There are many things that make up the blue-collar lifter persona. If you train in your garage or basement like me or if you're sometimes changing diapers, serving lunch, or putting The Mickey Mouse Club on in between max effort squats, you might just be a blue-collar lifter. If you lift at a commercial gym surrounded by cardio bunnies and guys wearing Affliction T-shirts doing curls in the squat rack, you might be a blue-collar lifter. If your gym doesn’t have a squat rack but has twenty purple leg extensions and you get yelled at every time you let go of a dumbbell, breathe heavy, or show any kind of attempt at getting strong(er), you might be a blue-collar lifter.

When you’ve never seen a safety squat bar, let alone even touched a true Texas power bar, yet the bar you have from Dicks works just fine, when your weights are a mix of three different manufacturers and the collars only work when you put them on just right, when you ask the neighbor to come over and watch you squat not as a spotter but in case you blow your knee, ankle, or back out, someone can call 911, when you’re sick and tired of waiting on equipment because there is only one squat rack and some Dbag is doing quarter squats with 135 pounds while balancing on a Bosu ball because that “trainer” told him “It’s all about the core,” you might be a blue-collar lifter.

One of the biggest things about being a part of this unique community is that you learn many of your failures on your own and usually by yourself. You find out the true value of spotter bars in a cage. You figure out that chalk dust looks good on all pairs of shorts and shirts. You learn the value of breathing (or not breathing) during max effort attempts. You find out the hard way that the trainers at your gym have no idea how to actually spot someone while squatting and you break two mirrors and bend the bar. You learn that through all the ups and downs with life, there is only one constant, one thing that will never change—the weight. It will always be there to pin you down if you let it. Life is ever changing. Five hundred pounds is the same 24/7.

The thing that separates the blue-collar lifter from the rest of the flock is this—passion and commitment. I know it doesn’t matter that I don't train at some fancy facility with a wall full of specialty bars or squat out of a monolift. I don’t care that my adjustable bench wobbles like crazy when in the flat position. We don’t care because none of these things can stop our passion for the weight. Our commitment to get back under the bar is unshakable. We train whenever we can whether that is at 5:00 in the morning because the gym isn't infested with douches or at 10:00 at night because that’s the first chance we get after we get home from work, put the kids to bed, and pay some kind of attention to the wife. Passion and commitment are what drive the blue-collar nation. Once you’ve set aside all the fancy bullshit and realize that in the Iron House, the only thing that matters is whether or not you can beat the weights because they're the only thing in life that doesn’t change, then and only then can you consider yourself part of the blue-collar nation.


Here in the blue-collar nation, we realize that everything has a beginning. No one picks up a barbell and totals elite. As a new powerlifting student myself, I know and appreciate the value of being new and just starting out. But with joy comes sorrow. This is where we, as newbies, trust anyone who puts out an article, program, or method. This is all too familiar and common and can lead to many failures and shortcomings. At one point, I, in my young strength training adventure, read muscle and myth magazines and articles filled with complete hocus pocus. I was fortunate one day to meet an older, more knowledgeable lifter who introduced me to powerlifting and true strength.

I've made many mistakes along the way in strength training. I learned from them, which helped me become a better and smarter lifter. I have a few points that I'd like to share with those just getting into this sport and lifestyle.

1. Learn to do the lifts correctly!

Form is everything. You’ll never be able to lift a maximal amount with horrible form. Now, this isn’t to say that your form may waver when doing max attempts in either weight or reps, but it shouldn’t look like you’ve never done the lift. If you look at some of the best powerlifters today, raw and equipped, their form is spot on. You have to take every rep seriously. Every set should be as intense and focused as a max effort. Get in the habit of setting up the same way every time. This will help you get “in the zone.” Your lifts will feel more natural as well.

2. Socialize.

By this, I mean talk to other lifters and make it specific to your goals. If bodybuilding is your goal, talk to bodybuilders. If powerlifting is your goal, talk to powerlifters. Networking yourself not only means that you’ll meet good people, but it will open your network of resources. As a newbie, you’ll have tons of questions. Go to meets and competitions, and talk to everyone you can. One thing about this community is that mostly everyone is more than willing to help and give advice.

3. Learn everything that you can.

This is one of the best things you can do. Knowledge is power, but you need to learn from reliable resources. elitefts™ is a great example of a reliable resource. They have thousands of articles geared toward the beginner to the advanced. You can use their Q&A to ask world class athletes any question you have for free!

These are just a few examples. If you need more guidance, get out to meets and competitions. Talk, watch, and learn. Most importantly, have fun!

Attitude over adversity

Here in the blue-collar nation, we have come to realize that to train in the way we do (i.e. garage, basement, far corner, alone, in a commercial gym), you must have a certain attitude. This isn’t something that is turned on and off depending on who’s around. It's our attitude inside and outside the gym. One thing that has been learned is that once you’ve been beaten down by the iron enough, some things in life just don’t hurt that much anymore. Bad day at work? Ehh. Kids won’t listen to a damn word you say? Whatever. Spouse getting on your last nerve? Doesn’t matter. Your attitude and experience getting crushed by the constant weight of steel has changed your perception of pain, hurt, and frustration.

So how does this apply to the title you ask? Well, when life punches you in the face, you have two options—run, run fast, and don’t look back or fight! Stand up and kick the shit out of life! The will to survive and forge ahead is only paralleled by the attitude to match it. If your attitude blows, you’ll get beat down by life every time. When George Washington had to spend the winter in Valley Forge, did he give up and say, “OK boys, pack it up. It's too cold. I’m going home!” Hell no! His mental fortitude and attitude to overcome carried his troops through an intense winter and an even more intense war.

The point is that warriors of the blue-collar nation don’t give up when their training might get interrupted by life’s hurdles. We adapt and overcome. We know that we might only get thirty minutes to hit the weights, so we utilize that time wisely, even if that means doing the main lift and walking out. Oftentimes, I'm feeding my kids, changing diapers, and putting kids’ shows on the television in between sets. I do this because I'm adapting to the situation. When my wife had back surgery, I could have very easily shelved my training and said, “Oh well, this is too much to handle. I can’t fit it in.” I didn’t though. I found time to train and to get strong(er) mentally and physically. I'm not trying to blow my own horn. I'm just giving examples. There are plenty of people who don't let life or its hurdles stop them from accomplishing their goals. This should be your mantra when things get tough—“My attitude overcomes adversity always!”