How To Suck At Powerlifting: Putting Method Before Mentality by James Barnum

How To Suck At Powerlifting:  Putting Method Before Mentality by James Barnum

“Mentality is the element of training that can’t be prescribed or dictated to you through a set and rep scheme.  It’s mind over matter, it’s the will to transcend, and a bad mentality will make or break ANY training program no matter how well-written it is.”

A regular at my gym approached me the other day asking for some advice.  He asked me which program was best for a beginner powerlifter since he’s not terribly familiar.  I rattled off a few popular names of “boxed” programming methods but our conversation didn’t end there.  As we spoke further, I discovered that he has a big problem that’s extremely common among lifters:  he program hops.powerlifting mentality

You may very well be guilty of the same behavior.  Does this sound like you?

One month you’re doing a super-high volume program he found on  The next you’re maxing out and tweaking your shoulder.  Then you’re doing Chad Rippedelt’s “21 Days 2 Shredz.”  But before you can make it very far into a training program, you get bored.  You question whether you’re doing the right thing or not, and you want to move on to the next big thing.

Self-doubt is a motherfucker, and this craving for “the perfect program” is something that even experienced lifters get caught up in.  The desire for better, faster results is so alluring that we’ll go against what we know worked in the past and may still work, just for the sake of novelty.

There Is No Perfect Powerlifting Program

powerlifting mentality

The biggest problem with chasing the perfect program is that every well-designed “out-of-the-box” program has the potential to work great.  This is something that most people don’t want to admit but it’s the truth.  You’ll find devotees to any and every training system under the sun but despite the differences among programs, the ones that work all have something in common.  A few examples include:

  1. Progression.  Every effective program has a progression model.  You will add weight, volume, reduce rest times, improve bar speed, etc. over the course of a training cycle and that’s what will force you to get bigger and stronger.
  2. Structure.  A program could last 8 weeks, 4 years, or anywhere in between.  But it will take a predetermined amount of time.  The exercises, reps, and weight may be split into monthly blocks.  You may alternatively train multiple strength qualities each week.  But any effective program will start light, push you, let you chill, and culminate in a test/meet.
  3. Specificity.  Even when you’re talking about a method like Westside that lives and breathes specialty bars and abnds, there will be elements of training that closely approximate the features of a competitive powerlift.  Running and jumping won’t make you better at powerlifting.  You”ll be doing heavy barbell lifts and assistance movements to build strength and muscle mass!

You Need to Train Hard & Have Fun

Let me clarify:  I’m not saying that there’s no difference from program-to-program, but the differences don’t necessarily make or break.  Again, we can argue all day long about Westside versus The World and why Program A is more technically sound than Program B, but it’s really a decision that needs to be made based on preferences rather than an assumption of superiority.  People have built great strength using every training method out there.  There’s more to it.  Yes, block periodization is in vogue right now.  Does it work?  Clearly.  Is it the best model out there?  Not if it doesn’t excite you and keep you motivated.

You should find a program that jumps out at you.  It should look fun on paper and be challenging yet rewarding once it’s executed.  You’re not looking for “perfect” and it shouldn’t just be what’s popular now.  What your favorite lifter does doesn’t matter.  OF COURSE it should be something that’s proven through mass application, from an experienced coach, that what you’ll adhere to long-term.  Most of all, it should drive you to push yourself hard and be consistent!

Method Before Mentality

So if practically every good program out there works, why do some people see better results on the same program than others do?  Why do some people stagnate while others flourish?  The answer my friend is mentality.  Few people will address this element throughout their training careers and a lot of potentially good lifters will be left to flop about.powerlifting mentality

Mentality is the element of training that can’t be prescribed or dictated to you through a set and rep scheme.  It’s mind over matter, it’s the will to transcend, and a bad mentality will make or break ANY training program no matter how well-written it is.  I’m talking about the fire burning inside you that won’t LET you miss a training session because you’re tired, won’t LET you put less than 100% effort into your exercises.

Your mentality is the little voice inside your head that says “YES I CAN!” when someone tells you you can’t.  It’s the will to be defiant, to do what you want to do regardless of how anyone else feels about it.  This is your ticket to becoming who you want to be!

Gratitude and Responsibility

People with negative mindsets can never really succeed.  You show up to the gym complaining about how sore you are, wearing fatigue like a badge, and you’re already making excuses.  “This won’t be a good training session. I didn’t sleep well.  I’m tired and under-recovered and my shoulder hurts.”  Before anything bad can even happen, you’re defeated and ready to surrender.

The messed up thing is that you WANT to be at the gym training.  You asked for this.  You’re LUCKY.  And now that you’re here, you’re going to crumble under the self-imposed pressure, when there are millions of people around the world who would DIE to have the opportunity and time to do what you’re about to do?

No, you aren’t.  You’re going to express some gratitude to the universe and every great lifter you look up to.  You’re going to control the outcome of this training session and own your life.  When you have the bar in your hands or on your back, you’re going to murder it as though it’s trying to do the same to you.  Most of all, you’re going to accept responsibility for what happens, NOT put it all on a training program you got off the internet.

Taking Ownership & Remaining True As An Arrowpowerlifting mentality

You should see where I’m going with this.  Your program is a road map to your destination.  Provided you don’t veer off course looking for a shortcut, you’re on the right track.  But you’re not getting anywhere if you’re unwilling to move.  Once you know where you’re going and how to get there, you’re responsible for setting the pace.  You’re in charge of taking right turns and adjusting for unforeseen circumstances.  It’s up to YOU to work your ass off through the good and bad times.

It’s important to consider how stress outside of training impacts your consistency and dedication to training though. Because family, work, and friends have to come first, they WILL impact your training from time-to-time.  We’re not just talking about accepting that you’ll have good and bad training days here though. When your world is crashing down, the best program ever won’t get you up out of your chair.  It won’t put your mind in gear, and it won’t hold you up when the pain of living becomes too great.  In the end it’s all on you.

The fact of the matter is that training is a part of life.  While it might have to take a backseat when things get really hairy, you can’t use life as an excuse to fall short of your goals.  You need to keep going if it’s important to you.

BONUS:  Now That You’ve Got Your Head Straight…

First, WHAT THE FUCK WAS UP WITH THE BUNNIES?  Nobody knows, especially not me.  But after reading all of that stuff about mindset, you are now a steadfast individual who attacks their goals and doesn’t complain.  NOW I can be biased and say that a lot of programs out there DO kind of suck.   That’s why I’m giving you an 8 week training cycle FOR FREE.

Click here to download your copy and start putting weight on the bar!