With the recent release of the latest Star Wars movie, I vividly recall watching the original Star Wars with the climactic scene where Luke Skywalker is the Rebellion’s last hope to destroy the Death Star. When the time came take the critical shot, Luke is advised by Obi-Wan Kenobi to turn off the guidance system and trust the Force when taking the shot. At the time, I could not believe he would turn off the computer. But, of course he did, and later we realize that was the only possible path to success.
At the gym, we often see people performing their lifts utilizing great technique with weights at 80%-90% of their max. But, once they start getting close to their max or trying for a new max, their technique completely changes. Then, they miss the lift or even worse, get injured. Why does this happen and how can people rewrite this script?
The answer is: Trust your Technique. By this, I mean that you don’t need to change things and do something different when the weights get heavier. Depend on your technique, not your power or adrenaline, especially as you get close to your max. For athletes new to the sport, this can be very difficult. And for the experienced lifter, it is not always easy for them either. Have you ever watched the best lifters perform their three competitive snatch attempts? All three lifts often look exactly the same, whether it is a fairly light opener or a world record attempt. These lifters understand that the only way to make their best lifts is to stay focused on their technique, not to power through the attempt. As US record holder Norik Vardanian likes to say, one should try to “PR your technique, not the weight”. This is a great thought. You should remain focused on improving your technique and forget about the weights on the bar. Keep this in mind in both your training as well as in your competitions.
Let’s look at a couple examples. While working on Jerks, I’ve seen people look great while warming up only to fall apart when the weight gets heavy. They start tensing up. You see it in their faces and the way they grip the bar so tight. Then, they push more with their arms and forget about using their legs properly. This is common for beginners and people coming from more of a power lifting background. It is often a hard habit to overcome. Another common example is with the snatch. Someone can be smooth while they accelerate the bar properly with their legs, making the lift look easy. Then, the weight gets heavy. They change their technique and start yanking the bar with their arms, hoping it gets high enough for them to muscle it out overhead.
You just need to mentally shift your mind to focus on your form, not the amount of weight on the bar.
We also see this scenario occur in other sports. Let’s take a look at the throwing events in track and field. These events differ slightly from the sport of weightlifting in that the weight of the implement does not change, but the distance thrown varies depending on the technique and speed of the thrower. During a competition, each athlete takes several throws, striving for maximum distance on each throw. There is also a warm-up period where competitors take several throws to prepare for the actual competition. These throws are not measured and do not count, but you often see some athletes throwing far and “winning” the warm-ups. They would have great throws while warming up, utilizing excellent speed and technique. Then when the real competition begins, they tense up and try to power the throw instead of remaining focused on their technique, resulting in poor performance and short distance. On the other end of the spectrum, the best throwers stay relaxed and focused on their technique during the competitions. These throwers are rewarded with greater distances and personal competitive bests. This concept of relying more on technique than pure power is very relevant to weightlifting.
In order to be a successful weightlifter, experienced lifters understand that as weights get heavier, they need to stay especially focused on their form. They “Trust their Technique”. This is so important but it doesn’t have to be difficult. You just need to mentally shift your mind to focus on your form, not the amount of weight on the bar. Just like Luke Skywalker turning off the guidance system and trusting the Force, one often needs to turn off the normal human reaction to “push harder”. Instead, stay focused on “PRing your technique”. You know the proper form. Don’t let a weak mind stop you from performing your best and be more confident in your lifts as you “Trust your Technique”!
About the author:
John Tullo is fairly new to the sport of Weightlifting but draws insights from his extensive experience as a competitive javelin thrower. His accomplishments include US Junior National Champion, Collegiate All-American, US Olympic Trials competitor, and US Masters National Champion. John is an aspiring Photoshop artist.