We all do it at times; we lose mental focus while training. Even the most seasoned lifters sometimes find their minds wandering or realize they’re just going through the motions in the gym. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that by really concentrating on the act of lifting they could be getting much better results with the same amount of effort.

So, after much research and in speaking with people, I’ve come up with a list of some great mental tricks to help you get the most out of your workout and help you to squeeze out those last few reps that really count.

Imagine every set is a cinch.

Convince yourself that every set you do is the easiest. For example, if you have three sets of a heavy-loaded bar, think to yourself: “The first set is the easiest because I’m fresh. The second set is the easiest because I’m warmed up. The third set is the easiest because I’m done right after it” And there you go, you pounded out 3 sets so easily, maybe do a fourth cuz you’ve got a little juice left!

Talk to yourself.

Self-doubt can cripple your potential. So change the thought process around to a more positive self-pep talk, like “I got this” or “The pump feels so good.” And I use the term “positive-pep talk” loosely, because for Kosta and I, we tend to go the more aggressive, curse-laden route…. which brings me to my next point …..

Let the F-bombs fly.

When the weight of the bar feels too much to bear, start swearing. Research has shown that cursing during painful experiments that involved participants submerging their hands in ice-cold water enabled them to tolerate the pain a little longer compared to those who uttered a non-curse word. The rationale behind this is researchers believe cursing helps trigger your natural fight-or-flight response, which releases a flood of performance-enhancing and pain-numbing hormones to help you cope with discomfort.

Switch up your rep counts.

Try using a different method of counting out your reps than you’re used to, like counting in another language; this distracts you by diverting your mind from the (good) burn of building new muscle without being too distracting that you drop the weight. OR use my method of counting backward on the last and heaviest set (it feels like less reps for some reason!)


Visualize the bar going up! This is the same as the “spotter” trick. Whenever you’re spotting someone and they’ve hit a sticking point, most of the time you can place 2 fingers under the bar and they magically seem to gain momentum. It’s simply a mental placebo effect where the lifter thinks he’s getting help with the rep…but is actually doing it all on his own. You can do this by yourself just by visualizing the bar constantly moving upwards, like a mental movie. Your body will “believe” what you see and respond by making your “movie” a reality.

Muscular Irradiation.

This is the ability of a muscle that is performing an action to generate more tension by being “innervated” by the surrounding muscles’ contractions. This is a universally “accepted” rule, where any muscle can generate a better firing potential into another nearby muscle and unlock more strength; when you activate all your muscles, you’ll unleash your MAXUMUM POTENTIAL. For every exercise, squeeze your glutes as hard as you can, tighten your core, and crush your grip to turn your knuckles white. Grab the ground with your foot on the squat and even tighten your legs on small, upper-body exercises. The best time to do this technique is on heavy sets with few reps to lift more weight. The hidden strength you discover using irrigation will amaze you!

Ok, so there you have some really helpful mental tricks that can help you get more out of your workout. Oh! I forgot to mention the mental trick one I use the most! During my hardest lifts, usually the ones near the end of the workout when I’m drained of ATP, I always think about the food I’m going to eat after I train, specifically the carb portion. Sometimes I think of the steaming hot, baked yams I’ll be devouring, or that delicious tuna rice bowl at the sushi restaurant, LOL. I have simple pleasures! Well, whatever works right? Whatever YOU consider a reward, think of that while you squeeze out those last, and most important reps.

If you enjoyed this article and found it helpful, stay tuned for my future article on some great mental tricks for specific exercises.

Written by Angel Simmons for Kosta Kromidas.com