Are you creating good lifting habits?

Written by Arianna Hoffman

If you have ever watched a high-level lifter get under a barbell, you’ve probably seen them perform some bizarre rituals in their set-ups. Elite athletes are trained for consistency and nearly mechanized movement. Every repetition of every set looks identical. While the bar speed may change with heavier loads, the technique does not.

One element of this that I ingrain in the minds of my clients is the way they approach the bar.

For example, in the back squat, I always begin my sets by placing my hands evenly on the barbell first. From here, I step under the barbell and take three short, precise steps out of the rack. I then inhale deeply through my mouth and create tension in my abdomen. As I ascend from the bottom of the squat, I forcefully exhale. I see many lifters approach the bar haphazardly, take a few wobbly steps out and then just hope and pray for the best. This is not the way to become a better, stronger lifter. Instead, it is optimal to find your routine and stick to it everyday for every set.

If you always grab the barbell for deadlifts with your left hand first, then you should keep that the same each workout. These rituals specific to the lifter create patterns in our brains. It allows our movement to be smooth and consistent from one workout to the next. Everyone’s approach will vary, so play around with your stance, grip width, walkout, et cetera, and find out what works for you specifically.

Additionally, lifters have a tendency to approach light and heavy weights differently. My former coach always used to say to me “lift the light weights like they’re heavy and the heavy weights like they’re light.” This means that each lift, even the warm-ups need to be approached with focus and intention. You can’t just saunter through your warm-up sets and start paying attention once you get to the heavy weights–every set requires equal amounts of mindfulness. Additionally, it is important not to let heavy weights frighten you. Once you’re getting near your 1RM, it’s easy to let that anxiety take over your mind. Just treat your maximal lifts like they’re routine, and soon enough they will be.

Remember that your brain likes to form patterns and relationships, so implementing these small rituals will set you up for lifting success and PRs!

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