As a personal trainer in Schaumburg, if there was one exercise tip I would want everybody to know, it is this:  when you are performing an exercise, focus on squeezing the muscles that you are trying to challenge instead of focusing on something outside of your body such as moving the weight.


Why?  Because using this tip will help you achieve the results you are looking for at a faster pace with less risk for injury.

The concept behind this is very straight forward.  There are a number of papers in motor control literature that demonstrate using an internal focus of attention, i.e. focusing on squeezing the muscles you are using, creates greater amounts of EMG activity for the involved tissue.  What is interesting, though, is that these higher EMG readings are often interpreted as inefficient in the motor control world because the participants are having to use more effort to get the same external outcome of moving a weight.  However, there are some very interesting things that happen with higher EMG readings as it pertains to building muscle and strength as well as losing fat.

EMG readings are essentially measuring the amount of electrical signal that is being sent to the muscle cells.  When greater amounts of signal are sent, more calcium is able to enter the muscle cell.

A number of things happen when calcium enters a muscle cell.  One thing is that signal transduction pathways (STPs) are sped up.  STPs are a series of various biochemical reaction that can help create change within a cell.  For example, certain pathways may cause the cell to grow while others may cause the cell to multiply.

In the exercise world, we call these changes in our cells one thing – results.  Building more muscle, building strength, losing body fat – these all happen because of changes in our cells.  Regardless of your goal, utilizing an internal focus of attention will help you reach your goals faster with less risk for injury.

An example of how this would work is to think about squeezing your quadriceps when you are doing a seated knee extension instead of worrying about trying to lift your legs.

Try out this exercise tip the next time you are in the gym!

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Charlie Cates

Charlie has been helping men develop their strength and athleticism since 2008. A former college athlete turned sports performance coach at the collegiate and professional levels, he has taken his knowledge of athletic and muscle-building performance and combined it with an advanced education in biomechanics, physiology, and biochemistry to help men in their 30s and beyond build their strength and health without injury. A father of two, he has authored the best-selling book "The Exercise For Life Method" and hosts the highly-acclaimed Exercise Is Health® podcast with his wife, Julie. He is a certified full-body MATRx practitioner, the highest certification level of Muscle Activation Techniques®. In 2016, he graduated with a Master's degree in Exercise Science. Follow him on Instagram @CharlieCates!