T Nation

A Question Of Overcoming Mental Barriers

Hi All!

I am a long-time lurker…first time poster. I have been reading t-nation (t-mag) for about 2 years, and absolutely LOVE the information I’ve gotten from it’s pages. (and it’s members)

Anyways, my question is one of “over-coming” those mental barriers that we place on ourselves. I’ve been working out for a couple of years, and although I’ve increased my strength in my legs, and back, etc. I can’t seem to increase the bench press weight. I know that it’s a mental thing that started when I first began working out. I began my working out with friends, and they were more experienced then me (and thus much stronger), and I was always behind, and always felt “lacking” in the bench area. Now, even though none of them workout anymore (and I workout on my own) I still feel “weak” on the bench…)

So, are there any techniques that you guys can recommend for just “doing it” when it comes to the bench press?

Thanks in advance for any responses!!

try pushups, ballistic pushups, suspended pushups, band pushups, etc…this will work the same movement/muscles as the bench press but create an entirely different mental perspective.

also interested in the replies for this one. my bench is the slowest to increase… it’s always good if you have a spotter for your bench. provided that you do, you can always go heavier than you when you’re alone.

for me increases in bp, just take time… a long time. perhaps i’m doing it wrong, so … bring on the replies.

First off what are your stats: age/weight/max lifts

no need for all of us giving you ideas for a big bench if you don’t need it.

Some practical advice read all the articles involving west side and dave tate, they are great motivators expecially the education of a powerlifter series.

Finally from my own personal experiance the only way I’ve found to break through mental road blocks was to man up and get under the weight. I was stuck at 225 for 3 reps in squat when I knew I had more, so I alternating working up to 225 one day a week and working beyond (slowly) for 3 reps another. After a couple weeks my confidance went up and 225 was eay for 5 reps and 3 weeks later (today) hit 245x5

Hi Again Guys!

Thanks for the replies so far…As to the push-ups, I think that’s something that I’m going to add this week.

As to the stats…

Age: 27
Weight: 185
Max lifts…Bench was 210 this morning (I wanted a good measure of max…so I did it today…couldn’t get 215 more than 1 1/2 inches off my chest…)

As to my training so far, (if you have time to read it):

Wide-grip chins: 5 sets of 5
Bench Press: Work upto sets of 3 reps
Seated rows: 5 sets of 5
Bent-Over rows: 3 sets of 5
Military Press: 3 sets of 5

Ass-to-grass squats: 3 sets of 8 (after warm-up)
Stiff legged deads: 3 sets of 8
Seated calf-raises: 3 sets of 20

Incline Dumb-bell bench: 3 sets 10
Incline DB rows: 3 sets 10
Seated rows: 3 sets 10
One Arm rows: 3 sets 10
Alternating curls: 3 sets 8
Skull Crushers: 3 sets 10
Tri-cep press: 3 sets 8

Last week I started to substitute speed bench work instead of Incline db bench to work on my bench speed.

(I also do taekwondo on Fri/Sun…so I can’t really workout on those days)


Thanks again for any time you can give me for help!

I feel board presses is one of the most useful exercises for moving your bench press up. You do need a spotter for this though. Your body will adjust and get used to having to support this much weight. You will mentally get used to having this much weight over you and your regular bench will start to go up.

You can also try some mental imagary. Sit down and relax and go through your workouts in your mind and see your self lifting heavier weight. This will also help you get over a mental block. Your subconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between an imagined workout and a real workout. This will help keep you from being mentally beat by the weight.

[quote]UserRamma wrote:

Max lifts…Bench was 210 this morning (I wanted a good measure of max…so I did it today…couldn’t get 215 more than 1 1/2 inches off my chest…)


If I can throw in my .02 here, you need to focus on building basic strength. Later in your thread you discuss starting to add in speed bench; IMO, speed bench is pretty much worthless until you get stronger. Remember that Power = Force x Velocity, so if your total force is low (force = mass x acceleration), then velocity isn’t going to matter a whole lot. Stick to the basics and get stronger first.

Second, if you missed that close to your chest, chances are you need some heavy dumbbell work in your program. I would focus on flat and decline dumbbell work, along with the other comments that were given above. Heavy top-end work is great for confidence because it gets heavy weight in your hands.

Stay strong

The thing that has helped me get out of my head on bp is having dependable and knowledgeable spotters. You can do anything else you like to improve your bench but progress will be slower without someone there helping you out if you take on too much. Also I notice a definite power decrease on dynamic days when I self-spot. You can’t set yourself as firmly and your shoulder takes a beating pressing out the weight and shifting it forward. Find a good gym with people who know what the F— they’re doing and hit that gym on bp day. If it’s too far away for a week day, get in there on the weekend.

I have trouble with increasing my bench as well. I can perhaps get 300 on a good day mainly I am lurking at a mangy 275 pounds. I would like help from you guys in order to increase strength.
I want to do that Dave Tate program but there are some things that are stopping me.

  1. No spotters
  2. Crowded gym
  3. No boards to do that 3 board press (is it essential?)

My stats are:
220 pounds

What I currently do:

I noticed I have a crappy bird/cookie looking chest.
So taking some advice from this P.T( who is a good one), I always pre-exhaust my shoulders before going on to bench press.
If I don’t do this, I find I don’t feel soreness in my chest at all after training but all in the shoulders.

My pre-exhausting ritual

Front raises 15-20 pound dumbells depending how I feel x 10, rest for 10 secs, side raises (same weight) x 10 rest for 60-80 secs.
3 sets
Then, shoulder presses with 30-40 pound dumbells 3 sets (60 sec rest in between)

Chest routine
Dumbell flys. Incline or flat depending with 30-35 pound dumbells for 3-4 sets.

Barbell bench press or dumbell bench press 3-4 sets of 6 reps.

Cable crossovers 3 x 8-10. cables set low so I am bring them up and across as opposed to down and across.

then perhaps bench pullovers to expand the serratus.

Is that too much? Or too little? What do you think guys? and gals?
Thanks for your input.

My chest looks high. It bulges after training but it’s too high and doesn’t expand across the rib cage enough. I do pullovers and all that jazz but I haven’t seen a marked improvement at all.
A friend suggested it’s genetic.
What do you think guys?

Alright guys! Thanks for the advice…so, if I’m understanding correctly…

I should maybe change the monday bench workout to implement some kindof board press or pin press? And then thursday implement some heavy dumbell flat/decline presses? (and add some ballistic push-ups everyother workout?)

I workout at home on my own, so having a spotter is not an option. However, I have a power rack, and maybe can rely on the pin-presses for getting used to the “heavy” weights…

Does that make sense to you guys?

Thanks again!

Hey, this is in response to your program, I just glanced at it, and noticed that, well, you seem to work at least onepart of your chest every single day, i seriously doubt that you’re giving those muscles enough time to repair themselves, thus, those gains that you really want, are going to come ever so slowly, I recommend that you try to reformat your program so that you can work each muscle group one to two days of the week max, this way, your muscles will be able to heal fully, and give you those gains in both size and strength thatyou want. and to everyone else, I need to know some "tricks " if you will to boost my bench, as well, I’m taking my own advice in this instance, and well, I’m doing all the excercises that I know will boost my bench, flat benc DB, incline, bench itself, negatives, ect, but could you help me out and tell me any other ones??? thanx for any help, and best of luck to you ‘UserRamma’

Mental barriers suck! That being said to let you know that I agree with you let me offer something. A lot of times when some ones bench fails once they get heavy it can be mental but it can also be that they have a shoulder problem (or tricep weakness.) As Louie S. says you have to train your weak points. If you have a bad rotator cuff or a bad bicep attatchment then once you go up in weight your golgi bodies in your muscles will sense danger due to your less than fortifide shoulder girdle and shut you down. When this happens you will not get that slow push that terminates somewhere in the middle of the bench and someone helps you finish it. Instead you will just bomb out at the bottom. You’ll have controll on the way down but you’ll have nothin’ on the way up. If that is the case then you may have yourself a shoulder issue. You have to ask yourself how much rotator cuff work you have done and if you’ve had any pain in your shoulder lately. If you have then your issue might not be mental but physiological. I have seen it before so I might offer this to you…

One trick that has always worked for me to increase my weights is to lift slightly above my current max. I cant put this into words very well (it’s early) but I can give you some examples:
There are two methods I use, I’ll use the bench for example, but this would work with squats or deads as well.

  1. Say your trying to increase your 5 rep max of 225 in the bench. What I would do is shoot for 3 reps at 230, or 2 reps at 235, take a break then try another set at 225. After a couple weeks of doing this you’ll find the 225 doesn’t feel quite as heavy. Part of it is psychological, part of it is neurological.

  2. Using a power rack and pins, do partials with a signifigant amount more weight than your used to. example: position the pins so your only doing the upper third of the movement, then throw on 20-30 more pounds than your max (for the reps you desire) and power a few out. This works with the same principles as the first example (neuro, and psyco) but to a higher level. Obviously you must ensure you practice these techniques with caution, as you don’t want an injury, and don’t use them for too long or they’ll lose their effectiveness through burn out.

Another alternative to this, used in the same manner, would be to lower your weight and increase reps for approx. 2 weeks, giving your muscles some extra work from the higher reps (strengthing them along with the connective tissue) and at the same time giving your CNS a break from the higher reps.)

Hope this helps