Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. — Aristotle
True story, Aristotle must’ve been a smart guy. He was also a big believer in physical fitness and getting stronger, both in mind and in body.
The quote above speaks volumes and encompasses a huge aspect of success and excellence. The problem is, we as humans aren’t the best at maintaining positive habits. The most successful people are not necessarily the ones with the most talent, but the ones with the most consistency. The act of getting stronger is no different.
So what do the strongest people on the planet do on a consistent basis that separates them from the weak?
#1: Lifting Heavy
Shocker right? Seems like a blinding flash of the obvious, but I’ve found time and time again that people’s definitions of heavy lifting is out of perspective.
To make it simple, you should be lifting above 85% of your 1 rep max (RM) effort (for a low rep count, think 3 rep sets) on any given lift at least once every few weeks. This is not to say that you should be busting maxes every session because you’ll fry your CNS and regress.
Rather, I’m a big fan of wave methods, meaning I’ll go heavy on deadlifts one session in a week, then go heavy on overhead press the next week, and then squats the 3rd week. If you’re training hard enough, a heavy session with each lift every 4 weeks is plenty.
At the very least, you must work with loads above 75% of your 1RM daily (outside of deloads), including your accessory work, to gain size and get stronger. Anything less, and all you’re training is endurance.
#2: Eating Like a Savage
Eating, by far, is the top shortcoming I see when it comes to strength gains and recovery.
Most people, who claim they want to get stronger, simply don’t eat enough. The cold-hard truth is that if you want to get stronger, you will probably have to force yourself to eat past your hunger levels and sacrifice some abs.
Make no mistake, eating for aesthetics and eating for performance are two entirely different things. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be “shredded”, but it’s an entirely different goal and dietary strategy than trying to put more and more weight on the bar.
Take your typical bodybuilder and put them up against a strength athlete, and in comparison, they just won’t be that strong (especially pound for pound). Just as if you took your average Strongman and asked him to get on stage, he might not look that appealing in his skivies.
There are ways to blend the best of both worlds, which is why I wrote Primal Strength Nutrition and made it available over on the training programs page. But no matter what anyone tells you, you will never be at your strongest while also looking like a fitness model.
#3: Attacking Weaknesses
Coincidentally, we are typically weak in certain areas because we avoid doing things we don’t like doing. For me, that is conditioning, and core work.
My last competition, even though I took second in the event, I stalled out in a carry/drag medley, simply because I wasn’t in good enough shape to finish it. At the end of the event, I was on my ass gasping for air and my heart felt like it wanted to explode. If I had worked on my conditioning harder in training, I may have taken first.
The strongest people on the planet make their names in the business because they don’t shy away from doing the gritty, boring, and sometimes painful work that makes them better overall lifters.
#4: Picking Up Odd Objects
I make every single person that I train at the Primal Strength Gym (especially the athletes) lift odd objects.
I’m not trying to convert everyone into competitive Strongmen, but lifting odd objects is the best way I’ve been able to convert someone’s “gym strength” to the real world.
Typically people get really strong at the gym, but the gym is a very controlled environment where you are continually lifting objects on a linear plane (up and down). But lifting odd objects that require your body to move, contort, and adjust to something awkward, is the best way to get stronger for the “real world” and train for functional fitness.
Joe DeFranco termed this “imperfection training”, and if you want a more detailed example, check this out.
#5: Unleashing a Killer Instinct
Cue the cliche, but mindset is everything. Becoming stronger in the gym and being a better lifter is not for the meek.
Take a look at any of the strongest athletes in the world. They are alpha males. They train with other alphas. They are not afraid of taking on challenges, training in intense gyms, or attacking their training with a take no prisoners attitude.
This kind of personality/mindset may sound like a trait, not a habit, but be assured putting yourself in the right frame of mind in training and in life is habitual.
It is a choice to focus yourself 100% once you enter the gym. It is a choice to devote all of your mind power to your upcoming set. It is a choice to get angry at the bar right before a big deadlift. It is a choice to unleash your inner savage and leave it all in the gym.
Don’t get me wrong, these are not just “choices” but they are skills as well, which can be developed by habitual use. This is why I think The Primal Mind is probably the most important eBook on this website. It will teach you skills and mind techniques to unlock a state of mind and power you may have yet come to know.
“Whatever we learn to do, we learn by actually doing it: men come to be builders, for instance, by building, and harp players by playing the harp. In the same way, by doing just acts, we come to be just; by doing self-controlled acts, we come to be self-controlled; and by doing brave acts, we become brave.”
Too many people don’t take the mind game seriously, and consequently, too many people will never know their true strength…
All the best,