Thinking between sets: the mental attitude for training success

thinking personal training regimesImproving peripheral exercises like stretches and foam rolling is relatively simple compared to improving when performing movement exercises or weight training. There is a lot to remember in doing something like a sissy squat or weighted squat, for instance. If you want to improve and develop your own training regime, however, there is only one thing you really need to remember: keep thinking. Do every exercise with the correct mentality, asking the right questions about what you need to do next to improve, and the next step should always be obvious. Thinking in the following way will remove the need to rely on prescribed lists of exercises and numbers of reps. It will make your training fluid, interesting, personally adaptive and, above all, the most beneficial training it can be.

Using sissy squats as an example, we have already demonstrated how you might develop a regime to progress. For instance, physically you may concentrate on moving yourself further from the wall, requiring more knee travel during the exercise, and holding where you start to feel discomfort. In the early stages, we encourage you to do one rep per set, for multiple sets. In latter stages, we keep the number of reps down to around 5 per set. Why? Because more sets gives you more time to think.

In between each set, you should take a break to reflect on the success of the exercise. Ask yourself important questions. For sissy squats, you can ask a list such as:

  • Did you perform the exercise correctly?
  • Did you push your knees out far enough?
  • Were your knees steady?
  • Did you really reach the point of discomfort, bending your knees?
  • Did your knee pain start to subside?

The answers to these questions will inform what you do in the next set. For example, if you decided that you needed to push your knees further forwards, the goal for your next set would not be to hold the stretch for longer, or to do more reps – it has to be to push your knees further forwards.

Gaps between exercise in general should always be a time for reflection. Think about how you performed the exercise, what you did right, what went wrong, and what can be improved, and progress will come naturally. This makes you accountable for own training, and it gives you the freedom to improve. You do not need a list of numbers, you simply need to pay attention to your own body’s behaviour. Understanding your body is essential for healing it.

Low reps means more sets, more sets means more reflection: and reflection is what will allow you to overcome your body’s limitations for good. Do not simply do the exercises, understand and adapt them. Curing patella maltracking, and any other physical problem, is not about ticking the boxes on an exercise regime. It’s about paying attention to the way your body works, and putting in the effort to making it work better.

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