taking a shit load of notes and not really talking too much to anyone else. I wasn't there to socialize or make friends. You can't be listening if you're talking, looking around or worrying about what everyone else is doing.


I also found it strange when I saw some of the attendees at meets after the seminar. Their technique wasn't anything like Dave had taught. Did these people pay Dave so that they could spend the day staring into space? Maybe they just thought he was sexy as all hell and they wanted to be near him for a day. It didn't make any sense to me then and it still doesn't. I also see people arguing with top level athletes, coaches and trainers when they've accomplished little to nothing in their own right. These people really don't have any major achievements to their names, yet they argue to the death with someone whose achievements stand on their own. Again, this doesn't make any sense to me. How can you tell an 800-pound bencher that he is wrong when you've barely benched 300 pounds?

So it seems that some people only hear when they should be listening. I find that these same people usually listen when they should only be hearing. My favorite example of this is the one strong guy in a little nowhere gym. You know, the one guy who is sort of strong and has the potential to do something big if he chooses to, the guy everyone at the gym stares at when he's lifting and the guy everyone kisses up to at every chance they get. This guy needs to be just hearing these people but not listening to them. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. I can't even count how many times I've seen a lifter do a completely shitty squat, but because it's halfway strong, everyone in the gym tells him how great it was and how strong he is. They tell him how deep it was and how awesome it looked, and they'll even tell him how easy it looked! It's all bullshit! Why would someone listen to this crap? What do these people even know about depth? What do they know about technique? What do they know about strength at all? None of these people have ever accomplished any great strength feats or coached anyone to great strength feats. Do these people even really give a crap about this lifter? If they did, wouldn't they try to learn and help him out instead of filling his head with bullshit?

In my opinion, they're just like those little fish that hang on to the great white shark. Well, maybe not because I believe those fish at least help clean the shark and keep him healthy. If this guy doesn't have any other goal than to be a big fish in a small pond, maybe he is on the right track. It seems like a waste to me, and I often hear big dreams from lifters like this. If these dreams are true, why do they listen to the people around them who don't know anything? Why can't these lifters only hear the people who are on top or have been on top? Why don't they only hear the people who have backed up their knowledge? I guess it doesn't make sense to me because I was never that way. It's kind of like your mother saying that you’re the most handsome boy in the world. Come on. It’s nice to hear, but it's your mom and she is biased so there isn't any sense in actually listening to that. I always knew who to hear and who to listen to. Sometimes it's all about the person who is talking that lets you know you should be listening.

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It's so important to know what to hear and what to listen to. It's always nice to hear compliments, but compliments don't actually make you better. I didn't listen too much to compliments because I was always more concerned with getting better. It was the things I did wrong or the things I could do better that I really listened to. I never got through with a lift and asked my partners what I did right. I needed to know what I did wrong so that I could fix it and get stronger. I heard the compliments and they are good because they can build the ego some, but it's the critiques that really matter. Of course, this is another instance of who you listen to. If it's from some guy in the gym who thinks he knows how to powerlift, it isn't much use. If it's from someone who really knows what he's talking about, it's gold.

Strength is so much more involved than most people think, and the more you learn, the deeper it gets. Listening is something that so many lifters are missing. There is knowledge in words, and there is strength in knowledge. Pay attention to the types of people you hear and the types of people you listen to. Pay attention to what you hear and what you listen to. When you do listen, do it fully with all your capabilities. Put as much energy and focus into listening as you do for a big PR lift. Open your mind completely when you’re listening because if you're listening to the right people, it will totally be worth it. So many lifters will go full bore in the gym, which is a great thing, but strength is more than just training in the gym. Try going full bore in all aspects of strength, even listening.