Mental Tricks to Get More Reps and Lift More Weight

By Nick Nilsson
Author of Time-Volume Training


Here are some practical tips and tricks that I use in my OWN training every single day to push myself to new levels of insanity...(you know, the fun stuff!).

Mental Tricks to Get More Reps and Lift More Weight

Use them if you dare...

1. Rewards

Say you're finishing the last few reps of a set. It's starting to hurt and you're ready to quit. Imagine someone just offered you a million dollars to get one more rep. You would find a way to get that rep. If that doesn't do the trick, you can use other powerful rewards/offers that would motivate you to keep going, e.g. pizza if you're on a diet.


2. Ghost Spotter

Imagine someone spotting you. Imagine this ghost spotter helping you finish that rep. Obviously, there's nobody there but just the accessing that FEELING of having somebody helping you lift the weight can be a powerful stimulus. And, in that case, it really WILL be all you.


3. Magnetic Force

If you're doing dumbbell presses, imagine they are two powerful magnets that are irresistibly drawn to each other. If you're curling, imagine your eyes as magnets attracting the bar towards them. If you're benching, imagine the bar being repelled by your chest. This technique is especially useful on that last, slow rep. It will help you squeeze a little extra out to finish the rep.


4. Chopped-Up Sets

Here is a trick you can use to get the most out of high rep sets.

  • When the going gets tough, start doing consecutive small sets of five reps.
  • When you can't get five reps, do sets of three reps.
  • When three reps seems impossible, convince yourself to do just two more reps.
  • When you can't do sets of two, tell yourself just one more rep.
  • Keep trying to get just one more rep until you can't move.

Breaking it up like this will allow you to get many more reps than counting straight through one big set. You can do this right from the start as well. If you are doing a set of fifteen reps, do a set of five, another set of five, a set of three, then a set of two.

It's a lot less daunting to do smaller sets like this than a set of 100.


5. Pain Management

Pain tolerance is a big factor in weight training intensity. The more pain you can take, the harder and longer you can push.

  • A good way to fight pain is to tell yourself that it is not your pain; it is somebody else's. It sounds crazy but it works.
  • You can also try the Corsican Twin technique. Imagine the pain you are going through is being felt by someone you don’t like. The more you put yourself through, the more punishment they take.
  • It also helps if you're a little masochistic. Really hard trainers learn to love the pain (not injury pain; hard work pain)..."embrace the suck."


6. Self-Reprimand

To push harder, you may want to try self-reprimand, i.e. telling yourself how lazy you are, how small and weak you are. You should react by vigorously trying to prove yourself wrong.


7. Self-Praise

Self-praise is also good. Tell yourself how big and strong and powerful you are and how this weight is child's play.


8. The Little Voice In Your Head

Reprogram the little voice in your head. Most people have a little voice in their head that warns them not to do things that may seem unreasonable or threatening, e.g. you better not do that or you'll hurt yourself, you can't lift that much, this hurts, let's quit. This voice can undermine your confidence to lift extremely heavy weight or get those last few reps.

Reprogram your little voice to tell you things like: that felt pretty good, let's add more weight or you can do another rep. Don't get too out of control but don't be scared. You can usually do more than you think you can and you never know until you try. Don't automatically assume you'll never accomplish anything or you never will.


9. Unreasonable Goals

Set almost unreasonable but achievable goals for yourself. Say for example, you know you can curl 50 pounds for ten reps. Set the goal of twelve reps and fight madly to get those twelve. It gives you the incentive to improve.


10. Competitions

Have competitions with a training partner or with yourself. Whoever gets the most reps with a certain weight or percentage of bodyweight has to buy dinner. Challenge yourself to break personal bests and reward yourself when you do. This type of competition can dramatically increase intensity.

11. Explosive Imagery

Just before a set, put images of explosive power in your head, e.g. rockets, artillery, a stampede, explosions, etc.

This form of imagery will start up your adrenaline and give you a little extra kick in the pants to get your set going. Imagine this explosive power rocketing the weights you are using.


12. Mind In Muscle

Try to put your mind in the muscle you're working, visualizing the contraction. Try to consciously fire the muscle fibers in your mind...don't just let it happen.


13. Contact

Getting a spotter to just touch you and not push can give you extra force. This is partly psychological and partly physical. The contact of body's energy fields can actually give you a little extra lift. It is not all in your head and it is not all quackery. It does work.


14. Ratcheting

When the going gets tough, imagine your muscles as ratchets; stopping, redoubling the force, pushing a little more, stopping, redoubling, etc.


15. Positive and Negative Stimuli

When doing exercises where you are pushing something away from you, e.g. bench, imagine the bar as a negative stimulus (a chainsaw, a pile of dog poop, etc.). When doing exercises where you are pulling something towards you, imagine the bar as a positive stimulus (an attractive person, a chocolate cake, etc.).


16. Donald Duck

If you find your inner voice speaking negatively and bringing you down, change the voice in your head so it sounds like Daffy or Donald Duck. You won’t be inclined to take it so seriously.


17. Enjoy It

Learn to enjoy the pain. Eat it up.


18. Borrow Energy

Borrow energy from other people. This can be done before a set or when the going is getting tough. Using a mirror or looking directly, look at someone squarely in the eyes. Give them a smile or a nod or a psychotic grin and imagine yourself drawing energy from them. At that point, two people are focusing their energy on the set. You may or may not make friends with this one.

19. Mentor

Imagine you have a mentor or someone you are trying to impress standing over you and watching as you do your set. Imagine they are encouraging you and pushing you harder and harder.


20. Threats

Threats can also work. If someone put a gun to your head and said “three more reps”, you would find a way to get those reps. Imagine this situation to get those reps.


Next time you hit the gym, give one or more of these a try. I think you'll notice a big difference in how hard you're able to push yourself and the results you get from that workout.

Learn powerful mental performance tips and tricks for 7 common exercises here.



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