The new CEO of StrongFirst, Fabio Zonin, always says the setup is the first rep. I first heard this saying from Phil Scarito and it immediately stuck in my head. I was quickly able to flash to many points in life where I had skipped the “first rep.” You see, this saying to me goes far beyond fitness. This is a life lesson. With anything in life that you want to be successful at, you need to have intent, pay attention to the steps and execute them. One step at a time. One task at a time.

To me, “the set up is the first rep” means to focus on what you are doing, have purpose behind what you are doing and execute as if your life depends on it. Without focusing on the set up you are not putting yourself in the best position to win and succeed.

When it comes to training, the saying “the set up is the first rep” can help increase the likelihood of staying safe, having a successful lift or movement and most importantly, it’ll help to make sure it doesn’t look like shit. Often times when people are injured at the gym it is from a lack of focus, or attention to what they are about to do. They step up to the bar all loosey goosey and just jerk the weight around. I have seen strong powerlifters walk into the physical therapy office because they were lackadaisical with their approach. A lack of focus and intent can injure even those who are very strong. Whether one forgets to get tight during the setup or is talking to someone a second before lifting, both show a lack of focus.

In a world where more is better, it’s hard to focus on one thing at a time, however, it is proven that we cannot put 100% focus into multiple things at once (i.e. multitask.) Some of us may feel that we can do 10 things at once and do all 10 well. Though this may be somewhat true, you are doing yourself a disservice. You end up putting less than 100% into each task, which if you hold yourself to a high standard, will equal subpar work. The act of deep focus work can only be achieved if we are submerging ourselves in that one task.

I challenge you to complete focused work. Don’t check Instagram every few seconds. Stop reading multiple articles at once. You will feel more accomplished and actually get more things done. Some things can wait. Look at texting a driving, for example. You may well get away with it, but how comfortable would you be seeing a taxi driver typing into his/her phone while driving you? If you ask someone to do something for you and you see them working on another task while you’re still waiting for your task to be done, you’re going to be annoyed. However, if you do the same thing then you’re being a hypocrite. Often times we think we are the exception to the rule, but most likely we are not. Humans CANNOT multi-task.

With training and in life, let your first rep start with the set-up and end with the execution of the lift or the task. This allows you to focus on what you are going to do before you find yourself knee deep in some ish wondering how you ended up there. Whether it’s in pain or a crappy end product, both are usually a result of negligence during the setup. Avoid the headache that is sure to come later by being deeply focused on the task at hand.