Time for me to dive into my psyche 101 textbooks and talk on the subject of “psyching up”.
Before I go any further, admit it, you tried to do this once
To get into it, there is no one universal way to get psyched up for a lift. This is one of those things that a lot of folks don’t seem to grasp, and it’s mainly because human nature is inherently egocentric. We presume that the rest of the world shares our experience and in turn experiences the world from the same frame of reference that we do, reaching the same conclusions from the same premises each time. To realize this isn’t correct, spend any amount of time reading the internet.
That about sums it up
Having said this, I only have the authority to speak to my own experiences, but will still give both sides a shot based on what I know. Keep in mind, this is an incredibly general summary. Volumes of books could be written on the subject.
Psyching up for the extrovert is a very external ritual, and benefits from having people around. These folks need to be yelled at, sworn at, insulted, slapped, what have you. They respond well to the pep talk, cheering fans, etc.
These folks are on the opposite side of the spectrum, and need to be left alone. Their psyche up is very internal, with an internal dialogue that puts them where they want to be, music on earbuds that only they can hear, and no human interaction to distract them.
It is imperative to understand these basic ideas because trying to use the wrong type of motivation is going to have the opposite effect. If you get in the face of an introvert and scream, at best they’re going to wonder what your problem is and it’ll distract them, and at worst, they could just completely shut down. If you put an extrovert into isolation before a lift, he is not going to get the level of excitement he needs to crush a lift.
This means that you need to know who YOU are before you try to psyche yourself up. Don’t try to use someone else’s method because you saw it on youtube or heard from a buddy, do what you need. Additionally, don’t try to force your method on someone else right before a major lift, because you could honestly be robbing them of poundage.
It seems what we have here is a failure to communicate
To talk on a personal level, I definitely vector more toward the introvert side of the spectrum. I have been through military training before, and getting yelled at just got me in trouble for having smart ass answers. That environment was simply not a performance motivator. I’ve also traveled and been in Buddhist monasteries in Asia, filled with either serene silence or strong monotone chants, and the energy from the room was electrifying to me. Knowing this about myself, I have my own psyching up ritual.
For me, music is pretty key. I don’t like metal because it’s too loud to me and doesn’t have enough focus (and I realize with the 4.7 trillion sub-genres of metal out there I have most likely offended someone, but you’ll get over it). I like music with a very strong, intense driving beat, focused like a laser. I just recently pulled a 620lb deadlift for 2 reps listening to “Tempest” by the Deftones, and it worked out perfectly.
I don’t have much of an internal dialogue when I am psyching up. Instead, I go to a “dark place” in my mind. It’s a nebulous concept honestly, but instead of focusing on things that make me angry, I just focus on getting angry. I let it build up inside of me, and much like the music, I make it concentrated and focused. The intent is to not be some screaming berserker unleashing anger in a spray in all directions, but to have white hot anger concentrated on the lift at hand.
What is important to understand is that you have to be able to turn it on and off as needed. Getting to this level of energy is honestly exhausting, and if you try to do it all day at a competition, you’re going to be fried before the final lift. You want to be able to tap into this for each lift so that you can give it your all, and then spend the rest of your time recovering. Also, you don’t want to be this psyched up all day because, honestly, you’re probably an asshole and unpleasant to be around. I once got a phone call from work right after I had gotten ready for my second attempt deadlift in a meet, and I don’t think the guy on the other end of the phone was prepared for what I had to say to him. I had to seek him out the next day and apologize, but at least I got the lift.
I thought I was being nice
A final point to realize is that you should NOT be doing this for training lifts. This is purely a competition thing only. Keep in mind, when you psyche yourself up, the intent is that you can lift more than when you are not psyched up. You are essentially tapping into the deepest regions of your physical limits. Well, doing that is incredibly taxing. When I do this for a meet and hit PRs for all 3 lifts, I need to spend a month doing light training before I can resume my normal weights. If you’re doing this in training that means you’re just setting your own recovery back and limiting your ability to grow stronger. Think about it, if you are able to make yourself stronger without a psyche up, that just means you’ll be even stronger once you do psyche up, whereas if you have to psyche up to hit a PR in training, all this means is that you got better at reaching deeper, rather than actually made yourself stronger.
DIRECTOR’S CUT BONUS COMMENTARY
Now let’s talk about the fun stuff: smelling salts and nose tork.
Whenever I hear someone talking about some gimmicky pre-workout powder, I throw them my bottle of nose tork and tell them that THIS is what you need to get motivated to train. Amazingly, they always turn it down. This stuff is no joke.
(Note: Start with smelling salts. This is not a suggestion. Do not skip straight to nose tork. I will explain why in a bit.)
The best way I could describe smelling salts is that they are chemical anger and pain. They essentially will trip your fight or flight response, and should you choose the former, you will be incredibly pissed off after the experience. There is no way to not be mad after taking a wiff of this, it just gets to you. For me, this is the last step in psyching up. After I have used all my psychological tricks to get me as angry and focused as possible, I use external sources to push me beyond my own limitations.
Nose tork is like if smelling salts used smelling salts. The first time I used it, I literally ran away from the bottle and spent 30 minutes relearning how to breathe. It is a religious experience. I have used it on long road trips to stay awake, and it is way better than coffee. I keep a bottle at my desk for a joke, and had a co-worker try it who had never used a smelling salt before, and his exact words were “my brain is on fire”. It definitely does the job, but I would ease in with smelling salts first.