Sunday, December 18, 2016


I’ve written in the past on the topic of psyching up, and in doing so I’ve expressed the necessity of saving it for competition.  To summarize, if you psyche yourself up all the time in training, you’ll burn out quickly, as you’ll constantly be training at higher percentages than you could normally, which overtaxes the body.  Getting psyched up is also exhausting, both physically and emotionally, which will also tax ones recovery.  And getting psyched up through an entire 8 hour+ competition is going to make it so that you have nothing left by the final event, which is going to result in performance degrade.  However, if none of these arguments convince you, consider this; if you psyche yourself up all the time, you actually weaken the effect of the psyche up.  Constant exposure dilutes the evil in you; you want it to be pure and concentrated.

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Oh god, here come the "whiskey and deadlifts" memes

I genuinely hold a negative view regarding human nature in general, but it’s fundamentally based on the idea of the absence of true altruism in humans rather than in being fundamentally evil.  Ultimately, I don’t think most humans are evil: simply self-interested.  They will do what is in their best interest, and sometimes that results in evil, but rarely is there a human that is evil purely for the sake of evil.  Even those we consider fundamentally evil, in many cases, when analyzed objectively, demonstrate motives that are far more aligned in self-interest than purely for the sake of evilness.  The movie villain is just that; a trope, not reality.  I bring this up because, when it comes to psyching ourselves up, we must BECOME evil, and in doing so we are exhausting a finite resource; our CAPACITY for evil.

Machiavelli spoke about the necessity to be able to do evil when fortune demands it, and in our case, we are called upon to be evil in that moment before we attempt a big lift.  At least, those that have ever really and truly psyched themselves up understand what I’m talking about.  It’s not about blasting heavy metal into earbuds until you develop tinnitus, it’s not about slapping yourself in the face and swearing, it’s not about hyperventilating; it’s about finding that dark place inside of you.  It’s about digging way down deep into your psyche, into total blackness, where hate, rage, wrath and primordial evil malinger and fester; a place you’re ashamed to admit that you have but you know where to find when you need it.  We dig deep into this well to find hidden strength, and when we do the world goes black, we get tunnel vision, language n longer functions and, in most cases, we enter a fugue so strong that we don’t even realize the lift is over until we’re walking off the platform.  But really, unless you’re psychotic, just how many times do you think you can REALLY do this in your life?

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And if you ARE psychotic, your answer still doesn't matter, because you probably won't live long

How many times do you think you can REALLY hate a barbell?  How many times do you think you can honestly will a deadlift to lockout?  Or legitimately believe that there is a car on top of a child and the only way to move it is to squat it off?  Eventually, your well of evil is going to run dry.  Eventually, you’ll dig deep and come up empty.  All that hate you built up getting stuck in traffic, all the rage from being crapped on by your boss, all those evil feelings…you used them all up.  You go to find evil, and you come back with absurdity.  This is ridiculous; we’re getting angry at a barbell?  There are far more significant things going on in the world, and we’re trying to get spun up about a deadlift?  And at that point, you’ve lost it.  You’ve lost your ability to get psyched up, because you lost your ability to be evil.

This is why we must limit how often we try to get psyched up; in doing so, we make the effect far more potent.  If you save up your evil until you really need to dig deep, it will be there, and it will be abundant, and the effect will be immense.  If you’re psyching up for a set of band pull aparts, you’ll be running on fumes when the big game shows up.  In addition, the one who is sparing their psyche up will reach their evil faster, as it is much closer to the surface.  Those who are constantly going back to the well will take longer and longer to draw out the evil.  This is why those folks that are always getting psyched up in training have rituals that take FOREVER.  They have to hit their favorite song, clap their hands the right amount of times, walk around the bar in a circle, etc etc, because they’re trying their hardest to generate that evil inside of them.  What if warm-ups get screwed up, and suddenly they’re on deck?  What if they start their ritual too early, and a snag happens that makes the event run late, and suddenly the peak too early?  They disadvantage themselves by getting psyched up too often, because it’s not practice; it’s depletion.

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This isn't WoW.  You aren't practicing mining gold; you're strip-mining 

I legitimately find myself on the opposite end of the problem.  I psyche myself up so rarely that, while recovering from surgery and unable to really lift anything heavy, I found evil spilling out of me.  I found myself exploding in rages with little provocation, escalating situations needlessly, erupting in minor traffic inconveniences, because my well was full.  Additionally, when I choose to tap into the evil for a competition, my performance is significantly enhanced, by I am monumentally emotionally exhausted at the end of my effort.  I rapidly transition from calm to enraged, enter a frenzied state, perform, and then, despite being physically fine, I find myself exhausted and spent.  But, ultimately, I would far prefer this be TOO effective and be exhausted than be fine after the fact because I failed to really achieve anything when I dug deep.

You probably aren’t evil.  You’re probably a nice person.  So quit trying to be evil so frequently, and save it for when you REALLY need it.  


  1. At first I read this and kinda thought, "oh, haha, here's MS railing against silly psyche-ups again," which yes, yes it is. Thinking about it more though, I'm really interested in the idea of accessing evil. Particularly thinking about people like Kroc, whose psych-ups were prolific and epic, Chris Duffin, Pete Rubish, Dave Tate, people who have openly talked about their struggles and how lifting has helped them cope with that evil. I'm not sure it's healthy, but who cares. I'd rather have Kroc doing impossibly heavy squat sets and pushing nails in his arms to repress his cross-dressing desires than say, I dunno, shooting up a school, becoming a Republican legislator, or diddling kids. Your comments about becoming shorter elsewhere when lifting is taken away from you make me think about this too, as I can relate there and imagine that everyone has to have some outlet for the evil.

    It's cool to read it at one level as lifting advice. Like you, I've tuned down my psych-ups and have found everything else to improve.

    It's cool to read it at another level and think sociologically about the concept of outlets of evil.


    1. Thanks Will. Glad you appreciated it, and you got what I was going for here. There are so many parallels between lifting and everything else that it's fun to just use it as a funnel to get into deeper matters.

      I wasn't able to get into it in the piece, but the outlet of evil kinda relates to another operating theory I have. I believe that most humans pretty much have the same basic capacity for evil, the only difference is simply degrees and magnitudes that it is presented. Some people are well balanced, are they demonstrate equal parts good and evil (your average Joe that lives a good life and is friendly and amicable but breaks the law by speeding/piracy or is a jerk in traffic or something), whereas some people are strongly polarized. One of my go to examples is Jared Fogel of Subway fame. Prior to his scandal, if you were to ask someone to define "whitebread average suburban male", he would be the poster child for it. Didn't seem to have a single malicious (or interesting) bone in his body. Then we find out he's a pedophile, who has spied on children and had sex with minors and was operating an organization out of his charity. All of his evil came out at once. Or Bill Cosby, who was renown for never working blue comedy and being the voice for positivity, and then we find out he's been accused of rape by multiple multiple women. That evil had to be somewhere. Then everyone loves to bring up that Hitler was a vegetarian and an animal lover, and Saddam Hussein built schools and all sorts of weird humanitarian stuff.

      Basically, I don't trust someone who isn't a little evil, haha. Makes me think they have some HORRIBLE stuff going on behind closed doors.

      Really appreciate the comment. Sometimes, writing a piece like this can make me feel a little naked out there, since it's honestly a little absurd to be talking about evil with lifting, but exploring the deeper meaning is just plain fun.

    2. Spot on with the Jared example, it always gives me a hearty chuckle when you reference him on here. Interesting ideas!