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Stuck on a Plateau? Time to Enter the FLOW

July 28, 2022 4 min read

Stuck on a Plateau? Time to Enter the FLOW

Flow. We all know the feeling of time standing still when we are engrossed in what we are doing. During a set, we may feel like Neo in the Matrix “finessing” a deadlift or a bench press. We’ve yet to fully explain this phenomenon in a way so that others can share in this euphoric feeling.

“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times. The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Strength training is for a lot of us is zen. It’s where we can feel on top of the world, yet sometimes there is a feeling like you are not in tune with your true self. The aspects of flow that we are going to focus on are concentration, a feeling of control over the task, and clarity of goals.

To do this, we must turn to the fundamentals of training and the implications of how goal setting allows us to enter our flow such that we are progressing on a consistent level.

Entering the Flow

Training by definition is the education, instruction, and discipline of a person or thing that is being trained. The focus of entering a flow comes from the most important word in this statement “discipline.”

Another word for discipline, in this respect, could also be self-control. Self-control is defined as restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires.

Training is a matter of dialing in our programming and “trusting the process.” It is also creating a state that is blurred between intense concentration and intense discipline. Keep in mind that training doesn’t then become robotic—the goal is to have it become second nature; akin to walking. We learn how to adapt our pace based on the steepness of the road or we speed up to chase a bus.

Higher order thinking skills are kept at a minimum here as well as between sets of an intense workout. The body starts sensing how you generally move and adjusting on its own, and we can begin to see how strength programming allows one to correct their form on the fly to create better habits.

Clarity of Flow

Strength training isn’t easy. It’s mentally tough and requires some fortitude to say where you stand earnestly and honestly—even if it means you’re not where you want to be.

Say your goal is to hit 325lbs on your squat for a top set of two with 2 minutes rest for the set on Monday afternoon. Here, you should utilized the SMART principle of goal setting (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely).

This is an important concept to understand in order to attain flow because we set an expectation for ourselves, and while under the bar we may not think about it, but it’s something to aim toward—something to make us strive and stretch beyond our body’s norm.

We turn from our natural cerebral cortex loving selves to our frontal lobe selves. The frontal cortex is divided into the pre-motor, motor, and pre-frontal cortices. To defy the body such that the mind controls the muscles is to transcend a robotic routine and allows us to enter flow because of our goal setting.

In doing so we move from higher order thinking to training based on movement, impulse control, and emotion—we get closer to our “rawness.” When we train this way, we create an artificial “set point” of which falling below is unacceptable.

Control of Flow

Once this artificial “set point” is created, we have taken control of the conduit in which flow takes place—the body. Producing force necessitates a level of neuromuscular control and efficiency that, without previous goal setting, can set the body up for failure. The body is controlled by a multitude of biochemical processes that control food intake and sleep to allow the body to perform at its peak and, in the case of flow, beyond.

We've all fallen victim to the idea of letting our training go on autopilot, not tracking our workouts, and failing to take pertinent mental notes. But having consistent control, fortunately, becomes autoregulation. Something that the human body does that quite efficiently.

If the body expects us to head to the gym Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, we may start skipping out, begin choosing poor feeding habits, or fail to get enough rest to recover. If this happens, the body will let us know, and as a result, it will become virtually impossible to concentrate during our next set.

Concentration of Flow

Whether you tend to struggle with your overhead press or squat because you're not turning your focus to the right muscles or the right aspects of movement during that set. As a result, a goal you've comfortably hit in the past may seems like trying to move a mountain now.

Things that can contribute to a fault in concentration include poor form (or form degradation), hunger, fatigue, external and mental distractions, and lack of supplementation. All of these lead to disturbing your flow.

As you descend into the “hole” during a squat try to feel your hamstrings load, feel your glutes light up, feel your back as an immovable unit of contracted muscles, and think of your core as the walls of a well-shaken can of soda maintaining intrabdominal pressure. You are now entering flow. Don’t stop.

Find Your Flow

Flow is something you can create for yourself during your strength training. It isn’t some bizarre phenomenon. With proper focus on your Mind-Muscle connection, work towards a steady flow in every workout and you’ll reach the goals you’re aiming for.

Lift well and let us know if you feel a difference training in the Flow State vs regular training!