Standing over a new weight that you’ve never lifted before can be both intimidating and even stressful. However, changing one’s mental approach can make this experience more exciting and fun. The following strategies are one’s I use personally and I try to apply with all my lifts.
1. Have a Routine
If every one of your lifts were filmed, the actions before each lift should be identical, regardless of weight. Developing a routine is a critical process in any sport, but particularly in weight lifting. The routine is very personal and can involve anything from chalking up, to which hand grabs the bar first. The important thing about your routine is it needs to be exactly the same every single time. Your routine will not be developed overnight, but will evolve as experience is gained. The routine is a way to stay focused, gain confidence, and control what can be controlled. It will keep you calm and in a “business as usual” state of mind. When a 50% effort and a max effort have the same feel prior to the lift, the mindset is always the same regardless of loading.
2. Approach the Lift With a Single Thought
Over thinking PR weights is one of the best ways to fail the lift. Even the most gifted athletes cannot think ‘hips down’, ‘fast elbows’, ‘extend the hips’ and ‘drop under the bar’ during a 2 second lift. In a practice session with lighter weight, thinking about technical parts of the lift is fine. But when moving a new weight, having a single and purposeful thought is ideal. Some examples are “get tall”, “fast elbows”, “use legs”, “drive up”, “be smooth”, “stay tight” etc. During max efforts it is important to trust your skills and simplify things by only having one thought.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
Failing is a major part of sports, lifting and in life in general. Let’s just put this on the table: you are going to fail at some point in the gym in the near future. Now that the pressure is off, have some fun! When the thought of failure creeps into your mind, the likelihood of it coming to pass is much better. The worst thing that can happen is the bar doesn’t do what you want it to, and then you are the same place you started. No big deal. Approach the lift free and easy, and remember the lifts are supposed to be fun!
4. Trust What Got You There
The reason you are about to lift a PR weight is because you successfully lifted the previous weight. Use the previous lift as momentum going into the PR effort. “That last weight was my old PR and I nailed that!” is good mindset to get into. You had to do a million things right to get those previous weights, but you found a way to get it done. Along the same lines, trust your training up to this point. Think about all the hard work you put in during the past few days/weeks/months and how your body is more than capable of moving the weight in front of you. One of the main points of this post is that 99% of the time your body is capable of accomplishing the task at hand; it is getting your mind of the way to let it happen that is the tough part
5. Visualize the Lift/Use Positive Self Talk
I am a huge advocate of the benefits of visualization and positive self talk. Scientific studies have shown that when people visualize a movement, the nerves that link to the muscles actually fire in a coordinated fashion. That means that you can actually improve your movements without doing them. Quick story: a man who had golfed only a few times in his life was taken as a prisoner of war. For 3 years, every day, the man visualized himself playing 18 holes of golf. This helped keep him sane. He became so good at visualizing his game, he could imagine taking the club out of the bag, how it felt in his hands, and even the moment of impact. When he was released, he went to play his first round of golf and shot even par. Visualization works! Before each lift, imagine doing it perfectly and successfully; make it part of your routine. There is mountains of evidence that positive self talk works wonders for athletes and their performance. Simply telling yourself you can do it is enough to make a huge difference in making or missing a lift.
These 5 strategies can be applied to any movement in CrossFit whether it be a snatch or a muscle up. They can also be used to hit a golf ball, shoot a basketball, or play a musical instrument. Good luck on hitting your next PR!
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