John Christy, ‘The Art of Concentration, Part Two: The Workout’, Hardgainer Magazine 14: 2 (2002), 14-15

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In the first part of this article I explained how to concentrate before your workout so that you can transition from your everyday responsibilities and challenges, to the necessary mental state needed for your workout. I discussed why I feel it’s absolutely necessary, and how I do it. In the second part of the article I want to continue to emphasize the importance of concentrating on the task at hand, and how I do it during a workout.

It’s amazing how easy it is for the mind to drift from what you’re actually supposed to be working on. I want to offer myself as an example. Not to boast, but I feel that after weight training for 28 years, successfully competing at the Division 1 college level in football and baseball, then professional baseball, then bodybuilding and powerlifting, I’m able to focus and concentrate on the task at hand as well as anyone. But, and this is a really big “but,” there are still instances when, without following proper procedure on intensifying my concentration and aggression right before a set, I could get easily distracted.

There was a time in my life when I could totally, physically (which helps mentally), isolate myself from the rest of the world while I was working out. I would hide out in The Dungeon (what my brothers and I named the gym in our parents’ basement), without any phone, cell phone, pager or other humans to distract me from my workout. Also, I was at a time in my life when my responsibilities didn’t include a wife, children, concerns about my parents health (and other family issues), concerns about corporate financial, personnel or management issues, etc. What I’m saying is that it requires much more effort nowadays not only to get into a state of ideal concentration, but to maintain it!

Nowadays I can’t just turn off the cell phone or the pager. I have to answer the phone and return critical messages for the reasons listed above. Now don’t get me wrong, I won’t stop right in the middle of a set to answer the phone, but as soon as the set is over I have to call back and check that everything is all right. I also want you to know that my level of concentration, and hence performance, is many times above when my responsibilities were much less. The reason I’m offering all this personal information is to lead into the point of this article, which is to emphasize the importance of concentration during a workout and to show you how to do it in spite of all the things that can distract you.

 

Intensifying and maintaining concentration

The procedure that’s used before the workout to shift your concentration from everyday responsibilities to the mental state that’s necessary to have a productive workout, is exactly the same as the one to use, specifically, right before a set. And it doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve been distracted between sets. This procedure will get you back on track if you’ve been  distracted, and if not, will intensify your concentration for the upcoming set. The goals of this procedure are twofold. It must get you focused specifically on the “feel” of the upcoming exercise, and it must intensify your aggression. Here’s how I do it.

About one minute before the set, I’ll close my eyes and practice one or two reps of the exercise in my mind. I’ll experience the exact “feel” of the movement. Many times I’ll actually simulate these reps without the weight. For instance, before a set of dumbbell rows I’ll “feel” in my mind the dumbbells in my hands, I’ll feel how my lats stretch when my arms extend, I’ll feel my lats initializing the contraction and then exploding to the contracted position at which point I’ll feel my lats lowering the dumbbells—lowering, lowering, lowering—then stretching; and with another strong contraction the dumbbells are at the top position again.

This is my way of doing it. Yours may be different. I practice (and teach) feeling the prime mover of any exercise flexing and then lengthening (stretching) against the resistance. This technique helps your body to teach you proper biomechanics. Once I’ve completed this rehearsal, I take another moment to get aggressive. I get myself “up” to attack the weight.

 

Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying and think I go around shouting and banging my head against a wall to get up for a set (although this works for some). That’s not my way. My way is relatively quiet. But I’ve been told you can see what’s going on in my eyes. The point is to go into the set aggressively.

I want to come back to something I said earlier concerning your workout environment. If you can, you should shut out the outside world when you train. You may be at a stage in your life where all communication can be cut off for an hour or so. I left that stage some time ago, but I haven’t let increased responsibilities decrease my concentration one iota. And as I stated earlier, my concentration and workout quality are better than ever.

In summary

I can’t stress enough the importance of utilizing your mind to achieve the most out of your training. Really put the procedure described in this two-part article to the test. You may want to start out trying it the way I do it, and then let time and experience help you to develop your own way. Regardless of which of the two ways you do it—mine or yours—I’m confident that you’ll start deriving benefits right away.

Editor’s Note

 

I started training in 1973, at age 15, when Arnold Schwarzenegger was in his prime. I was obsessed with trying to build a great physique. I trained as the famous bodybuilders recommended. For years, everything in my life was secondary to bodybuilding. I became a recluse. All I wanted was to study training, train, and apply myself to satisfying my recovery needs.

I was gullible. I was at the mercy of whatever training literature I found. I couldn’t distinguish between good and poor instruction. If it was in print and supposedly written by a champion bodybuilder, I believed it

The mistakes I made as I tried to build a Mr. Universe physique many years ago, are made today by most gym members—whether bodybuilders, fitness trainees, or strength trainees. HARDGAINER will teach you how to train safely and effectively.

 

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