How to Create a Pre-Gym Routine for Better Focus & Training Sessions - Phil Hawksworth

How to Create a Pre-Gym Routine for Better Focus & Training Sessions

What do you do immediately before you start training? If you don’t have a specific pre-gym routine, you’re missing a trick…

The Benefits of a Pre-Gym Routine

The purpose of your pre-gym routine is to get into the best state for the coming training session.

Being in the correct state will make you more focused, driven and present. Getting into a flow state and feeling at one with your body will be easier when you have developed increased focus through your pre-gym routine. Do this; you will be stronger, and have better training sessions.

The pre-gym routine is a set of actions you go through before every training session to get ‘in the zone’. These act as a trigger, or an anchor – to use the NLP term – which indicate to your brain and body that it is training time.

You’re hacking the Pavlovian response to your advantage, to have better training sessions.


Creating Your Pre-Gym Routine

Your routine will have a few different elements in it. Below I describe the ones that I have found most beneficial. You might want to experiment with some other things in your own routine.

These are the things I use and recommend:

  • Caffeine
  • Music
  • Self-talk
  • Specific movements or actions



I will have a coffee about 1 hour before going to the gym. Caffeine increases focus and blood flow, which will lead to being stronger, more present in your body and having better focus. You could use caffeine pills or a pre-workout shake if you don’t like coffee.

Pre-workout is overkill for me, but you might find it works well for you. If you’re jittery and feel buzzed, it’s too much for you too. In that case, you will be better off with just caffeine. Self-experimentation is always the way forward. I am not your guru, and I do not know what will work best for you. I’m just here to trigger ideas for you.



The correct state for training is the one that gives you the most drive and energy. This might be driven by negativity or anger, or by a positive vision of a better future. You will need to work out if your motivational style is predominantly moving towards pleasure, or away from pain. Check this post out to get started on understand what drives you.

Music is a great way to create a high-energy state. If you’re going for anger or aggression you could use heavy metal to get fired up. I prefer a more upbeat and positive vibe, so I use drum and bass or dubstep to get in the zone.

Music that is fast, high-energy, and powerful is best for getting you in the right state for the gym.

create a pre-gym routine

Getting in the zone for training


Why are you in the gym? What do you want to achieve?

Reconnecting with your why – the thing that drives you on a deep level will put you in the most powerful state for training.

I like to use the question:

What are you fighting for?

Spend a couple of minutes before you start training to sit somewhere that nobody is going to disturb you. Put your hood up, hat down, headphones in; or whatever will make people leave you alone. Close your eyes and meditate on this – what am I fighting for?

If you’ve read Fitness Mindset Mastery, you will understand the importance of having clarity on your why, and how to determine what it is.

Run through your vision in your mind. See it, feel it, live it… then transmute that energy into your training session.


Specific movements or actions

I didn’t cover this in the video, but you could have specific movements or actions that help to get you in the zone. It’s not just about what the movement is specifically doing for you; but also the creation of the habitual pattern repeated over time that creates the effect.

I suggest spending a couple of minutes deep breathing, to ‘get into your body’ and centre yourself. Then try a couple of minutes of flexing different muscle groups or posing.  This is to develop the mind-muscle connection, get your focus into your body, and ready to really feel your training.


What works for your pre-gym routine?

What works for you will be somewhat individual. You need to experiment with different things and see what gives you the best focus and presence. It’s very dependent on your unique motivations and drivers.

Whatever works for you, a good part of why it works is simply the Pavlovian trigger that develops through repetition. With this in mind, it’s important that after choosing a routine, you consistently do it.

Spend 5-10 minutes before every training session to get ‘in the zone’ and your body will show the results pretty quickly. You will soon be able to trigger the correct state in just a couple of minutes, by going through your routine.

To let the struggles of the day wash off you. Forget about the argument with your missus, or the looming deadline, and simply be present, focused and ready to kill it in the gym.

If you want some inspiration; watch the biggest guy in your gym, or open Netflix and put Pumping Iron on. Notice how they are in a deep state of focus while training. How they shut the rest of the world out, and their entire focus is inside their body. This is what the pro’s do, because it takes you to the next level.


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