Coaches, personal trainers, and our own brains tell us we can improve workout form if we just focus. Put enough mind power behind a burning muscle or agile movement and our technique should improve. Or to use the common saying, put mind over matter.
But research from the University of Nevada—Las Vegas recently disproved this line of logic. “You can’t possibly try to be efficient and focus on what you are doing,” says Gabriele Wulf, Ph.D., the director of the Motor Performance and Learning Laboratory at UNLV. “When working out, I think the mind has more of a negative effect.”
According to Wulf, the world’s best athletes don’t have to think about how their bodies move because practice has made their competition and training automatic. Her research suggests that the rest of us can trick our minds into making movements feel automatic, mimicking the mental state of the pros and improving workout efficiency and form. Follow these tips from Wulf to harness your brain for better performance in the gym.