Maxing Out: Setting yourself up for a PR

This week we’ve been maxing out on quite a few lifts, so I wanted to provide some information and tips to help you reach that PR goal you have in mind!

A large majority of lifts are missed because people don’t take the time to set up properly. You may set your hands and feet, but what is your mind doing? Ideally it will be calm and focused, which can be accomplished by focusing on two things: Self Talk and Mental Imagery (Level II: Preparatory Skills of the Performance Pyramid).

Performance Pyramid of the Nine Mental Skills. Ohio Center for Sport Psychology, developed by Jack J. Lesyk, Ph.D.

1) Self Talk

How do you talk to yourself at the gym? Do you tell yourself things that you would say to your workout buddy standing beside you? If the things going on inside your head were broadcast for the whole gym to hear, how would you feel: proud or ashamed? Remember: YOU ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON YOU WILL TALK TO ALL DAY.

Use self talk to:

  • Maintain your self confidence during difficult times with realistic, positive self talk
  • Regulate thoughts, feelings, and behaviors during stress/competition

If there is any doubt in your mind going up to grab the bar (Wow this is heavy! I’ve never done this weight before, there’s no way I can lift this much…this is what so-and-so normally lifts, not me…) then you’re most likely going to miss it. HYPE. YOUR. SELF. UP. Think  WOW, I AM SO STRONG. GET READY TO MOVE OFF THAT GROUND, WEIGHT, CAUSE I’M COMING FOR YA. Take a calming breath, and trust your body to do what you’ve been training it to do every day at the gym!

2) Mental Imagery

This is probably one of the most powerful things I was ever taught when it comes to weightlifting. So many times at the gym I hear someone say, “There’s just too many things to think about I can’t even pick up the bar!” Mental imagery is how to bypass that overwhelming feeling.

  • Create and use mental images that are DETAILEDSPECIFIC, and REALISTIC.
    • Stand back from the bar and imagine going through each part of the lift from beginning to end.
    • Take the time in your mental imagery to go through your check list as you do the lift PERFECTLY in slow motion. Then, just step up to the bar, and do the dang thing with a clear, positive mind. You just did the lift PERFECT in your mind, and your mind doesn’t know the difference between imagination or actually physically doing it. Performing the lift in your mind almost creates a sort of muscle memory for the rest of your body. Now it’s primed and ready to go. 
      • Example:
        • When I snatch, I know that I will step up to the bar and set my feet. I usually pull up on the thighs of my pants, and then grip the bar. Set my grip. Lower my hips until my hamstrings are engaged. Shoulders back and down. Back/core tight. Deep breath. Hold. Drive the bar off the ground through the bottoms of my feet. Long arms. PULL UNDER. MOVE SO FAST. Catch. SOLID. Stand through my heels.
        • After I finish the lift in my mind, I take one deep breath, and then approach the bar with purpose and determination.

“OK, but, what if I don’t hit a PR? What if I don’t even match my old one?”

You’re not always going to PR, even sometimes when you feel SO CONFIDENT about it. It just happens. Life happens. Take it in stride and ask yourself, 

What did I learn? What is the take away from today’s session?

There is always something to learn, and we learn more from our failures than we ever do from our successes. And once you learn, you get better IMMEDIATELY. 

Dawn Fletcher, coach and creator of Mentality WOD, said this about failing in a podcast I listened to, and I loved it.

“Did you struggle? Did you get annoyed? Good. You got closer. As coaches (and hopefully as athletes!) we WANT struggle. This is the ONLY way to get better!”

I hope this helps! 

Coach Chelsea Berngruber