The Barbell & I: We Are Demon Fighters

I don’t know what lives in your gym, but at my gym, there’s a little demon that lives at the bottom of the squat.

He seems to only come out of hiding for CrossFit Total, and I’m not sure if he and his brethren haunt others, or just me.

Right about the time I should be thinking about keeping my core tight and pressing my knees out. In that dark place at the bottom of the back squat—where I simultaneously feel both weightless and the weight of the world—the imp whispers to me so that only I can hear him.

Don’t go too low… you won’t be able to stand up. Na na na-na na… you can’t stand up. You can’t stannnnd up. Neener, neener, neener, You can’t stand up.

Sometimes he recruits a few friends to help me with deadlifts, too. They hang themselves from the bar, chattering amongst themselves.

She’ll never get this off the floor. Never. Never. Never. Hey, girlie! You’ll never get this off the floor. Ha hahahahahahaha!

Oh, man! I hate those little f*ckers. But yesterday and today, I outsmarted them… and found myself with two new PRs. The barbell and I snuffed out the demons and imps on the squat and deadlift. Wanna know how we did it?

I’ve talked before about being comfortable being uncomfortable. Yesterday, when it was time to address the bar (hello, barbell!), I gave myself a little pep talk and did battle with the imps. I’m really loving this idea of the barbell as the weapon against the monsters, rather than the enemy itself. I like thinking the barbell is on my side. Is the barbell the ultimate weapon? It just might be.

The Back Squat Pep Talk

To make it count, you’ve gotta get low enough. And you can go low! Knees out, core tight. No reason to be scared down there. Just keep it all tight and STAND UP. Just stand up.”

Then I cleared my mind, ignored the imps taunting me from that hole at the bottom of the squat, and took my first breath to settle the bar on my shoulders. Positioned my feet, sucked in an even deeper breath and sat the hell down into it… then I stood up. Done.

The Deadlift Pep Talk

“It’s gonna feel heavy. No matter how little weight is on the bar, it always feels shockingly heavy on that first pull. Do not be fooled. Don’t give that weight any respect. Respect the bar, not the weight. Core tight, press your knees out, lead with your chest, and just STAND UP. Just stand up.”

Then I cleared my mind, drop-kicked a few imps off the bar, and in one fluid motion, got my hook grip in place, and stood the hell up.

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  • Nom Nom Paleo says:

    Thanks for all the Oly lifting tips! Since I'm a newbie, I'm soaking it all in like a sponge. Is there a particular brand of weight lifting shoes you recommend?

  • MelG says:

    Way to rock the PRs Mel! You are going to nail that 200#DL next time.

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Nom Nom Paleo –> I don't use weight lifting shoes. I wear my Converse Chuck Taylors for CrossFit and lifting since our workouts are always a hybrid of lifting during our skills session and crazy CrossFit stuff during the WOD. I do, however, have my eye on Inov-8 F-Lite230 for my next pair of workout shoes.

    MelG –> That's the goal! In three months I'm going to test myself again!

  • Marcy says:

    Have you seen Manimal wear? I think you'd like the lifter's creed shirt:

    I wish my gym had regular heavy lifting days. One day I'll have an olympic bar at home to get some more practice with my lifts (and Sunday we have skills day so I usually work on lifts then).

    Great job on the PR's and the pep talks!

  • MelG says:

    You will love the Inov-8's. I have a pair LOVE them. I will add that I absolutely will not do heavy oly without my lifting shoes and since my hip has been a little funky I've been squatting in them too.

  • Marcos Torres says:

    Having a plan before your address the barbell is freakin smart usually people just get in there and do it i have found myself imagining the goal reps completely while Slayer is blasting then step up. I like the inner monologue you have going there.

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Marcos –> I've been practicing doing all of my self-talk before I pick up the bar so as soon as my hands touch it, I'm ready to go. It's hard, but I think it's really helping.

  • Marcos Torres says:

    Not that your is OCD but I posted a questions about something of the obsessive things people do before lifting and the list was pretty long. That is what your talk does gets you into that place of performing the lift. nice!

  • Erika says:

    Thanks so much for this. Kickass. I read this and watched the video about the breathing and then the next morning went to the gym and PR’d in the back squat by 25 pounds! And the coach loved your image of the demon at the bottom of the back squat.

  • Lynne says:

    I’ve got to try this pep talk because I just discovered that demon at the bottom of my squat and I detest him. Maybe I could sit on him and crush him — provided he’s really at the bottom and not above knee height where I thought it might be cool to stop and turn around on Monday night’s max attempt. Max. Yeah. That’s the imp’s name.

    • Mel says:

      Love it! Forever forward, that demon will be known as Max.

      Max is a little devil, it’s true. You’ll beat him next time!