In training, finding “your working gear” is everything.

It’s that zone where all the noise drifts away, allowing your brain and body to fully get in sync.

Now it’s not avoiding all distractions or human interaction like some insufferable asshole. (What’s wrong with a pleasant exchange now and then?) It’s much deeper than that.

More the removal of any physical self doubt, allowing for the confident expression of well-rehearsed, intentional, powerful movement.

Put another way, the opposite of how most people new (or uncomfortable) in the gym seem to operate.

I don’t say this to be an asshat because we’ve all been there. Still, watch some people flounder about and you can almost hear their internal dialogue.

“What’s this exercise do again?”

“How much weight should I use?”

“Will this make my butt, you know, just bigger, or like more bootier?”

Even seasoned lifters can get knocked out of rhythm and have trouble finding their working gear, either by life, work, injury, or some salty combination out of left field. It’s happened to me a fair bit lately, though I certainly don’t tolerate it for very long and will quickly hit my personal reset button.

Which is to flat-out force it: set a sleep/wake/training/eating schedule, follow it like it’s my job, and combine it with some well-intentioned self-loathing.

I’ll even dig up a few old workout “rituals” that help my brain get focused. Not backward chanting or swinging my neighbor’s pesky cat, but watching old YouTube clips of hard work working lifters. Like Dorian Yates.


I won’t turn this post into an Ode to Dorian because his level of intensity, while necessary FOR HIM at the time to be Mr. Olympia, would be absolute overkill for most anyone else.

But the big takeaway that videos like the one above don’t show isn’t that Dorian worked so damn hard:

It was that he didn’t do a bunch of other shit to divert his attention.

He determined the handful of things he thought would have the greatest impact on his physique (or in that workout) and then found his working gear and went like hell. Then it was home for Corn Flakes.

So if you’re trying to determine your working gear, take a hard look at your workout.

Some stuff should be warm-up or “engagement” work. Still do that. It’s important. Don’t try to kill yourself though. Just try to do it right.

Other stuff might be re-hab or “structural balance work.” You might even have to do what’s affectionately referred to as “old man shit.” Do all that too. But again, don’t kill yourself.

Now sandwiched in-between that dry, boring bread is where the red meat is. The exercises that will truly determine your success. Whether you make progress and grow bigger, stronger, and better …. or just, you know, have fun and then go for a wheatgrass smoothie.

It might be three exercises or more. But the fewer moves the better. When I’m trying to re-discover my working gear again, I choose just one exercise per workout — ONE  — but give it absolutely everything I have.

I demand progress, somehow. More reps, more weight, more something, somehow.

Everything else, the rest of the meat in that particular workout sandwich, I’ll take what I can get that day. Or even just get a dope-ass pump. But that one exercise is non-negotiable. Progress.

And if all goes well, in a week I may go to two exercises. Maybe even three.

But if the list gets too long, I’d start questioning whether you’re still at your working gear or if you’re now just showing up.

Which isn’t such a bad thing. Didn’t Woody Allen say 80% of success in life is just showing up? Though I don’t think Woody Allen ever filled out a tank-top to any respectable degree.

So more accurately, I’d say that 80% of success in training is mental.

Find your working gear.