Work Hard, Stay Humble and FEEL the Benefits...

Adding 20kg to your best lift or adding 3kg of muscle in less than 8 weeks is impressive right? For beginners and people returning to training after a long break it’s the norm. But does this happen because their weak, out of shape muscles are getting a brand new stimulus…or is there more to it?

Do you believe your body is capable of size and strength gains? Or do you believe it takes a lot of work to achieve any gains? Contrary to popular ‘positive attitude’ beliefs, classic research from Mueller & Dweck (1998) proved that a good work ethic is much more valuable than a belief in any genetic gifts you may have!

Mueller & Dweck gave two groups of children a relatively easy test of a few non-verbal puzzles. After the tests the children were given their scores with a single line of praise. Half of the children were praised for their intelligence; ‘You must be smart at this’, whilst the other half were praised for their effort; ‘You must have worked really hard’.

What they found next was incredible…

The children praised for intelligence were found to care more about performance rather than actually learning anything. After they failed they displayed less task persistence, less task enjoyment and subsequent worse task performance than children praised for effort.

What can we learn from this? Work hard and results will come, when things get tough, and you aren’t performing how you expected – work harder!

There is a certain pride (or arrogance…) about being an advanced lifter or athlete. Using this research then, advanced lifters focused on their performance rather than their work ethic may begin to blame their lack of results on anything and everything but they might just need to work harder!

And here’s a load more things that beginners typically do to get quick gains:

  • Train using simple, progressive programs

  • Stay on the same program until they’ve ‘earned their badges’ AKA hit simple goals. Often something like bodyweight squat x 10 reps, 1-5 pull-ups, 40 press-ups etc.

  • They’re excited and motivated to make progress, but they realise that because they’re beginners, it’s gonna be a long, hard road to achieve their goals… they don’t change their program every 2 weeks!

Progress usually grinds to a halt when beginners decide they are intermediate and begin to add in complicated, less effective exercises at the expense of the basics. Yes you may have ‘earned the right’ to do depth jumps and power cleans, but if you drop squats and deadlifts to do so you aren't gonna progress at all!

So how do you know if you’re an advanced lifter and if you need special, complicated training programs?

1. You are the strongest person you know (but see number 2)

2. You have lots of strong friends

3. You work hard in the gym, train often AND your progress is relatively slow BUT you are still the strongest person around

4. You can eat modest medieval banquets all by yourself

Training is hard and progress does take a long time. If it didn’t there would be a lot of strong people strutting around everywhere. But if you honestly review yourself, your performance and your work ethic, are you nearer the start or the end of the long road of your training journey?

If nearer the start, you will get a lot out of working hard on a simple program. Yep, it ain’t sexy advice, but do you want to be strong, fit and healthy or not?

Act like a beginner again, you may just get the best gains you’ve had all year.

Rise Above


Anthony Shaw

Head Coach

Raw Strength Gym, Warrington

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Mueller, C.M., Dweck, C.S. (1998). Praise for Intelligence Can Undermine Children’s Motivation and Performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 1, 33-52.