Overcoming Excuses: What’s REALLY Holding Back Your Strength

I know very few people in this community that train and compete simply for the sake of doing so. The vast majority of bikers and runners do so for activity and social reasons; they have no desire to actually compete at the highest level. In the strongman world, nearly everyone who competes wants to get incredibly good and move up to the top of the sport. As the quality and amount of competition grows, it becomes much more difficult to take that top spot.

When the final points have been scored, are you looking for mistakes in your game or excuses for your placing? Let’s examine three of the most common excuses and how to stop them from holding you back.

“I don’t have enough time to train the way I want.”

There are very few people who this applies to. I’ve seen Ph.D candidates get pro cards, people in law school, athletes with five kids and more than one job; you get the point. You may be busy but there is usually enough time in the week to accomplish quality work necessary to improve. Try the following techniques that will free up your schedule.

  • Actually keep a written full day schedule. Start it with a wake up time that is as early as you can handle and go from there. Mark it off in 15 minute increments and make the most of your day.
  • Grab “Micro Sessions”: Keep some kettlebells or dumbbells around your work space and get in your accessory work whenever possible. Work for your posterior chain, accessory movements or mass gaining lifts can be performed during the day, keeping your training sessions less cluttered.
  • Focus on the big three major movements. If you can only get in the gym a few days per week make certain you are spending that time squatting, deadlifting, and pressing. 80 percent of your base comes from these movements. Personally, I would use a low volume/high intensity set up and do all three, three times per week with just a few quality work sets across a range of repetitions.
  • Cancel your cable (or any other distractions). The average person watches 33 hours of TV a week. Social media and video games can add even more wasted hours. When I was hyper focused, I didn’t even own a TV and man did I get work done. You may think it’s not draining your time but if it’s in your home, it will suck you in.

“I got screwed by the judge. OR, I just needed one more rep.”

Competitor Reed Tompkins recently showed us how important every rep can be in a contest:

Here’s how much every rep, every second, every foot counts at a big show like nats, especially with a huge class like middleweight men.

My score from Nats:

Log -1 rep, Frame -17 reps, Husselfeld -363ft, Yoke 10.97, Stone 9 reps

Total points 277

9th place

Now factor in this

1 more rep log, Frame same 17 reps, Husslefeld same distance, Yoke 1 sec faster, Stone 1 more rep

Total points 299


1st place- 313

2nd place-296

3rd place- 285 or 295 I couldn’t read it.

Not that getting one more rep or going that much faster is always possible, but it just shows you how big mistakes can be and how thin the margin is between competitors.”

Crazy how it adds up so quickly, isn’t it? Reed himself is a coach, so he knows about how to examine the bigger picture. Getting hung up on mistakes or judging errors that hurt you can wreck your psychology, so get bullet-proofed before getting to the contest.

  • A properly peaked athlete should perform better than they did during training. If you are getting more reps in training than on game day, are you really contest ready? Don’t be that guy.
  • Did you set your goals right for the day? If you overreach, it can set you back just as much as not being ready. Make sure you know where you should be!
  • Did you meet your judge and make eye contact with them prior to the event? Make sure you are following their commands and understand what they are saying. From what I have seen, many judging mistakes were the fault of a lifter not knowing what was expected of them, because they didn’t pay attention or got ahead of themselves.

“I don’t have the genetics.”

This is the one I find hardest to accept and yet it is the most common excuse athletes give for when they hit (what they believe to be) their ceiling. You inherit not only your physical structure from your parents but your psychological make-up as well. While these characteristics can make or break an athlete, you really should consider the following before you decide if you would be better off running marathons or becoming an ex-athlete.

  • Are you cutting excessive amounts of weight? Are you the shortest or tallest athlete in your class? Ask yourself, are you in the right weight class? More often than not, I see people in their first few years become overwhelmed trying to be a body type they are not. Get serious with your capabilities.
  • Are you really ready for the mental challenges of strongman? This sport is one of the most physically and therefore mentally challenging on the planet and you must get tougher to get better. If you haven’t had workouts that made you suffer, and you successfully pushed through, then you aren’t ready yet. Get serious with handling pain.
  • Is your training actually quality? Is it correct? Do you have an actual professionally written training program (not a “workout”)? Are you hitting the right reps and sets? More often than not, athlete’s programs just outright suck. They either do whatever they feel on training day, or have had a well meaning but under experienced “coach” program their work. Hire a real coach to write your sessions, have a pro watch your form and take their advice seriously. It’s far too easy to hang your coaching shingle out and start an online business; don’t be a sucker. Get a quality program and follow it.

It can be difficult to take the excuses off the table and fix your game. A real winner won’t accept a loss and brush it off by shrugging off the responsibility for the outcome. Own your performance, examine it, and fix it. Then and only then can you actually win at anything.

Images courtesy Michele Wozniak

Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.