How Mental Performance Affects Your Workouts

STACK Expert Josh Williams lays out four factors affecting mental performance and teaches you how to make them work for you.

Mental performance can have a huge effect on your workouts. If you lack focus and drive or feel overly anxious, you're not going to do your best on each exercise.

Read about the four factors affecting mental performance and learn how to make them work for you.


You need motivation to push yourself to the next level. Finding what motivates you will help you push yourself. It can be as simple as wanting to be the best. Or it could be the desire just to better yourself each day. It's not easy, but neither is life.

Tip: Find a training partner who will help keep you accountable and remind you of what you are trying to achieve. Set goals and deadlines.


To lose focus in a game can lead to giving up a big play; to lose focus in the weight room can lead to half-assed lifting and worse, injury.

In the gym there are a lot of distractions. Depending on the setting, there could be mirrors, which you can look at yourself in for hours, there could be friends that distract you, or you could just get lost in your own imagination.

The best athletes I know have found a balance of having fun and staying relaxed between sets, but when it's time to perform the lift, all their concentration is on completing the task.

Finding this balance and being able to concentrate will keep you safe. It will also make sure you are performing the lifts properly and it will help you complete each lift with your best effort. This will make sure you are getting the most out of your time spent working out.

Tip: This one comes down to making a conscious effort to clear your head of all distractions before each and every lift. Over time, it will become habit. Also, visualization techniques can help, such as imagining yourself completing the lift.

Sensation of Competition

This could also be called stimulation or arousal. You see this more when it comes to game day. There are the butterflies in your stomach leading up to the start of a game.

Most people get like this, unless you don't have a pulse or you have sloth-like emotions. If you can get yourself into a "pre-game mindset" during your workout, you can use that boost of intensity to your advantage by helping you lift more weight. However, there is a fine balance. You can be too aroused, leading to premature fatiguing and a drop off in performance.

The ability to control your pre-competition emotions will lead to the right amount of arousal that allows you to perform at your best.

Tip: If you are one who is easily aroused, stay away from stimulants, such as caffeine, before a workout. Visualizing what you're about to do can help you increase your level of arousal.

Tolerance of Pain

This last one may seem a little strange, but I have noticed over the past few years that one of the biggest mental factors holding back young athletes is fear of pain.

In the weight room, this comes in the form of feeling uncomfortable lifting heavy weights or performing more complicated lifts like Squats, for fear of injury. As a coach, it is my job to prepare the athletes to feel comfortable and to be confident that they will be safe and successful in completing the lift. If an athlete cannot get past this fear, it will be very hard for him or her to improve.

Tip: Ask for a spot if you don't feel comfortable with a lift. Before a lift, pump yourself up by yelling something like, "I am the king of everything!" "Of course it doesn't have to be those exact words, but whatever it is, you have to believe it.

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