Written by Adam Pine
“When I come out I have supreme confidence. I’m scared to death. I’m afraid. I’m afraid of everything. I’m afraid of losing. I’m afraid of being humiliated. But I’m confident. The closer I get to the ring the more confident I get. The closer, the more confident.” — Mike Tyson
Walking up to the bar, I knew 750 was going up. 30 pounds over my current PR, 50 over my meet PR, but no doubt in my mind I had it.
I knew long before I even stepped to the bar that it was going up that day.
Approaching the bar confidently, versus timidly can be the difference in PRing, or missing a lift.
Developing confidence doesn’t happen automatically, or accidently. It’s developed through habits you’ve formed in your training and daily life.
Overcome fear and doubt, and approach the bar knowing you’re going to smash the weight.
No more over-thinking or second guessing.
Here are six strategies I use to gain confidence and prepare for a lift.
Build confidence long before you hit the platform by hitting all your weights in training. When you hit your attempts in training (or a meet), you continue to gain confidence.
Missing attempts does the opposite. When you start missing, you start second guessing yourself.
I always start my programs with a conservative training max. Same goes for a meet opener. They’re both something I’m 100% sure I know I can hit, even on my worst day.
Tons of lifters start with training maxes “they know they can hit”, grinder PR’s, what they hit on a variation of the lift, or what their goal weight is. Choosing an optimistic or unrealistic 1RM is setting yourself up for failure down the road.
Start conservatively, you can always increase it later if need be.
If you use a percentage based program, 95% of your best, clean, recent 1RM is a reasonable training max for most.
At a meet, don’t set yourself up for failure by opening too heavy. Open on the lighter side and build momentum.
For your first meet, Chad Wesley Smith recommends taking these percentages of your best clean gym lifts during this training cycle:
During my training for a meet, I won’t actually hit the numbers I intend to on the platform. It takes a lot of trust if you’re not used to this, but you do not need to hit your 3rd or even 2nd attempts in the gym to hit them on the platform.
When you test your maxes a couple weeks out from the meet, where do you expect to go? How much can you expect to put on your lifts in just a couple weeks?
Build your strength in the gym and test your big lifts for the platform.
Powerlifting is mental as much physical — the intent in which you moves matters.
It’s a mindset.
Whether it’s 135 or a PR — it’s a matter of how fast it’s going up, not IF it’s going up.
Never approach the bar with caution — be aggressive and attack violently.
Do what you can do with good form.
This was a lesson I had to learn the hard way.
Not paying enough attention to my form in the beginning held me back a ton later. Over time I developed nagging injuries I had to let heal, and bad habits I had to unlearn.
Develop proper technique before loading up a movement. Lifting with proper form will reduce your risk of injury and allow you to lift more weight.
Mastering it takes time.
The goal is to find your own optimal technique and make it automatic, something you don’t have to really think about. This comes with experience – doing the same movement over and over again.
In the beginning, you cue yourself to perform the action. Over time you minimize the cueing. Eventually it becomes mostly automatic – by feel.
When it becomes second nature you don’t have your mind cluttered with too many cues, thoughts, doubts or anything else.
You can really commit to the lift.
The fastest way to stop making progress, or to shatter your confidence is an injury.
Injuries not only slow you down, but they can fester in your mind long after they’ve healed and shake your confidence.
Be proactive rather than reactive.
Mobility, strength and conditioning work are all important in the pursuit of strength.
A little mobility and conditioning work can go a long way and will help you stay in the game for longer.
Stay in shape — don’t neglect this stuff because it’s boring, or it doesn’t directly increase your squat, bench or deadlift. Nobody wants to be out of breath all the time and walking around like the Tin Man.
Do your mobility and conditioning work, manage your volume and intensity properly, and use proper technique.
Sometimes accidents do happen and if you do sustain an injury, take the proper amount of time to fully recover.
Listen to your body and let pain be your guide.
If your body is screaming at you not to do something, listen to it. It’s not easy to do, but it pays off in the long run. Devote a little time to doing some mobility, recovery and conditioning work. Being mobile and athletic will only be helpful for long term success.
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” – Henry Ford
Too often people give up on something before they even get started. Don’t be a good excuse maker.
“My arms are too long, I’ll never be a good bencher.”
“My arms are too short, I’ll never be a good deadlifter.”
“My femurs are too long, I’ll never be a good squatter.”
Complaining about poor leverages, imperfect training conditions, or anything else puts you in a losing mindset. Don’t give yourself an out — a reason to fail.
Don’t dismiss your failures with lame excuses. Instead, be critical and look for solutions. Find a way to get stronger.
How can I improve my: technique, programming, size, mobility, recovery, diet, etc? I constantly look to make improvements in these areas.
Identify and focus on what you can improve, rather than dwelling on the things that you cannot change.
You can, and you will get better if you work harder and prioritize strengthening your weakness, rather than making an excuses. You can be confident knowing you trained your ass off trying to bring up your weak points, instead of buying into the bullshit.
Passion, Dedication & Experience
Ultimately you have to go in week in and week out and just get it done. There’s no tricks to it, nothing fancy, just hard work and consistency.
When you’ve got the “iron bug” you look for reasons to train rather than excuses not to. You don’t whine and complain about having to train — you look forward to it.
Lifting isn’t punishment for drinking, smoking, a bad diet, or whatever else. It’s something you do because you love it.
When you want something and you find what you’re passionate about in life, you find time for it.
The more hours you spend training, the more experience and time under the bar you have, the more comfortable you’ll be. There’s no substitute for experience, and experience builds confidence more than anything else.
Walking up to the bar, and actually believing in yourself is powerful feeling and difference maker.
Don’t miss weights in training. Missing weights can shake your confidence. Hitting your attempts will continue to boost it.
Take measures to prevent injuries. The fastest way to stop making progress is to get hurt. An injury may heal fast physically, but can leave a nasty mental scar. If you do sustain an injury – stay patient through your recovery.
Commit to the lift. Be aggressive and attack violently!
Don’t make excuses. It’s easy to buy in to the nonsense and give yourself a lame excuse as to why you’re not successful.
Train hard, train smart and train consistently. When you find your passion, you’ll find purpose and a way to be successful.