“If you can learn to stay focused at the gym, you”ll use heavier weights, activate more muscle fibres, and get better results from your training.”

If you’ve ever attended a weightlifting contest, you probably noticed that many lifters stand transfixed over a barbell for a few moments before attempting the lift. And the audience, aware of the importance of the lifter’s focus in making the lift, usually maintains a hushed silence until the lift is completed.

Staying focused at the gym is just as important for bodybuilders. If you have ever had the opportunity to watch a champion bodybuilder go through his training routine, you know that he devotes full attention to each exercise he does.

The Harder You Focus During An Exercise, The More Muscle Fibres You’ll Use.

The reason for all this focus/concentration is simple. The skeletal muscles are supplied by nerves called “motor neurons.” Thousands of these motor neurons supply each muscle, and each neuron branches out to supply about 150 muscle fibers. These nerves transmit an “electrical” impulse from the brain to the muscles to activate the muscle fibers, which then utilize glycogen for fuel.

Since each muscle fiber is insulated from the other, the number of muscle fibers participating in a contraction depends on the number of neurons stimulated by the brain.

In other words, the harder you concentrate during an exercise, the more muscle fibers you can use to overcome a greater amount of resistance.

So try to pay attention to what you are doing in your workouts.

barbell shoulder press

Pick a Training Area Free From Distractions

You need to try and find a training area that is free from distracting sights and sounds. You can’t get a good workout, watching TV, taking your phone to the gym, or watching the girls on the beach. Plan each workout, and then go at it with full intensity.

Thick Your Way To Stronger Muscles?

According to research carried out at the University of Louisiana, muscle strength can be increased to some extent simply by contracting the muscle against imaginary resistance.

For example, curling an empty barbell and pretending that it weighs 200lb will help open up nerve pathways between the brain and the biceps. This will activate a significant number of muscle fibers for a measurable increase in strength, even though there may be little or no increase in the thickness of the muscle fibers.

Of course, such an increase in strength will be more evident in people who haven’t previously participated in resistance training. And since the increase in strength results from a “learning process” in the central nervous system, there may be no further progress after six weeks of imaginary resistance training.

Always Best To Combine Focus and Heavy Resistance

But whenever intense focus is combined with heavy resistance exercise, contraction of a maximum number of muscle fibers will result in a rapid and progressive increase in strength and thickness of the muscle fibers, and progress may continue indefinitely.

man performing decline dumbbell press

Your Progress in advanced weight training will depend almost entirely on your ability to concentrate during your workout. If you don’t use your mind power by making a deliberate effort to concentrate during heavy resistance exercises, you may reach a sticking point where it will seem almost impossible to add a few more pounds to the bar.

Make a Weekly Maximum Effort!

Try to make a maximum effort in your workouts at least once a week. Add a couple more pounds on the bar than you usually use. Before the exercise, stand over the bar for a few seconds and perform a couple of repetitions in your imagination. Focus!


Visualize exactly how you plan to lift the weight. Lift the barbell off the floor or rack an inch or two to judge its weight. Your nervous system will signal your brain, which will, in turn, alert key muscles. Then begin your workout with all the power and concentration at your command.

Keep Strict Form

Don’t try to perform the exercise so rapidly that you must cheat excessively or let the weight fall under the pull of gravity. Whether you’re doing one repetition or six, keep visualizing the completion of the repetition. Pretend the bar weighs twice as much as it does, and don’t be distracted by people watching.

You’ll train your nervous system and muscles if you can learn to use such concentration in all your exercises. And improved connections between your muscles and your brain will increase your strength by leaps and bounds. As you grow stronger, you’ll use heavier weights, and your muscles will grow larger.

Concentration “Tunes Up” Your Nervous System

Did you know that simply thinking about lifting a barbell in competition will begin to prepare you for the effort? Your brain sends preparatory impulses to the nerve centers that supply the muscles you will use, your heart rate speeds up, your breathing becomes deeper, and blood is diverted from certain abdominal organs to the skeletal muscles. Such changes are necessary for efficient performance in any kind of athletic performance.

Still, many weightlifters claim that they could lie down and sleep before going out to lift before an audience. But I doubt that they are as calm inwardly as they are outwardly. If they are all that calm, they’re probably not taxing their full potential.

A nervous lifter who performs each lift a dozen times in his imagination before he is called out to lift is more likely to win than a relaxed, unconcerned lifter. Preoccupation of the mind with any competitive athletic activity will shoot a little extra adrenaline into the blood and prepare the nervous system for an all-out effort.

Winning or losing Is Entirely In The Mind.

Most champion lifters have already learned how to concentrate on their lifting. In many cases, the difference between winning and losing is entirely in the mind. A powerful weightlifter who hasn’t learned how to block distractions to give his undivided attention to the performance of a lift may not be able to equal the performance of a weaker, more determined weightlifter.

man performing the deadlift with full focus

Power Unlimited

The muscles are usually capable of much more power than the mind can demand under normal conditions; when your biceps contract in a curl, some fibers relax while some contract. As the muscle becomes fatigued, more and more of the fibers are called into action to sustain the contraction.

When you make a maximum effort in the final repetition of the last set, a maximum number of muscle fibers are contracted to complete the exercise-provided, of course, that you focus on what you are doing.

Even with the intense concentration, only a portion of the muscle fibers can be contracted at one time. This means that there is always a little more power in your muscles than your mind can activate. This is one reason people under stress sometimes perform feats of strength they could not possibly duplicate when they are in a normal state of mind. Everyones heard of cases where not-so-strong men or women jumped a high fence or picked up the end of a car in a life or death situation.

During WW2, an air force officer fell through the bomb bay door of an airplane in flight. And even though he had a parachute on his back and an axe in one hand, he fought hold of the bomb rack with his free hand and pulled himself back into the plane, still clutching the axe in the other hand.

Can you imagine doing a one earned chin in such conditions? The officer wasn’t normally capable of such strength, but fear mobilized his reserves, and it demanded such concentration in maintaining the grip he had that it did not occur to him to drop the axe and use both hands to get back into the plane.

No one will ever be able to command the full potential of their muscles in their everyday workouts. But if you can learn to concentrate fully and intensely on each exercise or lift you do, you can become a champion. And no matter what kind of record you set, you’ll know you can do even better if you just concentrate a little bit better.

Warm-Up Without Fatigue

Its important to remember a fatigued muscle is not capable of a maximum show of strength. In all your exercises and lifts, you must learn how to warm up your muscle progressively so that when you make your final effort in the final set, your muscle fibers won’t be too fatigued to use a maximum amount of weight in a maxximium effort.

Even with maximum concentration, no bodybuilder or weightlifter can do themselves justice by starting off cold with as much weight as they can handle.

By beginning lightly and increasing the weight of the bar in three or for sets, both the muscles and the nervous system are gradually adapted to the load being placed on them. And if such progressive loading is carried out properly, that is, without fatiguing the muscle fibers, you’ll be able to handle more weight than if you began with an all-out effort.

Furthermore, the warmed-up muscles and the tuned-up nervous system will function more efficiently for an increasingly better performance. All you need to do is focus.