What are you thinking about while you do your set? Are you thinking about work? Is your mind stuck on the cute girl back on the treadmill? Just being at the gym isn’t enough…you don’t get an award for showing up. It takes focus and hard work if you expect to improve your body each and every workout and that all starts by learning how to focus your mind on the task at hand. Every rep is an opportunity to improve your body. Are you making the most of it?
The Evolution of a Lifter
For most people the evolution of lifting mirrors that of your mental focus. When you start in the gym there is a lot going on in your head. You are worried about appearance, doing exercises the right way, counting reps, keeping track of weight, and understanding what you are doing. That is very normal for a beginner.
Then as you move into the intermediate phase, music is used to help quiet out the gym. Focus is placed on the programs and intensity is added to reps. It is all about form and execution. Moving along the next step is to learn the proper rep speed and cadence as the weight travels so you get positive and negative benefits. You try and add intensity technique to push sets into a different level.
Finally as you become an advanced lifter the focus of a set comes to full bloom. Suddenly when doing your reps everything else goes away. It is just you and the weight with everything else fading out of focus, even sounds. You can hear your own breath, feel the target muscle strain and work, and finally understand what your body can do. This is the point where you have truly ‘tuned in’ to your own body and forged that mind to muscle connection that is so highly coveted.
You know where your limit is and then you know exactly what to do to push past it.
This is where you want to be.
The reason is because at this point the body has been trained to perform the exercise without much thought. The same goes for rep speed. All of your attention is on each rep and the muscle; exactly where it should be.
Accelerating the Curve
So how can you mentally move along this curve faster? Is it even possible?
Yes you can. By first understanding the journey that people take it makes it easier to get to the end faster. First a key point is mastering exercises. Mix in higher rep days to your routine where you work on rep speed and perfect form. Worry less about the weight. These days are going to help you learn how to focus faster as your nervous system fully maps the movements.
Also consider your environment. A very crowded gym can be difficult to concentrate at, just like playing loud or angry music to try and get motivated. While using music or getting angry to generate maximum power can be useful, it is very difficult to sustain on every set for every workout. It is much easier to practice the basics and then work on accelerating focus to feel the muscles and body working in conjunction.
Instead work on closing your eyes or looking at a point on the floor to avoid distractions. Take your focus and place it directly on the target muscle and concentrate on the full motion trying for a harder contraction each time along with a better stretch. Practice making each rep count to its fullest and find the limits of what your body can do on each set.
Attaining an almost Zen-like level of connection with your body allows you to train more instinctively and makes it easier to push yourself to new heights because you become more aware of exactly what you are capable of. Advanced bodybuilders have all learned to get into ‘the zone’ before they start their workouts because they want each session to count; you should too.