Two Pre-Training Pitfalls to Avoid like the Plague

By Mike De La Pava

There are many times we all fall victim to mental defeat before we even step foot into the gym.  Aside from building strong day-to-day habits, sometimes it is not what we do that can help but what we don’t do.  Over the years, I have seen and fallen victim to some pre-training rituals that have sabotaged my workouts.  Often these “bad decisions” are so habitual that it’s hard even to notice, let alone correct.  I have had the luxury of having great coaches over the years who have helped me address some of my pre-training demons.   Being a coach and gym owner has also allowed me to identify some bad habits in my lifters. I am going to list the two most common pre-training pitfalls I see, how some of you can identify your bad patterns, and why taking them out of your daily training routine can lead to a great gym session.

Setting unrealistic goals for the day

Too many times I have seen lifters enter the gym hell-bent on establishing a massive PR.  The day might call for a heavy triple or double or even the beloved single lift, which can make any lifter salivate for the chance to show off a new PR.  What many fail to grasp is that not all training sessions are created equal.  Take into consideration the day you are having, the meals you’ve eaten, and the rest you had the night before.  Sometimes our passion will overtake our discipline, and we will walk into the gym with nothing other than a PR in our mind.  This scorched earth mentality can lead us to make hasty decisions and often leads us down the path of post-failed-PR depression.  By no means am I saying that you shouldn’t have the confidence to hit a personal best; on the contrary, I hope this list helps you facilitate them.  What I am saying is that your preparation outside of the gym is extremely valuable.  Talk to your coach, take a look at your day, and gauge where your mind and body are.  Many times, making the foot off the pedal and finding another way to win the day can bring far more value than running a red light by your power rack.  Think, assess, and discuss the goal of the day then make a realistic choice based around your current training program and the capabilities allowed to your body the day for this point in training.


Treating your training session as social hour around the water cooler

I get it, we all like to catch up at the gym and chat about the latest Instagram meme and our drinking habits over the weekend.  Let’s face it, some of our best friends are at the gym, and the urge to work out our tongues can come very easy around the barbell.  No one is telling you to avoid a meaningful conversation like the plague, but unfortunately what seems like an innocent habit of “catching up” can quickly become detrimental to your training session.  There are a time and place for most things in life and as fun, as it may seem to compare quad sizes and weekend conquests, not taking a heavy lift can be the difference between a PR and a career-ending injury.  Fight or Flight.  All or Nothing.  The basic fundamentals of strength recruitment all hover around the idea of setting a mindset or the “killer instinct” before your attempt.  Too often, we fall victim to telling a funny story or trying to talk our way out of our pre-lift nerves right before our squat, deadlift, or stone load.  Make it clear to yourself and your training partners that there will be a time to catch up and a time to train.  You don’t have to be an asshole but lead by example when you want your lift to be taken seriously.  During your main session, keep outside chatter to a minimum and instead focus on providing queues, proper feedback, and a healthy environment around the power rack.  This approach is not only going to benefit you but your teammates, as well.


Take Home

More often than not, a successful training session is decided outside of the gym.  There are some days where you will be at a mental low, or tired, or even sick and still produce surprising results in the gym.  Hell, you might even win a competition on days like this, but I am not here to talk about those unicorn days.  Let’s be real; if we were all that lucky, we wouldn’t be reading this. Instead, we would be out collecting winning lotto tickets.  For the most part, a well-prepared athlete will win the day because they started their successful day hours or even days before a big training session.  These two pitfalls listed above are a few amongst many habitual training sandpits that many of us have fallen victim to. Hopefully, these personal hiccups of mine bring to light some of yours, too.  What some of us might consider a standard gym ritual might be the reason we are falling short during more serious training sessions.  So, next time you are planning your week or preparing to attack another lift, make sure you check your list once or twice to make sure you are not sabotaging your training with bad habits!


“Never Stray from The Way”

To read more of MDLP’s articles and blog posts, click HERE and to learn more about preparing for a big training session mentally and physically, 10/20/Life Second Edition will walk you through it every step of the way.

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Michael “MDLP” De La Pava is currently a competitive Strongman and owner of The Battle Axe Gym. Born in Miami, Florida into a Colombian household, Michael finished his schooling by attending Penn State University where he graduated with a Degree in Psychology. Having his roots in martial arts, he would go on to compete in various sports as a Muay Thai fighter, Powerlifter, and rugby player before committing himself fully to Strongman. During this time, he opened Miami’s first Strongman gym, The Battle Axe, where he currently coaches athletes from various disciplines including powerlifting, MMA fighters, Strongman, officers of multiple authorities and enlisted and active military operators. Competing in Strongman for over 6 years has given Michael the opportunity to rank as high as 15th in the nation (105kg), won Florida’s Strongest man (1st in 2014 and 2nd in 2015 in the 105kg class), lift and load a 420 pound Atlas stone, log press 335, pull 700, and most importantly, share the competitive battlefield with some of the best in the game. During this journey, Michael suffered what some would consider a potentially career-ending spine injury. It was at this time that Brian and Michael would begin working together to not only rehab his spine, allowing him to return to Strongman but also develop a new Strongman training program revolving around the 10/20 philosophy. Strongman and coaching have given Michael the opportunity to travel around the nation and the world to train, coach and be coached, as well as share ideas with various leaders in the strength community. Michael’s experience and network in strongman brings a welcome connection with the ever-growing sport of Strongman to the 10/20 team and PRS family.

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