It's very rare that mentality is discussed amongst Powerlifting circles and strength athletics, but when it is talked about it's often based around, "Just get mad at it! Give it all you got!" Although that can be a useful tactic in some cases, there is much more that goes into mentality- more notably, mental preparation for training, competition and staying positive throughout tougher situations (ie: You're 4 weeks out from your competition and you just failed a projected opening attempt on Squat). In the following article you will learn how to gain a mental advantage over your competition, as well how to prepare for one of the worst possible scenarios.
Mental and Physical Preparation is NOT Mutually Exclusive
First and foremost you must TRUST THE PROCESS- I can't overstate this enough. In well-designed training you will experience copious amounts of fatigue during the latter stages of a training block. Fatigue builds fitness, so in order to continually get stronger you must push your body to places it's never been before- whether it's through cumulative volume, increases in intensity or a combination of the two. Pushing the limits of your Maximum Recoverable Volume (MRV) and stressing your body through hard training is a key to success, as well as forcing the desired adaptation.
"Smart Training is Hard Training: The Principle of Overload" by Chad Wesley Smith of Juggernaut Training Systems
Your body will be tired, extremely sore and you'll be doubting your own capabilities during these phases of training- this is normal. Just before your body reaches its breaking point you Deload and supercompendstion takes effect. As long as you plan your training correctly, a Deload will be an extremely effective tool for both fatigue management and the athletes mental state. Well thought out training will include highs, lows and periods of self doubt- but this is perfectly okay. The key is to understand it's a process and that you do not need to be your strongest every single day- in fact, the only time you need to be at your best is on meet day, when it matters the most.
"Fatigue Management" by Chad Wesley Smith of Juggernaut Training Systems
"I've been failing a bunch of reps in training, what do I do?"
This is every strength athletes worst fear- you're 4 weeks out from your competition and all of a sudden things are feeling heavy, so heavy in fact that you just failed a weight in the gym that you were planning to open with at your meet. What do you do?
Minor set backs are common, but if you're consistently failing reps that you should be hitting then you need to take a step back and look at a few things...
This is the number one thing all athletes need to look at when things start going off plan. Is your programming effective? Does it lay out a clear, precise plan? Are there planned deloads, light days and periods of low stress incorporated? If you're programming for yourself these can be extremely difficult questions to ask yourself, as it is hard to be objective about your own training. My suggestion is to find someone who is knowledgeable about programming and have them manage you- it takes the guess work out of meet prep and it allows you to minimize stress a bit. Some of the best Powerlifters in the world have dedicated, full time coaches to help them along the way- it's a reality that self-programming can be extremely difficult, so there is absolutely no shame in seeking out a coach.
This seems pretty obvious, but all too often athletes back off on their nutrition as the competition approaches. Typically this is caused by a fear of not making a certain weight class, so the athlete will drastically restrict their caloric intake, thus compromising their training.
In some cases the mental stress of an upcoming competition can decrease appetite which is a recipe for disaster. Nutrition and hydration is key to performance- I can't overstate this enough. If you do not have a Coach, you need to figure out a way to stay on track with your nutrition, as well as your training and keep yourself accountable.
3. Recovery and Minimization of Stress
The body isn't as smart as we all claim it to be. What I mean is that the body cannot differentiate the stress caused by hard training and stress caused by a break up with your significant other, for example. Stress is stress and you need to work to minimize it to the best of your abilities.
There are a few simple ways to help control stress which include meditation, sleep and low stress activities that do not revolve around training. Sometimes it's important to take a step back in order to take 10 steps forward, and I know it can be tough, but keeping a strong mental state, while also minimizing stress will allow you to be success in both the short and long term.
If you truly want to be successful in this sport (or any other sport for that matter) you need to take a step back and look at it from a different point of view. Powerlifting is a game of inches, not feet and having a positive mindset throughout it all with take you farther than you could ever imagine.
I cannot stress this enough, but having this type of mindset does not come immediately. It takes years of hard, consistent training coupled with failure and multiple set backs. Those who stay positive, follow a well thought out program and stick with it in the long term are the ones who see success. World Champions are not built in the first 3 years of stepping foot inside of the gym, but after decades of training. Ask any current World Champion or World Recorder holder and they will tell you the same time- they've been training for at least a decade and they didn't start out with massive numbers and impressive physiques. Instead they started out at the bottom, learning the Squat, Bench, Deadlift from scratch while having the exact same doubts and fears. Train, adapt, overcome and stay positive regardless of the situation.
As always if you have questions or comments leave them in the comment section below or on Facebook. I'd be happy to answer any questions, comments or concerns that you may have regarding Peaking, Attempt Selection or any other topic pertaining to training.