Get your head on straight : Making progress and keeping a strong will to progress

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The more I coach and the more people I coach progress, the more I realize how important it is to have a strong mind in weightlifting. My definition of a strong mind is having the ability to face challenge/struggles and being driven/competitive enough to embrace it on a daily basis. I have come to the conclusion that a strong mind and a strong will are more important than any other physical or psychological characteristics. It pushes the numbers up like nothing else.

Weightlifting is a fairly simple sport as it is. The goal is to lift the heaviest barbell using the best suited technique to do so. It is also a sport that is completely objective. Progress is measured by being able to lift more kilos on the bar and/or by comparing movements (comparing videos, etc….better movement will lead to more kilos).

Credit Bruce Klemens Classic Weightlifting Photography
Credit Bruce Klemens Classic Weightlifting Photography

It also means that the best performer, the one that is stronger and wants it more, will win. That’s how sport is. Nobody gets on the podium by thinking they can’t do it. You have to want it and crave it.

Every single rep and set and every training session is done to get you closer to that goal. You don’t just show up and hope to win… you have to train to win and you have to crave the win on a daily basis. It takes a very strong mind to go through it, but if you have that dream you have to do true by yourself and be strong inside out.

Lately I have been thinking about what would make a perfect athlete and I think I am satisfied with the conclusion I have come to:

Physical/athletic talent + Strong will + competitive spirit + dedication/motivation + great coaching (and being coachable) + support (at home and in the gym) + proper lifestyle = Optimal athlete that keeps on progressing.

Bruce Klemens Classic Weightlifting Photography
Bruce Klemens Classic Weightlifting Photography

Now I hate to break it to you, but chances are you are not that athlete and need to work on some aspect of the equation. Everybody shows up with different % of each trait and our goal as coaches is to work on averaging the %. I will say that driven athletes that are excessively competitive are easier to coach. It is easier to make someone hold back than it is to push somebody that isn’t sure or is scared or doesn’t have self confidence or isn’t ready to accept their goals.

You need that fire in your eyes more than anything else to keep progressing. Credit Wonderlifter
You need that fire in your eyes more than anything else to keep progressing. Credit Wonderlifter

When it comes down to it, I have seen and known athletes that were not athletically/physically gifted win. I have seen athletes that had no coaches (or no regular coaches) win. I have seen athletes with no support at home (they had to work or had families that were not into sport as a career) and I have seen athletes who had lifestyle issues (I know some that had to train in the night because they had to work all day) win. All of them are excessively competitive and excessively driven.

The only variables you cannot remove are being competitive and having a strong will. It takes a huge will to go in the gym daily and do the work. Most people will break because progress stop being fast and it takes even more work to add a single kilo. Most people will break because they will fail a lot before they start progressing. You have to be ready for that and not let it get to you.

Credit Wonderlifter
Credit Wonderlifter

If you are the type of athlete that isn’t that competitive or has motivation/will problems, it is a very good idea to reflect on this text and realize that the only opponent between you and your goals is actually yourself. There is no way out and no shortcut in weightlifting.  You won’t appear magically on some podium unless you actually train with fire in your eyes and a huge focus on that goal.

Part of my work is to recruit young kids to coach them and get them involved in weightlifting. I used to look almost exclusively for physically talented kids (strong, flexible, good body composition). Nowadays, I like to ask questions and figure out if they have the desire to be the best and I throw some challenges to see who is the most competitive. The results have been outstanding.

P.S I have an 8 year old kid that has been training for a few months (1x a week). Last week he came in the gym and I asked him if he will beat one guy I coach. He looked at him and said : ”we never know, but I will try my best”. Perhaps that is a lesson for us all. You need to have goals and be okay with doing what it takes to reach them. There is no shame in wanting to be the best.

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Jean-Patrick Millette

Jean-Patrick Millette is a full time weightlifting coach located in Montreal, Canada. He has a bachelor in kinesiology. He coaches dedicated weightlifters of all ages (Youth to senior) as well as running the well respected First Pull website. He has been very active at promoting the sport of weightlifting.

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