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Success Builds Success

I hit the cold floor with a wet plop. I tried to focus my blurred vision to the sounds of metal rolling on metal coming from just above my head. Slowly, I gathered my senses and completed a mental inventory.

Arms? Still got ‘em.

Eyes? On the road to recovery.

Legs?….to be determined.

With an unsteady hand I reached to the bar and, with great effort, pulled myself upright into a seated position. At this same moment darkness filled my hazy eyes as a shadow descended upon the squat rack I was occupying.

“A little too heavy today, huh?”

“Hello Frank,” I said to to the shadow. “I guess so. I’m pretty pissed about it.”


“I really thought I had it. I want it so bad I can taste it.” Frank reached down and pulled me to a

standing position.

“How many reps did you get?”

“None. That’s why I’m mad! I really thought I would be good for it.”

“Well…” said Frank while walking toward the locker room. I stripped the bar of the weight I had been using and continued on half-assedly with my training, distracted by my anguish from failing.

By the time I had finished my training Frank had made his way to the platform and gotten a start at deadlifts. He was in the middle of completing an effortless 8th rep with 455 when I walked past.

“Try using some real weight why dontcha?” I said jokingly in a weak effort to hide jealousy and dismay that my pull was yet to hit 3 plates for a single. Frank chuckled patiently.

“Warm ups are important.”

“Sure. Anyway, have a good one.” I said turning to go.

“How has your training been going lately?” asked Frank while he loaded another 50 pounds on the bar.

“Haha. You saw.”

“I don’t mean just today. In general. What have you been doing? How was your training leading up to today?”

“I guess it hasn’t been that bad. That’s why I tried the 225 today. I was sure I would get it. I got 215 last week and it didn’t feel that hard. I mean, I got it.” I said sitting on a bench fully prepared to talk more about myself.

“Hold that thought.” Frank set up at the bar and pulled 6 smooth reps. “Whew. So you got 215. How many reps?”

“Well…just one.”

“Just one?”

“Yeah. I was going for a max effort.”

“You certainly did that. If I’m following you, last week you did 215 for a max effort single and so, this week, you tried 10 pounds more?”

“Right.” Fifty more pounds added to the bar.

“I might just be an idiot but what makes you think you got ten pounds stronger in a week?”

“Because!” I replied indignantly. “Because…well…why not?”

“I have to wonder what in your training in the last 7 days makes you think you got 5% stronger…just because you wanted to?” Four reps. Now it’s starting to look like work. “I’m no expert, but in my experience success builds success. You need to achieve a lower level of success before you can expect to achieve a higher one.”

“Okay,” I said pretending to understand.

“Take these deadlifts for example. I just did 4 reps with this weight, right? Do you think if I added 10 pounds I could get it?”

“Of course! 10 pounds is nothing for you!”

“Okay, using your situation, what if I added 5% to this weight? Could I get it then?”

“I would say so. You just did 4 reps with it!”

“What if I had done 1 and, let’s say it looked as difficult as the 4th rep did?”

I sat and thought about this for a moment as it started to dawn on me where this line of reasoning was headed. “I suppose it would be a lot less likely.”

“Right. I know, since I succeeded with this weight, I am good for heavier; even if I don’t try it. That’s what ‘success builds success’ means.”

Frank added some weight to the bar and I headed for the locker room. As I changed I could feel the ground shaking slightly and heard three muffled thuds coming from somewhere beyond the walls.

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