Anytime a specific question or concern is asked to me more than twice in a day it tends to stick to my memory. Today I was asked by four different people in four different occasions what my mental state is like when I approach heavy weight in competition. All four of these athletes struggle with believing they can lift the weight in front of them especially when it is at or near maximal effort. Furthermore, a couple of these athletes struggled with understanding how to be patient, continue the first pull, and believe that they could in fact make the snatch even when it felt like 1000 pounds coming off the floor.
To answer that question on what is going on in my head when I approach a heavy weight especially in competition, the answer is actually very minimal. Before I step on the platform I visualize the small detailed parts of the lift as a part of my visualization of me making the lift over and over again in my head. As I chalk my hands and approach the platform I am generally thinking of one maybe two (typically just one) that I think is important for me to remember in order to make the lift. For the snatch that cue generally is “elbows out” and in the clean that generally is the “flat feet.” Those two cues typically remind me of some of the more important technical aspects of my lifts that when I miss I don’t do these cues well.
However, once my hands touch that bar my brain shuts off and I literally tell myself “we don’t miss”. The reason I tell myself this specific thing is growing up and in conversation still today my old high school weightlifting coach, Stan Luttrell, simply says that in order to lift big weights you have to put big weights on the bar. He emphasizes over and over again that the confidence with which you approach the bar often is the directly correlated to whether you make the weight or not. This is why he trains with heavyweights on a regular basis but more so it is a good reminder to me that the belief that I will make the weight often times can be the deciding factor in whether I put the bar over my head.
Many different lifters do many different things as they approach the platform or approach a heavyweight. I have never heard of a lifter going through multiple different coaching cues or multiple different phrases as they approach the bar. Most elite lifters may have one queue (at most) that they tell themselves when they approach the bar. Furthermore, most lifters have a clear mind as the bar lifts off the floor. The most important thing that should be running through your head when you prepare to lift a maximal level weight is a confidence that you can make the weight. Believing that you’re strong enough, believing that your training has prepared you for that weight, and trusting that your body is ready and able to lift it is the majority of the battle. I don’t know how many of you have seen the classic kids football movie “The Little Giants” but in that movie the coach tells the players that football is 20% physical and 80% mental. While that movie is purely comical, some of that truth is pertinent to lifting heavy weight today. You have to believe you can make the weight if you want to make it indeed.