After what seems like a hundred years of training a million people I can unequivocally state that your results in the gym are directly proportional to your IQ. You either “get it,” or you don’t. The first time someone walks in the gym I usually have a pretty good idea of what their long term progress will be within thirty seconds of meeting them. If not, I know for sure by the end of their first workout. Their attitude, work ethic, and usually most importantly, intelligence are the telltale signs of where they will be in twelve weeks. Some may question why I put smarts before work ethic, but the fact is smart people always work hard. That’s why we call them smart.
If I demonstrate an exercise and someone can’t do it fairly well, no matter how complex the movement, within five minutes of me teaching it, they are probably never going to be a good athlete nor will they ever be one of the big dogs in the gym. That’s just how it is. This has never been proven untrue during the 15 years that I have been training people.
If they don’t have incredibly high levels of kinesthetic awareness and really understand what we are doing and why we are doing it and how the body functions their results will always be less than optimal. The successful ones know how to arch their backs, brace their abs, tighten their glutes, drive with the hips. The tell tale sign of someone who will never get anywhere in the gym is when they can’t arch their back properly. If they can not get into the correct position for a bent over row or a Romanian deadlift the first time we attempt that drill, I know that there is very little hope for that person in the long term. That may sound harsh, but it’s a stone cold fact. If they can’t understand the difference between flexing at the hip and flexing at the spine within five seconds, I immediately know we are looking at someone who will always get subpar results. More and more high school kids come in with the flexibility of a conference table. I didn’t tell you to sit around on the couch and play Nintendo for all those years while allowing your hamstrings to become tighter than shoe leather. And now you want to earn a scholarship? Good luck.
For 15 years, the smartest guys I have trained have almost always gotten to be the biggest, fastest and strongest. They are highly attentive when I explain something for the first time. They don’t miss a word of it. They intently study what I am doing. They are inquisitive and they ask the right questions. Unlike what your first grade teacher might have taught you, there are stupid questions. Lots of them. The successful athletes and lifters never seem to ask them, though. These are the guys who watch every other person in their group perform every single rep of every single exercise that they do. They never miss a beat and try to learn from and help each and every other lifter in the gym, because they understand that you learn from both teaching and being taught. They are always looking for ways to improve their own technique, trying to figure out what the stronger guys are doing that they are not. They are quiet and introspective. The only conversation they engage in during the workout has to do with improving their strength or technique or helping someone else. They are thinking not about the girl they met this weekend or what happened at work today but rather exactly when to open up their knees at the bottom of their squat. Small talk and trivial conversation is something they don’t engage in. They realize that all of that can be turned off for an hour and they are working toward a bigger goal here; one that requires the utmost attention to detail. In fact that is one of the great joys of training; taking an hour to shut off the outside world and go to battle with yourself, your training partners and the iron. All the problems will still be there for you to dwell on and make yourself miserable with an hour later.
When I see a guy wandering around the gym, wishing I allowed him to check his cell phone or that a really hot girl would walk by the window I know his progress will always come at a snails pace. If I see someone not watching his partners do their sets and trying to either help them or pick up a tip to improve his own performance I know that I am looking at someone who just doesn’t get it. A year from now they will only have made slight improvements; or at best, something far from what they could have been capable of.
Usually after addressing a problem I would end an article with the solution. Unfortunately I don’t really have one here. You either get it or you don’t…