We’ve all been there: that moment during a heavy workout when you realize it’s time for a set and you’re just. Not. Feeling it. Whether you’re physically or mentally exhausted, intimidated by the work, or just “out of it,” a lack of psychological arousal can make a hard workout even harder.
That’s where these tools come in. When you need a little boost, music, smelling salts, and meditation can provide the extra energy and adrenaline you need to push through – all in very different ways.
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
Everybody’s got their one good psyche-up song, and – while I could certainly share some of my favorites if you’re interested – whether it’s “Ride the Lightning” or “Teenage Dream” doesn’t really matter.
Research clearly shows that music can elicit an emotional response that translates into physiological arousal: in other words, that it can help you lift more weight! Of course, it can also be a distraction, too, and I’ll explain later how too much psyche up can actually be a bad thing. Ultimately, though, if you need some cool tunes to get you through a tough set, go for it.
Ammonia (Smelling Salts)
Disclaimer: Ammonia is a respiratory stimulant in the form of an inhalant that isn’t necessary for training or heavy lifting. It can potentially have adverse effects on one’s health. Please seek the advice of a medical professional before using, or if side effects are present.
Unlike music, the scientific verdict about the use of smelling salts – usually called nose tork or ammonia – is still out. Technically, tork works by irritating the surface membranes of the nose and lungs, which can result in better respiratory function and possibly increased alertness. There’s little to no empirical evidence that shows the use of nose tork improves performance.
[Throwback to the time Jujimufu did an interview with BarBend and made one of the writers try smelling salts for the first time!]
There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence, however, and I can tell you from experience that a little hit of tork can make a big difference in my ability to smash some big weights. As you might expect, it’s also really easy to overdo the tork, and even taking too big of a whiff can lead to teary eyes and missed lifts.
If there’s a common theme in all the tools people use to get amped up, it’s this: they’re very easy to overdo. The real secret to peak performance isn’t “maxing out” on the adrenaline – it’s finding the right balance between enough and too much.
Meditation is perhaps the most effective way to find that balance. By regulating your breathing, becoming aware of distractions, and practicing mindfulness of your body and surroundings, you can (with lots of practice) enter a state of “flow” where the weights seem just seem… lighter. I’ll get more into meditation for performance enhancement in another article, but for now, if you don’t already practice meditation regularly, I suggest you start with about ten minutes a day before or immediately after your training.
Which one is right for you? You’ll have to experiment to find out, but I encourage you to give all three methods – and others – a shot. In the long run, having many tools to manage your energy and emotions during your training becomes essential to continued progression and enjoyment in the gym.
Feature image from @phdeadlift Instagram page.