I think everyone who lifts weights has moments when they impress themselves with the way they look in the mirror, or the amount of weight they are moving. When you set a goal and you realize that you're making progress it's a great feeling and we all deserve to have an air of confidence when that happens.
However, too often I observe or interact with people that either elevate this confidence to a point of cockiness, or are overly confident without any evident progress.
I know that everyone reading this can picture the people in the gym whom I am taking about. Maybe it's that guy spending an entire workout in the squat rack doing curls, staring at his arms in the mirror and grunting to make certain that the entire gym is aware of his presence. Perhaps it's that guy walking around giving everyone advice like he is an expert – even though he only does partial squats in the Smith Machine. Maybe it's that woman with a tight body that only does cardio but claims she is getting ready for a figure competition which never seems to arrive. Or maybe it's the guy using all the space in the gym because he thinks he is entitled to it – like because of his build he is somehow better than everyone else training. While these types exist at just about every gym, they also exist in perhaps greater numbers in competitive strength and physique sports.
When I competed in my first strongman competition three years ago I was impressed by the general attitude of the other competitors. While everyone seemed relatively confident, there were very few people who came across as cocky. Most of the competitors were willing to give advice to each other, as well as cheer each other on during events. At first I was completely taken back by this because I expected that since we compete as individuals it would be every man for himself. I started to realize two things; many of these competitors had been doing this for a while and they wanted to share their knowledge and get new people excited about the sport and also, since they had been competing for a while, they were confident in their abilities because they have been making progress.
Over the last three years I have noticed a steady increase in the number of cocky competitors in strongman. Competitors who feel self-entitled to win and act like they run the show. I have seen my fellow competitors cheer or get excited when their opponent bombs an event, or even if that opponent gets hurt and has to drop out of competition.
I think the influx of cocky competitors comes from the fact that strongman is gaining popularity very quickly as well as the fact that I am becoming one of the guys with more experience. I am very willing to give advice to my competition if they are new to an event or ask questions as long as the advice is appreciated. Yet unfortunately there are several competitors who will act like they are entitled to my advice and have no reciprocal appreciation. I try my best to avoid people like this because it can ruin a competition day – and really piss me off.
Yet – as much as I don't want to say it – some overly-cocky competitors are also actually very strong competition. This is probably because, while they may have gained their confidence through gradual progress, they now express that confidence in an overtly self-congratulatory and offensive way. Unfortunately for them, while these competitors do well on their own, they will probably miss out on useful advice from more advanced competitors because no one wants to offer advice to a cocky prick.
One of the things that particularly frustrates me about many cocky lifters is their unwillingness to heed the advice of others when in comes to lifting with correct form. For all movements, there are right and wrong ways to move the weight. The way "wrong" is generally defined in weight-lifting is that you are at increased risk of injury if you lift that way. Examples of this are rounding the back while deadlifting, trying to press something without both arms moving at an even speed, or leaning far forward while squatting. Most people who know better will try to correct the form of someone lifting wrong as a common courtesy. But cocky lifters either don't want to hear it, or are too confident that they are lifting the correct way. Look: if you are truly confident, you should be willing to take the advice of other lifters.
Ever since I started lifting I have tried to learn as much as possible from everyone around me because I realized early on that weight-lifting is a complicated sport littered with contradicting information and opinions. The importance of having an open mind and willingness to listen and learn in the field of strength and physique sports cannot be understated. Athletes that are overly confident and thus cocky are not only at risk for making less progress, but they are also at serious risk for injury. If you want to be a serious lifter, you have to heed this advice.
Lifting weights, being strong, or having big muscles doesn't automatically make you better than everyone else. You have to earn your confidence. Once you have earned confidence, don't let it control you.
You have to control your confidence if you want to be successful.
-Posted by Seth Carbonneau