Sunday, 25 November 2012

How to Have At It

Have at it is one of my favourite expressions in regards to training. It makes me want to work hard and kill it in the gym. Here's how to have at it in the gym.

Before you workout you will do a typical warm up for your body. So the same should be done for your mind. Mental preparation will get you psyched up and motivated to lift. it will prepare your body to work hard and not quit when it starts to feel tough. The best thing to do to prepare yourself mentally is go for a walk with music on. for me this is the walk to the gym. if you drive then spend 5-10mins walking on the treadmill in the gym to prepare yourself. During this walk you need to go over in your head exactly what needs doing that day. go over exactly what weight you are going to lift and for what reps and sets. If it helps then visualise yourself making the lift. imagine exactly what the bar will look like, what combination of plates there will be on it. imagine yourself grinding through the lifts in exactly the same amount of time it takes you to do them in real life. give yourself positive reinforcement during this time. try to make your words more aggressive and dramatic. rather than tell yourself "i can do this" instead go with "I'm going to tear shit up" or something along those lines. If you compete then imagine yourself winning a big competition of lifting a massive weight. Your walk shouldn't be too long anywhere from 5-20mins. Your music choice is very important it needs to escalate as you get closer to the gym don't start out with killer death metal. That is the kind of thing you listen too during your hardest sets not on the way to the gym. Save certain songs purely for this purpose. Have songs that you only listen too on the way to the gym or while your lifting otherwise you become desensitised to them and they no longer have the same psyching up affect they once had. Your music choice needs to be something that fits to walking with purpose. your kind of marching in to battle music as opposed to actually fighting the battle.

Here are a few of my marching into battle songs

You probably get the idea.

once you get to the gym don't hang around get changed quickly and get warming up. Don't spend ages talking to the people at the gym. Imagine you've just lit a fire that is you work ethic and motivation. It is literally a matter of time until the fuel burns up and the fire goes out. Talking too much is a distraction. every time i have sat around talking to people at the gym i have then proceeded to have a shitty workout. I would even change gyms to avoid training at a place which is too social.

So you're in the gym and are warming up. What you want to do is completely own and dominate your warm up weights. lift them as explosively and violently as possible. the warm up sets can be a great way to prime your body and nervous system. they can also give you targets to hit each time you train. How explosively can you make a weight feel or how light and easy can you make it feel. your warm ups should also give you an indication of how your workout is going to go. I have certain indicator weight which will tell me how the workout is going to go. this is usually 170kg in the squat and 200kg in the deadlift. If they absolutely fly up i know I'm in for a good one. if they feel heavy and slow I'm probably not in for a great day.

So you've warmed up, have been smashing your warm up weights and are ready to tackle the heavy sets. I would suggest not listening to music during all of your warm up but instead saving it purely for your working sets.

The battle:

Get yourself psyched up. If you watch most people in the gym before a set they will roll up to the bar with no real focus or intensity. they will stroll up to the bar as if they are trying to decide whether to have a Chinese or Indian for dinner that night. this is a recipe for failure.

Some serious intensity right there

 You need to have focus before a big set. you need to block everything else out. nothing else exists on earth that that moment in time except you and the bar.
Visualisation as i talked about when you are walking into battle can work great again here too. Close your eyes and imagine the set. imagine exactly how the bar will feel, exactly how heavy it will be, imagine yourself pushing through the reps, fighting the sticking point, imagine bracing your abs, imagine exactly how you will breath. Make your visualisation process last as long as the set would actually take. Imagine yourself grinding through the lift at the same speed each rep would be done. Imagine where you eyesight would be during each phase of the lift. make it as vivid as possible. when you have finished the visualisation it is time to get ready for the set.
Breathing can play a very big factor here. big deep breaths can certainly focus your mind and give a sense of calm intensity. more rapid breathing can also work almost of the verge of hyperventilating. this can quicken your heart rate and increase adrenaline levels which is perfect before a big set.
Focus your eyesight. do not look around but instead stare the bar down as if it were your opponent in a boxing match looking away would be a sign of submissiveness. Some people may find it helps to wear a hoodie because it blocks your peripheral vision and gives you a single focus point straight ahead. furrow you brow. this focuses your sight even more and makes you look and feel mean.

If either of these were your opponent would you take you eyes off them

During this building up process you shouldn't feel anxious about what others will think of you. they make think you look stupid psyching yourself up but when they see you smash through a massive weight they will respect you for it.  Your internal dialogue can also have a big effect on the psyching up process. particular words can work well. just thinking words like strong or powerful can be useful. mind set words like push or explode work and also stop you mind wandering to other mundane shit. For me two words which work great just before a heavy set are "HERE, NOW" They remind me that on this day, at this time, in this place, shit is going to go down. I will touch later on the significance of these words in a future post. Another thing i like is too remind yourself that this set is going to be tough but that you are tougher. If during this process your face somewhat resembles the tiger above you're doing it right.
 The right music before a big set is crucial. it needs to be brutal and fast paced, metal is a good way to go but it obviously depend on your own preferences. some stuff I've been liking recently.

I fucking love Celldweller although almost no one has ever heard of them. Almost all they songs are great to lift to but Shut'em Down is especially brutal.

Blue Stali is another underrated band very similar to Celldweller.

I wouldn't suggest listening to this kind of stuff during your whole workout just during you heavy work sets. when the set is finished turn off your music and calm yourself down. this will aid recovery between sets better than is you try to stay amped even during your rest period. Also save certain songs purely for lifting purposes. i love these songs but i never listen to them except when i lift at the gym. i don't want to become desensitised to them from hearing them too often. I want to maintain their psyching up effect on me. You don't want to be doing this too often in a workout or for every exercise. 1-2 exercises max.

Use these techniques sparingly and save them purely for the toughest and heaviest sets. you don't need to psyche yourself up for a set of bicep curls or leg extensions but when used for PR sets of squats and deadlifts it works great.

Now go forth and have at some new PR's!

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