Strength Training and Mental Toughness

Mental toughness is necessary for strength training and it is also a result of strength training.

Athletic endeavors reveal character, focus, attitude, thought patterns, motivation, determination and decision-making. Having confidence in yourself and in your physical and mental abilities can be helpful in unexpected ways at any time. 

Mental toughness may manifest in small ways, such as navigating a fall, or in bigger ways such as using your physical strength and mental acuity to save your life or the life of another.

The goal of everything we do in the gym is help us to move better and be stronger outside of the gym.

Patty applies her mobility and strength to all areas of her life; enjoying grandchildren, travel, walking, hiking, yoga and moving heavy things as needed.

Patty applies her mobility and strength to all areas of her life; enjoying grandchildren, travel, walking, hiking, yoga and moving heavy things as needed.

I believe that people who are mentally tough are often attracted to strength training because they desire the physical and mental challenge. I define strength training as lifting heavy things in different ways to increase physical and mental strength with application to everyday life.

Strength training produces positive changes in nearly every system in the body: integumentary (skin, nails, hair), skeletal, muscular, lymphatic, immune, respiratory, nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, digestive, reproductive, and fascial. The key to strength training is to deliver the right dose; not too much and not too little. It is my job as a coach to manage that for my gym members.

Check out this article and other resources for understanding and developing mental toughness.

People of all fitness levels, and all ages, desire to move their bodies in interesting ways and to push safely to the edge of their ability. I believe that strength training is as much for the mind as  for the body. The result is increased confidence, enthusiasm, energy and mental toughness.

Steve deadlifts 245# and gets stronger almost every time he walks into the gym. He is mentally tough and physically tough and getting tougher each day.

Steve deadlifts 245# and gets stronger almost every time he walks into the gym. He is mentally tough and physically tough and getting tougher each day.

What we do with kettlebells, barbells and bodyweight movements requires serious focus and patient practice to complete the movements with safety and with precision. 

With strength-training, we learn to think and feel what our bodies are doing. This tuning it to what is happening both physically and mentally helps us feel more connected, more knowledgeable and honest about our physical and mental strengths and weaknesses; I argue that this contributes to our mental toughness. We become can-do people. What that means will vary for you and for me. We feel different and we are different after these training experiences.

Jennifer is new to us and is learning the 7-steps of the Turkish Getup. She is a professional organizer that places serious physical demands on her body. This training will help her get stronger and know how to move, lift and carry heavy boxes and other items on the job.

Jennifer is new to us and is learning the 7-steps of the Turkish Getup. She is a professional organizer that places serious physical demands on her body. This training will help her get stronger and know how to move, lift and carry heavy boxes and other items on the job.

With strength training, we can increase our strength if we are honest about what is truly happening in our thoughts and identifying what we feel in our bodies. As a coach, it is my job to help people focus on what they think and feel, help them stay positive and in-control as they manage how the load is reacting with their bodies.

The ability to dig deep and practice when we don’t feel like it, when we don’t like doing a particular lift or movement, when it’s difficult (but not dangerous), and even when we might even be a little unsure if we can do it, can help us develop mental toughness.

I am proud of people when they are honest about what they do well and can admit where they can improve. This is mental toughness. They persevere because they know they need it. They want to meet a challenge head-on. It requires being humble and confident at the same time. This is a skill that carries over into our professional lives, relationships, hobbies, and in serving at church and inn the community.

Terry is one of the hardest-working athletes in the gym. She is up for any challenge, but as a coach, she also knows when to back off; mental toughness is knowing when it is time to go and when it is time to stop.

Terry is one of the hardest-working athletes in the gym. She is up for any challenge, but as a coach, she also knows when to back off; mental toughness is knowing when it is time to go and when it is time to stop.

Many of our gym members are lifting weights they never dreamed they would be lifting. Some never considered themselves athletes or participated in anything athletic activities as a youth. Some are re-starting their athletic careers with strength training in their 50s and 60s after years of doing other activities.

A willingness to try new things is a sign of mental toughness. The willingness to hang in their when it gets harder reveals and builds mental toughness.

I argue that feeling physically strong gives you a mental edge that perhaps you can’t quite explain. You might feel happier, more confident, energetic and enthusiastic. There might be a new sense of freedom because you can do more physical work with ease. 

The RKC System of Strength requires safe lifting; we never go to failure. We are not seeking dangerous thrills. My gym members are not defending their country with our lives or working as first responders. I think the RKC Snatch Test (100 snatches at a prescribed weight in 5 minutes) is an incredible test of physical conditioning, but even mores a test of your mental toughness.

Eric prepared for the RKC with perseverance, focus and a great attitude. Mental toughness is one of his strengths and I believe as a new RKC he will be able to coach other people to do this well.

Eric prepared for the RKC with perseverance, focus and a great attitude. Mental toughness is one of his strengths and I believe as a new RKC he will be able to coach other people to do this well.

The result of our way of strength training is that we feel energized and invigorated, both physically and mentally. We feel good being challenged and we are mentally and physically renewed.

It is difficult to wrap the words around mental toughness because it is impacted by our upbringing, our athletic past, life experiences and personality traits. 

Mental toughness is revealed in our desire to get just a little bit better, in small ways, every day.

Being around other people who have that same desire also helps us build mental toughness. In our strength-training community, we learn from each other and we inspire each other to new levels of greatness. Cindy(video below) is an example of a gym member who greatly encourages and inspires others.

Getting just a little bit better gives us the courage to keep striving to improve, in some way, daily, weekly, monthly and over many years.. Mental toughness might not be why we started our strength journey, but it becomes a key reason we keep coming back for more.