Category Archives for "Motivation"

Failure Leads to Victory

We all love to win. No one loves to win more than me!

If you know me, you probably would agree. Some would say that I have an unhealthy desire to win, and that might be true. However, I have learned to have a healthy relationship with failure. Does that mean I enjoy losing? Not even close! Does it mean that I don’t get upset when I lose or one of my athletes loses? Absolutely not! That’s a normal reaction.

What does developing a healthy relationship with losing look like? That’s the question.

I am not saying that you should be indifferent. I hate the phrase, “you win some, you lose some.” When you work hard for a goal, commit to it, and execute a plan, you should go into whatever endeavor expecting victory. I don’t know about you, but I don’t work hard to lose.

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What is victory?

Before we go on, I want to define ‘victory’ because it’s different for everyone. Let’s look at a few examples. If you’re a strength athlete, some of us are looking to qualify for a national-level event. Some of us are trying to make the top ten, medal, or win the competition. Yet again some of us are trying to make an international team, win a medal at worlds, or even win the Olympics. Heck, maybe you are just trying to make all your planned lifts at your first meet.

What if you are a traditional sport athlete, such as a football player, wrestler, or softball player? A victory to you might look like the following:

  • Making you high school team
  • Earning a starting position
  • Earning all-conference
  • Earning all-state
  • Earning a scholarship
  • Playing Pro

You get it. The same can be said for teams. A victory to each team can be defined slightly different. This same outlook on victory can be applied to all aspects of life:

  • Family
  • Business
  • Friendships
  • Spiritually

The point I want to make is we are all working hard toward our own idea of victory.

The question is, “what happens when we lose?” It’s taken me a lifetime to figure this one out, and sometimes I still get it wrong. However, I can shed some light on the subject for all of you still struggling to deal with the losses that life will occasionally throw at you.

Case Study 1: Powerlifting Nationals 2004

In powerlifting, I rarely lost. One of the hardest ones to face was flying all the way out to California to earn my first ever bomb out. Here’s the saddest part of this tragic tale. I bombed out opening up at 930 pounds, when I could have easily won opening up at 850 pounds. It was my ego that drove me that day. No one could talk sense into my closed-off brain. My brain was too filled with testosterone to do the smart thing. So how did I respond?

Part of my response was wise, and part of it was immature and silly. I stormed to my hotel room like a furious bull and started formulating my plan for the next competition. I didn’t talk to another human for over a week, which was the silly part of all of this.

I’ve since learned to win with humility and lose with composure. You never know who is looking up to you. That might not mean much to some of you, but it means everything to me. If we aren’t inspiring others in our physical endeavors, then what are we doing? Who cares if we win the Olympics or world championships if we aren’t trying to encourage others? Winning is meaningless without substance – at least in my eyes.

So I flew home, and I started working toward the next big competition – which was the WPO Semi-Finals (the professional powerlifting organization of the time). I squatted deeper, better, and more often than ever. I worked on every known weakness. I improved on my recovery, especially in the nutrition and sleep department. I left no stone unturned.

The result was the all-time world record total of 2410 pounds in the 100-kilogram / 220-pound weight class. That was also the pound-for-pound best total of the time worldwide. I had turned my failure into success, increasing my total by 110 pounds during that time period. A lot of things changed in my life forever due to that victory, but really it was all due to a semi-good response to failure.

Case Study 2: Weightlifting Nationals 2017

In 2017, our Mash Team was stacked on the men’s and women’s side. We were the clear pick for winning both. That was until everything that could go wrong actually went wrong. Let me throw out a few:

  • Six people either bombed out or got hurt
  • One missed their weigh-in
  • Several under performed

It was a nightmare! I admit that for a split second I contemplated quitting as a weightlifting coach. It was truly a defining moment in my career. Obviously, I didn’t quit. But I did make several changes.

After looking back over the competition, there were quite a few bright moments in an otherwise dismal weekend. We won some individual national championships, and we left the competition with three men on the senior world team. However, there were some real changes that needed to take place:

  • Culture
  • Team Focus
  • Details

Our culture had taken a turn for the worse. My desire to win a team championship had clouded my judgment as to whom I would allow on our team. Coach Sean Waxman, my friend and mentor, pointed this out to me in his direct New York City style. Several of those team members are no longer with us, and now the culture is so much better. We are no longer a bunch of rebels running crazy. Our athletes listen to their coaches, and slowly all of them are becoming masters of the mundane. They are also kind to one another, and they are competitive yet supportive of one another.

The other big change we made was deciding not to take part in the team competitions anymore. I am not saying they are bad goals. It’s simply that our goal as a team is to help each individual reach the absolute pinnacle of their capabilities. The team competition simply adds extra stress to an already stressful competition. I want to do what’s right by the athlete not what’s right by the team.

At the end of the day, the team that sends the most athletes on international teams is the team that is actually winning. If I win a national championship and send no one to the world championships, I have failed. Now I am not trying to pass my ideology of to all of you as some law. It’s simply the way that I see it, and it’s the view of my team.

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The decision has led us on a streak of success. For example we average 4:6 at the Junior National Championships and Senior Pan American Championships Qualifier – and zero bomb outs. I am not saying we never bomb out, but they are few and far between now. Normally, if something like that happens now, it’s because we are being ultra aggressive and trying to make Team USA.

There’s one other benefit this new philosophy has given us. We make a much higher percentage of those aggressive attempts. All you have to do is look at the American Open Series 3 held in Las Vegas at the end of 2018. We absolutely crushed it. Hunter Elam came out of nowhere to earn a spot on the World Team by opening up at a lifetime PR clean and jerk of 121 kilograms and nailing it. We were aggressive all weekend just like that, and the entire team hit some sort of personal record. We also left the competition with four locked on the Senior World Team, two locked on the Youth World Team, and multiple American records. That’s victory to me, y’all. If the entire team goes 2:6 with this result, I am ok with it. 6:6 with no one on Team USA and/or no one breaking an American record is not a victory. You can keep your little wristband. But once again, this is just our mindset. I’m not saying everyone should think like us. Heck, life is a lot easier not thinking like this.

We’ve also learned to communicate better, and now Coach Crystal handles most of the details like what time weigh-ins are for each individual. Overall the tragedy of 2017 has been a major blessing. Our team is winning more than ever, enjoying each other more than ever, and having a better time slinging weights. That terrible competition helped us define ourselves as a team, and we are all better for it.

And now…

Recently at the Vegas Invitational/University Nationals/Youth World Championships, we had a 90% success rate with a couple of hiccups. We didn’t even flinch at the hiccups. We simply addressed the issues and moved on. It’s a necessary lesson all of us have to learn in life.

What’s the moral of the story? You don’t have to like losing. You shouldn’t like losing, or be indifferent to it. However if you want to be someone who wins most of the time, you have to be able to learn from losing. Otherwise, you’ll be the one who continues to lose again and again. I refuse to be that person, and I don’t want that for any of you no matter how big or small your goals are.

The Strength Coach’s Guide to Understanding Pain

About the Author: Eric Bowman is a Registered Physiotherapist in Ontario, Canada who works in the areas of orthopedic physical therapy and exercise for people with chronic diseases. He’s also intermittently involved with the University of Waterloo Kinesiology program and the Western University Physical Therapy program. He also competes as a powerlifter in the Canadian Powerlifting Union and has completed the CPU Coaching Workshop and Seminar.

Disclaimer: This is a combination of an article I wrote in 2015 for EliteFTS, an article I wrote on my own site in 2017, and my own updated views and concepts.

If you are involved with the Powerlifting, Olympic lifting, or CrossFit communities – either as an athlete or coach – you and/or your clients have likely had to deal with pain at some point in your career. Competing at a higher level comes with a high risk of developing pain due to the highly repetitive nature of strength sports, the volume and intensity of weights lifted, and the higher body weights required to be successful at some (but not all) strength sports.

Unfortunately, many strength coaches and athletes fail to understand the complex nature of pain. If you scroll down social media it’s not uncommon to see fellow lifters asking their comrades “I have pain – what should I do?” Subsequent recommendations can range all the way from ice and heat to soft tissue to inversion tables to snake oils to completely stopping lifting. It’s concerning to watch as a physiotherapist as these recommendations are made with minimal to zero knowledge of the individual’s pain presentation, medical history, psychosocial status, baseline functional capacity, and goals. As such these recommendations can range from effective to ineffective or even harmful.

Over the decades, and especially in the last seven years, the popularity and awareness of pain science has risen – even to the point where it got discussed on Joe Rogan’s podcast recently. In this article I share what the strength coach and strength athlete should know about pain. As a disclaimer this is not intended to be specific medical advice but rather general education and information.

Pain does not always indicate tissue damage

The old Descartes’ model of pain stated that an injury caused a signal to go up to the brain that caused pain. This in many ways is still how people view pain.

However – a large body of research shows many individuals with no signs or symptoms (within scientific literature this is referred to as “asymptomatic”) have abnormal imaging findings in their knees, hips, back and shoulders. For example:

  • 85% of adults without knee pain have knee arthritis on X-Ray
  • 35% of adults without shoulder pain have full or partial thickness rotator cuff tears on MRI
  • Even 40% of professional baseball players have rotator cuff tears yet have no pain while playing!!!
  • Approximately 20-40% of adults aged 20-40 show some form of disc herniation on CT or MRI but walk around without pain

Now to be fair

  • Some research does show a correlation between X-ray findings and symptoms in knee osteoarthritis – although this research is very conflicting
  • Some research shows patellar and achilles tendon changes on imaging can predict future tendinopathy
  • Some research shows some MRI findings are more common in people with back pain than in people without back pain

This means tissue injury can still be relevant but it certainly isn’t the sole predictor of pain. Pain is an output of the nervous system in response to threat and can be influenced by many factors (see below).

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Posture, structure, and biomechanics are relevant and important but don’t solely explain pain

We know from the scientific literature certain biomechanical movement variables can be risk factors and/or mechanisms of certain injuries, such as

Biomechanics are also important when under high loads – when certain movements, postures, and/or loads are painful – and when the body hasn’t been given sufficient opportunity to adapt to the load that’s been placed on it.

The things you have to keep in mind when looking at biomechanics are …

We know now pain can be modulated by various biological and psychosocial factors.

Biological factors can include

  • Tissue injury and tissue stress (see above)
  • Lack of sleep
  • Neurological factors such as decreased or increased pain modulation by the nervous system, or changes in the nervous system can make it more sensitive to inputs

Psychosocial factors can include

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fear avoidance (avoidance of activity due to fear of pain or injury)
  • Kinesiophobia (fear of movement not fear of Kinesiologists 😊 )
  • Passive coping strategies
  • Poor social support
  • PTSD

Psychosocial factors don’t mean “the pain is in your head” but they are big risk factors for chronic pain. The theory is they make the nervous system more sensitive and increase activity of areas of the nervous system that are also involved in pain.

The wording you use with your clients can make a big impact on their recovery

Going hand-in-hand with the above points – the way your clients feel about themselves and their pain (if applicable) can have a big impact on

  • Whether or not they experience pain and
  • How well they manage and/or recover from pain

When professionals use negative wording with their clients it can create a “nocebo” effect. Nocebo, the opposite of placebo, is when the expectation of harm causes pain even though nothing physical has happened.

Some examples of nocebo-like wording can include

  • “You have the knees of a 70 year old”
  • “You’re in pain because of poor posture”
  • “Your (insert muscle here) isn’t firing”
  • “Your movement is dysfunctional”
  • … and so on

The key takeaway here is to use positive wording as much as possible with your clients to get the desired training/rehab effect while avoiding nocebos.

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So to summarize this article

  • Tissue injury may be relevant to pain in some cases but pain doesn’t always mean injury
  • Pain is a lot more complex than biomechanics and is more related to a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors
  • Use positive wording with your clients to empower them and avoid creating nocebos

I hope this gives you a better understanding of the complex experience that is pain. If you are interested in further reading I recommend the book Explain Pain by Lorimer Moseley and David Butler. As always – thanks for reading.

Tony Gentilcore – The Barbell Life 244

I finally had the chance to sit down and talk with Tony Gentilcore.

It seems we know so many of the same people, so it was great to pick his brain and hear about his many years as a strength coach.

In particular, Tony really had some great insights on business – not only his current business model (which had me taking notes) but also lessons he’s learned from his past with Eric Cressey.

If you’re someone who is interested in growing a platform, growing a gym, or growing a coaching practice – this one will be worth a listen.

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LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • Having Eric Cressey as a roommate (and what he learned)
  • Why growing a business is sometimes the worst thing
  • How he’s working now based on his plan for the future
  • Why he started a gym even though he said he never wanted to
  • How a good workout should make you feel like Mario
  • and more…

The Controversial Beauty of Female Athletes with Sarah Davies – The Barbell Life 242

I’ll go out on a limb and say Sarah Davies is the only person to compete internationally in both Olympic weightlifting and also beauty pageants.

And during a recent international competition, the organizers tried to prevent her from participating in the swimsuit portion… because they said she was too muscular.

Are we serious?

That just got my blood boiling, so I had to talk with Sarah about it.

So if you want a wild look at the inside of beauty pageants – both the good and the bad – then give this podcast a listen.

And also, if you know me, OF COURSE we talked about Sarah’s weightlifting.

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LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • The controversy about her being “too muscular”… and how she handled it
  • How she brilliantly structured her training and nutrition to minimize any impact from her trip
  • Working through childhood bullying to learn to accept and love her body
  • How she has mastered the mental aspect of competition
  • Setting goals so big that people laugh at you
  • and more…

Jim Wendler on Training High Schoolers (Part 2) – The Barbell Life 241

With the financial success of 5/3/1, Jim Wendler has been able to live his dream.

He’s now a strength coach at his local high school – and he has totally transformed the program. They’ve gone from being mediocre to now being a dominant force.

And the interesting thing is that Jim’s approach is the exact opposite of what many people would think a high school strength program should look like. He doesn’t max out. He doesn’t pound the kids into the ground. His kids are the only ones around who don’t even know their bench press max.

So to hear how he’s had such stellar results, listen in and get ready to take notes.

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LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • Kids don’t need to go heavy. Here’s what they do need.
  • Turning around his local high school football team in record time
  • The dumbbell exercise that has made the biggest difference in the team
  • The challenges of managing 50 kids at the same time
  • Making average players into winners
  • and more…

A Reminder Why We Coach

Sometimes in life I find myself in what feels like a hamster wheel.

I get up, write a bit, answer emails, train, coach, hang with my family, and go to bed. This goes on day after day, and week after week. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I wonder if I am really making a difference. If I am just collecting a paycheck, there are easier ways.

I coach because I want to help young men and women reach their goals. I want to see them become better humans, and I want to see them living a healthier lifestyle after they leave me as a coach. If this isn’t happening, I’m going to open a different business or just get a job.

A BLAST FROM THE PAST

This morning, I was training at one of my original gyms, Jack King’s Gym in Winston-Salem, NC. Number one, I love this gym because everyone leaves me alone to crush my grind, and it’s the most hardcore gym in America. You know – the kind of place that’s dirty with chalk-filled air. Man, I love it!

Toward the end of my grind, in walked one of my former athletes, Grayson Alberty. I didn’t even recognize him. Now he is tall, lean, and muscular. He also runs his father’s plumbing business, and he’s only 19 years old. He trained with me about six years ago. If I remember right, he was having a tough time in school, so he would come hang out with me right after school. He was into training for a bit, but then – like many people – he stopped coming. I remember being pretty sad because I invested a lot into this kid and had wanted to see his life improve.

Some coaches can just shrug it off when an athlete leaves. I am not wired that way. I connect very personally with each and every athlete. That’s why I am a good coach, but it’s also why I feel crushed when they stop.

GOALS AS A COACH

As a coach, I have a few goals with each of my athletes.

  • I want to help them reach whatever goals they have on their hearts. (Notice I said ‘their’ and not ‘their parents’ goals.)
  • I want to be a catalyst for the athletes becoming better human beings. I want them to be exceptional spouses, fathers, mothers, business owners, doctors, and lawyers. (We have an exceptional record in this department.)
  • I want them to take the gift of fitness and continue it for the rest of their lives – while sharing it with the people they love.

That’s it! These are my goals for all of my athletes. It’s got to be about more than just their athletic development.

INFLUENCE AS A COACH

Sport coaches are important to athletes for sure. My high school football coach was very inspirational in my life. Like most high school coaches, he also doubled as the strength coach. It was in the weight room we developed our relationship. In college I was way closer with my strength and conditioning coach, Coach Mike Kent, than any other coach.

As strength and conditioning coaches we have to keep this in mind. We will be with these athletes a bigger part of the year than their sport coach. We will also be with them in smaller groups, allowing us to form stronger bonds. Several of my athletes have thanked me at their senior banquets and senior games before their sport coach, which every time was a massive honor. However with honor comes great responsibility, or at least it should. Of course if you are a weightlifting or powerlifting coach, you will probably be even closer with your athletes. You are their strength coach and sport coach, and that’s a big responsibility.

Grayson is an example of planting a seed only to see the seed blossom years later. Our job is to plant as many seeds as possible, but ultimately it is up to the athlete to let the seed sprout and bloom. Today I got to see one of my seeds in full bloom, and it totally rejuvenated my desire to coach and help young people.

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DIFFERENT KINDS OF SUCCESS STORIES

Everyone knows us for our first goal because we have helped several athletes reach their incredible goals like:

  • Tommy Bohanon to the NFL
  • Cade Carney to starting running back for Division I Wake Forest University
  • Landon Harris making the Division I High Point University basketball team (after not making the team during the prior two years)
  • Multiple World Team members to Team USA in weightlifting (including four in 2018: Hunter Elam, Nathan Damron, Jordan Cantrell, and Meredith Alwine)
  • Multiple Junior World Team members (with two sitting on the team right now)
  • Multiple Youth Pan Am Team members to Team USA in weightlifting (including three in 2018: Morgan McCullough, Ryan Grimsland, and Jared Flaming)
  • Morgan McCullough taking the gold medal at the 2018 Youth Pan Am championships

That’s awesome, and of course I am proud of all my athletes. However, I am just as proud of my athletes who have gone on to become incredible humans.

  • Adee Cazayoux is the CEO of Working Against Gravity – a multi-million dollar business that pretty much owns the nutrition world.
  • Jared Enderton is now a social media celebrity and the head weightlifting coach for Invictus Weightlifting.
  • Malcolm Moses-Hampton is a doctor in Chicago.
  • Michael Waters, former Penn State Wrestler, is now in the Special Forces.
  • Hayden Bowe is one of the founders of Hybrid Performance Method and Gym.
  • Greg Nuckols and his amazing wife, Lyndsey Nuckols, are the owners of Stronger by Science. They’ve been featured in Forbes Magazine.
  • Landon Harris, the same guy who made the basketball team for High Point University, is now a banker applying to MBA Schools. I actually wrote a recommendation for his Harvard application.

RESPONSIBILITY AS A COACH

We have a big responsibility as strength and conditioning coaches. Our responsibilities go way past helping our athletes reach their goals. Our goal should never be to glamorize ourselves as coaches. We become popular by the results of our athletes, and by the recommendation of our athletes. Our legacy is our athletes. It’s what our athletes do in their sport, and throughout their lives. It’s in the information we share with the world.

Becoming a coach is much like becoming a pastor. Being a pastor is hard work. If you are contemplating going into the ministry, most pastors will tell you that if you feel in your heart that you can do anything else, you probably should. But if you can’t imagine a life where you’re not a pastor, then pursue it.

It’s the same with being a strength coach. Don’t do it for the money, and definitely don’t do it for the fame. Do it for the love of others. I have never written anything more true, and I hope all of you men and women out there considering becoming a coach will read this before making a decision.

Today was a great day seeing Grayson Alberty. It’s days like today that encourage me to push on. However, there are a lot of hard days you will have to endure as a strength coach. With all of this being said, the beautiful days are simply amazing, and I can’t imagine anything else outside of my family and my God bringing me so much joy.

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