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The Difference Between Amateurs and Experts, Strength and Weakness

When I was young, I was always searching for the new routine. The magic formula to suddenly turn me into a state champ wrestler, a pro bodybuilder, etc. Those were my days as an amateur.

Pain and defeat taught me about the truth. The strongest guys in the gym, and the toughest guys on the mat—they left clues. The strongest guys in the gym didn’t do anything fancy. They did squats, deadlifts, chins, dips and heavy dumbbell exercises.
Ken Waller 150 Incline
Ken Waller, 150lb Dumbbell Incline Press
The best wrestlers were stronger than everyone else, and they were awesome at the basic wrestling skills. Our team was known for being the hard nosed guys. My Coach always shouted at us during matches, "Use the core!" He meant, stick to the core moves we always drill. Don’t use the fancy stuff.

The football team that was winning the state titles at the time I was there was always in the weight room. For two years I saw them attacking the weight room—they did squats, bench, overhead presses and cheat curls.

The year the football team didn’t crowd the weight room while attacking the basics is the same year they didn’t win the state title.

I’ve seen my share of strong vs. weak. I’ve also lived through the experiences of being weak. Knowing how it feels to be beaten in sports and life because the opponent is stronger has given me a unique skill. I now pay attention to everything, past and present.

During my time in Israel, when I trained at "Andre The Giant’s" basement gym (Chapter 5 in The Encyclopedia of Underground Strength & Conditioning), the difference was clear. Andre was built like a tank. The rest of us were weak.

Andre did squats, cleans, jerks and heavy rows. Everyone else did lat pull-downs, bicep curls and isolation exercises.

The day I took a "sick day" from work to visit the East Jersey State Prison to talk to the inmates about how they train proved how minimal equipment, crappy nutrition, a focus on the basics, and consistency made ALL the difference.

This is the same prison where Sly filmed the movie Lock Up. The guys lifted weights outside year round, regardless of the weather. Their benches were made of cement. The did squats, bench press, military press, heavy curls, chin-ups, dips, sit ups and sprints around the track that Sly built for them.

The morals of these stories are simple yet profound. Are you scanning the internet and reading 20 articles about which periodization method is the holy grail? Instead, if you stick to a program founded in the basics and bust your ass on the entire lifestyle; sleep, nutrition, recovery, mindset and hard work, you WILL succeed in achieving your goals.
Jim Dorn Press 300
Jim Dorn, 300lb Overhead Press
If you’re going to follow linear periodization, then stick to it and don’t stray. If you follow the conjugate method, then LIVE it.

I get e-mails on the regular asking me, "What is better for raw gains in the deadlift, the hook grip or the switch grip?" These questions are a sign of the times. The internet has given everyone a free voice, and instead of learning from difficult times under a barbell, they are learning from behind a keyboard.

That being said, it’s time for you to lay down the gauntlet and stick to the program you believe in. Stay the course! The amateur looks for the fancy exercises, the gimmicks, and follows the fads. The expert knows that he can develop strength, size, power and toughness with nothing but the simplest training tools and the basics.

Encyclopedia Of Underground Strength And ConditioningZach Even-Esh is the Author of The Encyclopedia of Underground Strength & Conditioning, the founder of The Underground Strength Gym & The Creator of The Underground Strength Coach Certification. Zach is also the Strength & Performance Coach for The Lehigh University Wrestling team.