I say this from years of experience of watching clients; seeing the ones who make almost instant progress to those who are at the same stage for years. The former achieve their goals quickly while the latter keep struggling. What sets them apart? While lifestyle habits play a role, in the studio it comes down to focus. Focus on understanding and implementing instructions from the trainer. It can add almost 75% to your workout AND to your results!
A trainer cues posture, movement & intensity in order to optimize the exercise for you to see a good effect. When the instruction is understood and applied exactly, the result is the desired 100%. Every cue has a reason behind it, so it must be taken seriously.
If you come into your training session distracted with a problem, a traffic jam you just faced, your work assignment, getting to your child’s school on time and so on; you will most likely end up exercising mechanically. This means that you will be moving, but will not be conscious about the movement, your posture or intensity; reducing the overall effect of the workout drastically. What’s worse is that you risk injury by say jerking and locking your joint, tripping, etc.
Often clients do not pay heed to cues like hold your abs tight, keep your shoulders rolled back & down and don’t lock your knees, for instance. Each one of these plays a role. The tightened abs protect your back and reduce impact on other joints too, the correct positioning of the shoulders reduce stress in the neck & activate the right muscles, the un-locked knees takes away impact from the knee joint. These are just postural instructions. There will be many such for movement, like make sure you take your hip back first before squatting down which ensures you don’t stress out your knee, or bring your heel to the hip when you are doing a hamstring curl to have a good range of motion and keep the front of the thigh flexible. Intensity cues would be to go lower in a push up or squat, travel your aerobics moves over a large space, raise your arms up al the way; or to complete the movement precisely. If you aren’t concentrating you will lose out on these essentials!
Instant application of the instructions is important. This needs focus too, so you can’t have your mind wandering off! Understanding a movement theoretically is different from the body actually making it physically.
If you are not able to understand or convert the cue into physical action, ask for help. Trainers know lots of unusual ways to have you get it right!
Once you are in correct form & technique, focussing into your working muscles helps to maximize the work they are doing. Your trainer will tell you where you should be feeling it. Adjusting & tweaking the depth of movement to feel it more is something only you would know – it comes with concentration on the exercise, every single time you perform it over days & months. Remembering how it felt the last time & how going just a little lower today is feeling more challenging but great.
A lot of these cues become second nature for the body & you will find yourself automatically assuming them without any prompting! However through the duration of the exercise, losing focus will drop the intensity, no matter how good you may have gotten at it. So stay focussed!