If you are not convinced that you have what it takes to complete the task at hand, you will probably fail because your mind won’t allow you to operate at your full capacity. The confidence required to win is a certificate given by your central nervous system. Until you earn it, the mind will keep acting as a brake stopping you from engaging in activities that you are not prepared for.
Whenever you’re going for a PR, you’re on the fence. In order for the attempt to be successful, you have to assure your mind that it’s safe to go to the other side of the river.
During my first few months of actual barbell training, I followed a squat heavy routine.
On the way to the gym before a heavy PR attempt, I would look around at the people on the bus and say to myself:
“Those idiots don’t even know what I am about to go through. Squats are so damn hard.”
Eventually, I came with the following principles that I consider very helpful when preparing for PR attempts and heavy lifting in general.
1. Do the work
If you can deadlift only 225lbs for 5 reps, you are not going to lift 315lbs for one with good form. You are not ready yet, and unless it’s a life or death situation, don’t even try. Get your deadlift to 285×5 and then go for 315 if you want to.
Getting strong does not happen by accident. You have to do the work and follow the path that gets you there. Your body will be your guide. Listen.
2. Respect the warm-ups
Warming-up may be easy and boring, but you have to treat every rep with respect. If you warm-ups are perfect, the work sets have a higher chance of success. Even if it’s just the bar, do all the reps as if they are PR attempts.
3. Don’t be greedy!
Getting strong is like getting richer – the weight on the bar/the money in your bank account is never enough.
Smart lifters control their greed. It’s better to go home with a small gain than a negative balance which is what injuries and lifting with poor form represent.
Save your energy and enthusiasm for the next training cycle. The barbell will still be there, and if it isn’t, either you or the world is facing much bigger problems anyway.
4. Don’t be afraid to fail!
When you’re not afraid to fail, you are free. Understand that lifting weights is not your main purpose in life. It’s just something we do to ensure a better experience on the planet. That’s it. You’re not saving the world from the zombie apocalypse with your heavy lifting. This may make you feel somewhat insignificant, but it will also liberate you from the fear of failing.
The only people that never fail are those who never try.
5. Face reality!
One of the better sides of life experience is that you have an opportunity to become wiser. Only childish people kill themselves over missed attempts. Don’t beat yourself for missing a lift.
6. It never ends.
At first, you think that your life will be perfect when you bench press 135lbs. After all, that equals two solid 45lbs plates on each side of the bar. You reach that relatively fast only to learn that it’s a weak number. Then, you decide that benching bodyweight is where it’s at. Eventually, you reach 170lbs only to learn that it’s a weak number too. Thereupon, you decide that 225lbs separate the boys from the men. You get there after brutal workout regimes only to see a muscle behemoth next to you do 405lbs for 10 reps while drinking a protein shake.
It never ends. So, what’s the point?
The point is to enjoy the process as much as possible and learn about life through it.