10 Secrets to Training Success

Anyone that’s achieved success in any arena has been asked: “what’s your secret?” People are continually searching for that one silver bullet solution to achieve their goals as if the ones who’ve been successful know something they don’t. This is why it’s so easy to sell supplements, cleanses, equipment, and even training programs. And, when people are told what they need to do, which is usually mundane and entirely up to them, they dismissively nod and smile. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve experienced this. Sorry, but you can’t outsource your training.

Coaching great John Wooden described excellence as “many little things done exceptionally well.” This is where most people go wrong. They place too much focus on too few of the variables.

What’s the best exercise? What’s the best pre-workout? What’s the best shoe? What’s the best this, or that? The people that ask these questions don’t ‘get it,’ and this is what keeps them from progressing. It’s not that those things don’t matter, but they only matter when they are done together and as part of a complete plan. And the things that matter the most are typically the least sexy. Things like getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, adhering to a repetitive program, and controlling stress levels. It’s much more fun to buy a new pair of lifting shoes than it is to go to bed on time.

Doing the intangibles well is what gets people from good to really good. Even then, the most successful lifters aren’t the best because of their genetics, diet, work ethic, a schedule conducive to training, or access to equipment and coaching. They’re the best because they have all of those things.

It’s more than likely you will lack control over at least one variable, whether it be a crazy work schedule or access to decent equipment, which is why focusing on the cumulative effect of controlling as many variables as possible is so important.

As each variable is responsible for a certain percentage of your success, it’s important to attack them in order of importance. You’re going to get most of your results from just three things – training, diet, and sleep. The first one is comfortable and the one people are usually most eager for, while diet and sleep are often neglected, as people opt to focus on things like equipment and supplements. By skipping these steps, you are significantly lowering your potential ceiling.

Another mistake people make is overanalyzing to the point that they take minimal action on any given step. If you’re not getting adequate protein to begin with, then you shouldn’t be worrying about whether your beef is grass, or grain fed. Build the habit first, then refine it later. The power of just getting started trumps the best theory every time.

I’m going to give you my list in order of importance just to give an idea of how to think about the variables that could be keeping you from reaching your goals, but feel free to add, take away, or rearrange it to suit your needs – it’s more a suggestion on how you should prioritize your training than it is a set of recommendations:

  1. Training. Get in there and get started
  2. Hydration. This is extremely important for lifting; even slight dehydration can significantly reduce force production.
  3. Food. You should be eating as much, or as little as you need to hit your mark.
  4. Sleep. 7-8 hours and you should feel recovered in the morning.
  5. Stress management. Meditation, walking, massage, whatever you can do to keep stress low.
  6. Programming. The variables only matter once you’re consistently showing up.
  7. The makeup and creation of meals. Hit your macros first, then worry about types of foods.
  8. Meal timing. Experiment with what you eat and when and how this affects your training.
  9. Supplements. These are responsible for only a small percentage, but if you’re doing everything else a few percents can be a lot.
  10. Equipment. You can get plenty bull-strong with just a barbell wearing no shoes, but sufficient equipment can make training a little more fun.


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Andrew Serrano

Andrew Serrano is a full time trainer, holds a B.S. in exercise science and has worked in almost every facet of the training industry. He is currently competing as a 198lb raw lifter, his meet PRs are 589/391/601. His training is guided by the 10/20/Life philosophy with a focus on sustainable injury free progression.

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