(C) Copyright 2015 Adam Palmer
Photo courtesy 9for9 Media

Watch an old movie about boxing and you’re sure to see it. The young brash fighter wants the title shot, but his older manager isn’t sure he’s ready. “Why is this guy always holding me back?” the fighter thinks. He doesn’t get it. He can’t see what’s going on.

If you were to ask the manager why he wanted to wait, he’d probably say something like, “The kid isn’t ready.” The manager knows that confidence is critical to the fighter’s success. But it’s a lot more than just confidence. It’s momentum.

The young fighter doesn’t know it at the time, but he needs to build his momentum in order to continually improve his skills. Strength athletes need this too. Momentum is a stem-to-stern concept. It starts with small stuff like improving your technique. It includes selecting attempts in a competition. And yes, it’s even about confidence.

Have you ever noticed that when you miss a couple of sessions, your strength drops off? Or on the other side, if you’re hitting big PR’s in training, you can usually expect a big PR in the meet? That’s momentum.
It’s not just training. You see it at meets too. Ever notice how if you miss your opening squat, it’s an uphill battle after that? And show me a guy who is 1 for 3 after squats and I’ll show you a guy who, more often than not, will miss at least one, probably two benches. And if he’s 2 for 6 after the bench, how do you think deadlifting is going to go? On the other hand, if you’re 3 for 3 on squats and benches, then you’re probably in a good place mentally and feeling “on” for the deadlift. That’s momentum.

(C) Copyright 2015 Adam Palmer
Photo courtesy 9for9 Media

If you try to force yourself into perfect technique or great PR’s, it won’t happen for you. That’s not how you control your momentum. Trying to control momentum this way is like trying to divert a river from downstream. You can’t do it – even with monumental effort.

A far better way is to start with small decisions. Do something small that moves you in the right direction. Let those effects snowball and become something great. You don’t make momentum – you give it a nudge and momentum emerges.

Here’s what I mean. If you’re going backwards and things are not going well in your training, try taking some weight off the bar and execute the session with good technique and make it successful. Sure, it wasn’t as heavy as you wanted, but you executed the session well. That’s better than executing it poorly. Then in the next session, make a small improvement over the previous session. Then another and another. It begins to snowball.

Setting a PR is not a function of one monumental effort to lift a weight. It’s a thousand small efforts over the weeks, months, even years leading up to it. It’s doing one thing right so that next time you can do another thing right. These things build on each other.


It’s like pushing a big truck (which is why we call it momentum). At first, it’s hard. You push and push and it just barely moves. This is the beginning phase as you start building momentum. But once you get it going, it APPEARS easier to someone watching. Then you approach your top speed and it almost appears that you’re just running beside the truck. People standing by watching (who are all struggling with their own trucks) think, “Gosh, some guys have all the luck”.

(C) Copyright 2015 Adam Palmer
Photo courtesy 9for9 Media

But it isn’t luck at all. It’s maximum effort at each step. But each step snowballs on all the ones before it. You will always have to train hard and do things right. Emotionally it’s easier once you get moving because it’s easier to see your reward. It’s harder to see that the reward is a result of all the steps that came before it. And just like the boxer, you still have more momentum to build before you’re at top speed.

No matter where you’re at or what kind of momentum you have right now, the next step is always the same. Do one more thing that furthers your goals. Make the choice. Remember each step builds on the one before it. Momentum can help guide your choices.

Things going very badly in your training? Take a step back and see where you really are. Then take a step to improve it a little bit for your next session. You’re just starting your momentum. The truck is stopped. So just move it forward a tiny bit. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still a maximum effort. But the expectation is just for some forward movement or at least less negative movement! And next time build on that first step, then the next one, then the next.

Things going very well in your training? Don’t ease up. If you’re pushing a heavy truck and you stop pushing, it slows down and stops. KEEP PUSHING. Keep doing the things that built your momentum to this point. Plus more. Remember, even when it looks easy to outsiders, it’s still a maximum effort. You still have to push as hard as you can to keep things moving.

How far can you take it?
This is important. Build it into your character. Building your momentum is what you need to do to improve in so many aspects of life – not just lifting weights. Look at your job. Look at your relationships or finances. Take a step. Improve your situation. Build on that step, then the next and the next. Gradually the momentum of your life builds and it takes you places you never thought you’d go.

Build your momentum. This is what we’re all about.

About the Author
Mike Tuchscherer is the owner and head coach at RTS. He has been powerlifting since 2001 and since has traveled all over the world for competitions. In 2009, he was the first man from USA powerlifting to win a gold medal at the World Games – the highest possible achievement in powerlifting. He has coached over a dozen competitors at the world championships, a score of national champions, and multiple world record holders.