T Nation

How to Build Mental Strength or Mental Mass?


#1

Good afternoon Jim, Brandon here.

I have a question here.

How one can build up the mental strength/mental mass in order to keep going until the goal is achieved when the body and the mind are in fatigue state?

I always terminate my working/PR sets (hit 2-3 reps) when my goal is 5 reps. I am too afraid to grind as the fear of injuries are there. I felt like a loser when I terminate the sets and lie to myself that this is all because I want to avoid injuries and I want to lift for the long terms.

The fact is my mind is too weak and I wish you can give me some advice on how to build the mental strength in order to get the goal achieved and get where I want to be.

Thanks.

Regards
Brandon


#2

Am not Wendler but can relate to grinding being scary.

Dunno about mental strength… maybe confidence would do you good.

Spotters and appropriate height safety catches can reduce chances of serious injury to almost nothing. Failing will hurt naught but your pride as you dump onto the safeties but knowing that you’re safe no matter what can give you the confidence to push.

If your form is good and doesn’t break down closer to failure your unlikely to injure yourself grinding. If your form doesn’t break down it’s just slow as opposed to risky.

You will never get good at or get used to grinding if you never grind. You don’t have to go the extra 2-3 reps right away next time but maybe start with just one more rep when you begin to fatigue.

Hold at the top, get your air, get tight and tell yourself “one more even tho it is probably going to be slow.” Don’t think too much just go for it. Move it as fast as you can and grind it out.

Next time grind out one then go for another with the same process. Treat them like individual repetitions. If you fail it wasn’t your mind that was too weak. You just weren’t strong enough on the day.


#3

Same here, not Wendler, but I can relate to some extent. I pretty much never test my true 1RM so getting close to my 95% used to hold me back a bit.
What I’ve noticed is that working up to your TM (x1 or x3-5 reps) frequently and doing Joker sets helps building confidence and some programs call for this kind of work.

This is a newbie opinion, so take it for what it is - a newbie opinion.
For PR sets, you shouldn’t require any special kind of mental toughness unless you’re very strong. Determination, yes, mental focus of course, intention definitely, but you shouldn’t feel the need to tap into the darkest place of your mind to go through PR sets.
This is for a simple reason: if your TM is correct, if you started off light and progressed slowly, you had all the time to adapt and getting used to the weight. If the weights you’re using scare you, reduce your TM and start back building confidence with your submaximal work.
I tested my 1RMs when I started 5/3/1, I remember my deadlift 1RM was a shaky shit, six months later I was doing 9 solid reps with that same weight with about 2 slower reps still in the tank when I stopped the set - and not a single fuck was given, cause the work I put into the lifts 6 months prior told me that I had those reps in me, I wrote down everything, the numbers were clear and the feedback I got on every training session told me that I could push to that amount of reps.
Get used to it and get used to do clean strong reps, form will never be perfect, don’t go OCD on technique but at the same time don’t try to grind away until your spine snaps. Most of the training related stuff seems to have the sweet spot somewhere between common sense and stupidity, so find a compromise that allows you to progress and push while feeling confident and staying safe.

Random anecdote: I do front squats as my main squat, and I’m not great at squatting. Been into a full body template for the last cycle that had me squat 3 times a week, hitting TM x 3-5 once a week. That built confidence in squatting AND hitting an heavy-ish weight each time.
Yesterday I did the heaviest squat day in the Anchor phase, with PR set at 95% and possible Jokers. I cap my front squat PR sets at 5 and then usually follow up with Jokers for triples, so I planned that if I hit 5 good reps at 95% TM, I would increase 10% and go for a triple - that would have been the heaviest triple ever so far, to me.
Did 5 good reps at 95%, was fairly confident in doing 105% x3, probably too confident since when I unracked the bar I messed up my breathing (maybe pushed bar in throat) and suddenly got all dizzy, “soft” on my legs and felt like was a breath away from passing out. It was a scary sensation and the first time ever something like that happened to me.
Racked the bar back, waited a few minutes until I felt “normal”, then got up and did the 3 reps I had to do at 105% - got three solid reps and zero issues.
I knew I had those 3 reps at 105% because I assessed my 5 reps at 95%, plus all the work I precedently put into training sessions during the whole cycle.
At the same time this taught me that confidence is ok as long as you don’t go full asshole and screw your setup. Live and learn.
If the bulk of your submaximal work is done correctly, if you increase the weights progressively and slowly, you will be more prepared for heavier sets.


#4

If you have a goal of 5 reps, but only achieve 2-3, lower your TM to where you can hit 5 reps. As your strength and bar speed improve with lower weights, then add weight. You don’t have to add 5 or 10 pounds to your TM every cycle. I set my TM on my squat and deadlift to a weight I can hit for 10+ reps, and my bench and press to a weight I can hit 7-10 reps on.

For example, on 3’s week of my current anchor, my squat PR set, at 90%, was 365 pounds. I did 15 reps at this weight - more than I’ve ever done. And to cap it all off, I could have grinded out another 5 reps, but I stopped at 15. After that PR set, I did two more joker sets of 3 reps at 405 and 445.

I once had my Squat TM set to 445, and my reps were slow, PR sets never hit PRs and I was sore as fuck all the damn time. I lowered my TM to 405 - something I hit a PR on a while back for 7 reps. I plan to keep this TM until I can hit 20 reps at 405. Think about that for a minute - I’m training so “sub maximally” but I keep getting stronger. I’m 4 months shy of 40 years old, and right now my goal is to hit 20 reps in the squat at 405 pounds by my 40th birthday. How will I do this? by keeping my TM at 405 and pushing the PR sets at 85, 90 and 95% to 15-20 reps.

Find the right TM, whatever it is, and work on mastering it and you’ll never worry about injury because you will never “fear” the weight or have issues hitting your goal reps.

Good luck man - hopefully this helps.


#5

My best guess is applying the same logic to any activity: practice.

I also think this can be attributed to personality. Some people latch onto activities/sports (whatever) and have that drive; the thing that allows them to go further than normal. But even then, they have to practice to push themselves.

There are dozens of ways to practice this; there are no real tricks other than just have some resolve to get it done.


#6

^ This. Absolutely. I went through the same mental struggle for a few weeks at the beginning of 5/3/1. In my experience (a few months on 5/3/1), my ability to set a PR at a certain weight or number of reps is wholly dependent on how bad I want it.

Sounds cliche, but dig deep. Be an alpha and make it happen. I’ve been doing what khangles suggested for a few months now and I’ve set a PR with weights that I didn’t think I could unrack, much less squat or deadlift for reps.

Follow khangles’ advice and you’ll be really surprised at how strong you really are.


#7

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