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Squat / Bench Fear?..


Whether you are or aren’t returning to the gym tomorrow, it's likely you’ve faced a bit of fear and reluctance towards some exercises at some point in your fitness journey.

Compound exercises in particular, including but not limited to barbell back squats, bench press, military/shoulder press etc (aka the movements where you are relying on getting the weight back up) are typically the ones that cause the most fear and anxiety amongst gym-goers, myself and clients.

You don’t have to work on heavy weights and straight away and I wish there was a way we could diminish this fear - but ultimately its self belief and confidence. You have to believe you’re going to get the bar back up! I never ever used to squat above 50kg despite being more than strong enough, out of fear I wouldnt get it back up.

1. Go with someone! Having a friend or family there as a bit of a ‘backup’ is a good idea to ease back into things. With this said, don’t rely on having a spotter as you may not always be able to have one and you still want to be pushing yourself in your sessions without them! You can also use the safety bars on the squat rack for this.

2. Learn the proper technique. Learning proper form is SO important for your confidence and potential of the lift, as well as minimising injury. Film and analyse your lifts to see your flaws and weak points. Your power output and strength will be far higher if your form is spot on!

3. WARM UP SETS. I advise everyone to do warm up sets, particularly on the compound lifts to prepare the CNS (central nervous system) and also your brain ready for a heavy lift! Even if your gym gives you time slots as they open/you are limited on time, there's no excuse not to warm up sufficiently! Put your phone on airplane mode if short on time and I promise you you will realise how much time you have.

4. Make sure you’ve eaten and drank enough prior.

If you are going to the gym first thing on an empty stomach or after a full day at work at 5pm having not eaten since 1pm, your energy stores will be depleted and the energy you will have to put into that session will be impacted. You may not feel hungry, but an extra banana or carb-source snack (e.g piece of toast, a cereal bar, maltodextrin carb supplement) etc will massively help during the latter of your session in particular with energy.

This is why we programme compound movements at the start of the session when you have the most energy and the best possible power and strength advances! Its also why you shouldn’t do cardio/HIIT before your session (with exception of 3-5 slow, steady cardio to get your HR up as a warm up) - we need to preserve as much energy as possible!

5. Positive self talk. This may sound a bit crazy that ‘hyping yourself up’ can have such an impact on strength. However, if you’ve told yourself before you get under that bar…

“It feels so heavy today”

“I feel shit im so stressed from work”

“Can’t be arsed today”

And negative self-talk along those lines, i PROMISE you it will be reflected in your performance. Sport psychologists have proven this, hence why it is so important to go into the lift with a positive and determined mindset. Prove to yourself that you are the bad bitch x

6. Finally but not least, what's the worst that's going to happen?!

Particularly if you’re in the gym with other people, if you hit failure and can't lift the bar off yourself, people run over to help (I know from experience lol). Provided you are using safety bars with squats, the bar will drop down onto those if you fail the rep and with a bench press, it's very easy just to rest the bar on your chest until someone is able to help or roll it off your body. A lot of powerlifters avoid using clips on bench press so that if they fail, they can slide the weights off each side (but remember, these girls and guys are benching 100kg+ so if you’re benching up to 40kg, I’m confident you can rest it on your body without hurting yourself)!

To conclude, confidence is EVERYTHING. Remind yourself that you are that bitch, hype yourself up, eat sufficiently before your session, make sure you get plenty of sleep (7-8 hours optimally) and WARM UP ADEQUATELY and I promise you you’ll smash this!

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