You’ve asked yourself this question a thousand times in relation to the snatch, clean, jerk, or any of their variants. The first two places you look to are the obvious culprits: technique and strength. Was it my technique? No, your pull was good, you hit your positions well, and the previous rep was sound. Was it my strength? Nope, you pulled that bar to your eyeballs — you looked like a gorilla throwing a PVC pipe.
So what is making you miss? The third party responsible for missed lifts is confidence. And it is the hardest to train. If there is a moment within the pull, where the tiny voice in your head says, “This is heavy — are you sure you can do this?”, then that small doubt will result in a missed lift. Doubt may cause you to try to alter the technique you have been practicing all day because you think you must do something different as the weight gets heavier. Doubt might lead you to simply think too long and miss your window to pull under the bar. Or doubt might not even let you attempt the lift at all. The doubt gremlin can strike within the pull, as you approach the bar, or even on the way to the gym when you know you are headed into a heavy workout.
You came to the gym today to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and it’s really hard to chew gum while you are lifting, so that leaves nothing except ass kicking!
You cannot let the doubt gremlin beat you. So how do you combat it? The first method for fighting the gremlin is to have a ritual to your lifts. You must develop a systematic approach to your weights.
- One: approach the bar and take a deep breath.
- Two: set your grip.
- Three: fix your gaze forward.
- Four: tighten the back and lock in your final breath.
- Five: pull like hell
Every person’s set-up ritual is different. Regardless of the style (hold the bar for a long time, run a checklist, grab and go, etc.), the basic premise holds true: the best lifters (or the best athletes, for that matter) have a ritual and it is consistent from lift to lift. The purpose of the ritual is to eliminate the need for in-depth thought preceding the lift and allow the athlete to enter a state of flow and simply execute the action. By focusing on the ritual, you allow yourself to be swallowed by the bar and, thus, can block the gremlin.
The second tactic in doubt gremlin warfare is the art of visualization. You must practice your reps in your head. The brain, as funny as it sounds, is rather stupid: it doesn’t know the difference between actually snatching a bar and imagining snatching a bar. The key to visualization is to be as detailed as you possibly can. See yourself approach the bar and run through your set-up ritual. Feel the knurling against your callused hands and the breaths filling your lungs. Move through the execution of a perfect lift from start to finish.
Leave the doubt behind and be brave in the face of the bar.
This practice of visualization is helpful not only before training, but also between lifts. It is a common sight to see a lifter sitting calmly between attempts with eyes closed — this is not a stressed or angry position, but a reflective one. Imagine yourself succeed, apply exactly what you just practiced, and the success will come. You will find that envisioning 105% of your best is hard to do without flinching. It takes practice, but with consistent visualization, your lifting will become easier. Having seen yourself under the bar and completing the lift in your mind will help to silence the gremlin.
The third strategy for gremlin destruction is refusal to be timid. You came to the gym today to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and it’s really hard to chew gum while you are lifting, so that leaves nothing except ass kicking! You have to push any “maybe” out of your mind when it comes time to go for that personal record. Leave the doubt behind and be brave in the face of the bar. Tell yourself whatever you need to hear, like “BE BRAVE, BIG CHEST, I’M JACKED.” This time in the gym is for you and it should be fun. So don’t be hard on yourself. Generate the energy for that lift from a place of pure joy that you feel every time the bar enters your hands. Remember this is your pastime and you LOVE IT!
If you develop a lifting ritual, practice your visualization daily, and approach your heavy lifts from a place of joy instead of fear, you will make more heavy lifts, and turn those doubt gremlins back into Mogwai.