For anyone trying to improve muscle mass or overall body physique, weight training is a must. To ensure results training protocols must be steadily progressive and increasingly demanding to stimulate progress. However, for those that have been weight training for any extended period of time there often comes a point when a plateau is reached and neither the weight nor number of repetitions can be increased. Generally, this is a good indicator that you should mix up your training routine to facilitate growth. However, as an alternative there are some subtle mental techniques that may enable you to break through these barriers to growth. This article breaks down these techniques and applies them to the three common plateau inducing exercises common to powerlifting.
The intention of resistance training is to enable you to allow your muscles to reach a point where they cannot complete what is demanded of them. The act of using weights to take the body to ‘failure’ elicits a response that when combined with appropriate rest and nutrition causes the body to grow additional muscle to eventually be able to handle this load and then the body is ready to deal with slightly heavier loads. A training plateau is the term used to define the state where the body can cope with a certain load but cannot progress to a higher weight – therefore progress will stop (or reduce significantly). In relation to muscular growth these plateaus can be overcome by working the muscles differently but they also may be overcome through mental preparation techniques. Before you consider visiting a sports psychologist to help you to lift heavier weights give the following techniques a try and see if they help to increase your maximum lifts.
Typically for anyone engaged in this exercise all mental focus is directed towards whether you are able to lift (or push) the bar off of your chest. The subtle act adjusting focus can help in this exercise. In this instance try to imagine that you are pushing your body away from the bar and down through the bench. This act of mental imagery transforms the action (at least in the minds’ eye) and can be effective for greater muscle fibre activation.
The key to an improved squat can be as simple as pulling the bar down whilst you are engaged in this exercise. This action locks your torso and core, which facilitates better technique and improves stability.
Similar to the bench press technique highlighted previously to improve your deadlift it may prove fruitful to adopt a process of mental imagery. In this case try to imagine you are falling backwards as you lift the bar from the floor. This will improve leverage and should facilitate the bar to move up more easily than when you focus upon lifting it off the ground through upward motion.
· Mental Preparation can be the difference between success and failure.
· The act of thinking about things differently can facilitate better results.