Avoid training in front of mirrors, even if your gym is surrounded by them. Mirrors will seriously affect your lifting, especially if you do the power lifts, the olympic lifts or any variations thereof. There are two important reasons why.
Be present in the lift
First, if you watch yourself in a mirror while you train you have a physical separation between what you feel and what you see. It is like watching another person lift.
This is distracting. Your brain tries to equate what it sees with what the body is doing, rather than just focus on the movement.
Your brain may even make adjustments mid-lift based on what the eyes are seeing, rather than what the body feels.
This is the wrong way round. When lifting it is vitally important to feel the movement. This applies whether you are learning a movement or are an old hand. If you can’t feel what is going on, you won’t know how to move differently to improve it and you won’t know what it feels like when you get it right!
You need to be present in the lift. I don’t believe you can truly be present if you are focussing on a representation of yourself in a mirror.
The mirror lies
Second, the view in the mirror is quite likely not a good view of the lift at all. In the big, important exercises like the squat, deadlift, snatch, clean and jerk, the front view is not the optimal angle to see what is going on in the lift. The side and the back view are much more relevant.
So watching yourself from the front could result in you not seeing any issues in the lift, or fixating on something that is very minor while missing the larger problem.
Filming yourself and watching it back, or having a coach or friend to watch your lifts are good ways to monitor form and technique, but your ultimate aim should be to know by feel what is going on in the lift.
This process takes a while to learn, especially if you don’t have good body awareness (I don’t!). But I don’t believe that looking in a mirror will help with this process.
Training in the hall of mirrors
What if you train in a gym surrounded by mirrors? A simple solution is to turn around and face into the centre of the room. It might feel weird at first, and you might get some odd looks, but it is a much better position to lift in.
Sometimes the mirror is simply unavoidable – for example if the squat rack is right in front of a mirror as in the photo below and you cannot squat facing the other way.
In cases like this, the best thing you can do is try not to look at yourself. Focus on a spot on the wall in the background and tune out the image of yourself in the foreground. With enough concentration it is possible not to notice yourself!
Alternatively, suggest to the gym manager that they could move the squat rack to a bit of blank wall. Or change your gym. There are a growing number of gyms which have few or no mirrors at all.
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