Every lifter focuses their attention on something while training. Many choose to think about all of the stress in their lives, or someone that they don't like, or that a-hole who cut them off on the way to the gym. This type of thinking gets them "fired up" for their next set. However, this type of thinking can also be detrimental to overall performance.
What To Do?
Think about it for a second. What do you do when you think of things that piss you off? You're heart starts pounding, your face gets hot, your attitude sucks, and you take on "out-of-control" actions such as slamming stuff down, yelling or pacing furiously. Take that rationale and apply to training. As for myself, I have found that if I am having a bad day, and I take that baggage into the gym with me, I have a horrible workout.
This is because when I think of the things that are really bothering me, I begin to lose my form, and things turn sloppy. If I'm pissed, I can't think straight, so my choice of exercises is poor, I don't rest long enough between sets, so I fatigue a lot faster than usual, and on top of that, I look like a goon because of the way that I am acting. Not only do I get a shitty workout, but I leave even more pissed than before.
If you do not lift with this kind of mind-set, and cannot relate, then here is another example. Take that guy who I mentioned earlier. You know, the one that was pacing and cussing before his set. If you've seen this animal, you've probably noticed that his form is poor. He probably slings the weight around by dropping the weight on a negative, or cheating on every movement.
In addition, he's probably yelling throughout his set and pounds the bar before every set. If you've seen this guy for a long period of time, you'll also notice that he has looked the same since the first day that you saw him.
Still don't get it? Well, here's yet another example. If you play, or have played sports, then this example is for you. Take baseball; you don't get fired up or pissed off before you go up to bat or before you wind-up to pitch. You don't pace back and forth like a madman before shooting a free throw shot, and you don't cuss yourself out before running a kick off return. Instead, you focus on what you need to do in order to get a base hit, make a lay-up, or pass for a touchdown.
Guys who do the opposite, and fall into the mental mind-trap I have been describing are usually those who don't reach their athletic potential because of their poor mental game. If you don't believe me, then just take a look at the course of the career of a former Atlanta Braves pitcher with the initials J.R.
Having said that, think about the opposite as being the case. Instead of focusing on rage before a lift, try focusing on something else. Think of something like the lift itself, or something that makes you happy. I have tried this, and it has worked wonders. It sounds a little strange to some people, I know, but stick with me. Many benefits have been associated with positive thinking.
Bruce Lee has spoken of "chi," the life energy that is increased by focusing on the self and thinking positively. Chun Do Sun Bup is a form of "ki" training that aims at re-adjusting the mind to arrange it to a state of order and harmony by seeking out sources of disharmony and releasing that energy. This type of training has had beneficial results on psychological and physical states.
I am not saying that you must train in the style of Bruce Lee or any other eastern style. I am simply trying to point out the benefits to thinking positively. Obviously, we all know the immediate benefits of good thoughts. Thoughts that make you feel good give you a sense of being superior, like you can accomplish anything. Doesn't it make sense that this type of thinking would benefit you more in situations where you were trying to accomplish something like a hard workout? If you can focus your mind on positive thinking, I guarantee a better workout. You will walk into the gym with confidence, and you will not be let down by your performance in the gym.
Even if you are having a shitty day, leave it at the door when you walk into the gym. It makes perfect logical sense, you cannot make positive results from negative actions. Of course, if this idea does not sit well for you, I have another solution. Try focusing on the movement of what you are doing. Personally, I think that this should be automatic.
Focus on the mechanics of what you are doing and where everything is supposed to be positioned during a movement. Visualize the appropriate muscles being trained, and zero in on how to work that muscle. Even during your set, focus all of your attention on the movement itself and what you are doing to fully train that muscle.
Now I'm not saying that getting "fired up" in the gym is out of the question. It's all in how you do it. Doing this is often a result of a good set or trying to get others around you motivated. However, try not firing yourself up by acting like a primate and cussing yourself. When you walk into the gym, leave your baggage at the door, and who knows, it might be gone by the time you get done. However, if you take it with you, you can be assured that you will still be carrying that baggage when you leave.