Five Reasons Why You’re Not Getting Stronger

By Brian Carroll (written originally April 2014, edited and updated 6.13.21)

By now, you’re asking yourself the following question(s):

“Brian Carroll? What the f**k? Why am I suddenly seeing multiple articles every day from this guy about everything wrong with the fitness industry? That guy’s been around for years, and he’s never said jack s**t.”

Brian standing up with 1306lbs October 2020

True and true, but the key point in this assertion is the part at the end. I’ve been around for years, and I’ve been observing all this bullshit quietly—more worried about my own training and my own numbers than about yours.

Let’s think about this for a minute, though. I’ve been competing for over ten years, I’ve been coaching some of the top lifters in the world for multiple years, and I’ve trained thousands of clients literally either in person or online.

So yes, I know this industry inside and out, and you’re going to be hearing a lot from me from now on, so get used to it. I know this industry, and this subject matter, better than most—and exponentially better than so-called “glute experts” who have the balls to come out with products they claim will make people strong when strength isn’t exactly high on their list of good qualities. To teach people how to get strong, don’t you have to be strong yourself?

If you want to write a book about strength training after two mediocre powerlifting meets, be prepared to be called on the carpet for it by those of us who know what the f*CK we’re talking about and who can rep out your maxes for a set of 15.

So, here’s where we’re at:

Between all the weak “gurus” and unqualified CrossFit “coaches” out there, we have an entire industry filled with people telling you to shit that doesn’t work. Go on YouTube and watch some videos, and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. The whole internet is absolutely permeated with bad advice, shit that’ll have you spinning your wheels for years, and bullshitting hustlers who have no business talking about how to get stronger.

Here, contrary to popular belief and the crap you see plastered all over social media, are five reasons you’re not getting stronger:

1. YOU’RE LISTENING TO GURUS IN THE FIRST PLACE: We’re constantly being bombarded with cool new ways to train, trendy templates to follow, and advice from guys who’ve had one or two decent performances they’re trying to capitalize on. In 10/20/Life, I give you the six fundamental questions (from Dave Tate) you should ask about the people you’re taking advice from.

The key here? Don’t judge your guru by what he’s done over the past six months. Please take a look at the past decade of success he or she either had or didn’t. Even the sun shines on a dog’s ass once in a while, right? Anyone can get something right by accident—or through blind, uneducated luck—but standing the test of time speaks volumes about a coach’s methodology. Beware of gimmicks that fade away as quickly as the careers of the gurus who’ve propagated them.

2. YOU DON’T HAVE A SHORT-TERM PLAN (INTERTWINED WITH LONG TERM WISDOM): If you’re going to the gym without a plan, you’re asking for failure. There’s no debate necessary here. Planning is the only thing you can control. You won’t anticipate when you’re going to get blindsided, but when obstacles get in your way, your plan will give you a roadmap that won’t leave you chasing your tail.

Every time you step into the gym, there should be something you’re trying to accomplish. You’re there to correct form issues, work on your mobility or stiffness, develop a better setup, or address weak points on one of the big lifts. Even the intention to get through your training sessions faster constitutes having a plan. It’s all cut and dried here: You have to evaluate where you are, and you need a plan that gets you where you want to be—every single day.

3. YOU DON’T HAVE A LONG-TERM PLAN: All those short-term plans need to add up to a bigger picture plan. Building strength is a lifetime commitment, so although it’s wonderful to think of things in terms of ten and twenty-week blocks, you also need to know that you can’t redline your training year-round.

Always think ahead. Experiencing short-term success can destroy a long-term plan if you end up pushing too hard. Stick to your bigger picture plan by thinking of your short-term gym goals as a snowball that’s going to keep getting bigger and bigger. Map this out, follow it, and don’t deviate from it. If you’re constantly changing every single variable in your training, you’ll never find out what really works for you.

4. ONCE AGAIN, YOUR FORM AND TECHNIQUE SUCK: In the introduction to this article, I told you to check out a few videos from some popular gurus that everyone seems to be listening to. Once you see how weak they are, I want you to look at their form on the main lifts. What you’ll find is that all the gimmick peddlers out there have the worst form and technique of anyone, and that’s total bullshit.

At least to an extent, form is more important than strength, meaning you can’t overpower a lift to compensate for putting yourself in a bad position. Everything works together here. It would help if you got stronger while simultaneously developing and locking in form and technique that suits your leverages. In 10/20/Life, I give you a ton of form cues that’ll coach you to do this—and once you’ve learned to take advantage of proper form, your lifts will skyrocket.

5. YOU’RE NOT ATTACKING YOUR WEAK POINTS: We all have weak points, whether we’re talking about specific things like sticking points or general bio motor abilities like endurance. We’re all different in this way, but if you don’t have someone coaching you, analyzing the areas in which you need work, you’re missing out on one of the most important requirements of the strength game.

Your programming for your main lifts won’t differ very much from the next guy. After decades of research and gym experience, we’ve pretty much figured out the parameters of what works and what doesn’t. Your assistance work, however, should be programmed specifically to address the areas where you’re weak.

That’s the problem with the vast majority of programs out there. They’re cookie-cutter bullshit, and they don’t give you the ability to customize things for your own particular needs. Attacking weak points is easy. You see where you’re weak in the main lifts—where you miss—and you program your assistance work accordingly to turn these weaknesses into strengths.

10/20/Life takes all the guesswork out of this. If you’re weak off your chest on the bench press, or you’re getting stapled halfway through your squats, 10/20/Life will give you literally dozens of ways to address this and make it stop happening to you. The most important thing here is consistency. When you’re told the right way to do something, you need to stick with it for 10-20 weeks to see whether it actually works. Jumping from guru to guru, and program to program every two weeks is not going to make you stronger.

To start getting this right, start here.

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Brian Carroll

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Brian is a retired world-class powerlifter with over two decades of world-class powerlifting. From 1999 to 2020, Brian Carroll was a competitive powerlifter, one of the most accomplished lifters in the sport's history. Brian started off competing in bench press competitions 'raw,' then, shortly into the journey, he gravitated toward equipped lifting as there were no "raw" categories then. You only had to choose from single-ply (USPF) and Multi-ply (APF/WPC). Brian went on to total 2730 at 275 and 2651 at 242 with more than ten times his body weight in three different classes (220, 242, 275), and both bench pressed and deadlifted over 800 pounds in two other weight classes. He's totaled 2600 over 20 times in 2 different weight classes in his career. With 60 squats of 1000lbs or more officially, this is the most in powerlifting history, regardless of weight class or federation, by anyone not named David Hoff. Brian realized many ups and downs during his 20+ years competing. After ten years of high-level powerlifting competition and an all-time World Record squat at 220 with 1030, in 2009, Brian was competing for a Police academy scholarship. On a hot and humid July morning, Brian, hurdling over a barricade at 275lbs, landed on, fell, and hurt his back. After years of back pain and failed therapy, Brian met with world-renowned back specialist Prof McGill in 2013, which changed his trajectory more than he could have imagined. In 2017, Brian Carroll and Prof McGill authored the best-selling book about Brian's triumphant comeback to powerlifting in Gift of Injury. Most recently (10.3.20) -Brian set the highest squat of all time (regardless of weight class) with 1306 lbs – being the first man to break the 1300lb squat barrier at a bodyweight of 303 lbs.
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