Sunday, September 2, 2012

Concentration - Tom Kubistant

The cornerstone of the psychology of bodybuilding is concentration. Any advanced bodybuilder will confirm that the mind can release tremendous powers into the body. This mental strength is not a matter of intelligence, but a matter of concentration. It makes sense that in order to get 100% out of your workouts, you have to apply 100% of all your energies. This means using your mind as well as your muscles.

As important as concentration is, many bodybuilders spend inordinate amounts of time and energy avoiding concentration. Some will do almost anything to keep their minds off the workout. They blast music, make trips to the water fountain, take talk-breaks between sets, watch others, talk about bodybuilding or simply space out. Others become overly aggressive and angry, like raging bulls in heat, thinking this will help them concentrate. These same people wonder why they cannot sustain their intensity.

Effective concentration means being able to tune in as well as sustain one's mental efforts. But just what is concentration and what are the components in concentrating well? The material to follow will present a system to help you better understand and apply concentration. Some of the components we will explore include:

 * the proper uses of intensity
 * optimal training zones
 * focusing attention and awareness
 * controlling movement

Let's start by determining just what this thing called concentration is.

Concentration is frequently referred to in very general and vague ways, and means quite different things to different people. The best way to start getting a handle on your concentration is to define just what it means to you.

Take a moment and list the major components, qualities, emphases, and other things you need to do in order to concentrate well during a workout . . .

Nothing fancy.
Just a simple list with a dozen or so points!

This might have been a difficult task for some, because a lot of us have never taken the time to analyze the mental processes involved in our training. However, in order to achieve consistent gains, it is essential that you know specifically how you concentrate. Those who mentally go into never-never land during a workout are really setting themselves up for future disappointments and frustrations, for they never realize when they are stifling their own efforts.

For our purposes, concentration is a narrowing and sharpening of your mental focus so you can maximize your physical movements. It is your mind directing, monitoring, and making adjustments for your body so it can effectively stimulate the desired muscle groups. Effective concentration involves both a tapping into and a channeling of mental energies toward the task at hand, namely, doing the next set, or rep, or lift.

Personality Types

The ways a person can accomplish this coming together to a mutual center vary with the personality of the individual. For some, yelling helps stimulate and energize them. For others, quietly relaxing and going deep within themselves is the best way to concentrate. These are the two extremes. For most of us, effective concentration involves using each of these approaches at various times during a training session. The real trick is to learn when to employ each.

The type of personality we have determines how well we will be able to concentrate. I have found two basic types of bodybuilding (lifting?) personalities evident in the gym: the Tryer and the Doer. 

The Tryer continually finds new ways to give up. While frequently well-intentioned, this person allows fears, doubts, discomfort, self-imposed limitations, and distractions to sabotage his or her efforts. Tryers may say they want to go all-out, but they covertly hold themselves back from really putting out. These people say to themselves, "Well, I'll try to make this one . . . but I don't think I can." Or, "I'm trying so hard to get a pump and burn, but I just can't do it."

Perfectionists are a classic subgroup of Tryers. Perfectionists spend so much time and energy trying to meet some unattainable standard of perfection that they never accept who they are or what they do.

All Tryers misplace their concentration away from the task at hand so they really end up working against themselves. Disappointment and discouragement lead to new fears and putdowns. All of this quickly becomes a vicious cycle so that Tryers never seem to possess any resolve or accomplish anything.

On the other hand, Doers set specific goals for the upcoming workout or individual set or lift, and make plans for reaching them. These goals help them jump-start the concentration. Whether focusing on the muscles being worked or on the path of the barbell, a Doer zeroes in on the specific task at hand. Doers commit themselves and throw all their energies into the next rep.

The Doer always finds a way to accomplish a predetermined task. The Doer may concentrate differently at various points during a workout. For example, many doers find that it's useful to focus quietly on themselves early in the workout or at the beginning of an exercise. During these times they emphasize proper form and rhythm. Near the end of a set, at the end of supersets, or during a maximum lift, Doers need to become really fierce. They know that this approach summons up more energy to get them through the ordeal.

The difference between these two types of people is clear: the Tryer tries to do something while the Doer simply does it. Now, this distinction may seem simplistic, but it is valid. Doing is simple, direct, and clear. And so is effective concentration.

The prerequisite for concentrating better is that you have to be a Doer. If you spend all your time and energy during your workouts trying, you will be merely spinning your wheels. Do whatever you are doing. Even if it is at a minimal level of success, effectiveness, or efficiency, at least you are doing it. And then next set, do it better. Do it, and do it again.

Effective concentration is really an easy process. All that it involves is directing your mental energies to a specific goal. In order to do this well, you will need to unlearn and then relearn the proper uses of the single most misunderstood component of concentration: intensity.

Next: The Problem With Intensity.        

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