Are You Mentally Ready to Lift Big Weights?

Every time we lift weights, we get warmed up so we are physically prepared to lift weight. No time is this more important than when we are lifting for a max effort single rep. In that we are trying to lift, push or pull the absolute most weight our body can handle for a single rep. Our CNS (Central Nervous System) must be primed and ready, as it is taxed to its extreme. Technique must be there and all needed muscled groups must be activated and firing on all cylinders. Would you walk into the gym cold and try to lift a max effort squat with no warm up? The answer is no. That would most likely not end well and no doubt result in a failed lift. We are all well aware of this coming into the gym. That is why athletes get prepared to lift, either by stretching, rolling out or taking warm up sets. We go to great lengths to get our bodies physically prepared to lift. So if you were going to get physically prepared to lift big weights, then why wouldn’t you get mentally prepared to do the same? Getting yourself mentally “warmed up” if you will for making a big lift. All to often this aspect of lifting is partly or completely absent from the lifters preparation.

Think about it, the term max effort. You’re going physically give 100% when making such an attempt, so lets give the same from the mental standpoint. This is just as important to making the lift, if not more, as the physical ability to lift the weight. I would say that in most missed max effort lifts lack of mental attitude and/or focus is the main culprit.  If the right mental attitude and/or focus is not present…you’re at a huge disadvantage before you ever touch the bar. All to often on CrossFit Total day or any other where we are doing max effort work I see this occur. To put it plainly, you cannot go from talking to your fellow athletes at the gym about what you did last weekend one second to lifting a maximal effort load of weight the next. The mental preparation is just not there. As well if you walk up to a heavy deadlift and the last thing out of your mouth or thought in your head is…”I’m not sure” or ”I don’t know, this looks really heavy”. Guess what…. it is heavy and if you think or talk like that it’s not coming off of the floor. There can be no doubt inside of your head; it is the enemy. Do not let it enter your mind.

At least one minute out, if not more, a switch needs to flip in your brain. Thus the process starts, coming to a head as you touch the bar. From this point on you should only be thinking of is the lift…more so, making the lift. This is all that should be on your mind. There is no room for focus on anything but the lift. This is also something that others around the athlete about to lift must respect. This meaning that you don’t walk up to your buddy who is about to un-rack a max effort squat and ask them to check out you new innov-8s or speed rope. Outside encouragement from other athletes is great for the lifter, as long as it is specific to them making the lift. The process of getting mentally ready to lift can best be described as being two part. First is more the focus aspect. Shutting out all outside stimulus not relevant to the lift and you making the lift. Focus of the technique specific to the lift must be there. If you have trained right, you know what you’re supposed to do. Mentally walk through the entire process. Visualize yourself making the lift, from start to finish.

The second aspect is that of mental attitude or readiness. Getting psyched up. Look… you’re about to lift, push or pull a large amount of weight for a single lift. Your CNS is going to be pushed to the extreme. If you go into this with a humdrum attitude…you are not mentally ready. This is best done by use and manipulation of emotion and perception. Use these two powerful things to your advantage. Convince yourself the weight is light, that the only outcome possible is a successful lift. Yes, the weight you are lifting is heavy. However, if you think it will “feel” heavy it no doubt will, but if you think it will “feel” you have accomplished mentally altering your perception of the weight you are about to lift. Convince yourself there no way you can miss…that it is not even an option. Get yourself fired up. Different people use different techniques, some external and some internal. It can be audio stimulus, positive self-talk or physical stimulus. All of these things aid in getting the mind psyched up and reaching that heightened mental state. I have heard this referred to scientifically as arousal control. I like to refer to it as controlled mental aggression …get mad at the bar. Walk up to the bar and do bad things to it. Let it know you are in control. Let the adrenalin flow within and get outside of you head. Accomplishing this will have both physiological and psychological effects, both to your advantage. Being in this highly stimulated and focused mental state puts you in the right place to lift heavy things.

You must find what is right and works for you, trial and error. Watch what other athletes do and talk to them about what works for them. We are not all the same. When you find how and what works for you, make it a ritual. Have that exact moment a minute or two out from the lift to begin you process and let no one interfere. In some it will have a more outward appearance, while in others it will be more internal. How we get there and what it looks like is not that important…but that we get there is. I don’t care how big and strong you are, if your mind is not in it you’re at a disadvantage. You also are not giving a true “max effort” all around. Now go get your mind right and lift big weights!

Coach Blake