“Focus on getting stronger in the gym and the muscle gains will come.” This was a quote that I read years ago in a Flex Magazine that really amplified my approach and determination in wanting to handle the heaviest weights possible with each training session I endured. In the early stages of training, strength gains comes much faster than gains in muscularity. This is usually the preliminary motivating factor for keeping you in the gym and what fuels your intensity each time you hit the gym floor. Eventually, you finally get to see your return on effort in the form of both increased overall strength and a significant improvement in muscle mass which in turn only ramps up your excitement for what you are doing. To continue this process and subsequent progress, you have to continually push your strength limits and force your body to get stronger. The only way to do that is to test your capabilities, week after week, by eliminating the fear and the mental blocks that slowly but surely creep their way into our mindset and delay the strength gains we are after. Here’s how you do so using two simple strategies.
Feel the Weight
One awesome strategy that I had put in place for myself many years ago and still share today with anyone who is willing to listen and learn from me, is the simple act of just feeling the weight you are aiming to lift. Often times, the mental block that is preventing you from being able to lift a certain amount of weight is simply due to the fact that it is the fear of the unknown that is holding you back. Once you know what the weight feels like in your hands, then psychologically you can trigger a sense of confidence because the unknown has now been eliminated. For example, there are three very distinct milestones for a lifter with regards to the bench press. Being able to press two plates, then three plates and then four plates off your chest, is the natural progression for most. If you are very close to being able to perform any of those lifts but haven’t done so yet, just put that weight on the bar, get down on the bench underneath it and just lift it off the racks and hold it at arm’s length. You may even be able to move it up and down a few inches while doing so, but all that matters is you now know what the weight feels like in your hands and the unknown has been successfully eliminated and your confidence significantly increased.
Use Reverse-banded Movements
Resistance bands, while being in existence and use within the weight training world for many years, have really come into popularity as of late as a training tool to provide a variable resistance form of tension for bodybuilders, powerlifters and anyone looking for an extra bit of stimulus. A great way to put them to use for the purposes of eliminating that mental block holding you back from massive gains in strength, is by utilizing them as a means of support in the eccentric portion of the rep. When you use the band in reverse, meaning you are not working against the tension the band offers but rather you are using the tension within the band to help you move the weight, you can load the bar up with much more weight than you are usually capable of handling while still being able to perform the lifts. Most times when you can’t complete a lift, it is because you can’t explode out of your weakest position, which is when the muscle is fully lengthened otherwise known as the full eccentric. With the band set up in reverse, what you get is a nice little support from the pulling of the band upwards allowing you to explode out of the bottom of the lift when it is usually the end for your attempt. Then as you ascend through the rep, the band starts to slack, giving you back the real resistance of the weight when you’re in your strongest position allowing you to finish the movement on your own accord.
Much of what we do as strength athletes and bodybuilders alike all boils down to our mental fortitude and willingness to push our limitations and ourselves daily. When we are faced with a road block, be it a mental one or of physical nature, the ones who always come out on top are the people who are dedicated to smashing through those barriers and forging on no matter what. The strategies mentioned above can and will work in eliminating the mental blocks delaying your strength gains. As long as you are prepared to face the challenge head on with feet strapped in the new Mindset Training Shoes by Heyday Footwear, you will never experience weakness again.
Author: Dana Bushell
AST Sports Science sponsored athlete/writer, sponsored by Schiek Sports Inc.