Training

This Is How To Overcome Your Fear Of Squatting Heavy

February 27th 2020

Here is a list of strategies lifters can implement in order to overcome squatting anxiety:

 

  • Clear, concise, tangible and meaningful goals
  • Learning how to fail safely
  • Learning how to be a better lifter
  • Figuring out programming
  • Practicing gratitude for their gains

 

Beginners, intermediates, advanced, elites, and even top lifters all need to eventually face a heavy weight for them to squat.

Whether you just started out and you are facing a heavy squat weight that you find challenging.

Or you are a seasoned lifter and this is just part of the grind of getting a bigger squat total.

In the beginning, you might look forward to the challenge.

The pain, the discomfort, the struggle.

This fuels you to get better.

However, do this for a few years and you might not feel the same way as you did when you first started.

This could be age-related, you were a few years younger back then than you are now.

However, let us go through several reasons why you might be fearful about squatting heavy and how we can overcome these fears.

You are afraid of pain

You do not enjoy the suffering of heavy squats.

And this can go into two categories, discomfort, and actual chronic injuries.

Let’s start talking about the discomfort.

When you initially started to strength train, you looked forward to every workout.

You wanted to get better and you knew that the more you can potentially do in the gym, the better your results may be.

However, I noticed that every lifter has a threshold on how much discomfort they are willing to go through.

For me, it took a few years of squatting close to my working set limit to finally made me hate squatting.

If you asked any of my training partners when I was a beginner, I would LOVE squatting.

It was the first thing I did in the gym and I made sure I gave it 100% or more if I could.

There was nothing else I really looked forward to.

You could say it was because of this internal attitude that my squats progressed the way they did.

And throughout the years, I went through many periods where I had mixed feelings for heavy squats.

What used to provide me much joy became something quite the opposite.

I wanted the working sets to end.

 

Then, you have chronic injuries, which I also suffered.

When I first started squatting heavy, I did have knee pain.

It gradually went away and it has returned again from time to time.

And it pained me to not be able to squat and make progress because my body needed to heal.

But it was this time away from the squats that made me grew to hate them.

After I take another deload from healing, I would need to work my way back up and it sucked.

It was difficult and hard.

I did not want to work so hard for what seemed like so little results.

It felt as though my squat max did not improve at all.

Solution 1 - Patience and gratitude

I recently found peace with heavy squatting.

It still sucks, do not get me wrong.

But I understand that in order to get stronger, I need to complete my working sets with power and precision.

And that true strength will take time to develop.

I used to envy a lot of Instagram lifters who only trained for <5 years and are able to squat 400lbs or even 500+lbs.

It really got to me sometimes because I have been training longer than them and I didn’t have the results to show for it.

Then, it kind of hit me.

Why am I comparing myself to others when this is not a race?

This journey and goal-reaching were about myself.

And I had to ask myself:

  • Was I able to train injury-free the entire year? 
    • Yes, then I did get stronger.
  • Was I able to squat with my own two legs?
    • Yes, and I have the opportunity to improve

Putting my situation and goals into perspective helped me realize that I am in the exact situation that I want to be in.

That I chose to squat heavy weights in order to improve my strength and I am thankful that I am able to do that to this day.

A lot of people are not fortunate to have the ability to train and work on their bodies.

To have the knowledge about lifting weights and how to steer their life in the direction they want to live.

So, why am I fearful of the pain when I know it is overcoming this resistance that will make me stronger?

Taking it 1 workout at a time, 1 day at a time and really living in the moment.

It is the clarity of knowing that if you have your basic survival needs met, life has been good to me.

Solution 2 - Being better in everything

This is more geared towards people who have chronic injuries from squatting.

If you keep getting injured, no one is to blame but yourself.

The first injury, okay you get a pass.

But every injury after the first, you need to hold yourself responsible.

Ask more questions and try to prevent it from happening.

  • Where am I feeling the pain during the squats? The descent? The hole? The ascent?
  • Do I feel pain before, during or after the squats?
  • Does my body respond better with low volume or high volume?
  • How is my flexibility?
  • How is my gait?
  • Am I sleeping enough?
  • Is my programming appropriate?
  • How is my form?

There are so many questions you can ask yourself.

And for every single lifter, these answers will be different.

So, you need to do your own research and homework.

Be better and gain mastery of your body.

You are afraid of failure

You do not want to fail in your working sets.

You do not want to fail in general.

Good.

This is your fight or flight instinct turning on.

And I find that some of the best ways to tap into your strength are when you are faced with a weight that gives you those jitters.

I really only felt this fear of failure when I was a beginner and I was forced to increase weight every workout when I finished squatting successfully.

Starting Strength was tough but I could handle it as a beginner.

The entire journey from 230lbs to 270lbs was a struggle for me.

When I thought I could not do heavier weights, I was just forced to anyway. 

Solution 1 - Strategic programming

Heavy weights can be intimidating.

Less so if you are an experienced lifter.

As a beginner, you cannot accurately gauge this.

But when you have been consistently lifting for years, there is less of this fear because you have been lifting relatively heavy all the time.

With that said, your program should not be making you fearful of heavy weights.
At least not long term at least.

If you do have a program that makes you afraid of your heavy weights, you should not be doing that program for a long time or you are inexperienced.

This will eventually lead to burnout or injury (happened to me).

Now, I run a program that is fairly challenging and focuses on building strength in the long term.

This is my current program

And I am content with its structure and progression.

Now, I would rather make slow, long term gains than fast, short term progress.

Solution 2 - Learning how to fail

There will be times you will need to dump the squat and you should learn how to do it properly without hurting yourself.

Toward the last 10 seconds of the video, Johnnie will show you how to dump the bar.

He does to 100% intensity and is able to avoid any serious squatting dangers.

One key point to be emphasized is that you want to dump the bar backward, not forwards.

If you are leaning forwards, your form might need to be improved.

You are afraid of success

Successfully squatting heavier weights mean that you need to do more in the future.

And thinking about this makes you not want to squat heavy.

Because this would mean that you have to keep on adding more weight so that it remains a challenge for you.

And this can be a pro or a con for you, depending on the lens you choose to put on.

It can be a blessing that you need to squat heavier weights to get stronger.

At the same time, your squat workouts are only going to get harder and harder at this point.

You do not want to stress of heavy lifting to consume your life.

Solution 1 - Determine exactly what your goals are

Determine what your short term and long term goals are.

And you also need to make sure if strength training aligns with them.

Because there should be no reason why you do not want to squat more weight if you want to get stronger, bigger and better.

Maybe you got a bit sidetracked and need to refocus.

Create something for yourself so that you can be constantly reminded of what you are striving for.

Whatever works for you.

This could be a vision board, training log, note, or even just thinking about it gradually.

Though many coaches will emphasize that unless you write your goals down in a place where you can constantly see it daily, you are not serious yet.

So, write down your goals and be pumped up about it.

You will need the enthusiasm. 

You are afraid of hard work

You do not want to work hard for your goals.

It is much easier to just relax and not push yourself to achieve greatness in the gym.

This is especially common for people who choose to lift weights after work.

They are beat, tired, hungry and just want to sleep.

You are unwilling to set out of your comfort zone and the best effort you may give to your workouts maybe 50-70% of effort.

Not looking too good.

Solution 1 - Early morning workouts

Ask yourself this:

If you are working out in the evening, would you be able to give more effort in the morning if it was the first thing you do?

If you answer yes, you need to adjust your schedule so that you can work out before going to work.

Why?

Because you can give your workouts 100% effort and intensity.

This will help you reach your goals faster.

I am guilty of not following this but if the situation were to come again, I will know what to do:

I was working a 7am-3pm job at the time and had to wake up at 4am to get ready.

If I needed to work out, I would have to wake up at 2:30am  or 3am.

This would mean that I would have to go to bed at around 6pm to get a decent amount of sleep.

You may call it crazy but I view this as someone wanting to strength train so bad, they need to adjust their schedule so that they can give their workouts everything it deserves.

Solution 2 - Again, what are your goals?

This goes back to goal setting.

Why are you strength training?

And if you cannot come up with a concrete answer with a tangible result, you may need to reevaluate your reasons.

Conclusion

And that should do it.

Nothing worth accomplishing was done with struggle and pain.

Know that when you are reaching your limits for heavy squats, this is the exact scenario you need in order to become stronger.

Fear is normal when you are faced with something that is a potential danger to you.

And heavy squats are a threat if you do not squat with perfect form.

The only thing left is to have confidence in completing your working sets, rest up and take on the challenge once again.

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