T Nation

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Focus?

Ive seen people argue both ways. Some say you should focus on intrinsic factors (mind muscle etc.) while others say this doesn’t matter, and you should focus on extrinsic factors (performance).

Now it seems to me that both have their advantages, but couldn’t you shift the focus depending on what the goal of the lift is?

For example:

If your focusing on strength, you want to focus on extrinsic, and how much force you can produce. Thus you either lift heavy, or fast, or both.

If your focusing on building muscle, you might take the intrinsic approach, and focus on feeling the lift in the muscle your targeting. The weight on the bar is not as important as a hard contraction, which can be achieved by also contracting antagonist muscles if the weight isn’t heavy enough. Also, you can lift slower, to emphasize maximum tension throughout the ROM.

I kinda started thinking about this lately since ive been doing more high rep work. Ive noticed a lot of times, i’ll lighten the load a bit, and really focus on working the muscle im trying to target, with good form, and a nice hard contraction. Not sure if this gets better results, but it seems to feel that way.

Also, on exercises bench press, i can progress in the weight im using, for strength. And i can do pushups relatively easy, but when i slow down on pushups and focus on good form, and contracting my chest, and serratus anterior, I struggle to get 5-10 good reps. Sure I could pile on more weight with bench and pump out reps, and get stronger, but is that really the best way? Im thinking both ways is best.

Anyone do anything similar to this?

I would say someone should try to use both ways during their training.

Focusing on contracting your muscles to move the weight is great for finding any imbalances, fixing them and helping you build muscle.

I trained that way a lot especially during chest work which is how I found out my scpaula, shoulder was out of wack then it carried over to back work etc.

And relaxing, concentrating on what i’m doing while lifting has helped me to overcome the imbalance a lot as well.

Straight up lifting the weights can be beneficial for, like you said, strength and performance, but only once form is mastered because it can lead to imbalances.

After a while though it is possible to lift weights using the methods simultaneously, as experienced lifters have good mind muscle connection (of course) and generally find a groove in how to lift weights to hit that muscle group. Vise versa with guys who started out ‘just lifting the weights’ - they are probably used to their movement patterns hitting certain muscles and feeling a certain way.

For beginners I would say that it is best to use compound movements the ‘intrinsic’ way to quickly develop their CNS and their form, before moving on to other ways of lifting.

I think its hard to do the mind-muscle thing on compound lifts. I find you can only really concentrate on one thing during a lift (same with any athletic endeavor really, golf swing, throwing sports, etc.). I usually try to concentrate on one cue during a set that will correct a form problem I had on the previous set (like on squats, chest up, or elbow position). It doesn’t work to try to concentrate on 2 or more things like that.
For isolation stuff, I think the mind-muscle thing works great, but there are less technical aspects to performing isolation lifts correctly.