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How do you approach the bar?

A client of mine Hussain inspired me to write this post. It’s all about how you approach the bar and how the outcome of your lift is often decided long before you wrap your hands around bar. 

The story starts off with the personal training session we had on Monday 1st October. Our sessions are focused on the big lifts such as deadlifts, squats, bench press and pull ups. Today was deadlift day but Hussain had hit a bit of a plato in recent months with his deadlift and just could not seem to get passed the 135kg mark. Although he managed 5 reps on this weight he could not even manage 1 with a bar the slightest bit heavier. He looked incredibly explosive on the 135kg and more than ready to attack the 137.5kg or even the 140kg. Question was though, how much of this was phycological? 

After a thorough warm up Hussain has just completed 3 reps on 135kg on his 1st working set of deadlifts.

Me: Awesome set mate, time to smash the 137.5kg, you up for it?

Hussain: Errrrrrr, I will give it a go.

Hussain approaches the bar with a look of fear in his eyes, nothing wrong with that though as I always have a feeling of nervousness or anxiety when approaching the bar regardless of how confident I feel so I let him crack on with the lift. He takes a few deep breaths, walks towards the bar, assumes his stance…….

Me: Deep breath into the stomach and rip that bar off the floor.

He’s stalling, he drops his hips as if he is about to perform the lift before raising them again, this happens 3 or 4 times before he go’s for it. He lifts the bar about 2 inches off the floor before he crashes it back down again. 

Me: I hate to say it but I knew you were not going to make that lift.

Hussain: Really, why?

Me: You had doubt and disbelief written all over your face but don’t worry about it we will nail it next time.

The following week arrives and I decided to deadlifts with him again as I really wanted to see him hit the lift. We all know how awesome you feel after a PB. He performs 5 reps with 120kg on the bar and they were 5 awesome reps.

Me: Fuck 137.5kg your going to smash the 140kg.

Hussain: Lets do it.

His response was immediate, confident and assertive. We placed the 3 20kg plates either side of the bar and I was genuinely excited at the thought of him completing the lift. After his rest period it’s time to go.

Me: Believe in yourself, vision the lift going exactly how you want it, approach the bar without an element of doubt and rip it off the floor without hesitancy.

He takes a deep breath approaches the bar with speed and before I can even say another word of encouragement he already ripped the bar from the floor. Best thing was he nailed 3 reps at that weight and performed 2 sets of it. But as you have seen from the above description, I knew and he knew before he even stepped up to the bar that he had that lift in the bag. It was written all over him, his body language oozed confidence and self belief. He and I were over the moon as a huge milestone had been achieved. As you can see, his choice of words, his body language and his whole approach to the bar is completely different from the previous week. No hesitation, assertive words such “lets do it” rather “Lets give it a go” and BOSH he nailed it.

I am a firm believer in visualisation and and friend of Fitter London’s and an awesome person in the iron game Brooks Kubik really drummed this home further more on a recent workshop of his we attended.  “You have to visualise the lift playing out exactly how you want it to and play it over and over in your head” he said. This could not be more true, your body hears everything you think so if you allow doubt to kick in it will show. In fact Brooks himself went to perform a lift on the workshop which was a push press with 2 x 36kg dumbbells which for a guy who is well into his 50’s was an awesome feat. But he failed the 1st attempt, he failed the 2nd, he even failed the 3rd but you just knew he was going to make the lift. On his 4th attempt, boom they when up with nothing but power. Why? because he believed he could. No one would have even tried a 3rd time let alone a 4th unless they truly believed. Seriously, check out this guys guys blogs and books, they are awesome and changed the way I train forever.  

So remember this, if you doubt your own ability then the bar will kick your arse. Approach it with nothing but belief in your ability to show the bar who is boss. Truth is though this does not mean you will make the lift 1st time or even that day, but what’s important is that you use that to come back stronger next time with a new found determination and give the bar a the arse wuppin it deserves. Have you ever seen the world record deadlift from Benedikt Magnusson? Watch hi body language and how he approaches the bar, even the bar was shaking with fear. You just know he is going to make the lift. We are talking 1015lbs (almost 462kg) here, this is a crazy weight but just watch his approach to the lift. Not a sniff of doubt, Check it out here.

The bar is one thing but the way you approach anything in life is influenced hugely by your thoughts and self belief. Don’t doubt yourself, visualise your success and make it happen. Some may be immediate challenges such as the example of  performing a set of deadlifts but others may be progressive changes such as a diet or a business plan. A positive mindset is a very powerful tool in any success.

Yours in strength and a positive mind set,

Matt