Our powerlifting team just competed at an in-house meet last weekend and did an amazing job! One of the things we talked about quite a bit in terms of technique was focal point. For example, if I look straight down at the ground in a deadlift, it's a lot easier to have my posture compromised with my shoulders rolling forward and my spine rounding. Instead, if I look out at the low horizon, not only can I get a stronger positioning of my body, I also can see where I’m headed and have a much easier time standing up and locking out the lift.
Focal point can be one of the simplest fixes for technique issues in just about any physical skill. If you look down in between your hands when you are doing push ups, you’ll end up with your head in between your hands instead of having your chest in between your hands as it should be. If you are looking too high or too low instead of eye level at the top of a kettlebell swing, chances are you aren’t ending up in a “vertical plank” with your joints stacked as you want them to be. For exercises that challenge your balance, picking a fixed focal point at eye level will dramatically improve your ability to balance. In fact, just a few days ago I was reminding a couple of our members of this when they were practicing single leg exercises, and one of them remarked, “It’s amazing how much of a difference that makes.” I said, “Yep, and it’s true in so many other aspects of life as well…”
What we give our attention to brings more of that. What we focus on expands.
In the gym, when our members come in focused on training, they have a better training session, which leads to better results. When people aren’t able to bring focus to their training, of course it’s a much different story. There is a greater likelihood of either pushing too hard or not enough, or doing the wrong sets/reps, or even possibly getting injured. I certainly understand it takes effort to be able to focus - I train at the gym I own, usually right after teaching our members, so I have to make a it a point to take off the owner/coach hat and let my training be my time to take care of me.
To take it a step further, just being focused on the task at hand is only the tip of the iceberg. I get the most out of my training when I have specific things I am working on in each session, independent of the goals for the program itself. For example, I might make my focus really honing in on pulling myself down into every squat instead of yielding to gravity for a couple of sessions. Or I might focus on becoming a plank at the top of every lift. Or hey, spending a session bringing awareness to focal point is a great idea! That way I get to see progress every session even when I don’t have a specific goal I am reaching for, or if I have a target that might take me a while to reach. This really works to make your training so much more enjoyable, whether your training goals are about strength, weight loss or moving and feeling better.
Another aspect of this is keeping your focus on the things you can do, rather than the things you “can’t”. I’m not talking about avoiding things that you find uncomfortable or challenging in favor of only doing the things you are naturally good at - we know many of our powerlifting team prefers working maximal strength for low reps, but they trust us (even if they don’t like it) to guide them toward more general physical preparedness, mobility and endurance work for the next phase of training. I’m referring instead to letting injuries, set backs, or the comparison trap defeat you.
Many years ago when I first started training with kettlebells, I tweaked my shoulder, and at first all I could think about was everything I “couldn’t do”… I was so frustrated, until I allowed my focus to shift from not being able to do presses and pushups, to this being the perfect time to really work on single leg squats! Another lesson I’ve learned over the years is if you focus on comparing yourself to others or to a past version of you, eventually you’ll find a way to make yourself feel bad. I try to keep my focus on giving my best to the current version of me.
One of the reasons I train, and that I have dedicated these past many years to teaching others, is that the lessons we learn in training - whether lifting a heavy barbell or in savasana on a yoga mat - carry over in our lives outside of training. What happens in the gym doesn’t stay in the gym… confidence, self care, skill development, knowledge that we can overcome challenges, understanding that we are stronger and more capable than we may have given ourselves credit for… What we give our attention to brings more of that. What we focus on expands.
Strength & Love,