What Is Focus?
An ability that eludes the very best… Focus doesn’t come easy. If you are not born with the innate ability to think clearly and modify you mindset on demand then this may take years of training to acquire. You may find that one day it just burst into existence, giving you the ability to go above and beyond.
I would say that there are different types of focus. The first kind that many recognize is the ability to channel your efforts consistently and continually so that you may reach a long-term goal. This, however, stems from motivation, having a drive within that keeps your mind steady and your attention on the route to success.
The next type of focus is what many people will talk about. Having full attention of the task in hand, with no loss of attention on the task from outside influences. That’s a generic idea of what people think focus is, however, it goes much deeper.
Focus of A Top Athlete
The level of focus that top athletes acquire is immense. Some of the best athletes to understand focus are those who come from combat sports. In combat sports i.e. boxing, martial arts, you are in a sense playing a game of chess. Unlike many sports, your competitor can directly influence how you execute a task and you are not trying to compete based on time, etc. This means as a competitor in combat sports there are many factors you have to draw in to attain the highest level of focus. Think about it for a minute…
First, the competitor needs to know what they themselves are about to execute, and how. They also need to factor in what their opponent may do before and after they execute that task, and how it may affect them. How do they process this?
They need full confidence in their abilities, a diverse knowledge of skills to overcome many situations, the ability to think quickly when a good situation arises with the awareness that they may be heading for a setup. They need to have a clear mind, relaxed and be ready for any situation that is thrown at them, and at any moment be able to naturally adapt with little to no thought. They are essentially playing a game of chess with each other’s mind and body.
Now, these points mentioned stems from two focus adaptations.
First Adaptation To Gain Focus
The first being able to ‘naturally’ adapt your body to execute a task. This involves enhanced motor-neural stimulation and control. A kinesthetic control, that is so well developed to a point when you shut your eyes and visualize a routine, you can in a sense feel the movement of your body, the weight, and the contractions of the muscles.
How To Develop Kinesthetic Control
This involves repetition of movements over a long time period. It also requires you to utilise mind-muscle connectivity within your training sessions. This will lead you to have a greater control over stimulating your muscles just through thought alone. Many bodybuilders will spend ages looking in the mirror flexing their muscles; this is not to be vein (well not always), but to enhance their ability to control a particular contraction of a muscle.
Second Adaptation To Gain Focus
The second adaptation is the preparation of your body and mind for a task, with complete confidence in your ability to execute that task. This means no negative thoughts, a clear mind with thought only on the task at hand, and a mental excitement & alertness that channels all of your “drive” and “power” into executing the task.
How To Develop Confidence
Confidence is difficult to develop. The simplistic way to develop confidence is to continually push yourself when training, adding extra weight, doing an extra rep or set for example. The most important aspect of confidence is to know a boundary that is dangerous, knowing what weight will almost surely cause you injury, and not to be arrogant. Then you need to look at your present boundary, what is your P.B for example? Rather than going one step beyond, go two steps, i.e. instead of adding 5kg to your bench add 10kg. Pushing yourself to go beyond what you have done will develop a level of mental confidence within, that you can later start inducing when you desire at a moment’s thought. Strength training is a good example of this. It is perhaps one of the best ways to develop your motor-neural system too, developing and controlling explosive movements. With strength training you will continually try to lift heavier, always striving to go better, further. It will also acquire mental buildup to lift a heavier weight, which is a mechanism to control and increase your confidence.
How To Develop Mental Excitement & Alertness
The mental excitement & alertness is developed from confidence building and the urge to grow, develop, and further improve yourself. It’s a lot about passion, seeing a vision, moving through and obtaining short & medium term goals. Then placing this drive onto that one moment. If that doesn’t work a cup of coffee may just do it! A pre-workout may induce to some degree a lot of mental excitement and alertness, however, it can be controlled and triggered with greater effect. It just takes a bit more time and effort.
If you can combine all of this, then you may have acquired a level of focus that rivals the top athletes. Let me warn you again, it is difficult to obtain and may take some time, possibly years. But keep at it!
How Focus Can Help In The Gym
If you can’t see the benefit of focus about now then here are some examples:
- Induce mind-muscle connectivity
- Ability to lift heavier weights
- Ability to go longer when fatigued or tired
- Ability to change mood with greater effect and pace to ignore failures and concentrating on success instead