What’s the locus of your focus?
True change comes from within.
When you are lifting, where is your focus? Is it inside of you or outside of you? Are you focused on the weight you are moving or on how you are moving the weight?
I would argue that an internal focus, paying attention to how you are moving trumps focusing on what you or how much you are moving. That’s often easier said than done.
For full disclosure I’ll tell you that historically I’ve been more focused on the weight I'm moving. I think it’s actually our default.
And why not?
Everything we use to measure the quality of our lifts hinges on how much we actually lifted. "Hey Bro, what's your bench?" is heard far more often than "Hey Dude, what's the quality of your bench?" That's a real shame, because ultimately that massive bench press will eventually decline, but the injuries sustained on the road to that number tend to last a lifetime.
Think of a back squat. You get under the bar and step back out of the rack. The first thing you’re might think is, “Whoa, that’s heavy.” You feel the bar pressing into your shoulders, you fight the urge to let you back round and the weight push you into the floor. You take a deep breath, feel your shoulders rise to meet the bar and sit back into your squat. You are conspicuously aware of the weight on your shoulders and its intent to push your upper body into the floor. You fight that push driving your shoulders back into the bar as you sink and somehow manage to return back to your full height. Was that your legs doing the lifting? Your back? If you’re honest you’re not really sure. You’re mind was so thoroughly fixated on the sensations in your shoulders and the feel of the weight you’re not really sure what the rest of you was doing.
Now think of that same squat, but let’s change the focus.
You put your hands on the bar. The index finger of each hand finds the grooves of the power rings and your grip rotates into place. As you duck under the bar your shoulder blades pack down your back, your elbows rotate slightly forward. The bar fits neatly into that junction where the deltoids meet the traps and if you were any stronger you’d wrap that bar around your shoulders like a warm towel. You plant your feet under the bar and take a deep breath. Your belly expands into your abdominal wall creating a nice fully pressurized sensation from the bottom of your pelvis to your ribs. You stand the bar out of the rack, reveling in how much lighter that felt than anticipated. You take two steps back. You take one more deep breath and double down on the pressure in your belly. Your knees press out as they bend forward. Your hips drop straight down until your hamstrings hit your calves, gliding backward as you hit full depth. Your back is a solid column of support encompassing your entire torso. Your feet fully connected to the floor drive into the earth, your butt, hamstrings and quads all work together to push the planet just a a couple of feet away allowing you to return to full height.
Two squats arguably very similar from the outside using the same weight and following a very similar path can create two very different sensations. One that creates a sense of joy for the lift and begs for if not another rep today, at least enthusiasm for your next session under the bar. The other creates a sense of dread, a desire to rapidly finish the set, it’s only enthusiasm gratitude that we’re done with that lift for the week and won’t have to face it again until next week.
Which one do you choose?