If you want to know why focus is important and how it can help you build more muscle, you want to read this article.
If you’re anything like us, there’s probably been more than a few training sessions where time just seems to slip by. It seems like you’ve just walked into the gym, but when you look at the clock, 30 or 40 minutes have gone by, and you still haven’t really clicked into real “work mode.”
Or maybe you’ve experienced something similar when trying to work. You know you need to get things done, but you end up staring at the screen and then clicking over to Facebook or Instagram every 5 minutes, hoping that somehow seeing what everyone else is doing will motivate you and inspire you to get your work done.
Try as you might, you just can’t seem to get your brain to calm down and key in on the task at hand, be it working or working out.
Suffice it to say, you’re having a considerable amount of difficulty with your ability to focus.
While you might scoff at the notion of focus, and think that you can get by simply on auto-pilot or relying on “muscle memory”, think again.
Focus is supremely important to your ability to have an effective, productive training session as well as a successful day at the office. In this article we’re going to discuss what focus is, why focus is important, and how you can improve focus during your workouts.
Let’s begin our discussion by answering a very simple question:
What is Focus?
Focus refers to your ability to concentrate on something and keep your attention there without wandering or distraction.
While simple to understand, focus is exceedingly hard for us to achieve and maintain these days, especially when you add technological devices like smartphones and tablets to the mix.
Yet, focus is one of the most important qualities we require to be productive, successful, and content.
We need to be able interact with our surroundings, gather information, interpret all of it, and then sort through what is useful at the moment and what isn’t.
Our ability to focus ultimately determines how good or bad we are at this.
If we are bad at this information processing, we end up feeling confused, mentally fatigued, stressed, and unproductive. If, however, we are fairly adept at processing the mounds of information we are bombarded with on a daily basis, we are able to stave off mental fatigue, feel less overwhelmed, and get more work done.
At the same time, it’s also very possible to have “bad” focus, which manifests itself in the form of not being able to focus on a singular task for a prolonged period of time or can’t seem to switch from one task to another without feeling completely overwhelmed and mentally drained. You might have experienced this yourself with the feeling have hitting a “wall” in terms of motivation and productivity.
In these instances of “bad” focus, using focus boosting supplements, such as nootropics, can help “right the ship” and get you back to being productive.
Now that you know what focus is, let’s discuss why focus is important, especially in regards to muscle growth.
Why is Focus Important?
As we just discussed, our ability to focus ultimately determines how productive we are in a given scenario. In the context of training and workout performance, focus directly affects your ability to establish a robust mind-muscle connection, and as a result, our ability to build as much muscle as possible.
What is the mind-muscle connection?
When you are performing an exercise, you specifically focus on whatever muscle you’re trying to build with that given exercise. By doing this, you will be able to use that muscle more effectively, activate more muscle fibers, and ultimately have more muscle growth.
For example, say you’re doing bicep curls.
If you do bicep curls in your typical fashion, mindlessly banging out rep after rep, you’ll get some bicep activation (and probably some deltoid activation too), but not as much as you probably could have.
However, if you specifically focus all of your attention on moving the dumbbell with your bicep, and only your bicep, consciously contracting the muscle fibers on the way up and slowly lengthening them on the descent, the mind-muscle connection theory states that you will achieve greater muscle activation, making for a better training experience.
That sounds great and all, but is the mind-muscle connection real?
As it turns out, YES!
Research has investigated the effects of the mind-muscle connection in regards to hypertrophy and found that it does indeed work.
We’ve gone into this in great detail before, so check out this article if you want to learn the specifics about how the mind-muscle connection can help you build more muscle. But to briefly summarize the findings of the study, lifters who used the mind-muscle connection experienced twice as much muscle growth as those who did not use the mind-muscle connection!
Build twice as much muscle simply by being more focused during your workout?
We’ll take that every damn day of the week and twice on Sunday!
How to Improve Focus During Training
Improving focus starts with removing those things that tend to distract you the most during your workouts. For most of you reading this, the thing distracting you from truly focusing on your workout is your phone.
Whether it’s checking texts, facebook updates, or snapping selfies, your smartphone is doing nothing to improve your workout performance, but doing quite a bit to detract from it.
But distractions don’t end at the smartphone.
Other common distractions are reading while on the bike (or elliptical or treadmill), talking with others in-between sets, and watching tv. That last one might sound crazy, but it’s true. For some reason, gyms love to have TVs playing sports.
Having more productive workouts and better focus during your workouts starts with removing these distractions completely.
If you know you are always glued to your phone in between sets, leave it in the car, or at home.
If you have a tendency to watch tv on the bike while warming up, either find a new way to warm up or turn off the tv.
If you know that you tend to get too chatty during your workout, or are easily pulled aside to talk by others entering the gym, put your headphones in and block everything else out. You’re at the gym to train and improve yourself, not socialize -- save that for after your training is completed.
Whatever is distracting you, remove it from your training and watch your focus (and performance) skyrocket.
Treat each exercise as “practice”
So often when we exercise, we mindlessly go through one set after another, and from one exercise to the next. By the end of the workout, we’ve “checked all the boxes” of what we should do, but if we’re being honest with ourselves, we really weren’t giving every rep of every set our full attention and effort.
This is what we call mindfulness, or being present “in the now”.
Instead of looking at your workout as something that just needs to be done, treat every rep of every set of every exercise as “practice.” Weight lifting is a skill, and to become proficient with any skill, you must invest time, attention, dedication, and practice.
Now, you might be thinking, “I do practice every time I go to the gym.”
But let’s be honest, there’s good, productive practice, and there’s shitty, “going through the motions” practice. More often than not, when people say they aren’t getting stronger in the gym, it’s because their form of practice is the latter kind.
Every time you step foot in the gym, block out all the noise (see the previous point), and focus solely on making each rep as high quality as you can. The more you focus on making every rep of every workout as perfect and precise as possible, the more rapidly you will start to see progress in both your strength and your muscular development.
Try Some Focus Boosters
Nootropics, productivity supplements, and focus boosters are all the rage these days as people look to restore the concentration and attention taken away by ever-increasing number of technological distractions.
The primary ingredient in many of these formulas is caffeine, and for good reason. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, reduces fatigue (through adenosine antagonism), and improves alertness and focus via release of powerful neurotransmitters including dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.[2,3,4]
Through this myriad of actions, caffeine helps you focus more intently on your workout, and block out the distractions. Essentially, caffeine helps get you “in the zone” and keep you there.
But caffeine isn’t the only ingredient you should consider when looking to improve focus and productivity.
You also want to stimulate other vital neurotransmitters important for focus, such as acetylcholine, a.k.a. the “learning” neurotransmitter. Acetylcholine isn’t only important for focus and learning, but it also has a pretty significant impact on your ability to establish a solid mind-muscle connection. With greater levels of acetylcholine available for your neurons, you are able to focus more intently on your workout and have a stronger mind-muscle connection.
The way to boost acetylcholine is through the use of cholinergic supplements, like choline bitartrate and huperzine a. Choline bitartrate provides the body with a readily useable form of choline, which is important, as choline provides the “backbone” of the acetylcholine molecule. With ample amounts of this essential nutrient, your body will have all the “raw materials” it needs to synthesize this supreme neurotransmitter.
Huperzine A serves to “protect” and defend acetylcholine from break down in the body by inhibiting an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase. It is the job of acetylcholinesterase to seek and destroy acetylcholine.
So, by huperzine “sacrificing” itself and binding to the acetylcholinesterase enzyme, acetylcholine stores are left intact and are able to continue doing their job of boosting focus and supporting muscular contractions.
Combining choline-containing compounds (i.e. choline bitartrate) and huperzine provide the ultimate 1-2 punch for strong, sustained focus, and that’s why we’ve included them both in our potent focus enhancing pre workout Mega Pre Black.
Boost Workout Focus and Concentration with Mega Pre Black!
If you’re struggling to stay focused during your workout, constantly checking your phone, or looking at the cute girls on the ellipticals, you need something to help keep your attention and concentration on the task at hand -- lifting heavy ass weights!
Mega Pre Black is a powerful focus boosting pre workout supplement teeming with potent nootropics including choline bitartrate, huperzine, and Dynamine. This trio of highly effective cognitive enhancers will help dial-in focus and block out the distractions.
Take one serving of Mega Pre Black about 30 minutes prior to training and experience a surreal sense of focus, alertness, and concentration like never before.
Click here to learn more about Mega Pre Black and what makes it a cut above the competition.
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David A Camfield, Con Stough, Jonathan Farrimond, Andrew B Scholey; Acute effects of tea constituents L-theanine, caffeine, and epigallocatechin gallate on cognitive function and mood: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Nutrition Reviews, Volume 72, Issue 8, 1 August 2014, Pages 507–522, https://doi.org/10.1111/nure.12120
Nehlig, A. (2010). Is caffeine a cognitive enhancer? Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease : JAD, 20 Suppl 1, S85-94. https://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-2010-091315
Smith, A., Brice, C., Nash, J., Rich, N., & Nutt, D. J. (2003). Caffeine and central noradrenaline: effects on mood, cognitive performance, eye movements and cardiovascular function. Journal of Psychopharmacology (Oxford, England), 17(3), 283–292. https://doi.org/10.1177/02698811030173010
Tang, X. C., & Han, Y. F. (2006). Pharmacological Profile of Huperzine A, a Novel Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitor from Chinese Herb. CNS Drug Reviews, 5(3), 281–300. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1527-3458.1999.tb00105.x
The Role of Acetylcholine in Learning and Memory, M.E. Hasselmo, Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2006 Dec; 16(6): 710–715, Published online 2006 Sep 29. doi:10.1016, available from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2659740/