Unwritten (and written) rules for being a strength/physique athlete

I have competed in strength sports from 1999-2010 in various forms. Highland games, strongman, some CrossFit and a few push/pulls for fun. Even now, as I lift solely for the sake of self-improvement, I am still “in the game” as a trainer/coach and there are several unwritten rules one must know about being a part of this.

1.  Just because a program worked for one person doesn’t mean it will work for you.

Variables are plenty. Genetics are at play. Drug use is part of it (even if some of you want to skirt that issue) and one person’s Holy Grail of programs may be another person’s Hemlock. Its a trend to follow the biggest dog and doing so makes a lot of people very gung ho to jump into a program that may not fit their needs.

For example in an previous interview (http://www.seriouspowerlifting.com/3755/mens-interviews/konstantins-konstantinovs-interview) Konstantinovs said that he approaches his training like this:

1 training. Squat, bench press, deadlift with shrug bar, assistant work for lower back and legs.
2 training: Bench press, triceps, and upper back,abs
3 training: Deadlift, bench press, second deadlift, third deadlift, assistant work.
4 training: bench press,abs,triceps
Start new cycle

For him, that works, as he is able to withstand the rigors of pulling frequently. For you and I this may not be effective as we may not either need or be able to handle that type of load.

The problem is that most of us want results immediately when a more sensible approach can be used to build strength and muscle before we move onto more advanced, and volume heavy, programs.

We all know the guy that tries to do 24 sets of chest in his first month in the gym, we look at him and shake our heads; the same applies here.

I’ve seen people post programs that are harmful to others, but work for them. Be smart and learn what you need.

2.  Genetics do matter, but so does hard work

Some people get stronger easier. Some people can deadlift a Mack truck and their bench is mediocre. Some people can run like the wind and some people have to bust their ass to even be average athletes.

To dismiss genetics is foolish, but to use it for an excuse is worse.

Numerous athletes of all sports have overcome genetic limitations by sheer work ethic than you and I can even imagine.

If you are tall with long legs, squatting will most likely take a lot of work to get better at, so approach it with a methodical plan and learn what style of squatting would suit you best to maximize your progress.

Being the best doesn’t always have to happen, and it won’t, but being the best you can be is what its about.

3.  Never criticize another lifter’s weights

This burns me as I see it often.

Think about how stupid it is to mock another person for not being as strong/big as you think they should be.

Its a long road to getting stronger, a very long road. When someone’s progress is mocked its essentially making fun of the effort they are putting into it to become better. We put forth that same effort along the way and some people forget what it was like to struggle with weights we can use for warmups now.

It doesn’t matter what the weight on the bar is, what matters is the effort one is taking to get to where they want to be.

4.  Sponsorship is a privilege

With the internet and tons of new supplement/apparel companies popping up on the scene quicker than ever before, sponsorships are more common… and so are the people asking for them.

Fact is this, you don’t deserve to ask unless you can prove you are worthy of it. By that I mean you compete, you do well, you hold yourself to a good standard and can represent a company positively.

Just because you are built well or did a few local meets doesn’t give you the right to have one. There are plenty more who probably deserve it who could care less about getting one that may deserve it more than you.

Do you want one? Let your actions do the talking and save the begging for something you teach your dog.

5.  We are our own worst critics and it gets worse as we get older

Age comes wisdom (and I am not even that damn old) but with that comes a lot of “I used to..” type of thoughts.

Its inevitable that you will break down, maybe get injured and not be able to push as hard as you could ten years ago.

As a younger lifter you may have eaten enough to feed a small nation in Africa and had the metabolism to burn it off, but as you get older you may have to fine tune it more to maintain your physique.

Joints hurt, it takes longer to recover and mortality sucks.

That’s the bad part. The good part is that you (hopefully) become smarter. You learn more about what works for you and you can still progress intelligently despite getting older.

Its not an excuse to slack off and hang your head. Its a reason to become smarter about your training and recovery and be that one who defies age.

6.  You are going to have critics, deal with it.

Not haters, critics. Haters is the most overrated term.

I mean people who want to inject their two cents to your form, program, diet, posing, clothing choices, sleep patterns, supplements, hairdo, jewelry style, tanning lotion, shoes… fucking everything.

Family who wants to say “why do you lift so much, its bad for you”.

Friends who think you are crazy for eating chicken when they are eating deep fried cheese sticks.

People who post negative comments on YouTube videos calling your form out.

Tune it out.

If you need form help, ask a good coach.

If you need diet help, ask a nutritionist.

If you need supplement help, do some research.

If you look stupid when you dress, call a gay guy.

All joking aside with the last one, you should know where to go if you really need help with something lifting related. Anonymous and unsolicited advice that means something is rarely going to be free and hardly ever found in comment sections on social networking websites.

7.  Have a life outside of the gym

This is a lifestyle, not life.

Its great to have a sick work ethic that drives you to the gym 4-5 days a week and follows a solid eating plan. You are automatically more awesome for doing that. Some people take it a step, or 50, further and brag about not going out with friends, having little social life and living this lifestyle so tightly that they become gym nerds.

Yes, gym nerds… geeks of iron. Social retards who think a good body and a duck face pose negates the boredom they are by being one track minded.

The same kind of people they probably laugh at for playing XBox all day, well trade the word XBox with gainz and you have the same nerd of a different swole.

Have another hobby, read something, go out and enjoy a cheat meal every so often, go on a road trip… fuck, do something besides live your entire life for the gym.

You are better off for it, humanity is better off for it.


Check out the SECOND AND BRAND NEW Ashman Strength System e-book.

Join the Ashman Strength Facebook Page.

Check out Pump, Dump, and Hump; a fitness group based around health, lifting, and sexuality run by my wife and myself.

To inquire about training, contact us for more information or to set up a call about remote coaching.

If you are local to Kansas City and wish to kickass at my gym, visit us at Kansas City Barbell for the ultimate training experience.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.