The barbell is the most widely recognized tool for building strength. Spend enough time under the bar and one will get stronger. This is a known truth.
However, “stronger” means many things. One may read this to mean physical strength – the ability to lift more weight than previously able. While not incorrect, physical strength can be one of the smallest gains made in training. Through my years of powerlifting and strength training, my eyes were slowly opened to all of the other gains I had been making.
The barbell is an objective teacher; it has nothing to prove and no agenda to push. It is simply there to exist; to be an object to test the strength and resolve of those who wish to step up and conquer it. Simple.
In the relationship between barbell and lifter, only the lifter is able to adapt.
The barbell will expose one’s weaknesses and challenge them to overcome or quit.
To that end, here are some lessons the iron is teaching, if one learns to listen:
Lifting weights is the most individualized sports there is. The individual is both their team and opponent. The battle is between only the lifter and the barbell. For the seconds it takes to perform a lift, there is no one outside of the lifter that will effect the outcome. Pure self-reliance.
Outside of the gym, being self-reliant allows one to self-police one’s actions along their path. Without needing validation from others, one is able to choose the best course of action for themselves. The confidence to take action without needing permission from others increases effectiveness and efficiency in accomplishment of goals. Having the confidence in oneself to overcome the challenges that lay ahead allows one to attack said challenges with ferocity and focus. Self-reliance is critical to achieving what one sets out to do.
One will quickly learn that excuses do not make gains in the gym. One can explain away poor training, poor diet, or poor sleep in any way they so choose; but in the end, the bar weight will not climb. Not only will excuses expose how mentally weak one is – with excuses, one will remain as physically competent as they had been before. If one finds a place to set blame outside of themselves for lackluster performance, they are wrong. Nothing outside of the confines of a squat rack matters when the bar is on one’s back.
Outside of training, the same principles apply. Making excuses in any arena attempts to justify one’s poor choices or lack of action; attempting to remove fault from oneself. No reflection, learning, or growth can happen when one cannot first admit their faults. Justification of poor actions will remove any semblance of ownership.
Building muscle and strength takes many years to achieve. It is a process of breaking down and rebuilding muscles over time. It is the product of many well-thought choices and a discipline to achieve.
There will be times when training is not fun and motivation will be low. Whether it be a training block that is going to hammer a weak lift or a nagging injury that one must work around, there will be opportunities to back off from one’s training. The discipline forged under the bar will keep focus and intensity on the task at hand. A true lifter shows up regardless, knowing full well that consistency in training is more important than finding the motivation to go to train.
Any pursuit one chases must be pursued with discipline if expecting progress to be made. Few worthwhile pursuits will come to fruition overnight. The truth of the matter is that nearly nothing happens as quickly as one may hope it to and, many times, progress is not linear. Discipline is the driving force to continue to show up and put the work in regardless of short term results. It replaces outcome-oriented thinking with long term planning.
Lifting weights is far larger than building muscle or improving health. Through the unique challenges afforded by the inherent simplicity of a barbell, one will reflect upon oneself. As stated earlier – in the relationship between barbell and lifter, only the lifter is able to adapt. The barbell serves to expose the weaknesses of the lifter.
Can one handle this truth? A strong individual can.
The iron teaches many lessons to those that learn to listen. Its lessons are sometimes harsh and are paid for in hard work and sweat.
Gain physical strength under the bar, but understand that there is more to be gained.
Yours in strength,
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