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Mental Preparation for Weightlifting

September 27, 2007


“Mental preparation” is a term used by sport psychologists to describe the process found to be valuable for athletes in most sports. Because of the nature of weightlifting, being mentally prepared is, probably, more appropriate than most sports because of the nature of the event. Firstly, the competition is, essentially, a self centerd task because the focus is on the athlete’s performance in reference to his/her own standards as well as to the competition’s outcomes. Secondly, the actual event is of such a short duration in terms of the actual lift that being mentally prepared before and during the lift will enhance performance.

There are three stages of……

…… a competition in sport regarding mental preparation. These are:

1. the pre-competition phase

2. the competition phase; and

3. the post-competition phase

The pre-competition phase should be concerned with using techniques to avert distractions, become settled and certainly to focus on the venue, the athlete’s own mental state at the time and to avoid all other thoughts.

The competition phase implies having strategies in place to optimize the mental state of the athlete and to ensure that the focus is on making the best possible lift and not on winning. If an athlete does the best lift possible then the winning will take care of itself. Research shows clearly that focusing only on winning will detract from an optimal performance. This is one of the reasons why athletes may lift better in training than in competition.

The post-competition phase is an individual one. Some athletes like to be on their own and consider their performances whilst others prefer to talk to their coach or other competitors. Most essentially, in this phase, focus of attention should only be on the positive aspects of the performance and how they can be improved.

Because a weightlifting competition is very structured the adoption of a “ritual” will aid the preparation phase. Consider the warm up room as the focus for pre-competition strategies; the chalk tray, the mat, addressing the bar as key situational points where appropriate strategies can be employed. The actual lift, then, will be effected with the appropriate lead up to a point of total arousal. Throughout the “ritual” the use of techniques such as relaxation and mental rehearsal (pre-competition phase), self talk and affirmations with focus (at competition phase) will enhance performance. It must be stressed that such strategies are skills themselves that need to be learned and practiced. As a sport Psychologist of many years I have, always, encouraged the use of mental plans, or preparation, as being a part of training routines and not a “fast fix” at the time of competition. By learning and practicing mental training skills, routinely, they become habituated and form a “normal” part of the competition “ritual” for an enhanced performance.

The above article was written by Barry Kerr and appeared on the site for The Queensland Weightlifting Association. Here’s the link to the full article.

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