Breaking that mental block with heavier loads

We all have that threshold we need to break through when working to heavy singles on the platform. You execute your light to moderate Snatch with precision. You feel great, you know today is going to be a good session. Those in and around 80% feel easy! The numbers start to approach 90-95%. They're weights you've lifted numerous times in training, but as if on cue your entire mindset shifts...

You're no longer thinking positive thoughts. Instead, you're beating yourself up... "I can't do this".

Your entire body language and presence in the gym changes and before you pull the bar from the floor you're telling yourself that the bar feels heavy. Maybe it takes you two attempts at 94% before you hit it. Maybe it feels awful and there is no way you're getting it past your thighs.

It’s amazing how you can go from totally confident to a nervous wreck in one workout. "Am I really good enough to snatch 100?". 'How am I supposed to hit 100 at this comp when I can barely hit 94?". "Am I training wrong?". This is the kind of psychological battle that occurs regularly weightlifting. It's a battle with yourself, and the only way you’re going to be able to pull through the doubts and eventually snatch that 100 is by winning the fight that is taking place inside your own head. You wonder if you’re good enough to do what you set out to do. You wonder if you’re even strong enough to conquer that weight, even though you want more than anything in the whole world. Those bad workouts that happen along the road make you question yourself. They’re like little demons that sneak inside your head and try to destroy everything. You have to literally fight back against them, finding ways to rekindle that belief in yourself that with one sloppy workout.

Let me make it clear... It's completely normal to feel like this. If we didn't, hitting a new PB wouldn't have the same sense of achievement. On the other hand, if you let it occur time and time again you're allowing yourself to develop poor technical and psychological habits. Not good for long-term development!

As a coach, I will always try to help by using the the right words and conversations, or by programming some light-moderate lifts the athlete is going to make consistently. This may help build their confidence back up a little. But it won't stop it from happening again.

The only person who can snatch that 100 is you!

If you want success in this sport, you have to go out and get it. It's an individual sport, and whilst your coach and fellow gym members are certainly there to offer you encouragement and advice, the reality is that you're on your own when on the competition platform. It's about you, and only you.

You have to figure out the mental strategies that are right for you, the ones that are going to build your mind up and make you tougher than any sloppy workout. You will have those bad workouts... trust me... we all will. No matter how tough you are inside, you’ll never be completely immune to self-doubt and fear.

Again, this is what makes progress feel great!

Pretending you're invincible and ignoring that self-doubt exists is not the way to go. No matter how hard you try to hide it, it will happen again, but acknowledging this will be helpful. You know yourself better than anyone around you. If you know that you begin to doubt your own abilities above 90% then you'll find it easier to do something about it.

When you look at tomorrow's programme and the prescription is 'work up to an RM', you can begin to put a strategy together that will help break through that mental block before it even occurs.

Develop a routine in the gym

Watch any high level competition and you'll recognise that most lifters have a routine. They may put chalk on their hands the same way for all six attempts. Perhaps it's the way they approach the platform and the bar. They may stomp their feet before set-up, let out the same scream each and every time, mutter a few words under their breath.

It's important you do this in the gym too.

Technical efficiency in both the Snatch and Clean & Jerk comes after spending many years developing good habits. Habits need to be developed off the platform too.

I find it so interesting to watch when some of my lifters approach heavier loads. More often than not, I notice that they immediately stop chatting to other lifters between sets. They go inside themselves. For the first time that session they make the 3 metre walk over to the chalk bowl and lather their hands, secretly telling themselves they cannot do this.

Develop a consistent routine.

Don't put chalk on your hands when things get heavy. Put it on from the moment you warm up. If you chat between sets then continue to do so even when things get heavy. If you're one for timing your rest periods then have the same rest at lighter weights as you do heavier ones. Take note of how you approach the bar when warming up - do exactly the same at higher percentages too.

You really don't want to be changing your mindset, body language, thoughts and presence in the gym relative to the weight that's on the bar. Observe your habits at smaller loads and maintain them throughout the session. Treat your light weights as if they were heavy, and your heavy weights as if they were light. Nothing should change.

Keep a Training Diary

A diary of your training is valuable for several reasons, and breaking through mental barriers is one of them. When you have bad workouts and rough moments, you can go back in your journal and look at old records you kept from a year ago, two years ago, etc.

You’ll find reminder situations where you felt overwhelmed with self-doubt…but still had success anyway. Clearly, you're lifting heavier now.

These situations are frequent in weightlifting. So when they happen to you, go back and look at times when they’ve happened in the past. Rebuild your confidence through knowing that you survived and conquered once before, and you’ll be able to do it again.

Each and every lifter at Cheshire Barbell has their own folder to access during training. Inside this folder is their programme, but also a series of trackers and log books to allow them to record PBs and any other information they feel necessary. Good old pen and paper is a valuable tool in training. I ask everyone to log as much information as they can, whether that be weights lifted, technical reminders or feelings.

Chat with other lifters in the gym

Regular interaction with lifters who are more experienced and successful than you is a very valuable tool.

Ask them if they’ve dealt with the same obstacles as you. It will always reassure you and make you feel more confident when you hear that better athletes have struggled in their careers, just like you.

It will give you a mental boost hearing this. When you struggle, you can easily convince yourself that you’re not good enough. You should talk to other lifters in the gym who have great accomplished more than you and learn about the obstacles they’ve dealt with themselves. You'll no doubt find that they've had the exact same mental blocks as you. That means there’s hope for you too!

Sessions at Cheshire Barbell are social. I try to make them that way for this exact reason. Heavier days are often prescribed on 'Super Saturday' when people feel a little more relaxed, less rushed, and can take the time to chat amongst other lifters between their challenging sets.

We also have a private forum that our lifters can use to discuss their experiences outside of the weight-room.

Surround yourself with those in a similar situation and learn from others. If you train in a commercial gym and tend to tuck yourself away on the platform in the corner, consider investing in a membership at a Weightlifting club. You'll be amazed at the benefits you'll receive having like-minded individuals around you. They may not be as obvious as you'd expect initially, but once you take advantage of having others around you you'll realise that you're not on your own. Attend a competition yourself

This sport will mess with your head. It's inevitable. Accept it and prepare for it. Do yourself a favour and watch a weightlifting competition sometime. I don't mean on TV, I mean actually get off your arse and pay to spectate at a local open or regional event. Even better, go and watch you're fellow club members and offer your support.

Watch those lifters you see on the platform making their 3rd attempts and jumping off the platform to hug their coaches, partners, friends, screaming with joy. You know why they’re so happy? Because they fought their own mental battle…and they won. They did it. They beat the doubts and fears, and they hit the weights they wanted to hit. Watch any weightlifting meet, and you’ll see this happen, probably several times within just one competition. That could be you up there. Visualize it. Continually, and make it a habit, both in competition and in training.

You can do this.


Want to join a team of like-minded individuals and train in a non-competitive yet motivating environment? Click here to check out our memberships.

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Arkwright Court

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