Stop Looking in the Mirror

Besides quarter-squats, one of my biggest pet peeves is the amount of time people spend looking at themselves in the mirror while lifting. Say anything to them about it, and their first response is “but I need to make sure my form looks right!”

Bullshit. You don’t need to stare at yourself to know if the lift is correct, that’s why God (or Carl Sagan) gave us a few things called proprioception & kinesthetic awareness. Feeling the movement is one of the most important parts of lifting, and the desire to stare in the mirror while doing it will leave at a severe disadvantage when competition time comes. An example I like to use is this: When you were young, you probably stood on one leg and stared at a moving object, trying to keep your balance. Did you fall over? Probably. Now, instead of standing on one leg while watching a moving object, stand in front of a mirror and practice your snatch or clean: the degree of difficulty has been amplified exponentially.

When I am with new trainees at the Seattle U gym, the first thing I do is teach them to flip around, walk the bar out of the rack facing the opposite direction, facing away from the mirror. I usually get a few complaints and they try to turn to like at the side mirror to check their form out of habit, but with a little coaching they kick the habit fairly quickly.

If you train in a gym with mirrors everywhere you look, it is important to break this habit as quickly as possible. Staring at your sexy thighs in the mirror can prevent you from feeling the lift and using your proprioception to focus on errors you may have. If necessary, videotape your lifts and watch them between sets.

Last weekend I watch blind, mentally impaired teenagers at a powerlifting meet. They had to be led up to the bars and the bench for their lifts, as they couldn’t see or walk on their own. As soon as they put their hands on the bar, they flattened out their rounded backs and got into position. They had form like you wouldn’t believe, and after a battle cry, they gripped the bar and ripped the shit out of it, squatting and deadlifting 300-450lbs. It was amazing to watch.

Let’s face, you are staring in the mirror for three reasons:

1. You lack the confidence to perform the lifts without the mirror. This can be easily remedied with some coaching.

2. You just really like staring at yourself. This is not so easy to remedy.

3. You like staring at other people in the gym. There is no hope for you.

Here are some great examples of completely blind or legally-blind lifts:

Don’t see him looking at himself to check his form for a 639lb squat

Blah blah steroids. Steroids don’t help you see through a bandana.

Chris Vaughn is an award-winning, legally blind strongman

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