When we think of other sports, i.e. football, basketball, hockey, or baseball, we can look at how practices are run and how games are played. It starts with youth programs and goes all the way up to the professional level, but they have a practice schedule and game schedule. During these practices, the coach may have their athlete’s work on systems, different plays, skills, and sometimes (depending on the level of competition) they will do video analysis of themselves or their opponents.
Why do these sports programs do this? The answer is simple; to sharpen their skills and to prepare for an upcoming game(s). Looking back at weightlifting, how can someone sharpen their skills (lifts) before a competition? Again, the answer is simple; training. You don't typically see athletes of these other sports going into practices playing an all scrimmage/game against each other. You will not get much better if you just do that. Same concept holds true to weightlifting. If you just show up everyday and try to max out your lifts without regard to your technique, you will probably not see a whole lot of results. Do not get me wrong, some people respond better to training heavy and some people respond better to training with more volume.
At Kingfield Barbell, we like to have a certain mindset both for training and for competition. Today, we will dive into each of these mindsets and difference between training and competition and how I approach each.
One of my coaches, Kirksman Teo, shared this amazing quote with me and how I should approach training. He said, “We want to approach training with the mindset of a hunter instead of a rabbit.” His reasoning behind this was that a rabbit just chases things that it wants... but the hunter will take a step back and evaluate different ways to catch the rabbit. It might not be that same day, but over time the hunter will be smart enough to catch the rabbit. Too often I find myself chasing numbers in training, which was frustrating and resulted in me lacking confidence. Once he told me this quote, I realized that I needed to stop chasing the numbers and let them come to me while I worked on improving my technique and trusting it once the weights got heavier.
Not everyday is going to be a good day. Some days we will feel great and some days we will feel like we got hit by semi truck. Take a step back and iron out technique instead of forming bad habits. It has helped me in my training to pick 1-2 things to focus on for that given day. I will spend about 10-15 minutes just moving with an empty bar to really work on those things. For example, I may notice I am not pulling with my elbows up. I will do a few sets of standing muscle snatches to really feel that I am pulling up on the bar. I understand that time is a factor for a lot of people but it will help in the long run if you slow things down instead of forcing it.
In training, we like to focus on technique and being as proficient as possible. No matter what cycle we have our athletes doing, the biggest emphasis will be technique. Our rule of thumb is technique over load, or quality over quantity. We want to have the mindset of getting better and being consistent everyday. Just because the weight might be lighter, this does not mean going through the motions. We want to focus on the movement with 40 kilos on the bar the same we would if there was 140 kilos on the bar.
Everyone approaches competition differently. Some go into competition light hearted, wanting to have a good time. Some go in not wanting to talk to anyone and really trying to get into the zone. For me, the light hearted approach has worked the best. Yes, I still listen to music but I like to joke around and just laugh when I am warming up. My thought process on this: happy thoughts equal happy lifting. I know that sounds kind of corny but it is true. The more positive I was, the better my performance was. I tried a few competitions where I would go into being super serious and just focus on the weight. I would not talk to anyone and rarely smiled...it did not end well. Whichever works for you, stick with that mindset going into competition. I will say though, it is easier going into competition with the same mindset you approach training. Think about it. If you have a heavy day in training and you are having a great time with the other lifters in the back smiling/joking around and you hit a PR, it feels good! Why would you want to flip a switch and put added pressure on yourself in competition? Keeping things consistent (technique, preparation, routine, and mindset) will go a long way.
It never hurts to have a plan. You and your coach should sit down together and come up with some numbers that you want to hit at the competition. This conversation should be a 2-way street. A little bit of give and take from both ends. One thing that Kingfield Barbell will always say to our athletes is that you should aim to get at least one on the board. After that, it is bonus lifts. If we get one on the board, that will give us an extra boost of confidence going into our 2nd and 3rd attempts. Some competitions will require different game plans too. You and another lifter might both be in the running to get 1st overall so now it becomes like a chess match. Or maybe you haven’t competed in a while and we want to encourage some confidence on the platform. If this is the case, we will go with lighter weights and the goal will be to go 6/6. But most importantly, have a plan.
Here are some experiences I have had with training versus competition. I hope some of the mindsets we have talked about help and you take some time experimenting with both to find out which one works best for you. Thank you!
- Coach Josh, Kingfield Barbell