Yesterday I was training with my girlfriend (now ex) and during this session she was box jumping before attempting a new squat PR. Now if any of you have ever box jumped or attempted a new PR (on any lift) you probably know it can be quite daunting and oftentimes nerve wrecking ,which prompted me to write this article (that and getting back into In Flames!). During her second set of box jumps she mentioned she was scared and it showed as she hesitated before every jump till she ultimately tried to break her timid ascent by landing on her knees (luckily no damage, 100HP). Similarly when loading up the squat bar she said she was nervous, which again showed as she unracked the bar and managed 6 reps instead of the 8 she was going for (none of which were grinders and in my opinion she had another 2-4 in her).
Now this type of nervous fear can absolutely crush your progress and could possibly lead to serious injury (example above) and even despite my coaching queues and corrections she still “failed” her lifts.
When you over think things and generate this uncertainty you end up becoming defeated in your mind which in turn sets you up for failure. Like a preemptive strike on yourself. I keep referencing my ex here as an example but I know countless people that do this, including myself. Ever since my back injury I’m always wary of attempting a new squat or deadlift PR, and any sign of a twinge or tweak sets me off mentally (everything is always fine though and it’s just a case of me over reacting).
Oftentimes mental strength can be your weakest link, and you’ve probably all heard before that you’re only as strong as your weakest link. Overcoming this fear is absolutely crucial in making consistent progress, confidence is critical (however overconfidence can be just as risky). Learn to calm your mindset and positively reinforce yourself. This doesn’t mean you need to grab all your buddies and play the heaviest metal track you know to get psyched up (although I’m definitely not opposed to this) as this in itself has its own issues. To build confidence you first need to become proficient in any given lift, this is where I feel frequency is key. You can check out any type of high frequency training split, Bulgarian light or “Greasing the Groove” type training to get familiar with certain movement mechanics or alternately simply setting up proper safety features and having a competent spotter (seriously, don’t just pick anyone) can massively reduce your fears.
So there you have it, overcoming this mental barrier will take practice, but ultimately knowing you’re proficient at a given lift and having all safety features in place should put your mind at ease and allow you to focus solely on moving that weight (with good form) and breaking PRs! As a side note I’ll say that being overconfident (as mentioned before) can also increase your risk of harm, sometimes even more so. Don’t be the dumb ass that attempts a 725lb/330kg bench press after struggling with a much lower weight.
Train smart. Have no fear!
Lift Strong and Conquer