Mental confidence is vital when it comes to lifting heavy weights. If the weight feels like it's going to crush you, it likely will. You need to convince your mind that it's up for the job.
Case in point, I was training to break the Canadian M1 83-kilogram IPF squat record. The record at the time was 210 kilograms. My goal was 211 kilograms. My first step was just getting used to standing up with the record weight. The first time I stood it up, it felt like my spine was going to shoot out of my back. After doing this a few times, I stood up and walked the bar out. Again it felt heavy. My knees felt weak and my ankles hurt just walking it out.
I did a few squat walk-outs (where you walk a heavily loaded bar out of the rack but don't squat it) over a period of two weeks. I remember one time walking out and thinking, "I can't f'ing squat this!" The following week I did. The next week I hit it for 2 singles, and 4 weeks later I hit it on the platform and broke the squat record.
The Trick: CNS Overloading
The method is called CNS overloading, and it's going to get you handling weight anywhere from 10 to 20% above your 1RM. It's also going to give you supreme confidence in handling bigger weight, along with arousing your nervous system.
When it comes to strength, your nervous system is the gatekeeper. You can have strong muscles and tendons, but unless your nervous system is ready to handle the weight, you're leaving lots of unused pounds or kilograms in the tank.
Before your first squat, or before going for a new 1RM, add 10-20% more weight than your standard rep to the bar and hold it in the locked-out position for 5-10 seconds. Let's say you're attempting a squat 1RM of 400 pounds. Do your warm-ups like normal, but before you attempt to squat the 400, do a squat walk-out with 420 or 440 pounds.
- Get tight, stand up with the weight, and walk it out like you're going to squat but don't actually squat.
- Hold the weight at the top for 5-10 seconds while bracing as hard as possible.
- Then rack the weight and drop the load to the original 400 pounds.
- Rest 1-2 minutes and then blast through your 1RM. The 400-pound squat won't feel nearly as heavy.
About to attempt a bench 1RM of 300 pounds? Follow these steps:
- Warm up like normal, but before you attempt the 300, do a heavy bench hand-off and lock out with 315 or 330 pounds. If 315 feels light, go 330. (The numbers will vary from person to person, so you really have to go by how you feel.)
- Get tight, hold the weight in your hands in a lock-out position at the top for 5-10 seconds while bracing as hard as possible.
- Rack it and then load the original 300 pounds on the bar.
- Rest 1-2 minutes and then destroy the 300-pound bench.