7. Mental Training

Many trainees spend countless hours training with weights but with minimum progress. In most cases their progress is hindered by their mental attitude. This chapter will give basic information on mental training, motivation, and sports psychology and, most importantly, how this information can be applied to the workouts. The chapter will present the major mental (or psychological) skills (or states or factors) that a person needs to maximize his performance. Then, the mental training techniques (or tools) which improve mental skills and increase strength performance will be discussed (see Table 7.1). Finally, the techniques will be applied to the workout routine (mental plans).

Table 7.1: Mental (or psychological) skills (or states or factors) that are important for high performance. The most important mental training techniques (tools) to improve the mental skills are also shown. Based on Burton and Raedeke (2008), Birrer and Morgan (2010).

Techniques / Tools → Mental skills / states → Performance



Energization breathing








Mental skills (or states or factors)

The mind perceives, feels, thinks, reasons, and remembers. Having a positive attitude for the training (and in general for life) is very important for great gains. An example of how the beliefs can affect the performance is the placebo effect; a belief that a beneficial treatment has been received. Strength improvements of 2-20% have been reported with the placebo effect even for trained athletes (Beedie and Foad 2009). The nocebo effect is the opposite; it is a negative outcome resulting from the administration of a nocebo (an inert pharmacological or procedural treatment). Some studies found significant decreases in weightlifting performance when the participants were disclosed the true nature of the placebo during the experimental period (Maganaris et al. 2000, Kalasountas et al. 2007).

Taking decisions can change the way the mind works. A very good example is the following (La Cour 1999): When a person is walking or driving, he usually does not pay attention to the characteristics of the other cars. The moment he decides to buy a car then he starts noticing the cars around him and particularly the brand and the color he has in mind. The same could apply to training, nutrition and other areas. When a person sets a goal and takes a decision to achieve it, then the mind works around it.

The right mindset can lead training to a different level. Unfortunately, a lot of people have a negative attitude, which sabotages their own efforts. Fortunately, the mind can be trained like the body. The following sections present the psychological skills or mental factors that are considered very important for a person who wants to increase (strength) performance and improve results (Mellalieu and Hanton 2009, Birrer and Morgan 2010). The most important for weight training are:

Other mental skills, such as mental toughness, emotions management will be only shortly discussed. When asked to rank psychological skills by importance, coaches rated athletes’ motivation and confidence as the top two (Radcliffe et al. 2013).