It’s pretty well known that I am not against aesthetic goals, but my focus is more so on performance goals, awareness and education.
Not that aesthetics and all of these other motivators can’t coexist. They absolutely can. I am simply saying aesthetics aren’t my selling point.
Also, if some other things are in check, like nutrition, sleep and stress management, I’d argue that if focusing on these 5 things, you’ll likely make some desired aesthetic changes.
When you enter the gym, or approach your workout, you ARE thinking about something. You have a focus, whether you realize it or not.
This episode is geared toward helping you define that focus a bit more. To find some clear direction for your mental game during lifts.
And yes, this takes energy. Some days it is just nice to go through the motions. I get that. But going through motions day to day isn’t likely what you want.
You want to create these little performance goals or focus for yourself.
Number 1 is most obvious and probably most common when people think of performance goals.
1.) Increase weight
In one lift, in all your lifts, increase load. In one set of one lift.
That will all depend on the program you’re following. So like I said that can be an over all increase, per set, or whatever makes sense for your programming and progression.
It’s very easy to become stagnant and just get used to using 135 for squats or what have you. Even if it’s throwing on some 2.5’s, increase the weight and challenge yourself.
If you can’t complete the set or it’s too much, big deal. Drop back down.
We can’t gauge strength if we never take her for a spin.
You want to gain muscle, “get toned” or get stronger, you need to be pushing your strength and mechanical tension.
That also doesn’t mean max out. Don’t get that twisted. But it does mean challenge yourself. And increase some weights if you haven’t in a minute.
Next up is very under-practiced, and honestly not talked about enough.
2.) Focus on your breathing
During sets, before sets, between sets, and certainly if you’re doing cardio.
Breath work is beneficial outside of lifting as well. Lord knows I should work on it more. In the seasons when I have, I see a positive carryover to sleep, training, and overall stress.
As far as lifting goes, do you know how to breathe into your diaphragm? To breath in a 360 degree fashion? To “fill your stomach and back” with air?
Before trying to “fix” anything in your next lift, just start by paying attention. How do you breath? Is it into your chest? Shallow? You feel pretty good about it?
Can you use it to bring down your heart rate between sets? Yes, I’m talking about lifting. Not just cardio intervals.
So, breathing is number 2.
Performance goals here could be anything pertaining to what you have observed about your current breathing patterns.
Number three is also one that I feel most people don’t even have in their program, and certainly don’t pay attention to if they’re winging their workouts…
3.) Rest periods
Stick to them!
Rest periods, or lack thereof, are important. Try me. Do the same workout with no scheduled rest periods, with long rest periods and with short rest periods.
TELL ME IT DOESN’T MATTER.
It does. And it definitely matters if you want to gain muscle, or get strong.
I’ve post this on the gram, and talked about in other episodes, but different rest periods will do different things for you.
Longer rest is typical for strength and power work. As your metabolic systems need time to recover.
Short rest periods, under or around 30 seconds, are going to give you that “pump” – essentially you’re pumping blood and fluid to the muscle and it’s not able to drain as fast as you’re pumping it in. VIOLA, the pump.
This is also why your pump dissipates a few hours after your lift.
Not telling you want rest periods to USE, but I am telling you to pay attention to them if they are in your program and you’re not sticking to them as of now.
I once had a client who was skipping out on her 2 minute rest between overhead presses. The weight didn’t “feel” heavy yet she wasn’t able to hit her last set for all reps.
Come to find out she wasn’t resting the full 2 min.
Rested the full amount and BAM, she hit it.
I use that to demonstrate that I am not saying rest shorter or longer. Or that “not sticking to your rest periods” must mean you’re resting longer than programmed.
If you have no rest periods, assign some. Or get a new coach.
If you have them and are neglecting them, don’t. Use it as your performance goal to stick to strict rest periods this week. See how it feels.
Next up is my fav.
I’m sure you’re not surprised.
I will start by saying, you don’t always need to move on a tempo. But, I would say most people don’t use a specific tempo and would benefit from doing so.
A lot of humans go through the motions when they lift.
And they won’t not have success or make gains doing this. They may simply be missing out on some other benefits and better gains from using a specified tempo.
Often times, when we hear the word tempo, we think slow. Because a lot of people do move through exercises like an asshole.
But, tempo just simply means that we have specified time in each phase of the movement. So a tempo could include exploding out of the bottom of a squat.
It’s not always to SLOW DOWN.
This is similar to rest periods. If it’s not in your program, it probably should be. Or, if it is in your program and you don’t stick to the tempo, I suggest making that you’re performance goal this coming week.
If you aren’t sticking to the tempo, you may be missing out on better mind muscle connection, improved movement patterns, and more time under tension – which we know is needed to build muscle.
I have a full 30 minute coaching call on this inside Annie’s Secret Laboratory of Brain Gains inside Built by Annie because I use tempo heavily as a factor that we change throughout the year of programming. And I think it’s an important aspect for trainees to understand. Considering they’re the ones carrying out the tempo.
So even if you don’t have a tempo in your program, or even if you do, next time you lift, focus on using a slower down than up-tempo or pausing at the top or bottom of every exercise. Just to play around with paying attention to tempo.
5.) Mind muscle connection/body control
Honestly following a tempo and slowing down, in general, helps with this.
The stronger your mind muscle connection is the better we are at recruiting muscle fibers. We want to build a strong neural pathways between our brain in our muscles. This is part of it allows us to “feel” an exercise.
So there isn’t much to this one, but if you are having trouble feeling an exercise and it’s feasible from an anatomical standpoint, touch the area that you want to be working. So if you are doing Bulgarian split squats, put your hand on your outer hip or glutes or your quad, if you are doing hollow holds, you can tap around your obliques and core.
Obviously that doesn’t work for large compound movements, but in some of your accessory or isolation work, slow down and focus on the actual contraction of the muscle. Sometimes closing your eyes can help with this.
I don’t much care how it happens, I just want you to visualize the muscle contracting and see what happens.
That’s it! Those are Just five things you can focus on in the gym next time you lift. Choose one, choose them all, that’s up to you. But I know that having something to focus on often leads to a more successful left and better results.
So give ‘em a go!
Review of the week comes from BlancheSchuchardt and says,
“I’ve binge listened to like half her episodes in the last two weeks. As a fellow fitness professional, I feel like she’s 10 years ahead of me profession wise and 5 years ahead of me in all things business so I’m basically a sponge. So much valuable content. If you’re new to this career and online coaching – you’ll want to listen to her!”
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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.
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