Strength Training – Mental Toughness

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What comes to mind when you hear “strength training”? Squats, bench press, and bicep curls? While those are still considered fundamental resistance training exercises, traditional strength training has branched out to include targeted categories such as functional and core strength. But what about mental strength – does that matter? It absolutely matters.

Whether you are training for weight loss, a marathon, or some other level of competition – the body will become tired  and sore because it is being pushed past the point it has before thus reaching a new level of potential. When your lungs burn and your muscles ache, your brain will act in your best interest to try to protect you. The brain will tell you to “slow down” or “stop”, but that is where mental toughness training begins.

U.S. Army General George S. Patton once said:

“You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up… you’ve always go to make the mind take over and keep going.”

Each week we tune in to watch the contestants on NBC’S STRONG as they are tested physically and mentally both in workouts and in team challenges. However, at some point each contestant – like many of us, like many of our clients – will be fighting in a competition with themselves. The internal monologue from the brain saying “stop, slow down” or “you can’t” is drowned out more each week by the personal desire to succeed and the cheers of encouragement from their teammate.

But how do you train mental toughness? Military and law enforcement professionals have endured physical and mental strength training for years. In fact, the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) developed a specialized certification for those training military and law enforcement professionals. This specialty, also known as Tactical Strength & Conditioning, outlines a systematic approach to developing five mental toughness skills such as arousal control, concentration, performance imagery, self-talk (or “inner voice”), and goal setting.

With the surge of training for obstacle course racing, American Ninja Warrior, and other fitness competitions, we are seeing more and more that mental toughness is required of these athletes as well. They, like an average client, are tasked with a goal that might have seemed impossible at some point in their life. But with the right strength training, both physical and mental, they will accomplish things they never thought possible.

While intense workouts are an effective tool to test an individual’s grit, a human’s ability to perform in stressful situations includes both physical and mental training. A person’s true grit – or strength of character – is not measured by physical strength; it is measured when physical strength fails and mental strength perseveres.

Muscular strength develops one rep at a time. Mental toughness develops one more rep at a time. It is tested as you approach the line between certain success and possible failure.  Those with the most grit will step across that line every time – one more rep, one more mile, one more pound. But before you can push yourself to the next level, you must master the basics that are required. Mastering the fundamentals such as proper form and technique in traditional weight training serves as the strong foundation on which to build your physical and mental strength. These techniques must become second nature before moving on to overcome the mental challenges that await you.

Power Systems is committed to helping anyone and everyone power their potential. In this case, we offer the toughest strength training tools to keep up with the high volume demand of strength & conditioning program. But we are more than just a company about offering products; we are passionate about supporting all those in pursuit of their fitness goals.

Lastly, in pursuit of the physical and mental strength required to reach your goals, remember let your mind run your body, don’t let your body run your mind. It is far better to fail, than to quit.

“Fall down seven times, stand up eight” – Japanese Proverb

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About Elisabeth Fouts

Elisabeth is the Education & Content Manager for Power Systems. She has served the fitness industry for over 15 years has a wide variety of experience from personal training and group fitness instruction to health club membership sales and fitness management. She joined Team Power Systems as Education Coordinator in 2015 and has since produced and co-authored educational content for live and virtual training sessions both internally for staff training and externally for industry educational organizations across the United States. Elisabeth holds a B.S. in Education & Exercise Science and is a certified fitness instructor with ACE and Les Mills.