The deadlift is the best lift around (fight me) but it’s also one of the most intimidating. Nothing exhausts you like a grinding deadlift, and for most raw lifters, the deadlift is your strongest. That means the greatest amount of tension on your body and the longest recovery times. The squat comes close, and it can absolutely be intimidating to stand under a heavy squat, but the deadlift wins out.
This means that for the deadlift, more than for any other lift, mindset is key. You simply cannot hesitate when you walk up to the bar.
Mindset articles are a dime a dozen, they’re everywhere. And ultimately, they all boil down to one thing: that it doesn’t matter what works for you, so long as it does. Everyone has their own routines, their own ways of locking down their mindset. It’s not important what these rituals are, but having them is better than not having them.
You don’t need to copy someone else’s rituals. What works for someone else may or may not work for you, so don’t be a copycat. You don’t have to roll the bar towards your shins, or raise your arms in the air, or pull the slack out of the bar, or whatever else you’ve seen big deadlifters do. All of these things have minimal impact on how much weight you can actually lift, and aren’t going to make you magically better at deadlifting. But you’ll never complete a pull if you don’t attempt it, and you’re definitely going to mess it up if you’re not motivated to go all in.
Here’s what to do: experiment and nail down a routine for yourself. This can be almost anything. Hell, you can do a dance in front of the bar, jump up in the air, yell and scream, make a quick prayer, whatever you want - within reason, and assuming you don’t mind other people watching.
Other stuff you can do: Stick with certain songs or types of music if you’re listening. (I don’t prefer this one, because you’re not going to have your music on the platform if you’re a competitor.) Find something that pumps you up, and have it ready. Mess around with specific positioning, your grip, your foot position, your approach. Regulate your breathing. Test the slack of the bar if you want. Visualize the lift, or don’t. Focus on cuing yourself, or just clear your mind entirely. Take a deep breath, and get ready for the grind. Kiss the bar.
Don’t think what you’ve seen other people do - think football players doing their touchdown dances. Make something for yourself, and stick to it.
Why? Because having your own ritual is all that counts. Being able to return to that ritual means that you can return to that mindset and be prepared to crush it again. Consistency of mindset equals consistency of readiness and consistency of action, so you can grip that bar and rip it every time.
If you’re a seasoned lifter, chances are you’ve already nailed down some mindset strategy of your own, even if you haven’t thought about it much. If you’re a beginner, you need to get started on fashioning your strategy right away. If you’re an intermediate - maybe your strategy is working out for you, or maybe it isn’t. Maybe it needs to be played with, modified, and tested.
When it comes to heavy working sets in your workout, it can be easy to misjudge your level of recovery. Are you ready for the next set? It might not be clear, so you hesitate. But no matter what, it’s always better to follow through on that first shot than to stress yourself out, potentially limiting your ability to pull when it counts. The first time you put your hands on the bar should be the last.
I know that even with my own rituals, I’ve sometimes hesitated when I step up to the bar. The quicker the process, the better. It’s better to commit to a lift and go for it than to psych yourself out, so always try and have yourself completely ready for the first attempt. Remind yourself, mentally, that that first attempt is the one that you need to follow through on. Then do it. The more you can stick to your ritual, the stronger it will get.
At the very least - even if you’re not the strongest in the room, you can definitely be the one everyone remembers.
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