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How to Apply Mastery Mindset to Strength Training

Today's post is a short one very much inspired by Top Gun, specifically when Commander Tom "Stinger" Jordan says to Maverick, "Son, your ego is writing checks your body can't cash." Many strength athletes and casual gym goers alike have seen or been guilty of "ego lifting," that is trying to handle more weight than the body can cash without technical breakdown or a missed lift, usually for the sake of impressing others. I'm not here to judge ego lifters, in fact they embrace an important facet of what I think is a natural and necessary part of every strength athlete's development.


Going ham is necessary to understand your limitations, after all, how could you really understand what an RPE 10 is if you haven't tried to grind through a rep? Strength athletes need to develop skill in grinding through maximal lifts, and sometimes that leads to a missed lift. Being able to pick yourself up after failing has intrinsic value. The issue isn't really failing a lift, rather the issue is continuously choosing weights you are going to fail. Once an athlete understands that lifting challenging weights away from failure is enough to drive strength adaptations, it becomes easier to use the concept of Mastery Mindset to dictate future training decisions.


Using Mastery Mindset has been an important part of my development in recent years that has lead to increased strength with few missed lifts. Below are the metrics I use and how I apply them to training for continuous improvement:


  1. Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) - RPE is a term used in strength sports to indicate the difficulty of a movement. I recommend reading this article by Mike Tuchscherer who popularized its application in strength training as we know it today:

  2. Bar Speed - How fast I moved the weight. The problem with RPE is that it is by definition, "perceived," or influenced by subjective factors. Most experienced lifters have had "great" training sessions based on performance when they "felt" terrible, and the opposite is also true. I use bar speed as another metric to fine-tune my RPE rating, usually only by +/- 0.5 RPE. For example, if a movement felt like an RPE 8 but moved like an RPE 7 based on review of footage, I'll rate it an RPE 7.5.

  3. Proficiency - How well I executed the lift compared to my intention on how I wanted to execute the lift from a technique perspective.


Below is how I choose top sets for my next training session based on the metrics above. This assumes over or undershooting RPE by no more than 0.5 with a target RPE of 7 to 8. If I overshot or undershot RPE by more than 0.5 RPE, then I am more aggressive with the weight addition or subtraction based on a similar assessment.


Mastery Mindset is a simple concept I use to determine how to choose target weights for the next training session. If you found this post helpful, be sure to like, share or comment below!



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