T Nation

Lessons From The Arena


"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt, Excerpt from the speech "Citizenship In A Republic", delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910

Hi Warriors and Warrior Princesses,

Since we are seasoned gamers in the Iron Game, we have done things that young bucks have yet to experience. Like the above speech, we have been in the arena and learned lessons because we were willing to get our hands dirty, bleed, and grow.

I thought we could make this thread a chance to share our experiences...proverbs on what we have learned in the lifting game...serious or funny is up to you. Let's learn from each other and keep this thread full of wisdom.

I'll start...

Arena Lesson # 1 - No matter how many times you squat heavy weight, sike yourself up, and have others cheering you on...you are bound to fart while others are looking...it's inevitable.


I'm not in a good mood right now & will understand if you think this too cynical, but here's my observation:

People say they admire someone who works harder than anyone else . . . but given a choice between the hard worker who fails and the winner who never struggled, they prefer the winner every time.


Good one, Cav!

"Broscience is a bane to real research and real results. . ."

From Urban Dictionary:

Broscience is the predominant brand of reasoning in bodybuilding circles where the anecdotal reports of jacked dudes are considered more credible than scientific research.

E.G. - Broscience in action:

"Bro, you gotta slam 40-60 grams of waxy maize plus 20 grams of BCAA within 7 seconds of finishing your last set of squat rack curls. Otherwise, you'll go straight catabolic."


"for this shit to work, you really need to be consistent"



Kairiki, that's exactly what I've been saying for years. A few folks are so lucky that anything they do blows up the muscles like balloons, and when they try to figure out how they did it, haven't a clue. If they try the "waxy maize" once and grow the next day, why it must be the "waxy maize" that did it, right?


I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying that waxy maize + BCAAs post-workout does not have a positive effect?


We're saying that some people ascribe way too much importance to some specific detail, thinking that one single supplement or exercise makes all the difference between a wimp and Mr Olympia.

It's a kind of superstition thinking, if someone does something like take BCAA and suddenly gets a growth spurt, assumes it must have been the BCAA that did it. Even though it's much more likely he grew from 1. barbell training, and 2. he's in his teens and would have grown anyway, and 3. he inherited great genetics and has great potential for growth.

On the other hand, I've spoken with lifting heroes who were honest enough to admit they didn't really know how they got there. They did the same exercises as everyone else, ate the same, but got stronger way faster than anyone else.


I agree that some folks are misguided but nobody with any experience is going to suggest that changing one variable is all it takes to go from mediocre to spectacular gains. And if they do, they are not really to be taken seriously.

I would disagree that "broscience" gets in the way of real science. There are decades of anecdotal evidence in bodybuilding / strength sports and, in some ways, science is just now catching up. Don't ignore the bros, sometimes they kow what works even if they don't know why it works. There is no question that some are genetically set up with an easier path to success. For the rest of us, it takes a concerted effort to try and bring all the variables together.

If it was me, that would include waxy maize (or some other insulin spiking tool) and some BCAAs or protein.


Interesting thread.

bit like 'chewing the fat' or 'locker room chat'.

Keep it coming, don't have the experience to add anything constructive but enjoying it all the same.


The winner who never struggled is a big fish in a small pond. All the big fish in the ocean are hard workers, with talent yes, but hard workers nonetheless. Michael Jordan was initially cut from his high school basketball team because he was too short (not "talented" enough), and the rest is history. I'm not finished though...

...the greatest basketball talent (and hardest worker on his teams) Ever, took a hiatus from basketball to play baseball, where he was MEDIOCRE at best! So, not only do you have to have talent and work hard, but you better be wearing the right color of parachute. It's tough out there in the land of winners.


I hate losing.

I don't mind being beaten by a superior opponent on a given day.

But losing happens only when you fail to put all you can into the competition, when you don'[t train as hard as you can, when you don't give it the maximum effort.

I don't mind being beaten but losing crushes my soul.


"It's not the will to win that matters...everyone has that. It's the will to prepare to win that matters"
Paul "Bear" Bryant


Such as Arnold in his first contest. He hadn't dieted, hadn't tanned, knew nothing about posing, but won. How? The competition was awful, just a bunch of soccer players, I think, who just played with weights.

Agreed that Arnold picked up the pace when confronted with real talent. But point taken . . . you need BOTH talent and dedication to make it big. Those who insist hard work is the only factor are missing half the story.

There you have it, the deciding factor is hard work and talent, wait, TWO factors, hard work, talent, and the right parachute, no wait, THREE factors . . .

(Damn, I wasn't expecting a Spanish Inquisition.)



This is like a monty python sketch 'what did the romans ever do for us' ?.


K.I.S.S (Keep, it , simple , Stupid ) words to live by.

Quit think so much and just lift the damn weight.


I learned that taking a break after a 6-12 week weight cycle will make your CNS thank you tremendously especially as we become more seasoned warriors.


Saturated fat is not the enemy. Raw or grassfed butter is really your friend and your body will thank you for it.


Here is my contribution.

It's not from the arena of the training room, dojo, or gymnasium.

It's from the places where as a younger man i had my battles.

Mountains and oceans !.

Years ago (some 25+) i was a yoiund and inexperienced sailor crewing on race boats in the local club circuit and offshore race circuit. I wasn't a talented or skilled sailor,didn't grow up with it but was wildly keen and enthusiastic.

That enthusiasm came out in strange ways...like spending hours under a boat sanding the keel for smoothness.

One day a boat owner that i sort of knew invited me to come out and crew on the boat he was buying : he was moving up a size and just neede to recruit a larger crew pool , i think as well that having seen me do the dirty work around boats that i might be a good bet for getting work done as well.

Well it was a step up onto a larger and more powerful (but more complex ) boat, i got thrown at the foredeck for our first race, first time out.
As is fairly predictable it was a bit of a shambles, i fluffed a few foredeck moves, we didn't ver seem to have botaspeed, manouvres were chaotic with lots of shouting ...got shouted at a bit and we came last in the race.

In the yacht club bar after the race i was pretty miserable, some of the other guys on the boat degintely had their teeth into how it was the mistakes on the foredeck that cost them the race.
Next weekend wasn't a race, owner invited me out o help cruise the boat to it's new birth and i spent the trip working out how everything worked at my end of the boat, re arranged and simplified a few things , even got to play with the sail trim and steer for a bit.

Next time out racing i had it a lot more together, sails went up and down at the right time , we tacked and gybed a lot more smoothly but still did badly in the race.
In the bar i noticed that the talk..and blame was on the sails, that they were old/ stretched etc, i didn't think we were getting the best out of them etc.
Next time out with the owner we just spent some time messing about with the sail trim settings and working out what we needed up in what conditions and .
Next race we did reasonably well-, aside from the cahos and shouting.-still didn't place or win, talk in the yacht club bar was that we still weren't winning because the bottom was rough/dirty.
At the end of the season i walked off the boat, just couldn't deal with the acrimonious atmosphere on board, the shouting and blame culture that seemed to permeate the middle of the boat.

During the winter the owner invited me over for dinner, asked me why i had left the boat and and i basically said that i didn't feel that we were working well as a crew, and was totally fed up with the constant excuses for failure we making .

The owner then totally surprised me..he asked me if i would come back if we stopped making 'excuses to lose'..in fact if we found out whet those excuses were and nailed them one by one.

Excuses to lose !!.

Ok... so we sanded the bottom super smooth, invested in a couple of crucial sails, re-tuned the rig, crucially had a crew meeting and laid down a 'no shouting' rule. We established communication routines from cockpit to foredeck and back. We established a jobs roster and a crew roster.

We went out and trained /practiced together.

We started winning races.

We stopped making excuses to lose, if there was a problem we worked on it.

We simply stopped blaming and making excuses.

The analogy 25 years down the line is of course about not making excuses, i could easily make excuses..i have a list here of things :
Too tired
Not working hard enough
Not enough time
Don't have the knowledge or equipment
Havn't eaten properly
Not getting enough rest.

Ad infinitum.

For me i have to consciously think about what excuses i am making to fail at my training and keep on top of them.
Seems to come down to :

I have to turn up and do the work..it;s not always pretty and it;s not always fully focussed but 'there' is better than 'not there'.
I have to organise and shop well simply to have decent food
I have to have discipline and focus.
I have to work to my best effort, i have to not cheat and sell myself short.
I have to put the mental effort in and learn about this.
When i train---i train.
When i rest--i rest


@ Big: That was amazing! Speaking of excuses...you will love this video:


Taking time to really warm up your hip flexors will pay huge dividends during workouts...