Sometimes I think the value of "hard work" is overemphasized in weightlifting. Effort is necessary but superhuman effort is not.
For example, the other day on the squat I worked up to what I thought would be my heaviest set. Instead, the weight felt easy, so I added another 10 pounds to the bar. This felt pretty easy as well, so I added another 10 pounds for another set. On this final set, I did 10 reps for a weight that was 20 pounds heavier than the weight I struggled to get for 8 reps a week ago.
This increase had nothing to do with me working harder, being more focused, more intense, or anything along those lines. In fact, I was barely out of breath when I finished the last set. The simple truth is that my body had adapted.
I think the idea that you have to push yourself to extremes to get bigger is a misnomer. These types of ideas are probably just marketing fodder for young men. When I see the bigger guys lifting at the gym, they put in effort but nothing outrageous. If anything, the smaller guys are the ones putting in the most effort. This may be a result of frustration from their programs not working. And putting more effort or intensity into a program that isn't working in the first place usually ends in one of two ways: injury or burnout.