ConsistencyWithout a doubt, the strongest and best lifters in the world have consistently busted their ass in the weight room. For decades. Not weeks, not a year, but decades. There are genetic freaks out there that achieve a high level of strength quickly, but comparing yourself to them is unfair and will probably drive you out of the sport and into a 10-year Pop Tarts & Vicodin bender. Now, consistency doesn't always mean they're going balls out, every day. It means they chip away slowly, but surely.
Drive/PerseveranceEven with injuries, plateaus, loss of training partners, gyms, etc., the great lifters will find a way to adapt and overcome. If that means training alone in a barbaric gym in their garage, they do it. If that means having to train in a commercial gym by themselves, they get it done. If that means they have to train around an injury, they research and find a way.Nothing will stand in their way and when an obstacle appears, they don't get frustrated; they simply find a different route around it. It's easy to be motivated and excited to train when everything is going your way. It's another thing to hit a wall, scramble, kick, and scratch until you look back and see the marks of blood and sweat you leave behind.
Open Mind (with Filter)You have to be open to new ideas, but you have to also be wary of what you read. Usually an older, more experienced lifter can filter through some of the bullshit, but sometimes desperation can lead to some poor decisions. A lifter MUST have a core, a philosophy that he adheres to. He has to STAND for something. Yet he also has to learn to open himself up to new ideas and be smart enough to place them into his training without upsetting his core beliefs. Now those are the "mind musts" of being involved with lifting for a long time. Here are the "body musts."
- Stretching and mobility should be a priority.
- Maintain decent conditioning levels – you don't need to be a marathon runner but don't turn into a heavy breathing slob either.
- Use a full range of motion.
- Understand the difference between muscles and movements.
- You didn't start lifting weights to become smaller. (Some of you really need to let that one sink in.)
- Train around injuries, not through them.
- Write a Training Manifesto – I have a "Train to be Awesome" list that I refer to when I feel like I'm losing track of where I'm going/where I've been. Refer to this when you're "lost." Everyone needs to have their own Training Manifesto and it's all based on what you need and want from training. You don't have to share this with anyone – just hold yourself accountable.
- Don't be afraid to do what you want, not what others want you to do. Don't hold yourself to others' standards – especially when your standards should be higher.
- Training should be fun; there's joy in the pain of the process. When it becomes tiresome or becomes a "job" remember why you began training in the first place. It's not supposed to appease anyone but you.
- Fads come and go, but the barbell remains the same. Respect it accordingly.