"That's a lot of weight"
"Not really. All this shit, it's all mental."
That was the very brief conversation between myself and this very diesel dude, who was deadlifting at the base gym where I was stationed at the time.
If I had to guess now I'd say the weight on the bar was 475. Hardly impressive from a total numbers standpoint, but I was impressed at the time because I hadn't seen a lot of deadlifting up to that point in my lifting life.
I remember his words because at the time I thought he was just sort of bragging. You know what I mean. Like when you hit a PR and someone compliments you and you're like "ahhh it's not that much". You blow it off like that's the shit you've been lifting everyday for years.
Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about.
Anyway, it didn't matter. His words stuck with me. And the more the years went by and the stronger I got, the more those words started to come back to me as I worked to overcome certain goals. Like squatting 585 for the first time, deadlifting 605 for the first time, overhead pressing 225, benching over 400 again for the first time forever.
Each plate represents a new challenge. For me, it's always been 25 and 45 pounders. 135, 185, 225, 275, 315, 365, 405, 455, 495, 545, 585, 635, etc.
The challenge, I have found, is more mental than physical. Yeah, you actually have to be strong enough to make the lift, but often time you are and still fail. This is a frustrating and perplexing situation isn't it?
I knew a guy that could rep 275 pretty good on bench, but would fail on 315 everytime. He'd be getting it and then BAM, like no one was home. Bar would stall, and he'd quit. I knew he was good for it. The strength was there in his body, but not his mind. 3 wheels. He had failed before he ever laid down on the bench.
You know that feeling too. When you put weight on the bar you have never done, and inside you know. You know you probably aren't good for it. Not this time. Not the first time out. You never feel confident from the get go. Then of course, you fail, but you're not disappointed. You knew you REALLY weren't ready.
That's how you know when you are ready. When you fail, and you are in fact disappointed. You really believed you were good for it. But it didn't go. That one is tougher to get over because now you question yourself. You question your thought process. You question if you are as strong as you thought (obviously not right?). And now the whole session is blown. Fuck it, I'm going home.
Lift long enough, and you will experience this.
You lift long enough and you will also experience the joy of victory in a PR. It's a damn good feeling to be rewarding for all of those long hours in the gym with the fruits of your labor. It's also a curse sometimes.
Success is often the biggest obstacle in achieving success.
"I've been stuck at X weight on X lift for years now..."
That's a phrase that has been muttered many a times to me. One I've said to myself many times in my head.
Often times, after we achieve a PR we spend a great deal of time patting ourself on the back on accomplishing said goal. Then feel lost in our training for the next few...I dunno, months. Then we wake up and realize we haven't been training as hard as we were. We aren't making the kind of progress we were before. And that maybe, we've become complacent. We are satisfied with what we have accomplished. And if that is a lifetime goal, then that is actually all well and good. But if it's not, and nothing has changed in a very long while and no progress has been made, yet your log reads back to you that you have indeed been at the gym, then maybe it's time for a cold splash of water on your face.
Find a stronger gym -
If there is one thing I think a lot of guys struggle with, it's seeing weights moved they have a mental block on. When you are preparing to squat something you've never seen anyone squat before, it can be a daunting task. It might not even be that much, depending on where you train. If you've been at a YMCA this whole time where the clientèle is mostly seniors who do exercises that can only be described as sexual maneuvers on a lat pulldown machine, then a 315 squat could seem daunting. If you're at a place that is filled with high level competitive powerlifters, getting past these mental hurdles will be much easier. Seeing these things accomplished can often times take a big mental edge off.
"It can be done!"
Ever notice that often when someone breaks a record that people said could never be broken, it's broken about 10 times right after that in quick fashion?
Someone just had to prove it could be done.
A stronger gym is always a great way to get over mental hurdles. Find guys that can help you with technique flaws, push you to do more, work harder, and get better. It's hard to explain what an environment can do for people in terms of getting better. Especially if you have a competitive fire.
Wait until a STI day -
Ok so you've got a progression cycle all planned out, and it's time to check the new max. But you don't feel it. You know it's not going to be there.
What to do?
Scrap the session, and work back two weeks or so and see if you have a "strike the iron" day when shit is feeling right.
Bust enough REP PR's to solidify your confidence -
I've used this one a lot. And it does work. When you bust enough rep PR's what will happen is, you will become very sure of exactly what you are capable of. Then wait until a day when you feel good about testing, and go for it. It's almost always there.
Busting a rep PR is mentally easier because you are generally using a weight you have handled before. Once you get enough of those down the hatch, you can be positively sure that a new 1RM PR is in you. Then just wait for a good time.
Last but not least......
Watch these Eagles throw goats off of cliffs. No, this doesn't have shit to do with lifting but I thought it was cool......