If you’ve been in one of my barbell classes during a rep max day, then you have probably heard me mention the three different ways in which you can fail a lift. Number one, physically; you were just not strong enough that day, number two, technically; your technique degraded to a point that you should not go heavier, and three, mentally; you weren’t in the mindset to lift that weight. While all three can contribute to the success of a lift, your mindset is often the most overlooked and therefore undertrained aspect of lifting.
I remember being told once “Deadlifts are heavy”. Although this seems obvious, it is a simple statement that has a ton of meaning. First let’s look at it for face value. A deadlift for most of us is the heaviest lift your likely to perform in or outside the gym. It would stand to reason that to progress you need to lift heavy things so, deadlifts are heavy…literally. Deadlifts take advantage of some of the strongest positions and involve nearly every weak muscle group they also feel heavy, like REALLY heavy every time. This feeling can sometimes be what slows our progress or is the difference between making or missing a lift. Just like faking a smile can make you feel happier, putting yourself in the right mindset can have a significant impact on the expression of your strength.
How can you train for the right mindset to lift heavy things? You need to build a good foundation. Learn and ingrain good lifting form and technique. Form must always be placed at the forefront of our lifting journey. This means a lot of practice and a lot of repetitions. Through this first phase we learn the mental discipline of patience, you can’t just rush the process. There is also a neurological adaptation that our bodies go through, we become less sensitive to weights as our body learns what it feels like to be under a heavier load. At this point just focusing on a good setup and execution is all the mental training you should be worried about.
After this initial learning process, training your mind must become a discipline in the same way the lifts themselves must become disciplines. Before every lift, imagine yourself being successful. You can even perform the movements unweighted and pretend like it is the heaviest lift you have ever done. Stop the negative self-talk, the words you use with yourself matter so always try to keep them positive. Telling someone around you that you’re going to be successful, will help solidify that mantra in your brain. Even if you’re lifting alone, write it down tell yourself how strong you are. Lift heavy and lift often, just like any skill the more you do it the better you will get and the more confident you’ll be. You have to put in the work, be consistent and treat lifting like practice, at the end of the day you have to enjoy the process and make lifting fun!