When you’re performing an exercise don’t worry about the rep you just did, don’t worry about the rep you’re doing, and don’t worry if you’ll be able to do another. Your goal isn’t to do reps, your goal is to use the resistance to efficiently load the muscles you’re targeting with the exercise. Performing some number of repetitions is not your goal; your rep count is just a record of exercise performance for later evaluation. Intense muscular contraction and effectively stimulating increases in muscular strength and size is your goal (and if you do that, improvements in all the supporting factors of functional ability like cardiovascular and metabolic conditioning and bone and connective tissue strength will follow). Say focused on the present, focused on making the rep you’re doing as hard as possible and on intensely contracting the target muscles. You’ll get a lot more benefit from the exercise doing this than if you just focus on making weight go up and down.
I’ve said it hundreds if not thousands of times: how you do each rep is more important than how many reps you do.
It’s an easy thing to say or write, but it can be a very hard thing to do consistently. Even after over twenty years of doing and teaching high intensity training I still have to remind myself before workouts and I still slip sometimes and catch myself focusing on what I’m doing to the weight with my muscles instead of what I’m doing to my muscles with the weight.
It’s difficult when you know doing the exercise correctly makes it so much harder. Especially when your muscles burn and your heart pounds and you’re thinking all it would take to make it easier is to move your body a little to gain some leverage, go a little faster through the harder parts of and a little slower through the easier ones, and offload some of the work to other muscle groups. But that’s when you need to remember why you’re doing it and do the exact opposite: maintain proper positioning and keep the tension where it belongs on the target muscles, don’t rush through the hard parts and don’t slow down through the easier parts or pause to rest. Go towards that pain and embrace it instead of running away from it, because that is what makes you stronger.
Don’t just go through the motions like everyone else in the gym. Keep your mind on your muscles and focus on intensely contracting and trying to empty them out instead of just trying to make the weights move up and down. Don’t just focus on getting each rep, focus on getting the most out of each rep.
Here are a few tips for improving your focus during your workouts:
- Meditate regularly. I know it sounds like new-agey nonsense, but it works.
- Take a few minutes to relax and visualize your workout before you begin.
- Think about your goals and why achieving them is worth the momentary pain of intense exercise.
- Think about the muscles you’re going to target before starting an exercise.
- Ignore everybody else in the gym. You’re there to work out, not to socialize or compete.
- If the gym is noisy, wear noise-cancelling headphones to reduce distractions.
- Work out with a good trainer or training partner who understands how to keep you focused.