Learning to lift heavy weights is at least as much mental as it is physical. I had the physical strength to do better last week at the USAPL nationals, but was spooked by how heavy 176 pounds felt when I got under the bar for my first squat. I didn’t expect it to be so heavy, not when I’d done that and more for reps. That was my serious mistake.
“It’s always going to be heavy,” Ben kept telling us that day. “You have to get it out of your head that it’s going to be easy.” I hadn’t failed a squat since my last meet in June, so I had made a disastrous error of telling myself the first squat would be easy.
So while we’re working — always — on getting stronger, I’m also teaching my body and my brain to deal with seriously heavy weight. If I know what a really heavy weight feels like walking it out of the rack, and I do it so much that I know I can always do it, I can learn to respect the fact that it’s heavy, but still be fearless enough to lift it.
We started this week with high box squats, my favorite new thing. We’re also switching to working with kilos, so that our training is the same as competition, so today I got to put the most weight on my back I’ve ever tried, and I wasn’t afraid. For one, I had no idea how much was on the bar. My math is bad even with pound plates. Throw metric conversion into the mix and I haven’t got a clue. And because I was only going as low as the 18 inch box, I knew I could stand up. Ben kept loading the bar and loading it and loading it and I kept walking it out, sitting down and back onto the box, and back up. “It’s not hard yet,” I kept saying. Then suddenly it was, and I didn’t stand up. “You got soft when you sat,” Ben said, and let me try again, minus 1 kilo.
This time I knew how heavy it would be when I got under it. And I tightened everything as I walked it out, and squatted and drove back up. I wavered for a moment, my right knee beginning to buckle, but stayed tight and came up. I knew it was heavy from the way my hands were shaking after I racked it, but was immensely gleeful to learn it was 102 kilos. I’d just done a box squat with as many kilos as I am pounds.
When I did the math later I found that equaled 224 pounds. While I know full well a box squat is not a real squat, that I was well above parallel, I still put 224 pounds on my back, lowered it, and raised it. And while the exercise was good for building strength, it was even better for beginning to build back my confidence, even while I know it will always be heavy.