Psych-up procedures are one of the most important mental aspects of the iron game, especially if you’re trying to go for a max effort lift.
At face value, you’d say psyching yourself up is just to “pump you up”. But it’s important to understand the science and how we can use emotions to boost our performance (and how too much emotion can detract from our lifting).
Take a look at the curve below.
What this is telling you is that if you don’t have a proper level of arousal, you are not performing optimally and reinforces the age old cliché that mindset is the most critical aspect to your success (or failure) in any endeavor.
You can see that the optimal level of arousal is in the middle of the curve, in between too laid back and being in a damn frenzy. (Ever hear of being “centered”?)
I’ve got a ton of examples of people achieving personal records (on lifts that they failed multiple times minutes prior) just by harnessing their emotions. The example I always use is when I first deadlifted 500 pounds.
I’d been trying to hit this lift for a while, and failed on two attempts immediately prior to my successful lift. I finally nailed the lift because I enhanced my mental state. My success was nothing more than that.
How To Get Optimally Aroused
Prior to a big lift, you will already be aroused and stimulated to a certain degree, but still on the left side of the curve. It is important that you do not stray over the to the right side of the curve and get over-aroused during your warm-ups that lead in to your max effort attempt.
(I’ve done this before and blown my optimal arousal on sub-maximal sets, and it’s not the easiest thing in the world to reset yourself and get back to the middle of the curve.)
When it’s time for your maximum effort attempt, you should be amping up your arousal level by channeling the emotions that help your performance.
Exactly how you do this is dependent on you and requires you to know your triggers. For some people, it might be music. Others like to get slapped on the back and pep talked. Maybe you like to get yelled at and insulted.
For me, I use a combination of visualization and anger. I visualize a successful lift in great detail, along with my haters and people who have wronged me looking on and seeing me succeed.
You need some self awareness to know what arouses you and how to optimize your arousal.
A Surreal Feeling
What I can tell you is that optimal arousal is a very surreal state and a feeling that you will be able to recognize every time you reach it.
I can only describe it as a state of intense focus that eliminates outside distraction. Performance during the lift is indeed enhanced because when you are in an optimal state, physical exertion is barely felt.
This is good news for you because if you recognize it, you know when you achieve it, and you will know when you’re lifting with optimal mental ability. This recognition will allow you to replicate the process that led you to optimal arousal and achieve this state of mind when maximum effort is required.
Knowing the feeling is also important because it will prevent you from achieving a state of over-arousal. Once you feel like you’re optimally aroused, act decisively and nail your lift. It can be easy to over use your triggers and get into an angry or state of anxiety (usually from anticipation).
The Primal Mind
If you dig this article, check out the Primal Mind eBook that takes an in-depth look at psych up procedures and lifting mindset.
Optimal arousal is only a small part of the lifting mental game. Mindset is something that interests me greatly and I truly believe that if you can harness the enormous power of your mind, your potential in life and lifting is unlimited.
All the best,