Barbell Emotions.

In the last 24 hours I have witnessed four emotional barbell battles, and with the Thankslifting In-House Powerlifting coming up on Saturday, November 18th, I thought this would be an appropriate time to share some thoughts on how to make peace with your barbell.

Here are five ways to help overcome your mental (or emotional) barriers with lifting heavy or going for a new PR (personal record). Outside of #1, these concepts lean on the mental side of the game. I will cover technical and programming solutions that relate to this topic in a later article.


#1 Hold onto the bar for dear life. Seems easy right? But we miss this all too often. I talked about it here (insert link), but when you get nervous, don’t forget to death grip the shit out of the bar. Especially for the lifters with less experience, this will create tension for you which has a domino effect of positive lifting traits.

#2 Approach the bar with a Zen-like process. I relate this to a good basketball player shooting a free-throw. Their free-throw routine is systematic and precise. It’s something they do every time they step to the line. Approaching the bar should be like shooting a free-throw. Develop a routine that you can replicate every time you approach the bar.

#3 Treat your warm up like a 1-rep max and your 1-rep max like a warm-up. Obviously, you are not going to put the same amount of power behind the bar; but your attention to detail and respect for technique should be the same. Deliberate practice with every rep will drastically improve your technical learning curve. There is plenty to be learned when lifting at 40, 60 and 100%. Don’t take the lighter reps for granted.

#4 Have a plan. If you are gunning for a 225lb lift, then you should have all your attempts calculated post 50%. Having a plan will help prevent you from doing something silly (believe me, it happens to everyone). When I see numbers scribbled down on a markerboard I will typically see the following:
125 x5, 145 x5, 165 x3, 185 x1, 200 x1 (so far so good)

And then I will see:
205 x1, 210 x1, 215 x1, 220 x1, 225 for a failed rep.

What I should have seen was:
215 x1, 225 x1 (PR)

When you get nervous and start second-guessing the big weights, you will most likely start making small weight jumps and wasting extra energy trying to get to your goal weight. You need to have a plan of attack for when you start venturing off course with your weight and rep selection.

NOTE: 17 +/- total reps post 50 – 55% is a good rule of thumb for a solid progression to your 1 Rep Max attempt. 50% and under you just need to make sure you are warmed up and ready to go.

#5 Practice. Maybe the most boring answer but quite possibly the best solution to learning how to overcome the nerves associated with lifting heavy. You just need to put in the reps. Spend time under the bar. Find out what works for you.

Lessons in life and lifting.
Being strong should never be a weakness.

Coach David

PS – Thank you for asking me to write something about this Jorge. I appreciate your strong vibes, my friend.