I had someone ask me the other day what program I used to hit my PR lifts and if I still had those programs sitting around. He also asked if my programming was the key behind my lifts. I replied, "no," and said that "it is not just programming that allowed me to squat 850+ pounds, bench 780 pounds, and pull 804 pounds."

I believe that programs are a must while getting ready for a meet, and there are a lot of different programs out there. I have used "Block" training that Frey set up for me, bench programming from Rob Luyando, and individualized programming from Brian Carrol. These programs, as you see, were set up by some of the best lifters in the game today, and they all had their benefits and worked great. Now, I have taken the parts of these that have worked best and thrown them into my own style of programming that works—just for me.

However, here is where I get into the "it's not just programming" part. You can have one of the best competitors in powerlifting write up your program (which I would suggest you do), but if you don't have the extra stuff to go along with it, then you will not reach your training and competitive goals. What I am talking about is Dedication, Discipline, Sacrifice, and even being Selfish.

Are you dedicated to your training and your sport? I started training at the age of 15, starting competing at the age of 16, and I have been going ever since—with no time off in between...and I am 35 years old now. At 16, I was addicted to powerlifting, to getting stronger, and to getting bigger. I was addicted to the point that I gave up all the other sports I was in so that I could devote my time to eating and training for powerlifting. I was training two to three hours a day (because I didn't know any better then). But I was getting bigger and stronger, so it was working. I was completely dedicated to this sport as I still am today—20 years later.

So the question is: Are you willing to put in the time it takes to get through your training? Not only yours but also your training partners'? You need training partners to make it to that next level. Without them, it would be extremely hard to train on max effort days and in gear. I had to make powerlifting my everyday lifestyle, and my day was scheduled around my training. You have to be able to put in the work to reach that goal.

You also need to be disciplined with everything you do. For instance, I have packed my meals for years. Back when I was a good 275 to 280 pounds, I was not eating the greatest food. Yet, I was still getting my meals and protein in. I also always got my training in and was icing every night in order to aid in recovery and get ready for my next training session. I never missed a training session, either—not for a holiday, not for a party, nothing. Training was my number one priority, along with my recovery and my meals. That is just the way it has to be.

Sacrifice is key to success. There are many things I had to give up in order to make it where I am—time with family, friends, some holidays, traveling, fun events on weekends, etc. For example, if there was a weekend trip with friends planned, I would have to cancel unless it was near a gym. It also hinged on whether I could get all my meals in. Still, even if there was a gym, I didn't have my training partners with me. Therefore, if I had gear work that week, I would have to stay home and get that in. I have missed a lot of things because of training. Some things were not so big of deals...but some were big deals and caused issues. However, in the long run, I hit my goals and that is all I cared about. You need to be willing to sacrifice things in life to achieve your goals, no matter what those goals are. You will hurt some feelings along the way, but sometimes it has to be done.

Do you know how many times I have heard that I am being selfish? Pretty much on weekly basis I would say. In fact, when I am getting ready for meet, I hear that about every day. But you know what? You have to be. How many people in this world have benched over 700 pounds and pulled over 800 pounds? Not to many in the scheme of things. You have to be selfish to some point in order to make it to that next level. You need to take care of your training and yourself, and that needs to be first. It will cause some bumps along the way, trust me, but in the end it is all worth it. In turn, if you can find someone to stay along for the ride while you are getting ready for a meet, especially if you are as dedicated as I am and was, then you had better hold on to that one because there are not many who will put up with that shit.

I have seen some blogs and comments stating that a lot of the top guys are genetically gifted—that they don't have to train as hard. That is all bullshit. All the guys and gals I have respect for in this sport (many on Team EliteFTS) train their asses off, and we all basically have the same mentality when it comes to our training. And that is why they have made it this far and are lifting what they are.

So, if you are willing to change your lifestyle—put in the hours, the work, and sacrifice some things in your life for the sport, then there is a good chance that you will reach your training goals.