Most powerlifters have a training style which lies somewhere on a spectrum between emotional and analytical. On one end you’ve got lifters who will head-butt the bar, sniff ammonia and have their training partners punch them in the back of the head. And on the other there are guys who barely even make a facial expression. I count myself among the analytical bunch and wanted to share some observations and tips I’ve picked up.
As I’ve said, I consider myself an analytical lifter but I wasn’t always that way. I used to get really psyched up to lift. When I used to run the Texas Method I would use a pysche-up to PR on Intensity day. And it definitely worked. I could make the bar feel lighter on my back just by getting pissed and listening to loud music. But there was only so much in the tank. The Squat was the first lift that day and it was the one that got the benefit of a big psyche-up. By the time I got to Bench and deadlift there was only so much emotion left.
I found that the more I psyched myself up the more my technique suffered. My Squats started to get looser, sloppier. There was less cognitive room for technique and cue concentration. When you’re under a heavy bar there’s not a lot of mental space period (which is why I’ve likened it to a form of meditation in the past). If you’ve whipped yourself into a frenzy all you can think of is go go go. It’s easy to forget about simple cues like “knees out” or “big breath”.
I also became scared of the weights. The more I had to psych up to PR the bigger importance I put on that weight which required more intensity and drove me into an emotional spiral. I walked away from the lift very drained both physically and emotionally which resulted in a big pile of fatigue.
Clearly I had found that getting emotional and psyched up (purposely) did not work well for me. I ratcheted down my emotions and found I did much better with a calmer, more focused demeanor. The emotions don’t just disappear, however, they fluctuate naturally based on how much importance I place on a set. If I’m shooting for a PR on Competition Squat, yeah my heart rate will be higher and I will definitely be feeling some apprehension. However, if it’s a PR on Floor Press instead I’m going to be a lot more chill.
I’ve found pre-lift visualizations to be useful in this regard. Also, I like using Dr. Zourdos’ “Do Your Job” quote a lot to remind myself that it’s something I’ve done thousands of time, the only difference is the weight on the bar.
I want to be clear, this was not my attempt to advocate for the analytical style over the emotional. Clearly some do very well with emotional lifting. I have a hunch that this has something to do with personality and where you fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum. There’s some evidence to suggest that introverts are overall more sensitive to stimuli and so that could explain my reaction to emotional-style lifting. If I’m not mistaken, Matt Perryman suggested something similar in Squat Everyday (it’s been a while since I’ve read it).