I was on the studio floor the other day giving some tips to a deadlifter who had just recently learnt how to deadlift, and I was trying to explain some of the psychological aspects involved.

So said lifter had just failed at a relatively moderate weight. We went for a walk outside and I explained what had happened in my eyes. We then went back inside and I witnessed this person pull another 5 sets after this failed weight, and each set I added weight. Amazing right?

So what the hell happened???

This occurrence gave me the idea that a brief blog on the mind games that lifting heavy weights can play on you could really benefit our novice lifters.

As you will experience, if you haven’t already, when the weight becomes considerable you get to a point where the bar barely leaves the ground. I mean literally, you try and pull the weight for a split second and then next thing you know you have already stood up looking over to your trainer for an explanation of what just happened.

You need to understand something first. For everyone this has happened to, you are more than capable of lifting that weight. You just decided not to.

Overcoming this phenomenon may be best explained on how to successfully fail a deadlift… yes, you heard me, you can successfully fail a deadlift (and most other lifts for that matter).

We call it failing with dignity.

A failed deadlift is not one that comes up and then goes right back down again. It is one whereby all the setup steps were correct, tension was applied, the wedge executed effectively and the bar travels in a straight line up the shins to a point where it slowly cannot be lifted any further. This DOES NOT mean that it is time to lower the bar. This is the time to dig in and fight. Drive your heels into the ground and try to split the floor, crush the bar with all your might and keep your hips steady in relation to the shoulders. Don’t change the groove of the lift to gain a false sense of bar movement.

Once you have given it all you have for 4-8 seconds, slowly lower under control. I have seen lifters fight a bar at knee height in sumo for over 10 seconds and eventually locked the bar out for a successful deadlift. This is called grinding.

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That’s the glory of pulling sumo, it starts hard for an easy finish. If you can get a sumo pull past the knees, there is a very good chance you will lock it out providing you don’t give up on it.
To apply this to your next deadlift day, get your head in the right space first, focus on the lift and visualize locking it out. You will be amazed at what you can achieve.