The 80 Percent

Just about everything that could possibly be beaten to death in the strength and conditioning scene essentially has been. The diets to get you lean and jacked in five minutes, the supplements that are better than steroids, the revolutionary program that fixes your entire life and is everything you've ever been searching for in five low payments of 29.99—everything has been rehashed over and over again, and everyone is just stealing principles from someone in history whether they admit it or not.

The Mental Aspect

There is only one thing that basically no one has cared to cover in any useful and applicable manner—the mental aspect of training. The mental aspect of training is hinted at in articles, and some try to give general insight to the issue, but generally it's described as some abstract mental state that everyone needs to figure out for himself. This seems awfully strange because most coaches understand how important the mental approach is to training. Some have said it may even be as much as eighty percent of the equation with the actual lifting and mechanics making up only as much as twenty percent of the equation in achieving success in the gym.

Our mental capacity to improve our physical situation has fascinated me recently. In light of my new interest, I had a conversation with my biology professor and asked her some questions with regards to epigenetics and whether or not it was possible to change our genetics through our standards, beliefs, and habits. She said it was absolutely possible, and biologists have known this for a very long time. This both intrigued and aggravated me. Apparently, biologists have known the power our minds hold over our genetics and yet we aren’t being taught how to take advantage of this fact. She said the reason this is possible is because we are such a highly evolved species and have developed an extraordinarily high level of cognitive functionality. To demonstrate how this could be done, she gave me the example of walking down the street very late at night with a group of menacing individuals wearing ski masks walking directly toward you. If in response to the situation, you didn't have any of the natural physiological responses and you remained completely calm, you would have altered your genetics at that point. This makes sense knowing how natural it would be for your flight or fight response to kick in during such a situation.


I've personally been thinking about the same thing in relation to the finches that Charles Darwin observed in the Galapagos Islands. All of these finches had descended from the same original species. Yet so many had different physical attributes, particularly in their beak shape and purpose. Most people and biologists would say that this is because of the vast variety of environments represented on the island, which is true. But the reality is the different elevations, rocks, and trees didn't physically change the finch's physical attributes. It seems what really happened is the animal’s perception of the environment changed its instinct to survive. Perception is the key word here. Thus, the birds altered their genetics and phenotypes represented in subsequent generations.

So with this powerful information in mind, why isn’t anyone paying more attention to how to help people improve their mental approach to training in order to get better results? The only person I know of making a concerted effort in this area is Johnny Pain of His new "Blueprint to Beast" seminar focuses on using techniques inspired by neurolinguistic programming to have more success in the weight room as well as in other life endeavors.

Your Physiology

It was demonstrated to me recently what a powerful effect beliefs and thoughts can have on your physiology. In my gym, there had been some intense debate a few months ago over the safety of bench pressing relative to the shoulders. Some individuals said that if you bench press at all, you're doomed to a life of pain, suffering, and impotence. A few other members, myself included, supported the position that if you practiced the movement with proper form and progressed in a reasonable manner, it could be safe and effective. At the exact same time, my shoulders started aching for the first time in my life. Nothing had changed. My form was the same. My program was the same. The weights hadn’t fluctuated suddenly. But all of a sudden, in light of all the discussions about bench pressing, my shoulders started achingly furiously. So sure enough, over the next couple months, I tried everything I could to determine what had caused the problem but to no avail. Finally, once the debate echoed and dissipated, my shoulders were miraculously pain free, as I had convinced myself that there wasn't any reason for my shoulders to be in such pain. Now, I'm sure that some cynics will chalk this up to a coincidence in timing, but I don’t believe that was the case. I think it was the doubt and the negative perceptions about bench pressing that influenced my perception of the pain.

We have all the bases covered in terms of programming, equipment, and supplements these days. I think it's about time we all started focusing on perhaps the largest contributors to our success in the gym—our standards, beliefs, and habits. We should be reaping the benefits of altering our standards to be more conducive for success. We need to be striving to cultivate a mentality that takes advantage of positive and empowering beliefs to becoming the beast most of us wish to be. Finally, we must mold our habits to mirror those of the inspirational individuals who came before us to achieve success equal or greater than their own. Learning to do these three things may be the final, most important frontier left in the physical performance realm.