_ If I’m to be perfectly honest, my concentration span is short. Like everyone else’s. I can’t maintain great focus for longer than eight reps, and that’s pushing it. Five or six reps, and I start to wander. I need to pull my focus back in, and this is one of the reasons I lift heavy: short concentration span. I check in with my body – a few cues: feet, knees, hips, spine, chin up, tension – and lift. Reset, repeat.
Honestly, who can do a set of ten reps, without their mind wandering – even if just a little? It’s hard work, maintaining focus. Who can maintain true single-pointed focus for so long? What are you focusing on? Leverage? The feeling in the muscles? Alignment? With so much stimulus, what do you pay attention to? That guy wearing the lemon singlet, making a scene? Damn, focus gone! Someone calls out your name? Don’t look, don’t turn your head – they can wait. It’s not rude of you, they’re the one who’s interrupting.
_ How should you train? With attention and awareness. If you lose concentration, stop. Start again when you can. Or go heavier – it will demand your attention, it will ‘pull focus’, as they say.
But not too heavy too soon. Work up to it in your own time. Lift as much as you’re comfortable with, for as many repetitions as you can pay attention to, not as many as you can do. Go again when you want. Focus on the feeling in your joints and muscles, your feeling for leverage and weight distribution.
I had been lifting for a few years before I was confident enough to start lifting heavy - three or four rep sets. And I was wading through a lot of conflicting or inconsistent advice. So that brings us back to the beginning: do what you want, not what works for me. We have a way of thinking, us humans who like to lift heavy, that everyone else in the world should train the way we, ourselves, like to train right now. Funny thing, that. Lacks perspective. Why are you following the advice that you are? Is it really working for you, or do you, like me, have a tendency to buy into dogma a little too much? Now I tend to rebel, but mostly in subtle ways.
Do enough that you learn something, that you experience something, and enough so that you can grow and develop – do enough to satisfy you, and not so much that you burn out. Do something that makes you feel good, not something that makes you feel bad. Train to feel strong, not weak, to feel alive, not dead, to feel successful, not defeated. This could be anywhere from as little as five to as many as a hundred and fifty total repetitions of any given exercise in any given week.
And if you think, maybe, that I have an abnormally short attention span – I think I’m doing rather well. I often see people distracted after only two or three reps. I think it’s a side-effect of an industry that’s packed with inconsistency. Nobody’s encouraged to pay attention, we’re only told to work harder, burn the calories, and then we’re given TV’s to watch, because if any of us stopped to pay attention to how we’re actually feeling, we might cancel our gym memberships.