An important contributor to technical ability, focus and confidence in weightlifting is the establishment and maintenance of routines
. Consistent sequences and habits mean less distraction with the infinite number of possible choices, changes or variation you can find in weightlifting, which means you’re able to keep your mind focused more intently on exactly what you need to be doing or thinking about at any given moment—for example, the one critical cue you need in mind during a snatch rather than remembering every single one of your previous failed lifts and the million ideas you’ve heard on the internet about how to snatch better.
Routine minimizes variables to narrow our focus and reduce the load on our conscious minds so our limited capacity can be reserved for what’s most important. In a given lift, this includes everything we do in both preparation and execution—from how we stand up from our bench, to how we get chalk, to what we tell ourselves as we walk to the bar, and how we arrange our feet, grip the bar and settle into our preparatory position. Every single step in this process is fertile ground for overwhelming thoughts and doubts to grow. The more haphazard our approach, the more we open ourselves up to those things; the more consistent and controlled our approach, the more resistant we are.
However, we have to be careful of not crossing the line separating routine and superstition—knowing a routine helps you is very different from believing that if you don’t do a specific series of actions exactly the right way, you’re doomed to fail. One is trust in a method to help you; the other is reliance on a method to avoid failure. It’s a totally different mindset and the consequences of deviation are completely different.
Trusting a routine is a rational understanding that the process produces better results in an objective manner—practical actions lead directly to actual results. When we repeat a simple cue to ourselves as we chalk our hands, it crowds out doubt and negative thoughts and keeps us focused on what we need to do; when we position our feet and grip the bar in the exact same way for every snatch, we know we’ve established the perfect position for optimal lifting and won’t need to try to suddenly adjust on the way up.
Reliance on superstition is instead an act of fear—we’re doing something irrational that has no measurable effect or connection to the results we’re seeking because we’re convinced emotionally that to not do it will lead to disaster. If we decide for some reason that tapping our left heel three times on the platform immediately before placing our feet is the determinant of a successful snatch, we’ve crossed that boundary and have now imprisoned ourselves in a nasty situation in which we’re reliant on something that makes no sense and therefore can’t be adjusted, corrected or evaluated for effectiveness—in fact, in the cases that it fails, we’ll find creative rationalizations that relocate the blame… and often then demand we make the superstition more elaborate rather than recognizing that it’s nonsensical and abandoning it.
With superstition, you’re also setting yourself up for catastrophe, especially in competition, by being reliant on things you may not always be able to control. If you believe you can’t snatch well if you don’t stand in exactly the same place at the chalk bucket and then find that’s impossible with how a competition stage is set up, you’re now going to panic and be consumed with that worry instead of being able to focus totally on what you’re doing.
When developing routines, always be aware of what exactly you’re doing and why, and whether or not it has the effect you expect and require. If your current method of addressing the bar, for example, hasn’t been working, test a new method—just be careful of the frequency of your changes and don’t get carried away making dramatic changes every two days because you’ll be preventing genuine evaluation and reacting more to unrelated influences than the method itself.
Learn to use routine to your advantage, and intelligence, flexibility and adaptability to avoid irrational dependence on it.