Mental Mistakes

By Ben Sheard

Powerlifting is a sport that is both physically and mentally demanding. While we all know or have a relative idea of how to improve our physical capabilities, the mental aspect can be tougher to figure out.  On top of that, mental toughness is something that can be hard to acquire if you don’t already have it. That being said, I have enough insight into some of the mental mistakes I have made as a powerlifter to be able to come up with a list of them for you to avoid.  These apply to both meet day and in training, but they were mostly mistakes that I made during meets, or heavy pre-contest training.

Not treating every set as if it is 100%.

This is something that cannot be stressed enough.  Practice how you play, as the saying goes.  Run through your mental checklist before every lift during training.  Do you have enough spotters (preferably the same ones every time)?  Is the rack height set to your number?  Is the bar centered directly in the rack so that your un-rack is even?  Are you placing your hands/back/feet in the same position every set?  There are a lot of steps and it may seem like a lot to go through, but the reason you go through each of these steps in training is so that come meet day, it all just flows naturally.  Perfecting each step during your pre-contest training will make for a flawless attempt on the day it counts.

Not having a handler for a meet or good training partners during heavy training sessions.

I’ve seen this way too many times to count.  Lifters showing up to a meet unprepared and without a handler they trust to guide them through the day is all too common.  There might be some lifters who lift unequipped in sleeves who can get away with it, but it still helps to have someone there with you to keep you on track and help with your attempt selection.  Guys who lift in gear and raw with wraps absolutely need at least one handler to wrap them and help with gear.  I’ve had someone ask me to wrap them when they were in the hole for their first squat attempt and I was only a few guys after them.  The whole point of being mentally prepared for the meet is out the window when you aren’t focused on your lift at hand and are busy scrambling to find help from strangers.

Sometimes, it might be hard to come by good training partners, but if there are good lifters in the gym, surround yourself with them.  On your heavy sets in the gym, have training partners give you cues and good spots for your lifts.  Have someone in the gym take videos so that you can review them when needed and make the adjustments that you need.  This all circles around back to having less to worry about on meet day.  Practice the way you play and make each lift as technically sound as possible.

Coasting through meet prep.

One of the biggest mistakes that I am ashamed to have made in the past is coasting through my prep.  In my first 3 multi-ply meets I made progress every meet and hit PR totals.  Somewhere along the line I started to not work as hard as I used to and just coasted through my meet prep thinking that I would chip off my last total for another PR.  I was wrong and so is anyone who thinks that they don’t need to put in the work to receive the results that they want on the platform.  By the time the meet rolled around, I knew that I wasn’t mentally prepared as a result of feeling guilty for not working my ass off.  In the end, I bombed out of that meet and have since been working harder to get the total that I have been chasing.

By no means is this a comprehensive list of all mental mistakes that I have made during prep, there are plenty more, but these are just a few that have come up for me recently.  As I put more time into the sport, I hope to be able to come up with a list of how I got mentally prepared for a recent PR total.  Stay tuned!

To read more from Ben and to follow his training leading into his next meet, check out his Author Page.  If you’ve been dealing with mental mistakes yourself and need some advice on how to overcome them, why don’t you slide into our Q&A section and get some answers!

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Ben Sheard

Ben Sheard started powerlifting at age 13, competing in single ply from 1999-2004 back in his home state of Ohio. He started powerlifting again in 2014 after struggling with substance abuse/addiction for over 10 years. Competing as a raw powerlifter, he achieved an Elite Total at 198 lbs. Best raw lifts at 198 are 611 squat, 352 bench, and a 606 lb deadlift. Recently made a transition to Multi-Ply in 2017. Coached by Brian Carroll using 10/20 Life, he achieved a Pro Total in his most recent meet at 198lbs. Best equipped lifts in a meet are an 804 squat, a weak 463 bench, and a 700lb deadlift. He is a NASM certified PT, but works full time as a Supervisor at a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center in Deerfield Beach, FL. Currently training out of Boynton Barbell Center in Boynton Beach, FL. Ben will be competing next at the XPC Pro Day in Columbus, where he looks to secure a 2,000+ lb total at 198.
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