Sunday, March 9, 2014


We have seen the expression “there are no secrets” when it comes to training a million times now, and it has become a cliché.  The intent is absolutely true, the “secret” is hardwork, dedication, effort and consistency, but I feel there is more to explore here.  I feel that it is worth considering the reality that the most effective methods of training are rarely spoken of, and the most spoken of methods of training are rarely effective.  What we are witnessing here is social and psychological phenomena that perpetuates mediocrity for its own self-preservation.

Additionally, the pyramids were built by people with diminishing goals

What I am arriving at is this: it seems that those who are successful at lifting rarely discuss or defend their method, and that those who are unsuccessful tend to be the loudest.  This notion was explored in part with my previous rant on not needing to defend yourself, based around the premise that those who find success tend to live successfully, while those that encounter failure tend to be the first to argue about how they are or will be successful.  However, I feel that the impact of this has far deeper reaching ramifications, in that the sheer higher percentage of those that have failed versus those that have succeeded in turn impacts the very flow and content of all training related discussions.

To clarify, when it comes to discussing training, there will be far more people that have failed than succeeded, which means, there will be a far higher volume of unsuccessful training related strategies than successful ones.  This can in turn becomes misleading to the listener, for they will continue to encounter the same themes over and over again as they pursue education on lifting, and the recurrence of concepts can be misinterpreted as the presence of success.  We mistake this process for evolution, believing that clearly the successful training strategies and concepts are the ones that survive scrutiny, whereas the unsuccessful ideas are weeded out of the population to die, leaving only the cream of the crop behind.

You know, like this

I argue that in fact the opposite is occurring, such that, by the sheer reality that there are more unsuccessful trainees than successful ones, the successful ideas will rarely come to light, whereas the unsuccessful ones will be perpetuated indefinitely.  In fact, I would say that it is not just the number of unsuccessful people that results in this propensity, but that we are also witnessing the defensive mechanisms of those who have not achieved success.  As a people, we seek validation and assurance in our actions, and the easiest way to ensure that we receive these things is to project them outwardly, essentially “wishing” ourselves successful.  The idea being that, if we say something enough times, it has to be true, and the more people we can get to believe it, the more we in turn will believe it.

One can easily witness this phenomenon in any select internet forum, office environment, or any other shared community with a common goal.  There is less of a need for methods to be successful and far more of a need for methods to SEEM successful, especially whatever the chosen method of the society is.  The Starting Strength community will be adamant about the unequivocal success of the Starting Strength program, and anyone who either dissents from the program or has the audacity to NOT succeed while following it is merely an interloper who has been sent to cause dissent, and they must be destroyed at all cost.  The same can hold true for 5/3/1, Smolov, Stronglifts, Crossfit, Westside, the Paleo Diet, Intermittent Fasting, etc, the method itself matters far less than the fact that the society has embraced it and will continue to speak about its effectiveness for the sake of their own mental self-reservation.

In the end, its far easier to burn one person at the stake than to change all of your textbooks

What lesson are we to take from this observation?  Perhaps it is the case that, if we hear about a program or diet a lot, that is an indication that it is in fact NOT successful.  Surely, if the majority of trainees are unsuccessful, and that majority of trainees are speaking of the same program, one would in turn not utilize said program due to its lack of ability to create success, no?  In turn, we are left with the idea that maybe “training secrets” DO exist, insomuch as the fact that it is the ideas that are rarely spoken of that are actually successful, for these ideas are practiced only by the few people who have actually succeeded while others have failed.  Perhaps the ultimate lesson here is that, if an idea has reached popular acclaim in training, it is most likely not successful, whereas if you come up with an idea you have never heard of before, maybe it will have merit.

My grandfather always said “look at what 95% of the population is doing, and then do the opposite”.  If you view what 95% of the population has achieved in the pursuit of physical greatness, maybe this isn’t such a crazy idea.


  1. Ok, so million dollar question: what are some of these training secrets? Which of the programs you mentioned as popular specifically because they are largely producing failures?

    1. If I knew what they were, would they really be secrets? Haha. I am a firm believer in the idea that I am not a smart person, and any time I come up with an idea, I assume it has already been thought of before. If I come up with an idea that I have not heard of before, I may assume that someone else has thought of it to and may have found success with it.

      The programs I mention are merely examples. In order to gauge their success, I would say to look at who is advocating them and what their results are. If the majority of the trainees are weak or small, their opinion has limited value. If they have succeeded in their training, give it a listen.

      The only programs I can really speak on personally are Pavel's 3-5, 20 rep squats, WS4SB and most of 5/3/1. Everything else I have done has been some bastardized program or just my own tinkering.