Getting mentally prepared for heavy lifting is very important for your success. If you don’t truly believe you can do a certain task, you probably won’t do it. Before starting a single rep you must feel certain that you are able to go all the way. There is no time nor place for doubts. You either can do it, or you can’t and that confidence comes mainly from your mind.
If we take an average individual who can do 2 pull-ups and help him reach 10 pull-ups, there won’t be much of a physical difference regardless of the fact that the number is 5 times higher. That’s because up to a certain point improving your strength has more to do with neuromuscular pathways rather than fundamental body recomposition. We’re technically stronger that we think but the mind acts as a break in order to protect us from engaging in activities that we are not yet prepared for.
Whenever you’re setting a PR you’re on the barrier. In order for the attempt to be successful you obviously need to be prepared and physically able to do the task. However, you also have to convince your mind that it’s safe to go over that barrier and that’s the hardest part of them all.
You can never know until you try, but at the same time it will never happen unless you have the confidence.
I remember my first few months of actual barbell training. I was, of course, following a squat heavy routine. On the way to the gym before a heavy PR attempt I would look around at the people in the bus and say to myself:
In the end I came with the following principles that I consider very helpful when preparing for PR attempts and heavy lifting in general.
1. Be prepared and don’t believe in small miracles.
If you can only deadlift 225 lbs for 5 reps, you are not going to lift 315 for one with good form. You are not prepared to do it yet and unless it’s a matter of life and death, don’t even try. Get your deadlift up to 280 x 5 and maybe then try 315.
Getting strong does not happen by accident. You must do the work and follow the path that gets you there. Your body will be your guide. Listen to it and evaluate.
2. Treat your warm-ups with respect.
No matter how easy warming-up is, you have to treat every rep with respect. You need to keep perfect form and it helps, if you imagine you are lifting a heavy weight.
If you warm-ups are perfect, the chances of your working sets being perfect is higher too. Even if it’s just the bar – do all the reps as they are PR attempts.
3. Don’t be greedy!
Sometimes people would do everything fine and achieve a successful PR. However, that may not be enough as we often get greedy for more and more. This is when you can get injured.
It’s better to go home with a small gain, rather than negative balance which is what injuries are. Save it for the next training cycle. That barbell will still be there and if it isn’t, either you or the world are facing much bigger problems anyway.
4. Don’t be afraid to fail!
When you’re not afraid to fail, you will feel liberated. Understand that lifting weights is not your purpose in life, the same way cooking isn’t. It’s just something we do to ensure a better experience on the planet. That’s it. You’re not saving the world with your heavy lifting. This may make you feel somewhat insignificant but it’s supposed to just free your from the fear of failing. The only people that never fail are those who never try.
Note: In order to avoid injuries use competent spotters and/or a squat rack. Take the precautions you need.
One of the better sides of gaining experience is that you learn and become wiser. Only childish people kill themselves over missed attempts. You have be extremely close minded and brainwashed if you beat yourself for missing a lift. With experience you will learn that this is part of the game. Don’t worry! God still loves you.
5. It never ends.
At first you think that your life will be perfect when you can bench press 135 lbs – after all that’s two solid 45 lbs on each side of the bar. You reach that relatively fast only to learn that it’s a weak number. You then decide that benching bodyweight is where it’s at. So, you finally reach that epic 170 lbs bench only to learn that it’s a weak number. Then you decide that 225 lbs is what separate the boys from the men. You get to it after gruesome workout regimes only to see a muscle behemoth next to you do 405 lbs for 10 reps while drinking a protein shake.
It never ends. So, what’s the point?
The point is to enjoy the process and learn about life through it. Lifting goals are like money – it does matter but solely chasing paper without learning and improving as a person will never help you reach internal peace.