A pre-lift ritual is a series of actions or movements that occur immediately before you attempt a heavy lift. (Pre-competition rituals might start a few days out from the actual competition, so we’ll save that for another article.)
Some rituals evolve over time, some are the result of trial and error, and some are carefully choreographed. Regardless of how they came to be, all pre-lift rituals are well-established movement patterns. Pre-lift rituals must become deeply ingrained in order to be effective.
When you address a heavy bar, the goal is to maintain technical proficiency while simultaneously producing maximal force. When it comes to heavy singles or max effort lifts, maintaining good form is really about “muscle memory". It’s impossible to simultaneously think through all the technical aspects of the lift during a max effort squat. If you have an internal monologue that’s more than one or two words, odds are you’re going to miss the lift.
Pre-lift rituals are sensory in nature - they involve sound, touch, and even smell. Common pre-lift rituals include things like:
- spinning the bar in the j-hooks
- “screwing” feet into the floor
- jumping up into the air
- quad slapping
- smelling ammonia capsules
- lifting arms overhead, etc.
PRO TIP: Try to avoid pre-lift rituals that require an external stimulus, so things like listening to your favorite song or having another person provide the slap stimulus. What if your phone dies? What if your coach is with another lifter? Make sure you rely on things that you can control… in every situation!
WHY YOU NEED THEM
Having an established pattern of movement (a ritual) allows you to focus on lifting the weight. You cannot afford to waste mental energy on the approach or set up. Attempting to lift a heavy weight can be very intimidating - you need to do everything you can stay focused!
Play around with different rituals and when you find what works for you, stick with it. It’ll make a HUGE difference in your next PR attempt!