While at the Syracuse seminar, several of us chatted about the gyms and teams that were always kicking major ass. They all had the same thing in common—attitude. This attitude spread like wildfire throughout the gym and equated to success, BIG success.

We talked about Westside and how everyone was always throwing extra weight on the bar, always pushing for PR’s, never backing down. We discussed Diamond Gym and how the bodybuilders squatted heavy, and did pin pulls, heavy benching, and seated rows with 45 lb plates strapped to both sides of the stack. They too always pushed for more gains. No one at that gym did pump training or tried to feel the muscle burn. They pushed super heavy weights for muscle growth on a regular basis!

The music in both places was selected by the members, not by the person at the front desk. Everyone at these gyms trained in groups, and no one wanted to be the weakest or least intense person.

We also discussed how we often try to have our athletes or clients perform too many workouts, too many exercises, and, overall, too much volume! The theme was to perform 3–5 basic movements and really bust your ass on them. This did not include prehab/rehab or abs though.

So while at dinner, it got me thinking about the football team at my high school. They were ranked in the state and had won the states twice while I was there. The sophomores and juniors walked the hallways weighing 220, and they weren’t fat!

I used to see the weight room PACKED with football players when I walked by it. The head coach lifted WITH them, using the same weights or more! He was 40-something and was leading from the front.

Every time I watched them, they did five movements, ALL HEAVY!

·        flat bench

·        squat

·        straight bar deads

·        standing military press (cleaned from the floor)

·        heavy cheat curls (which looked like hang cleans with a reverse grip!)

Yes, this workout has MANY holes in it. No pulling, no single leg work, no abs, and no prehab. But, you’re missing the point if that’s all you see.

Picture this: You look in the weight room and see two benches, one power rack, some empty space, and lines of kids behind each movement. Literally, you see five or six standing behind the bench.

The reps on ALL movements were in the 1–5 range, never more! One bench had guys benching 275–315 for reps, and the other bench had guys using 185–225 for benching. The cheat curls were performed with 135–185 lbs, and the military press used 135–225 lbs. Deads and squats had 3–5 plates on each side.

What they had was attitude, atmosphere, and intensity. You ALWAYS heard the Rocky soundtrack or Metallica playing. Athletes were committed to each movement, each rep, each set. I watched the guys get psyched before big lifts and rip weights off the floor!

The common theme included:

1.      team cohesiveness (They were a tightly knit group. You would see the entire team eating      at McDonald’s after a game, ALL TOGETHER.)

2.      a coach  who “got under the bar” and lead from the front

3.      high energy atmosphere with setting and breaking records the norm

4.      basic lifts, heavy weights

Please remember that I know there are boat loads of missing links here. This was 1990–1993. Football coaches didn’t know about sleds, unilateral training, or posterior work. Many still don’t. But damn, this team was jacked and strong as hell. These kids had fire in their eyes and just wanted to win so badly. All they understood were these five movements, heavy weights, and hard work.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a coach, athlete, powerlifter, or bodybuilder. You must be in a place that breeds success. You can smell the intensity in the air when you walk into these places. The energy literally zaps your body and forces you to step it up more than just a notch or two.

If you can’t find a place like this, “build it, and they will come.” The gladiators will somehow find their way to these locations. Maybe you’re a coach and you can revamp the weight room with record boards, expectation boards, student selected music, and group/team training.

Maybe it can be your garage, or maybe ten of you can collectively rent space and get a rack and a boat load of weights. You can have people pay cheap membership to help with the rent.

Check out two more examples:

1. Up in north Jersey, there are some serious powerhouse football teams. There are others in south Jersey as well. However, one thing I know about the teams up north is that many of these kids go to DeFranco’s or Parisi’s or they train together in their school year round. Other teams only have five or six hardworking kids. The difference is obvious as to why certain teams are crushing other teams.

2. I attended a major university event a year ago where they invited the top 150 New Jersey recruits. I saw big kids everywhere, lean and mean. The tables had kids from all over the state. Some tables had up to three kids from one school. Then, I saw two tables of football players all from the same school! The city that they came from is not one that is known for being the best place to grow up in. It was not a place with special funding or money to buy a fancy weight room. Their weight room was probably nothing but old benches, barbells, and dumbbells from the 60s and 70s. Yet their football team had the most kids.

So next time you train, look at the gym and really ask yourself if this is the place with the intensity in the air. And is this really the place where you can reach your potential? If not, then don’t hope for it to change. Move on and create your own world of training somewhere else! Gather a group of like-minded individuals and make it work plain and simple!

Try to get back to working super hard at 3–5 basic movements and track your progress to see if you’re getting stronger or not. Train in groups and push one another to greater levels every day. This is a simple method to follow. With so much information out there, we forget the basics. We tend to overanalyze and get too crazy with movements and programs.

We all know that there truly is no “secret” to developing stronger, faster, bigger, more explosive athletes and individuals. However, in the right environment, so much more becomes possible and actually does happen.

Is it any secret why all the best bodybuilders in the world congregated to Gold’s Venice back in the 70s and trained together, ate together, hung out at the beach together, and more? The same principle applies to all of us.