I recently received a request on Twitter for a blog about how to get fired up before big lifts. Over the course of my athletic career I have found what works for me when I need to channel power for lifting. In general, I never got very excited or animated before heavy lifts. I used to keep it together and just go through the motions and have some amount of success. Once I discovered how to channel my emotions and energy into the bar, I felt like there was nothing I couldn’t lift.
Here are my 5 tips for how to prepare for heavy lifts or what @itsderaj referred to as the “mastery of unleashing”…
-visualize your success
I close my eyes and watch myself successfully completing the lift at least 5 times. If I make a mistake in my mind, I repeat the movement until it is perfect. I have been utilizing visualizations in athletics since 7th grade when I used to long jump for the track team. Now I can often visualize with my eyes open and do so as quickly as possible in competition settings. It is an excellent way for me to get my head in the lift before it’s in front of me. For people that have trouble with this, I recommend visualizing someone else doing the lift well. Think of the best mover in your gym and imagine how he/she would do it. As long as you are ingraining the correct movement pattern, you are benefitting.
-practice the same routine
Before I lift I have a certain ritual of breathing, gripping the bar, moving my feet into position, making my final adjustments. It is the same every time and I couldn’t tell you what it is, I just do it. Over the years it has changed many times, but when I approach the bar my body goes into auto-pilot to set up. In practice is where you must find the routine you will ultimately use in competition. It may vary some between practice, warm-up, and actual competition, but in general there needs to be consistencies so it is familiar to your body. You are training yourself to know when it’s time to go.
-create your mantra
There has to be a word or phrase or statement that triggers you to attack the lift. It can be a calming mantra or cue that helps you stay present with what is in front of you. For me it is a lot of angry mumblings that create intensity for me when there was none before. I’ll also often use a few specific cues to remember what I want to achieve in the lift. Use the mantra to streamline your thought process and eliminate all doubt. By focusing in on a series of words that you are controlling, there will be no room in your head for negativity or doubt.
-find your focus
When it is time to unleash on the bar, you need to have blinders on to everything but the lift. As I stare at the bar, the space around me is no longer part of my vision. At the 2010 SoCal Regionals, whenever I walked onto a platform in the thruster ladder I only saw the barbell. Everything around me – the crowd, the judge, the photographers – it all blurred away.
-tap into your explosive energy
If I really think about it, lifting up a metal bar with a bunch of weights hanging off of it can seem silly. Every sport can if you think about what you’re actually doing. But in order to generate the kind of intensity needed, I have to build up the energy and make this the most important thing in my world. When I talk to myself and to the bar I seem to find what I need to unleash that power. It will be different for everyone, but in my world anger does the trick. Be aggressive, attack the bar, fire yourself up – whatever it takes, you need to figure it out and be ready to let it loose.
Or if you’re me - get mad and go crazy.