Your mental climate during workouts is one of the most significant factors (if not the most significant factor) that will determine the level of success you’ll experience from that workout. What follows are my favorite tricks and tactics for more productive gym sessions:

Let Go Of Results And Simply Do The Right Thing

Sometimes the desire to get a result interferes with the desire to do the right things. If you’re learning how to squat for power meets, one of your goals must be the ability to hit parallel. It’s the right thing to do. You should never let your desire to hit a big number interfere with getting to parallel. If you’re learning ho to do full (“squat”) cleans or snatches, you can’t let the desire to make the lift interfere with squatting under. Instead the goal should be to squat, whether you make the lift or not.

The “right thing” is a premise: “If I do “A” it should result in “B.” Then you test the premise by doing “A” and checking your results. If the results aren’t there, your premise is flawed and is in need of revision. If your premise is sound, you got the predicted result.

By the way, one of the best premises you can adopt is: “If I put in the work, good things should happen.” Try it.

Tighten Up Your Shoelaces

If I knew where I picked this up I’d tell you, but I honestly can’t recall. The idea is simple- when you’re getting revved up for a big lift, tighten your laces. They’ll serve as a visceral reminder to tighten yourself up. I’ve been using this little cue for years, so I guess it must be serving me in some way.

Be Careful Of What You Allow To Define You

We all have flaws and limitations. It’s important however, not to give these imperfections too much credit. After all, you’re equally defined by your strengths as you are by your weaknesses. I’m personally very careful about labeling myself as old, a geek, slow-twitch-dominant, lazy, or whatever rationalization I’ve been stewing over. The reasons for why you can’t are valid and they’ll always be there if you need an excuse. The reasons why you can are just as valid, although most of us don’t call upon them as often as we should.

Lowered Expectations

One of the most consistently rewarding mindsets you can employ is that of “lowered expectations.” I know, it doesn’t sound like anything you’d pick up from a book on high-performance psychology, but allow me to explain: Sometimes, expecting a lot out of yourself, especially when you do it all the time, can hurt more than it can help- if you frequently fail to hit the mark, mounting frustration can seriously sideline your motivation. I’m all for a hard-charging “take no prisoners” attitude, but to be honest, it often pays to give yourself a break sometimes. Anytime you can exceed your expectations (even if they’re low expectations) can really generate a lot of enthusiasm to fuel your gym sessions. Find a happy medium when it comes to your expectations.

Have A Routine, Then Break It

It’s vitally important to have a set methodology in the gym- the way you mentally psyche yourself, the way you warm-up, the way you take weight jumps, how you deal with misses, and so on.

It’s equally vital however, to conscientiously break your routine so that you don’t become overly-dependant on it. If you always use chalk, go without it once in a while. If you always use the same exercise order, break that pattern from time to time. If you always train in the morning, do an occasional afternoon workout. Get away from needing everything to be perfect all the time. Place yourself under some unfamiliar adversity- you’ll be better off for doing so.

If you’ve got a few tricks of your own to share, we’d love to hear them!



“One of the signs of a great teacher is the ability to make the subject matter seem simple. Charles Staley is one of these rare teachers. After listening and talking to him, you suddenly achieve a new awareness of training. You go to the gym and, suddenly, everything makes sense, and you wonder why you haven’t been doing it his way since day one.” – Muscle Media 2000 magazine August, 1999


Prominent both the United States and across the globe, Charles is recognized as an insightful coach and innovator in the field of human performance. His knowledge, skills and reputation have lead to appearances on NBC's The TODAY Show and The CBS Early Show, along with numerous radio appearances.


He has authored more than a thousand articles for leading fitness publications and websites, and has lectured to eager audiences around the World.


Charles is not only a thinker, but also a doer: At age 54, he competes in the sport of raw powerlifting, and is a 2-time World Champion (220 and 198-pound weight classes). Find Charles online at www.TargetFocusFitness.com.