how to be tougher in the gym

When it comes to training hard, you need to have toughness.

You absolutely need the physical toughness to deal with the lactic acid that causes pain to build up in your muscles with every rep of a hard set.

But more importantly, you need the mental toughness to tell yourself that your last hard set of deep, bucket squats is doable and that you will be the one to do it.

When the inevitable physical fatigue and mental doubt creep into your training session, you will find out exactly how tough you are.

Many lifters and athletes today are as soft as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.  The instant things get hard they run like the Roadrunner.

How Tough Are You?

When I performed and completed the Lunges of Death it was a pure exercise in mental and physical toughness.

Mentally I felt sharp and confident.  But the first time I attempted the Lunges of Death my body (lower back) gave in to the extreme physical fatigue.

I had to focus my training on correcting the fact that my back was not tough enough to endure the challenge.  The second time around I was physically tougher and more equipped to handle the severe fatigue.

The moral of the story is that even when you are dealing with supreme physical and mental fatigue, you have to at least try to find a way to succeed.

You might not win the battle that day because we don’t win every battle in life or in the gym.  But if you quit, you will never succeed.

Quitting Haunted Me For Years

I have seen so-called tough athletes be exposed at the first sign of fatigue and doubt.

I have witnessed so-called tough bodybuilders and lifters quit workouts halfway through the session.

And I have witnessed trainees cut sets short because it was becoming difficult.

This behavior is flat out pathetic.

Quitting or running from a challenge makes you a stone-cold coward with a yellow stripe down your back.

I know this personally because as a young man I was once a yellow coward who quit a workout.

Yours truly quit during a track workout in college and I never felt smaller in my athletic career.  I was so disgusted with myself that a few days later I went back out to the hill and did the workout again.

It didn’t quell that sick feeling I had from quitting.  I did the hill workout at West Chester University again a few years later.

It took being pre-fatigued from an earlier lifting workout and adding 8 extra reps to the already heinous hill sprint workout for me to finally bury that lousy feeling forever.

I learned a life-changing lesson through this process: it is better to try to complete a challenge and fail versus just quitting halfway through because it gets hard.

I would rather you try to do your last set even when you are badly fatigued, and you only get 7 out of the 10 reps you were supposed to do.

[bctt tweet=”The moral of the story is that even when you are dealing with supreme physical and mental fatigue you have to at least try to find a way to succeed.” username=”fitman83″]

Size Doesn’t Equate To Toughness

Toughness doesn’t have a look, race, or gender.

Often the biggest and most muscular meatheads in the gym tend to be the ones who lack heart and will routinely run from real challenges.

Why do they run you ask?  They fear getting folded or looking like they are struggling because their frail ego cannot take the heat.

If you are training hard at some point you will get folded.  Everybody gets folded.

But getting knocked down is how you learn to get back up because your success requires struggle.

Let’s talk about my great hometown, Philadelphia legend Allen Iverson for a moment.

AI was an undersized player (6ft, 165lbs maybe) in a league full of giants.

He played through injuries and through being on bad teams.

Did this deter him?  Not at all.

You knew every night he was going to show up and give maximum effort.

He never let those challenges stop him from becoming the player he knew he could be.  By attacking those challenges with passion he became the 2001 NBA MVP.

If AI was a weaker minded individual he could have easily accepted that he was a smaller player and let the rest of the league walk over him.

how to be tougher
You could never question his toughness.

But his mental and physical toughness could not let this happen.

The mindset of playing every game like it was his last is what separated him from other players who may have been bigger or stronger.

The problem with most of those other players is that they had no ticker beating inside of their left chest.

AI wasn’t perfect as no one is.  But you could never question his toughness.

How To Be Tougher In The Gym

To get tougher in the gym you have to do three simple things.  They are:

1) Use A Training Program That Keeps You Accountable

Accountability automatically makes you tougher.

A training program that does not demand accountability cannot make you tougher.

Your training program must be based on progression.  By committing to progression you are guaranteeing that you will face new challenges in every workout.

2) Don’t Quit When You Feel Pain

Pain is the mother of change.  And pain is also inevitable.

Now, obviously if you break your back in the gym (an extreme rarity) it’s time to stop and get whisked to the ER.

But quitting when you feel the pain during a hard set of squats is pure fake hustle.  Enduring the pain is what will build that mental and physical toughness.

3) Don’t Run From The Hard Moves And Workouts

You don’t build any toughness when you live in the “cardio” section instead of doing real conditioning.

You don’t build any toughness when you train exclusively with machines and avoid the iron.

And you definitely don’t build any toughness when you avoid hard exercises and workout programs.

To build toughness you have to do tough things.  When you do the tough things, you get the reward which is elite health, fitness, performance, and mental toughness.


The bottom line is that the more challenges you accept and overcome, the tougher you will become mentally and physically.

A real training program is set up in a way that ensures that you will face challenges every time you train.

You are not going to win every single time.  But you can learn from your losses and come back better the next time.

Every time you fail and respond, you will develop toughness of character.

I’ll holla at you next time,
The People’s Trainer

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