In life we all have goals and dreams, or just objectives and things we want to accomplish and do. Some of these are big and require a lot of our time and effort, and in order to achieve them we have to be focused and consciously set our minds, and bodies on the right course in order to succeed at these tasks which we have set in front of ourselves.
The same is true when it comes to our physiques and losing fat or gaining muscle. From the very start you have to make a conscious decision and identify what your goal or objective is. I want to lose x kg of fat or I want to gain x kg of muscle for example. You then need to set out and make it part of your everyday life, ensuring that each decision you make is moving you one step closer to your goal.
It is this conscious and consistent effort every single day which will allow you to succeed.
“FOCUS!” ~ Dwayne The Rock Johnson
No doubt, it is easier said than done. But one thing in life which has been proven time and time again, is that the easiest things or the easiest paths never stimulate growth, experience and wisdom. So if you are going through a tough time, remind yourself that at the end of it you will come out stronger and better than before. And that is what it is all about. Bettering yourself. Growth, and exceeding what you thought you were capable of.
“Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.”
To do this though, you need to also train your mind and ensure you have the proper mindset and attitude throughout your journey. Too many people start something very hastily without really giving it much thought and end up giving up or losing interest far too soon. You need to be focused every step of the way. What needs to be emphasised is that this mindset does not happen over night. On the contrary, it can take years, but in order for you to truly maximise it, it needs to become a habit. It has to be ‘exercised’ every single day. After all, practice makes perfect and this is no different. Just like athletes train their bodies to be better at their sporting discipline, so to your mind needs to be trained. Discipline and self control, for example, have to be practiced in order for you to get better at them.
Your focus has to extend to everything you do. When you go to the gym or when you workout you have to be focused on what you are doing. Make a mental note when you start. Get zoned in by listening to music or whatever it takes for you. Do not just go through the motions.
“Never mistake activity for productivity.”
If you walk into any commercial gym these days and just take a look around, undoubtedly you will see many guys trying to push extremely heavy weights around. Most times their range of movement is so small or they are doing whatever it takes to lift the weight, swinging in every possible way. The word “form” or “good form” which everyone seems to talk about does not exist any more when they grab those heavy weights. When it comes to training a muscle, your movement should be focused and controlled to some degree to really target the muscle. To sculpt a muscle you need to isolate and work that specific muscle. This is where that age old phenomenon comes into play, “the mind muscle connection.”
To truly focus on the exercise and muscle you are working you need to feel and use the muscle, and make a connection with it through your mind.
A great starting point and one of the best ways to really train yourself to connect both your mind and muscle, is to do an exercise in a very slow and controlled manner. For this to really be effective the exercise should not be a fairly large compound one like dead lifts. It should be a bit more isolated such as seated Bicep curls or Tricep push downs.
If we take bicep curls, what you need to do is focus on all three phases of the exercise. Firstly the eccentric phase (curling the weight up); it should take you about 5 to 6 seconds, then the hold and squeeze at the top for about 2 seconds and then lastly the concentric phase (lowering the weight); should also last about 5 to 6 seconds.
Another great way is to practice posing. Everyone who starts to see results or starts gaining some muscle, no matter how humble, loves to flex their muscles and check themselves and their progress, out in the mirror every now and again. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but why not use it to your advantage. In between your sets and exercises (or after, if you are too self conscious) focus on isolating and flexing the muscle you are working on. Try to hold the ‘flex’ or pose for a few seconds. This will help to train your mind into flexing the specific muscle and thus translates into more focus on the muscle when performing an exercise.
Once you have mastered that, then you can start practising flexing a combination of muscles all at once. Trust me it’s harder and a lot more tiring than you think. Watch bodybuilders pose on stage and see how they flex and contract each muscle to get an idea of some of the poses that can help. Probably the most difficult one is the Lat spread, to really force your Lats to spread out. But if you can’t do it right away, don’t be discouraged, it will come with practice.
Another way to exercise your patience, mind control and focus is by doing something like yoga or stretching. It relieves stress and tension and forces you to become more aware of your breathing especially when you have to hold certain poses or stretches for a period of time. It is also a great ‘therapy session’ in a sense and allows you to focus your thoughts and exercise self composure.
What it all boils down to, is allowing your mind to be focused on the activity that you are currently pursuing without being distracted and letting your thoughts wander. Concentrate on the current moment and task at hand and give it everything you have. Forget about what will happen tomorrow or what happened yesterday, but focus on the now.