As I sat down to write this, I wasn’t quite sure how to start. So I decided upon simply stating what I thought was most important and then just taking it from there...

First and foremost, I must offer a little background and a definition to give context as to what I am talking about.


  1. A recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition.
  2. Customary manner or practice:


  1. The prescribed order of a religious or secular ceremony—A ceremony having meaning
  2. The body of ceremonies or rites used in a place of worship.
  3. A ceremonial act or a series of such acts—A detailed method of procedure faithfully or regularly followed

The above are definitions of both habit and ritual. The descriptions I have underlined are what I consider to be the great difference between the two. It is also what I believe separates those who lift and train and live to be stronger from those who simply “exercise” or work and live without any conscientious action or desire for improvement.

A habit is characterized as an unconscious pattern of repetitive behavior. This is literally something that you continuously do but give little to no thought to.

A ritual has meaning and it has a formality to it that must be practiced. Rituals can vary across religions, cultures, and institutions, but they all have a specific meaning. They are conscientious actions that are practiced and perfected over periods of time, and they have a specific intention that must evolve and develop in order for expertise or understanding to be reached. Certain religions have rituals that are comprised of a series of rites—particular acts and prayers that must be performed in sequence in order for the meaning to be achieved. Outside of religion, however, the concept of a “rite” can be seen in almost every sport or competitive outlet in existence, and even in the mastery of academic subjects and sciences.

Specific to powerlifting, there are certain benchmarks that every lifter learns to recognize and work towards. It could be a bodyweight bench press, squatting four plates, pulling double his or her bodyweight (or triple his or her bodyweight), totaling Class-I, totaling Masters, or even totaling Elite. These are generic examples, but they are numbers that we all recognize, and every lifter has his or her own personal “rites” that he or she work towards. In this sense, training is not a habit—it’s a ritual. In turn, the development of strength is not a habit either—it is a series of rites.

Every dedicated lifter has his or her own personal rituals that need to be followed. It could be as simple as the clothing a lifter trains in or the particular way he puts on his gear. It could be the playlist she listens to in the car on the way to the gym, or the log he keeps and what he records. Every lifter has short-term goals and long-term goals, and he knows the order of the rites he must go through in order to reach them.

I often see lifting get knocked and criticized by others who say that it only comes from a place of insecurity or vanity, or that it isn’t really important relative to X-Y-Z in your life. I personally have been criticized for taking this all too seriously or for over-thinking it. People have even told me that it can't possibly mean that much to me because its just lifting weights—nothing more.

Well, maybe its origins do stem from being insecure, and there is no doubt in my mind that there are other things in your life that matter more than your squat/deadlift/bench...and I probably do over-think it. However, what other endeavor can you follow for a lifetime that can directly increase your physical strength? What other endeavor can you do that forces you to continuously evolve if you wish to adapt and grow stronger? What else is there that proves your physicality is a direct reflection of mentality? Mentally weak people tend to not go anywhere in this sport for a reason.

So, why do rituals have meaning? Because they are methods of personal evolution and development (or whatever you want to call it). To become better at rituals, you must learn about yourself, you must put forth effort, and you must change. If you want that ritual to mean something more tomorrow, then the whole act itself must progress. It can't stay static; otherwise, it just becomes habitual. And if stays static for long enough, you will lose your drive for it.

How can you say that training is not a ritual then? Do we get under the bar for nothing, with no thought and no focus and no intention? Do we spend money on books and bands and gear and invest in learning and expend sweat and blood just to say we exercised? Like hell. Everyone who dedicates themselves to this believes in it because of what it does for them, not simply because it burns time and calories or whatever other bullshit exercise is supposed to be. Anyone who does this long enough and cares enough also tries to give back to others what it has given them. This company, in fact, is founded on that very principle of giving back and helping others.

Training is not a habit. It's rituals, it's rites, and it matters for a damn good reason. It forces us to evolve as people, and hopefully we carry that outside of the gym and into the rest of our lives. A career isn’t a habit if you want to improve at it. A relationship isn’t a habit, and raising children isn’t a habit. All of these require self analysis and practice, and as time passes, the rituals and rites for them all change. How is training any different then? How isn’t it a metaphor for all that we do?

I've had the privilege of meeting some very accomplished people in this sport. They have fulfilled their personal rites and goals and, in doing so, have left a mark on the sport. And they did this because they all had their own unique rituals to training. All of them are very intelligent people with lessons to share and advice about what they have learned—how their training and rituals have changed, and how they have evolved and changed as individuals. They have done all this, but most importantly, they mean it. And now they have the legacy to show for it.

Your physicality is a reflection of mentality, and your mentality will lead to your physicality. Your dedication to and your refinement of your personal lifting rituals reflect who you are outside of the gym just as much as what you do inside of it. Your mentality will evolve the more you develop your strength, and as one rite is done, another will likely present itself. No matter your age or your level, we can always keep evolving as people. We can always grab hold of the barbell and make ourselves strong(er). We can always become something more than what we are today. We can always live, we can always learn, and we can always pass something on.