Where is your focus?

You may have heard me say this before but it is funny how certain themes keep coming up over the week while coaching people. In fact, this one has been brewing for about a month. I’m starting to realize that a lot of people have mixed up “focus” and “paying attention to” on several key exercises.

Here is my definition of these two terms so you know what I am talking about. “Focus” is where most of your conscious thought is going. “Paying attention to” are the things that you are thinking about but only in your peripheral brain. On the trail you “focus” on a spot up ahead and you “pay attention to” the rest.

Mastering your mind while training will also make it easier to master it while riding.

If you mix these two up you’ll end up with sub-par results. On the trail, if you focus on your front wheel or the big rock you don’t want to hit while only paying attention to what is coming up ahead of you, you’ll crash. Do it with an exercise and you’ll get the totally wrong movement than what we are looking for.

Take the single leg deadlift, for example. Since I introduced it in my DB Combos program, it has prompted more riders than any other exercise to e-mail me about how hard it is. I just got an e-mail from a guy who told me that he can deadlift 225 pounds with two legs but can hardly do a single leg version with bodyweight. This story is actually pretty typical.

Without getting onto all the movement pattern issues that causes this, the reason that most people find it extremely hard is because they are mixing up their “focus” and “pay attention to”.  They are focusing on getting down to the ground – the closer to the ground they get the weight the better. This is why they feel unbalanced and weak.

The focus must be at the core and hips. If you are not focusing most of your conscious energy on keeping your core tight and driving your hips back and down you will never feel strong with the movement. You want to pay attention to keeping your toes up lightly off the ground and keeping a “proud chest” (this is keeping your shoulders pulled back and down).

If you truly brace your core, keep it tight while driving your hips back and down with your toes off the ground and your chest “proud” you will execute a good looking single leg deadlift. It may not be very far down but that does not matter – no where in any of the above instructions did I mention how close to come to the ground. That thought should not even be in your mind – 6 inches range of motion like I just described is better than touching floor while rounding the lower back or coming up on your toes.

Every exercise has these “focus” and “paying attention to” points. Master your mind while training – have focused thoughts about how you are moving each time to execute a rep. Letting your brain think about what it wants or, worse yet, not thinking about anything at all, will lead to superficial results at best.

Mastering your mind while training will also make it easier to master it while riding. It takes a lot to keep your focus where you need it in the trail and to not look at your front wheel or the big rock. Practicing that skill while training in the gym can have a positive impact on trail focus as well.

-James Wilson-

Social Comments:

WordPress Comments:

  1. Michael says:

    I bought your DB Combo program last August thinking I’d start it whilst taking paternity time off work when my son was born. A bit stupid of me to think I’d have any time to do anything then, but… Anyway, I’ve started it a few weeks ago and my version doesn’t have the single leg deadlift in it. Where could I fit it in with the version I have? Maybe replace the Bulgarian Split Squat? How often do you change or update your programs?


    Reply • July 25 at 6:08 pm
  2. bikejames bikejames says:

    The last update was a little less than a year ago and I am up to Version 4. Which version do you have?

    Reply • July 27 at 7:34 am
  3. Michael says:

    Version 3.0.

    Reply • July 27 at 1:47 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      If you want to upgrade to the latest version I do offer a discount to former customers, just send an email to support@bikejames.com and they’ll take care of you.

      In the meantime, you could replace the Bulgarian Split Squat with it but they actually work two different movement patterns – the single leg deadlift is similar to you attack position on the bike and the Bulgarian Split Squat is a lot like standing pedaling. You could spend 2-4 weeks doing one and then switching back to the other to make sure your getting the effects of both.

      Reply • July 30 at 2:53 pm

Add a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *


Follow MTB Strength Training Systems:
James Wilson
Author and Professional
Mountain Bike Coach
James Wilson