Written by Greg Panora
So much of the information we are fed in strength sports deals with surface-level stuff: sets and reps and this routine and that pair of wraps. However, we very seldom discuss the psychology of a lifter. What separates a good lifter from a mediocre lifter? Is it that he did 4 sets instead of 3? Did he buy the better Isolated Whey Creatine blend at GNC? Or maybe the better lifter just isn’t scared. When I watch a great lifter approach a bar it looks very different from when John Q. Nobody at Gold’s Gym gets under 315 with his neck pad. Does this mean a lifter has to be naturally aggressive to be successful? Not necessarily, but I believe there are certain things a lifter can do to alleviate any fear of the lift. These mental habits mostly deal with squats since squats are scary as shit. I used these techniques to bring my squat from a high 700 to a three white light 804 in a year or so.
Use a PVC to choreograph the lift. I do hundreds of squats every week with just a PVC pipe so when I get a bar on my back it feels like second nature. Repetition breeds success. I’m awesome at brushing my teeth because Ive done it hundreds of thousands of times.
Do movements that you suck at in training. I do Olympic Squats every other week because I’m God awful at them. I go beltless and usually no heavier than 405, but 700+ feels very easy when I get back to my normal set up.
Train alone. Chad Wesley Smith trains without spotters. Why? Because you develop a greater flight or fight sense. You don’t have the option to miss. Plus, Chad squats in a sailor outfit and isn’t allowed in gyms with other people as part of his probation.
I always put my head against the bar during squats and go over how awful I will feel if I miss the weight. This sounds corny but a co-dependent relationship with weights is healthy. Well, not really, but I need that reminder to push myself through the lift.
Get good in bad positions. A safety squat bar helps with this quite a bit. You’re pretty much guaranteed to be in the same awful position you will be will be in when you’re on your third contest attempt. It’s amazing how much more confident you are when you learn to grind.
Greg Panora is a certified legend in the sport of Powerlifting. The former World Record Holder (and current American Record Holder) with a 2630 total (Multiply) in the 242 weight class, Panora now has his sights set on breaking the 242 raw total world record and is off to a strong start already having recorded a 500 raw bench and 750 raw deadlift. Greg coaches powerlifting at Crossfit Casco Bay in Portland, Maine.