Since we’ve implemented the Wendler 5-3-1 system as our strength program, it’s become evident, really quickly, that that last set is the “oh shit” set.
Five reps at 65%, no big deal. 75%? hard but doable. But max reps at 85, 90 and 95%? If you push yourself on that last set, as you should, then you’ll come away feeling just as exhausted as when you finish any other workout, where you end up sprawled out on the floor wondering, what the hell just happened.
How you mentally prepare for that last set will drastically effect how well you do.
Even though we all may not strive to be as freakishly huge as Ronnie Coleman (we couldn’t even if we tried), that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn a thing or two from one of the giants of the bodybuilding scene.
Namely, how to approach a heavy lift.
If you’ve never seen the larger than life Ronnie lift some serious weight then check out the clip below to see how it’s done. No, you really need to watch it. I’ll wait.
As amusing as that was it’s more important to note what he doesn‘t do, than what he does do.
- He doesn’t allow the weight to intimidate him.
- He doesn’t approach the weight like it’s anything less than what he’s capable of.
- He doesn’t pick up the weight and say „oh fuck, that’s heavy!“
He owns it. And yeah I know, he didn’t really get below parallel. But that’s not the point. His mental game is the point.
Ronnie’s mental game may be a bit more dramatic than the norm but you NEED to have a mental game everytime you prepare for a heavy lift. Yeah you don’t really need to copy Ronnie Coleman and let out a wall-shaking “YEAH BUDDY!!” before you lift, but a little positive self-talk will go a long way.
How you prepare is a very personal thing as well. Some people like to get very aggressive, yell, scream and slap themselves in the face. That’s not really my style but it if makes you lift the weight, then so be it.
Others tend to be calm and cool and approach the bar in an almost Zen-like state.
Some like heavy metal blaring in the background, while others may want no music at all.
It doesn’t matter. With that being said here are a few tips to help you out no matter what your style is.
- Visualize yourself doing four or five perfect reps.
- Learn what your positive aggression is. For me it’s taking a few shallow breaths, blowing out through the mouth, forcefully and aggressively setting myself under the bar.
- Never let any negativity into your mind. Once you think, “oh my god, this is going to crush me,” you’re as good as done.
- Find the balance between aggression, anger, and focus.
Here’s a great quote from a guy explaining his mental approach to a heavy lift:
„It’s a strange sort of violent determination, impatience, and confidence, nondestructive to anyone outside of the realm of you and the weight. Fear nor even the possibility of failure enters the mind.“