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Bad thoughts during heavy squats - The Beast1 - 09-13-2016 02:37 AM

I used to be a big fan of the squat. My personal best was 250 lbs.

As i started working around this weight, i started to get tunnel vision and that mild blur you'd get. Not a big deal, but at the bottom of the squat, i would get these nasty thoughts entering my head when before it would empty out all of my worries.

Thoughts like:

"This lift will kill you."
"This will be your last squat."
"You'll get injured."

Normally, i'm able to overcome negative thoughts like this but in the middle of a deep ass to grass squat my mental faculties are at their weakest.

I'm compensated by lower my weight which sucks. I haven't been able to get close to it again even when eating a caloric excess diet.

I don't experience this at all with deads, bench, or during the OHP. My deadlift weight is significantly higher than my squat weight too.

What gives? Should I keep powering through and hope for the best?

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - crudeloyalist - 09-13-2016 02:53 AM

Perhaps start with a weight you're comfortable with and then increase the weight as you get stronger and more confident.

If you look up the Olympian bodybuilder Kai Green, he often talks about visualising your success before you even lift the weight. This is important. You want to imagine yourself performing each each rep done with good form.

How's things anyway mate? I'm looking to hit the gym this week. If you need a spot, join me. These negative thoughts can be offset by having a training buddy.

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - LINUX - 09-13-2016 02:54 AM

It's normal. You just have some nuero pathways fucked up. Learn to reprogram them. Skip lacour wrote about this a while back (neuro linguistic programming and using anchors ) you see him do it in many of his videos along with others using max ot or high intensity training. I do it myself by blinking for two seconds before every lift. After those two seconds the mind is clear and I'm thinking of nothing except the lift. It took many years to master this. You can probably figure out your own while you're in the hole of your squat

Read this article and it will all make sense.


RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - H1N1 - 09-13-2016 03:59 AM

These thoughts are irrational, and you should just let them go. It's certainly undesirable to get injured, but not world-ending. You are not going to be killed by 250lbs that is already on your back. If needs be, you can just roll the weight back off your shoulders once you are in the hole. 250lbs is about the weight of a large adult male. If you look at a large adult male, you'll probably feel that you ought to be able to squat one without that much trouble. Certainly you wouldn't feel that having one on your back would kill you. In fact, if one fell on you you'd probably be able to laugh it off and go about your day. Of course steel on a bar has certain important differences, but one of those works in your favour - the weight is evenly distributed across something you can comfortably support and hold on to.

Beyond this, a lot of what seems to hold people back in their training is a fixation with a certain number - almost as if this number is an actual thing. For me, it took me forever to bench my bodyweight. I could crush 185lbs for a few reps. But I'd stick 190 on there and get stapled. I had 190 set up in my mind as this huge milestone weight, and it would get the better of me every time.

The way to get past this is to recognise that there are many ways to get strong that do not involve adding weight to your top sets.

What I suggest is this: decide what your current a2g training max is now. If it's only 200lbs, or less, it doesn't matter. That's how strong you are now. Work up to a top set, or a few top sets (if using very low reps) somewhere in the 85-95% of your training max range. For example, with a training max (ie you can hit this on your worst day) of 250lbs, I might do: 20 x bar, 10 x 80lbs or so, 5x135, 5x185, 3x210, 2x225, 3-5x1x235. The point here is to get used to weights that are around the level of your current max, without taxing yourself unduly. Just get some practice in and get used to feeling it on your back, concentrating on good form. If your form breaks down, finish the set there, take a minute or two extra rest before your next set.

Then this is the important bit: put a weight on the bar that is <65% or so of your training max (you could go as low as 50% and still be doing good work). Focusing on good form, get a lot of reps in with this weight. This is where you really build strength. The heavier weight stuff is more about demonstrating it. Do 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps and build some muscle. You can literally just do this for a few weeks/months until the weights you are using feel easy. Or you can start out with [email protected]% and try to get it to [email protected]% over a couple of months, without changing the top set weights. Then, after a few months (ideally with a deload or two thrown in) you can slap another 10-20lbs on the bar for your top set work, adjust the percentages accordingly, and keep going. This is a very good way to build some muscle and to keep getting strong without thrashing your body.

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - RexImperator - 09-13-2016 12:19 PM

Squats are more of a mindfuck than other lifts, because of the nature of putting that weight on your back that feels like it will crush you.

It's why I both love and hate them at the same time.

I think learning to ignore your thoughts is an important skill.

I try to clear my head of all thoughts before a set, and it takes some training to ignore those voices telling me to quit the set early.

I think it's the same for runners and endurance athletes. Their body will tell them to stop but they have trained themselves to ignore it.

This mental aspect of weightlifting is one of the best things about it, in my opinion.

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - Hannibal - 09-13-2016 01:32 PM

You might be lifting too heavy. You could also try doing squat lockouts with a shit ton more weight to develop confidence with the weight.

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - kaotic - 09-13-2016 01:45 PM

MUSIC - music will clear your mind and get you hyped.

10x10 german volume squats help build confidence and strength (you don't even have to go anywhere near your max)

I have a ritual before walking up to the rack, shake my legs and arms, breath a few times, then immediately swing my shoulders underneath the rack and lift off.

MIRRORS are a huge help because they help you focus, and you focus on forum.

As far as ass to grass, you don't have to go that low if you don't want to - or just use lighter weight for deeper squats.

Squats used to be a mind fuck for me also - I was afraid of squatting 2 plates (225) for a long time. I past that benchmark and hit 265, plan on PR'ing on 285 or possibly 305 this week.

The sky is the limit, get the fears out of your head and enjoy your workouts.

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - iamkaisersoze - 09-13-2016 03:00 PM

You should be lifting heavy weights with confidence because you've prepared and done it before. This goes for most things in life, but especially with athletic endeavors.

Some people lift too light in intensity (under 70%) that they will never stimulate their Central Nervous System to recruit more motor units (and probably not develop mental confidence with heavy weights). For intermediate to advanced lifters I think 10x10 might too light, 5x5 for heavier would be better IMO.

Others lift heavy (above 80%) but don't do enough volume to create an adaptation; this would be like going for a max lift record, and then maybe one more, so 1-2 lifts above 90% which is probably not enough volume unless you are advanced and lifting real heavy weights.

IMO, you need to lift heavy enough for a sufficient volume, simplistically speaking, to get your body "used to lifting heavy weights". Google Prilepin's chart for good intensity x volume guidelines, but I personally do 3 week waves with a heavy day and light day per week. I do this setup for my heavy day:

Week 1 - 6x3 @ 80% + assistance lifts
Week 2 - 6x2 @ 85% + assistance lifts
Week 3 - 6x1 @ 90% + assistance lifts
Week 4 - rest/light day/whatever/start cycle over at 10lbs heavier

If I've hit the week 1 reps, then week 2 and 3 are strong and easy. These are heavy lifts, but still submaximal effort. I'm just getting the heavy reps in, no more, no less.

For light day, I just do 5x6 (or 6x5 if it's feeling heavy) at 70% + assistance lifts throughout the weeks. It should feel like a grind if you're only taking 1-2 minutes between sets.

I think lifting like the above, or some other heavy intensity/low-moderate volume scheme should improve mental and physical preparation.

I was also going to say that you might need to work your lower back, upper back or and/or abs so the bar doesn't feel like it will crush you in the hole. But you say your deadlift is solid so you might have good back strength; I am similar, and my limiting factor is definitely leg strength for which front squats help me a lot.

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - Repo - 09-13-2016 04:27 PM

Are you squatting alot more than other people at the gym? If so maybe time to find a new gym. Seeing what other people can lift naturally may help with this, and change your mindset to "why can't I lift that much? "

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - The Beast1 - 09-13-2016 05:02 PM

Thanks for all of the suggestions.

I always listen to music at the gym and i'm generally alone in the weight room since it's outside peak hours. It was weird, because squats are a liberating lift. Right below parallels this voice comes out of nowhere as your blood pressure spikes, the world slowly melts away, and peace is achived. Just to have this douchebag hit you.

This started happening to me when I moved to the UK. This might have been stress or something.

It's been awhile since I made the decision to drop the weight, but i'll begin inching it back up soon.

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - General Stalin - 09-14-2016 01:08 AM

H1N1 has some awesome advice here.

I'll tell you a couple things that work for me with squats:

first and foremost, keeping your upper body tight. Based on what you said it sounds like your having an issue with worrying about your torso's stability with the weight on your back. Like the bar is going to make you fold over.

Taking a huge ass breath into your belly, holding your tongue against the roof of your mouth, squeezing the bar with your hands real tight, and just putting as much pressure as your can against your upper body will eliminate that factor. Hell, wear a mouth guard and clench your teeth if it helps. Keeping your upper body tight is key. The upper body shouldn't be a limiting factor in the lift. The only bottleneck should be from the waist down. That part alone will help your confidence and will create a better connection with your brain and your legs in the movement. That's something I had to learn.

Another tip is put up safety racks. The worst that can happen is you get stuck coming out of the bottom of the lift and you just roll the barbell onto the racks. It's nothing, just like H1N1 said.

Another thing that really helps me psychologically prep for the weight is to sort of "pre-load." When I set up for the squat, I will tighten my shoulders up, put them under the barbell, and lift it a bit and slide it left and right so I'm used to the weight on my back while its still racked (I do this when I bench as well). Then once I pull the weight off the rack then my body is already ready for it. It's nothing. Sort of like what Alan does here in his heavier sets:

FF to 5:00

It sounds like the biggest factor for you though Is essentially just doing weight you are comfortable with like H1N1 said. Pick a weight you are confident with and grow stronger and more technical with it until it becomes too easy, then move up. There is not hardlined rule here - build strength and confidence at the pace that works best for you.

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - StrikeBack - 09-14-2016 06:16 AM

Everyone, even top lifters, has a lift that sometimes gives them hell. In powerlifting, it is extremely rare that you have a lifter who has no fear in any of the 3 competition lifts, and when you have one, they tend to be world champions.

For most powerlifters, there is one lift they currently suck at, and whenever they get to the bar at certain heavy weights (usually 95%+, or desired competition attempts), they feel some degree of uncertainty or fear. Some guys feel like you do in the squat. Some think the bench will crush their faces or chest (I'm in this group). Some think the deadlift will break their back before they even try to lift the bar up. You can see fear in the way they set up before any lifting happens.

Many of the tips above work well. One that I always use close to competition time is to visualise the exact weights on the bar (must be realistic and within my capability), and it's important to get all the plate colours right. Then I visualise myself walking up to the bar, setting up perfectly, taking it out confidently, then executing the lift with perfect technique. At first, I'd struggle hard with this visualisation in my head. I'd stumble and fail, or grind the shit out of the lift, all in my imagination! But slowly and surely, I'd get control of the whole thing and be able to do it perfectly in my head. By the time the competition comes along, usually I'd be able to repeat the same exact lifts on the platform. A simple reasoning I use is that if you can't even do it in your own imagination (it's harder than you think though) you won't be able to do it for real.

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - RonnieB - 09-17-2016 02:44 AM

Part of the mind does not like hardwork and pain. It will try and trick you and make you not attempt the lift. That part of the brain wants you to remain comfortable as it's the easy path. I get similar thoughts before a really taxing lift, especially squats. I'm going to guess you don't have the thoughts before an easier lift such as bench.

Don't worry, acknowledge the thoughts and try rationalise why you can lift the weight. If you try and stop the thoughts in my experience it has the opposite effect and magnifies them.

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - RonnieB - 09-17-2016 02:50 AM

I found these negative thoughts happen on the 5x5 program where you increase the weight every workout. I think it was said elsewhere on the forum that you start fearing success in 5x5 as you know the next workout will even be more taxing.

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - Fortis - 09-17-2016 02:51 AM

Weird. When I squat I have a check list of things I go through. If all of those conditions are met I feel safe squatting. If not, i don't squat.

That said, the negative voice you here isn't based in reality. It's the same voice that fucks with you when you approach a hot chick.

Now ask yourself, how often is that voice right?

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - forever_beta - 09-17-2016 06:51 PM

I've started getting inklings of these kinds of thoughts when I approach the bar as the weight gets heavier. Once I get under the bar somehow I just clear my head of all thought and just go and perform the squat. I think its a muscle memory kind of thing. Once under the bar, thought ceases and all mental energy is directed at completing the lift.

You can also try to work through this logically. First, do you have the safety bars setup in the rack? If worst case you're unable to complete the lift, you know how to get out of the squat so there really is little risk. Also linear progression helps. I did 245 pounds for my sets and reps 2 days ago so how could 250 kill me now?

Headphones with good music helps too. Sometimes my gym plays horrible annoying music and I find it distracting and fucking up my mental flow under the bar.

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - realologist - 09-17-2016 07:46 PM

I used to have issues with the squat for a while. I injured my back with 400+ lbs on it. Even after I rehabbed it I still had the mental block with anything 300+.

I got through that with a routine.

Grab the bar a certain way every time.
Do a little shimmy underneath to get in place.
Pick it up and slide my hands wider.
Step back two steps.
Deep breath.
Spread legs a little wider.
Deep breath.
Visualize the squat.
Double check my hands and feet.
Visualize the squat.
Deep breath and down.
Blow out and up.

If I stick to that routine my mind is clear and my form is perfect.

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - ratoj9 - 09-17-2016 08:08 PM

I've had issues with squatting as well. What I usually do is return to the basics. Below is lengthy Instagram post from a Physical Therapist and Sports Medicine expert on the mechanics of the Squat.

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - Merris - 09-21-2016 02:07 PM

Seems to me like it's an emotional problem. Fear, submission, just letting it go, taking the easy way out, avoiding danger, that kind of thing at its core. I'm going to go on a different direction here and suggest three words that help me when I get the same kind of thoughts.




Generally the intensity of the emotion also intensifies from top to bottom. When I'm pulling, squatting or benching (or running, swimming and so on) around the edges of (or more than) what I think I can do, I usually forcefully pull myself into those three states to help me get through the emotional/mental barrier I might have at time. The worse the barrier, the stronger the response needed to get through it. Grind your teeth together, tense your core, squeeze your fists, breather hard through your teeth stare at the ground and psych yourself up some. Imitate the physical responses of aggression and anger. Find a memory that either makes your really fucking angry and aggressive, or that has that kind of emotion attached to it. I use a case where I had to defend myself against two muggers, I've never been that fucking livid (and scared) in my life. Note though that you don't want to lose focus and fuck up your form at the same time. Angry, loud, violent music is usually the best thing that helps me get to that state. Below some of the tracks that give me the best results for this, just to give a general idea. There's tons of death metal, grindcore and melodeath that I listen to at the gym.

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - ElFlaco - 09-21-2016 02:52 PM

(09-13-2016 12:19 PM)RexImperator Wrote:  I think it's the same for runners and endurance athletes. Their body will tell them to stop but they have trained themselves to ignore it.

Visualization goes a long way. Tell yourself in advance exactly what specific emotions or negative self-talk you are likely to experience and in what situations. Plan how you are going to respond. Think of it as a checklist you go through beforehand so that you are mentally prepared for what's going to come at you. This is all part of your training. When you experience those negative thoughts, just acknowledge them (here they are, right on schedule, perfect), recognize that the desire to quit means you are challenging yourself (a good thing), then go about executing your plan. Also, remember that you have experienced these negative thoughts before and they turned out to be a false alarm. Don't give them importance.

This kind of mental training is really helpful for racing, dieting or pushing yourself in general.

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - The_Don_F├╝hrer - 09-22-2016 07:33 AM

Squats are the hardest exercise, which is why you don't get those thoughts during other exercises.

You need to learn to love the squat more, that's all. most guys just skip it because it kinda like a punishment. Especially ass to grass.

Maybe try different variations like the front squat, overhead squat, and box squat.

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - The Beast1 - 09-24-2016 05:27 AM

Thanks for the help gents, but the pushing myself through the fear didn't do anything and made the thoughts worse.

I decided to go back to the basics and re-evaluated my diet.

Sure enough, after adding in more protein and a tad more calories (2100) the thoughts have lessened and eventually disappeared. Topped off my week this week with 5 reps at 250! Slowly making more progress again.

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - RexImperator - 09-24-2016 08:13 AM

Trying to make consistent squat gains on 2100 calories per day?

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - doc holliday - 09-24-2016 07:14 PM

I wish I hadn't read this thread. All I could think about when doing my squats was this thread lol. Got through them though without any issues. This time.

RE: Bad thoughts during heavy squats - General Stalin - 09-24-2016 07:38 PM

Even before I lifted and was sitting at 185 lbs mostly sedentary activity level I ate more than 2100 cals as maint. How tall/heavy are you Beast?