Psych and the Quality Workout
Featured Free Weight Equipment: dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells
I coined the phrase Brain Train to describe recalibrated mental modes and methods that focus and sharpen the mind and thus improves the quality of the individual workout. In our world, the world of transformational fitness, success is achieved when the trainee obtains measurable results. These results manifest as improvements in physique and performance. Adding a significant amount of new muscle and reducing body fat to a dramatic degree automatically improves performance, regardless the sport or benchmark.
Periodization is preplanned programing. Periodized templates are roadmaps, a master plan used to engineer radical physical transformations. Sophisticated periodization intertwines three disparate disciplines: progressive resistance training, cardiovascular training and power nutrition. Melded and molded into a singular strategy, these three disciplines create an overarching matrix that predicts our every training session and projects our every dietary adjustment.
The Mind powers the Periodized process. The Mind can be the transformative acolytes best friend or worst enemy. Hardcore pros, men that have engineered dramatic transformations for themselves and their students, will tell you that an indispensable element critical for success is the ability to mentally recalibrate to improve workout performance.
Commonly referred to as “psych,” hardcore pros will work themselves up into a purposeful state of extreme excitation as a way in which to elevate workout performance. A successfully psyched athlete improves workout performance by 10-25% over the same workout done by the same athlete in a non-psyched state.
A proper workout psych is a tricky thing: too much psych invites technical sloppiness and too little psych is worthless. Just right psych is a learned skill that is mastered over time and with practice. Novice psychers need be taught to not “pretend” psych. Faux psych is play acting, an imitation of the real thing. Real psych is so deep and so real that strictly through the power of a centered mind internal change occurs as the Mind awakens the primal fight-or-flight response.
Strictly by focusing and exciting the Mind, hormones are secreted that kick-start the process. A top athlete psyches when attacking the “top sets” in one of the major lifts. A top athlete will also psych up to improve cardio workout performance. Proper psych improves the quality of any workout. Improved workout quality, obtained on a continual and ongoing basis, results in unimaginable gains in both physique and performance.
A proper psych can turn a bad workout into a good workout or a good workout into a great workout. Transformative success is built upon continual improvement. The duty of the hardcore athlete is to engage in a continual series of productive workouts. All good things spring from the ability to consistently conduct “quality” workouts.
The self-inflicted body trauma of a high-intensity progressive resistance workout unleashes a neurochemical tidal wave as dopamine, endorphins, norepinephrine, anandamide and serotonin are released. As these information molecules flood into the bloodstream, they create a feeling of euphoria, exaltation and triumph. Muscular decimation through free weight training, i.e. dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells, results in a hormonal release that induces a heightened sense of alertness, awareness and perception. A post-workout rapture occurs and the entire process is often called “the flow state,” or “the zone,” or “runner’s high.”
Don’t be careless with psych. Heading into any training session, the athlete has a finite amount of psych. Don’t waste it on meaningless warm-up sets or on minor exercises. Save serious psych for the top sets, the big stuff, the heaviest poundage in each major movement. The right amount of psych at the right time generates extra growth-producing reps or enables the handling of additional poundage.
Progressive resistance workout success is determined by the success or failure in dealing with the top sets. The top set is the only set sufficiently intense to trigger the strength-inducing adaptive response. Everything else is preamble, preparation leading up to the main event. The deeper into the workout, the deeper the focus; by the time it is time to perform the actual top set, the elite iron man attacks the barbell with a barely controlled rage that is characteristic of the optimal athletic mindset.
Real psych eliminates preoccupation and mental fuzziness. There is no distraction or lackadaisical attitude when psyched and centered. Real psych is characterized by a single-minded focus and effortless concentration that comes with doing something dangerous. In a high intensity workout during those toughest of reps, a millisecond lapse in concentration can cause instantaneous collapse, potentially catastrophic failure. The elite learn to not lapse.
Fall in love with the workout experience. This is one pleasurable experience that is not illegal, immoral or unethical. An intense workout is transformative, physically and psychologically. Training without ferocity will yield substandard results. Training with proper psych, not too much, not too little, just right, takes performance to the next level. To transform ourselves we need to exceed what we are capable of – on a consistent and ongoing basis. Without psych, herculean effort is impossible and without herculean effort nothing of any significance ever occurs.
About the Author
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of numerous books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher biography here.