“Feeling” Heavy Weight and Mental Sabotage in Training

September 23, 2018

Photocredit: Foundation Crossfit 


Have you ever started off the floor in a snatch or clean and in your head heard, “oh this is heavy?” Often, the second you hear that… it is too late.

Let me explain.

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“Feeling” in the middle of a lift

The snatch is known as one of the fastest movements in sports. The Olympic lifts, in general, happen so quickly that if you blink you could miss it. So, in a movement that happens in just a fraction of a second, how can you make it more difficult? By “feeling” the movement, the weight or the speed during the lift.

I’m not talking about overthinking in the lift, which is a true battle as well. I’m talking about “feeling” during the lift. Now, you might say, “What is so bad about feeling the lift… doesn’t that make me a better athlete? Being aware of my body?”

And, I’ll agree, if you can feel yourself in the lift than your mind-to-body connection is strong. But, it is very rare for new athletes to be able to “feel” themselves, the weight or the speed in the lift and not respond to it!

Imagine this scenario. You’re warming up. You start with the bar… then add a little bit… everything is feeling good. You continue to climb in weight. Then as you get to a heavier weight you break from the floor and “feel” it being heavy. Instead of moving the same way you’ve moved in the last rep, your body responds. Wanting to add more speed you start to pull early, and now you’ve missed the timing at your hip… BOOM… Missed lift.

So, if you “feel” the bar being heavy… and your body responds by trying to add something else… You’ve just made the lift more difficult… Let's look at one more scenario, and then I’ll give you a mental trick that can help in training…

Heavy Weight “Feels” Heavy

Have you ever pushed heavy in training and then been frustrated that it “felt” heavy? I’m talking well into the 90% of your best… Just a couple kilos away from your best lift and… it… felt… heavy…


We all fall victim to this mental trap. It is the expectation that we’ll get to a point where all weight feels “easy” or “good.” But, snap out of it! Heavy weight is heavy. And, that is ok!

Think about it. Do you think Pyros Dimas thought every 200kg+ clean and jerk felt “easy?”

Or, do you think Lü Xiaojun is beating himself up because 95% of his best didn’t feel like a breeze?

Heavy weight is heavy and is going to FEEL heavy. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t make the lift. This train of thought can be a true mental barrier to where every time you stand up with a heavy clean and it feels heavy… self-doubt enters, the script around it being heavy plays itself out and you’re making jerks more difficult for yourself!

So, how do I get out of my own head?

I’m going to speak to things that worked for me personally and that I share with our athletes often. I hope they work for you as well.

  1. Accept that heavy weight is heavy. Don’t give credit to the thought that based on how it “feels” it is going to dictate your response. Move the way you’ve been training to move and attack the weight!!
  2. When you approach the bar tune out your mind. My favorite way to do this is to hear white noise. I literally hear static in my head during the lift. Once the lift is over THEN I ask myself how it felt.

I hope this helps you. Weightlifting, the snatch, the clean & jerk can be insanely mental. The better you get with your mind… then better you’ll do in your lifts. Good luck!

This is a guest post from Drew Dillon, head coach and co-founder of Project Lift during his lifting career as
 an athlete Drew placed as high as 4th at a USA Weightlifting Nationals and is a personal coach to 2012 Olympian Holley Mangold. He is also known as a Weber grill snob and will routinely ask you "what is for dinner" during training. You can follow Drew on Instagram and YouTube.