This sport we like to partake in requires a mindset, and sometimes that mindset needs to be aggressive. Whether you’re trying to pull a deadlift for a personal record or hammer out log presses for reps, this game is not for the timid. Often, the energy you bring to your respective events can dictate how you perform. Perfect technique and a high level of strength isn’t always enough. Sometimes you have to dig deep and bring out a little evil to get the job done. Some people like to audibly and visually make themselves heard to get that rage and adrenaline flowing. Others like to mull around in a quiet, suppressed stew of silenced hate. Heavy lifting can be dangerous and unforgiving. Pushing human limitations to new heights requires a certain level of animalism. When you’re trying to stand up with a squat so heavy it could kill you, you better be in the mindset to fight for your life.
Everyone knows this lifter. It’s impossible not to. This person is probably blasting heavy metal on the speakers and is clearly pissed off. He’s probably yelling and someone is slapping his back before the lift. Then just when the lift is about to happen, the lifter puts all the emotions into the bar and lifts with tremendous effort. Basically, the lifter is hyping himself up. The idea is that by getting angry and intense, it can trigger a sort of fight response and help lift heavy weight. This kind of lifting strategy probably doesn’t work for most people. While it might make someone confident and push past the anxiety of attempting a heavy lift, a lot of times it can cause a lifter to lose focus and forget their technique. I’ve seen a lot of lifters take this approach, and it often doesn’t usually work out well for them. Even if they manage to muscle up through the lift, it’s usually an ugly lift. Not every lift is going to be perfect, but throwing technique away for the sake of intensity is not a good tradeoff. Getting that feeling of rage and violence can be a good thing, but you have to be able to hone it in and focus on what you’re doing. What’s the point of going for a big lift if you’re so out of your mind that you can’t do it well? If this is what you need to do to get your head in the game for a big lift, then by all means go for it. However, you need to be able to bring that rage in enough to focus on your mechanics and cues to do the lift as safely as possible. If you want to see a big lift by a guy who showed that irate level of intensity, check out Chuck Vogelphol. Big lifts aside, he’s quite well known for being a bit of a madman at his meets. Despite that, he was able to bring it all in to pull off some truly impressive lifts.
Quiet, Focused, Intense
This lifter is wrapped up inside his or her own head. All of the emotions and expressions are internalized and compressed. When it’s time to execute, all of that is put into the barbell. This is where I like to be. Instead of jacking yourself up or getting anxious about the lift, you focus on something that drives you and internalize it. Light a fire under it, and let it burn into an inferno. I find this much easier to control. Maintaining a calm and collected demeanor allows me to focus on my cues when lifting heavy. Getting into an aggressive mindset is one thing, but controlling that aggression to accomplish something is a skill that can be developed. It feels like a combination of primal animalism and centered calm zen state. The general idea is to feel something deep inside you that drives you to trigger an aggressive mindset. Once you’re in that state, transfer that intensity to what you’re about to do and focus on your cues and mechanics. This takes a lot of practice, but it does work for me, and I’ve seen it work for a lot of other lifters. It’s best to practice when the weights are lighter to start, and it should translate to the heavier lifts.
This is a concept that I’ve heard from Dave Tate that I’ve found very interesting. While he was still competing in powerlifting, he liked to describe his mindset as “being in a void.” The idea is that you become someone else entirely. Who you were before the lift is gone. You enter a completely dark and violent mindset and become more animal than human. Using visualization and focus, a person can enter into the fight response and override their own insecurities and anxieties. There is a connection between the mind and the body. If the body is weak, it can depress the mind. If the mind is weak, it can limit the body. The idea is to use the mind to make the body strong, thus making the mind stronger with the body. It can help build confidence and push past emotional limitations. Tate also liked to use visualization to help him get into the void. For example, he liked to start by focusing on an image of a flame no bigger than the size of a candle. He steadily increases the size of that fame to a raging inferno and increases his own intensity with that flame. That allows him to gradually increase his aggression in a controlled state. This is something that I have been experimenting with lately, and I can see how it can be quite useful. It takes a lot of practice, and it can be easy to screw up. If you get right, you can really find yourself in an awesome mental state that really makes you feel ready for a fight.
There is an obvious connection between the mind and the body. You can also see great examples of this in medicine. For example, some people who are battling cancer will have success as far as their own mind takes them. If they believe they will win the fight, their odds of doing so are greater. There is no guarantee in that, and there doesn’t seem to be real empirical data to prove that statement. However, there does seem to be at least some anecdotal evidence of it happening. These cases might be extreme and possibly rare, but if a person can use their mind to battle something as severe as cancer, is it not possible to do the same in other areas of their life? I personally believe that a person’s will can help them push the boundaries of their physical limitations, and I think it’s worth developing in all aspects of life. A strong mind and will can help strengthen the body.
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