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How to Mentally Prepare Yourself to Lift Heavy

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Consulting Shape Fitness Director Jen Widerstrom is your get-fit motivator, a fitness pro, a life coach, and the author of Diet Right for Your Personality Type.

How do you mentally push yourself when you're lifting something that's crazy heavy?

—@snf166 via Instagram

The greater the load, the greater the focus needed. (The payoff is worth it; lifting heavy will give you amazing mind-body results.) As you start to train with heavier weights, this focus will be as important as your physical output in the lift. Your body can’t do it without the mind.

There are two mental tactics that I use to build this focus. They’ve really been game changers when I go big with my lifts.

1. Cue an inner dialogue.
For me, it’s talking through the physical steps, even though I get some funny looks at the gym when I say them out loud. When I’m squatting with a heavy barbell—that’s anything over 200 pounds for me these days—I say “Big toe, big toe.” This reminds me to keep my feet gripped on the ground, which sets off the domino effect of turning on the inner thighs and glutes. Then, on my descent into the squat position, I say “Up” to set the intention of where that barbell ultimately needs to go. Finally, I cue “Chest up, hips through” to dial in my body’s position through the finish line. (Here's exactly how I talk myself through a tough workout.)

2. Take an ego trip!
Adrenaline and confidence will be assets for you here. When you step up to a challenging weight, put on that metaphorical superhero cape. Know the weight is going to go up, expect completion, get a little weird, and nail it! Keep in mind that lifting heavy is 75 percent physical and 25 percent mental. So while your mental game cannot make you lift weight you’re not physically capable of, it will make the weight you’ve prepped to move feel that much closer to a cakewalk. (Find out my other simple trick for pushing your workout limits.)

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