We all know that nothing makes up for hard work. Whether it’s in life or in the gym, the hardest worker often gets further than the average Joe, who can only dream of a big bench press, a strong squat, and a daunting deadlift. Most likely that average Joe pines for a pretty six-pack like a high school girl wishes to go out with the quarterback. We’ve all seen "Joe wish I had a six-pack" relegate himself to the mat, doing crunches and getting a good burn. It’s all about the burn, right? For me and I’m sure for most of the readers of this site, we let that guy do his thing

If you’re up on your research and read your blogs, you know there are many more effective ways to train the core than the persistently popular crunch. If you told crunch man that he wasn’t working hard, he would probably throw his wristbands at you. But if you brought out some cool sounding, scientific jargon, you would probably have this guy jogging out of the gym (because he likes steady state cardio). So what’s more important in the gym? Scientific mumbo jumbo or a serious, balls to the wall work ethic? Let’s discuss.

To be straight with you, I'm a young buck in the “fitness industry” (I hate calling it that for some reason. It makes me feel like too much of an academic). But I know for certain that strength, fitness, health, or whatever you want to call it is my passion. So what have I done with this newfound purpose in life? I’ve interned at a great facility in New York City as well as with an up and coming web based personal training service. Currently, I'm studying kinesiology at Penn State University. I was also able to get my high school strength and conditioning coach certification from the IYCA. I can say I’ve learned a lot, but don’t call me smart just yet! I’ve got a lot more to learn. Knowledge takes time to accumulate in the classroom and “under the bar.” It seems like every success story is built on the same foundation though—hard work.

I've struggled with (and I’m sure many of you have as well) trying to figure out the place education takes in life. We are in school for 13, 17, or 20 years or more if you're really ambitious. It now seems like a necessity in this hypercompetitive world to spend as much time in formal schooling in order to get an edge. In the fitness game, it's all about getting degrees, advanced degrees, and certification after certification. When it comes to strength training, conditioning, and nutrition, applying the knowledge you’ve acquired is rarely a science. I don't question the profound impact factual learning can have on a trainer, career, or client. Sometimes though, I take a step back and ask how intention impacts knowledge. What are the right motives? I believe the underlying purpose of accumulating knowledge is so we can apply it in our own lives to determine what we know to be true.

To fully understand a principle of training, business, or nutrition, I think we must experience it in some form or another. Theory and speculation is interesting, but would you base training programs and diets completely around theory? Experimentation here and there is obviously necessary for progress, but recklessly designing a program based on the whims of an internet guru is probably not a good idea. It just seems like a slippery slope.

I love the concept of “trial by fire.” Too many times, I see people recoil in fear from certain training and nutrition ideas I merely present when if they just considered trying a different approach, they might learn something new. They say, “But that sounds hard.” Damn straight it’s hard. By shutting themselves off from something that is hard, they forgo even the opportunity of accumulating knowledge and gaining something. I deal with a lot of newbies, but what about you seasoned veterans? When was the last time you rattled the cage with some epic training?

We often seem to fear the unknown because to venture into uncharted territory is something that is radical. It’s hard to push the limits, to get out of your comfort zone, especially when the only thing standing in your way is you. So I have to ask, have you pushed yourself into the unknown? Have you taken what you know or what you desperately want to know and made for damn sure it works? The program that crazy strength coach showed to you looks absolutely insane, but he’s got guys pulling four-digit weight. This isn’t one of your mom’s “try it because you just might like it” speeches. I’m saying don’t fear what you don’t know. Embrace the challenge of setting a new PR, trying a new movement, or tackling a weak link. Welcome the arduous journey from a beginner who busts ass without a clue as to what he’s doing to the strong ass Yoda of the gym. From hard work, smarts and strength will come. (That’s my best Yoda impression, and as you can see, I have much to learn.)

So have you flipped on that light switch yet? Have you cranked that dial to ten and seen how hard you can push it? Be honest with yourself. Can you take it to another level in your work, your training, or your diet? I think most of us can. “The inches we need are all around us!” There’s a lot of life and gym knowledge that can be learned from demolishing one extra set or squeezing out the last few reps. And if it means you’ve got to make some damn noise, then do it! (As a side note, I think there was some study that showed grunting can help power output. There goes that scientist in me again, but I digress...) Let the looks from the averages Joes, inside and outside of the gym, fuel that fire, that same fire that makes you want to put hundreds of pounds on your back and go ass to the grass or pull an all-nighter preparing for your certification test. You know and I know that a 4.0 GPA or a six-pack doesn't make a man and that you have ten times the drive that "Joe wish I had a six-pack" has. Set the bar high, get under it, and move it!