Psychological Effects of Lifting Very Heavy Weights
Weightlifting is a tough, demanding sport. Not only does it challenge the body, but it also challenges the mind. You are forced to face your strengths and weaknesses and to overcome your fears and doubts about what your body can achieve. The mental aspect of lifting heavy weights is often overlooked, but it is a vital element. Getting your mind right can make or break your progress and determine whether you stick with training in the long run.
Overcoming Limiting Beliefs
When it comes to lifting a seriously heavy amount of weight, your mind will often give out before your body does. You feel doubt and anxiety about the lift, second-guessing whether you'll be able to do it. This, inevitably, leads to a missed lift. Your fears are confirmed, and this slows you down the next time you try this lift again. Overcoming these limiting beliefs is, therefore, key to progressing in your training. Sports psychologist Dr. Jack Singer recommends closely examining your internal dialogue, noticing where your inner commentary is negative, and then pulling it apart. Replace those thoughts with positive phrases that empower you to lift the weight. Talk yourself into believing you can do it, even if it feels unnatural to begin with.
Grace Under Fire
Staying calm when you're preparing to lift very heavy weights is vital. While many lifters aggressively pump themselves up, it's actually more useful to stay calm and to narrow your focus solely to the bar. Known as affective stability, the ability to stay calm in the face of immense pressure -- like lifting big numbers -- will determine how confident you are in your approach and how likely you are to complete the lift correctly. Affective stability leads into your capacity to concentrate, tune out everything going on around you and just focus on completing the lift.
Best Come Prepared
Just like your body, your mind needs training. Imagining yourself setting up for the lift, visualizing yourself going through the motions and then successfully completing the lift can help you actually do it -- your brain knows exactly what your body is supposed to do. Mentally viewing yourself as successful or on your way to being successful will allow you to make faster progress in your weightlifting. Tied to overcoming your limiting beliefs, coming to the weight room prepared and believing that you are going to nail your lifts is a key part of your success.
Many lifters spend a great part of their workout "psyching up." They walk around yelling, hitting themselves and growling at the bar. This actually reduces their affective stability, which in turns lowers what's called the "arousal control." Arousal control is the ability to determine your levels of stress and your emotional state before you go into a lift. This is an advanced psychological technique, but a very important one. Breaking Muscle recommends practicing meditation and mindfulness on a daily basis, as well as facing your fears -- pushing yourself to use heavy weights and to use them correctly, even if you are still overcoming your limiting beliefs about the lift.
Lau Hanly runs Fierce For Life, a nutrition and fitness company that helps young women start with healthy eating and smart training without overwhelming them. She has a certificate of nutrition, and provide individual coaching, standard fitness and nutrition programs, and group training.