The 8 Habits of Highly Effective Lifters

What’s the difference between a lifter with the body of a Greek god and the functional strength to match and a lifter who progresses at a snail’s pace no matter how hard they work?   It’s not hours spent in the gym.  I’ve known guys who work out 3 hours a day yet never make any real progress.   The difference?   Effective habits.

In close to two decades of serious athletic training, I’ve had the honor to train with elite coaches and world-class athletes, including multiple Olympians.  During this time, I discovered 8 effective habits these coaches and athletes all have in common.   Form these habits and I guarantee you’ll shatter training plateaus, enjoy athletic longevity and progress faster than you ever imagined.


  • They prioritize big compound movements to build strength.  Deadlifts, squats, and their variations are the cornerstones of true strength.  I also add pull-ups (weighted), Turkish getups, bench/horizontal pressing variations to that foundation.  If your numbers are moving north in those lifts, be assured you’re making progress everywhere else.
  • They cycle their training.  You can’t go full bore 52 weeks a year.  Realistically you can’t even do it for a month.  If you don’t periodize your training in a logical manner you will continually hit plateaus, suffer from overtraining and fall victim to chronic injuries.
  • They practice maximum tension techniques.  Strength is a skill, not simply a result of repeatedly trying to lift heavy things.  The potency of the neural impulses sent by your central nervous system (CNS) to the muscles that tell them to contract is the single biggest factor that determines strength and power.  Right now your muscles already have all the strength potential you will ever need.  You’re only tapping into a fraction of your potential.  People who practice max tension techniques when they lift will advance exponentially faster than those who don’t.  Examples of tension techniques are gripping bars and dumbbells as hard as possible on every set or splitting a seam in the floor when you squat.  Check out my videos for more information and specific techniques about max tension.
  • They regularly train explosive lifts or movements.  Usually this means Olympic lifts and plyometrics, but don’t ignore explosive calisthenics and kettlebell training.  Slower grinding strength like the kind required to pull heavy weight in the Deadlift must be balanced by quick dynamic movements if you want to maximize your athletic potential.  Moving fast is a skill and if you don’t use it, you could lose it, particularly as you get older.
  • They have a strong connection to their bodies and they listen to what their bodies tell them.  This connection is best described as primal intuition.  It’s a sixth sense you develop through years of focused training and reflection.  If you filter out ego, bullshit and bad advice that conflicts with your goals you can actually connect to your own primal intelligence.  It will tell you when you are “on” and when something “isn’t right.”  You won’t need to calculate lifting percentages and training volumes because your body will guide you intuitively.  Discipline yourself to heed your instinctual wisdom, especially when it is telling you to rest.

We all want to maximize our time and effort.  Mindlessly spending more hours in the gym is detrimental to progress.  Don’t be “that lifter.”  Train smarter.  Master these 8 habits and soon you’ll have a physique that belongs in the Pantheon and a level of fitness that’s legendary.

Be strong, move beautifully.