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I see it every day- PR weight is on I the bar, the lifter gets psyched up and approaches the bar. She bends down, pulls on the bar a few times, gets set and is about to separate the bar from the floor, and…. inhales, exhales… inhales, exhales… inhales again, exhales. What is she doing?

Stop thinking! Point and shoot!

What does it mean to “Point and Shoot?”

Think of a shooter aiming a rifle at a target. The longer the shooter holds the gun, the heavier it gets in their hands, the harder it is to stabilize the gun, the more thoughts enter their mind that distract them from the goal, and negative thoughts find their way in. Instead of thinking about hitting the target, the shooter is thinking about NOT MISSING the target.

These same rules apply to weightlifting, to bowling, to beer pong, etc. There is a time and a place to think. On the platform and at the barbell is NOT one of them.

In order to maximize your attempts, you must develop a process. This process must be consistent- every rep, every set, every day, so that it becomes habitual and carries over into competition.

When and how should I think?

Off the platform, before every set. Part of your “set up” should include self-talk and visualization. As you stand up to approach the platform, take some time to encourage yourself and visualize a PERFECT LIFT. As you are visualizing, talk yourself through the lift.

For example, as I approach the platform before a lift, I visualize the lift in slow motion. As the visualization begins, I say to myself, “I’m going to push through the floor as long as possible.” I visualize that it will feel heavy as soon as I separate the bar, but I know that it will get lighter as long as I hold my position.

As the bar moves through the visualization, I continue the mental steps:

“I feel pressure through my whole foot as the bar crosses my knees- with all of that pressure, I’m going to attack the ground as hard as I can”

I visualize the feeling of full extension, still connected to the floor. The lift continues:

“As I finish my extension, I’m going to pull as hard as I can with my hands and feel the bar moving upwards as my body moves down”

I visualize a weightless bar for a split second, until:

“I snap through- when my feet hit the floor, my elbows extend at the same time to feel pressure against both.”

I imagine that the bar is overhead, and I tell myself, “stay calm, stay tight,” or whatever is necessary to complete the lift.

Transitioning from Off the platform thinking to On the Platform thinking

Notice that throughout the visualization, the cues were very specific. This will change as you approach the bar. In order to “point and shoot,” all of those detailed building blocks in the earlier thought process are combined into larger blocks that have a very general meaning to them. Thoughts like “Tight, Aggressive, and Fast” are Point and Shoot cues. They are not specific, they don’t flood your mind with information overload, they are reminders that serve as motivators to generalize the detailed thoughts you just used off the platform.

Thinking is done – once your hands are on the barbell, it’s not time to hold it; it’s time to lift it!

Be specific off the platform- create a pre-lift process that pushes you into a positive mind set about what you are about to do. Approach the bar, grab your weapon- Point and Shoot!

Phil Sabatini

M.S., C.S.C.S., USAW

Lecturer of Exercise Science
Old Dominion University
Human Movement Sciences

Phil is a former national champion and long time member of East Coast Gold Weightlifting. He is the Head Coach of the Barbell Syndicate at CrossFit Rife