Ever had someone ask you to 'focus' during your workouts? Do you know what it really means to do that?
by Prince Hew
The mind is a powerful entity. It has the power to translate imaginations into real-life scenarios. For example, when playing the piano or exercising. One research has shown that people who simply imagined doing strength-training exercises, increased their muscle strength by 22 percent, compared to 30 percent for those who physically did the exercises.
Of course, this doesn't mean you stop going to the gym and start making your workouts "imaginary" - although it is tempting - but the power of your thoughts to trigger changes in your body is something worth taking advantage of.
“Imagining an action and doing it require the same motor and sensory programs in the brain.”
Your coach or trainer might tell you, "Do a pull up and focus on your upper back," and you put your mind to it. This is highly effective, because research revealed that when you focus your mind on a specific muscle during a workout, that muscle is worked 22 percent harder.
This mind-body connection doesn't come naturally to many people. Most of us have to put a whole lot of energy into training our mind to convince our body. But that doesn't mean it can't be done. Here are seven strategies for you to improve the mind-body connection every time you train.
1. REMEMBER MUSCLE FIBERS CONTROL YOUR BODY MOVEMENTS
Your muscle fibers shorten and contract to make your body move or resist force; for example how your biceps shorten while picking something up. On the other hand, your muscle fibers lengthen when controlling and decelerating the forces entering the body; in this case, your bicep muscles when you put something down. Understanding the muscle fibers are doing and focusing on the feeling of the movements can help improve the mind-muscle connection. In common terms, knowing your range of motion (ROM).
2. Focus on contracting the involved muscles as hard as you can When you lift a weight.
Those gym buffs staring at themselves in the mirror as they lift weights are actually taking a tip off Arnold Schwarzenegger's books. Schwarzenegger always looked in the mirror and flexed a particular muscle to have a better understanding of its strength. By looking and focusing at the muscle and willing it in your mind to flex harder, the strength of that muscle will grow further.
3. Push into the floor.
When you lift weights that requires you to make direct contact with the floor, such as squats or push-ups, you can enhance the muscles being used by thinking that you are pushing the floor away from you. This simple change in mindset can help you engage all the involved muscles and lead to a higher level of force output.
4. Lift Heavier.
Using a heavier weight challenges your mind to focus on what you're doing, improving your mind-body connection. A heavier weight helps you engage larger muscles as compared to lighter weights for higher rep ranges. The first time you lift heavier, you shake because the muscles that were previously not used before are being turned on and called into action. This forces your mind to work with your body, telling your body that it can do it.
5. Improve intramuscular coordination To get stronger without an unwanted increase in muscle size.
Some people are looking to improve strength without increasing in size. Using heavier weights and focusing on the movement can help with intramuscular coordination. Again, this requires focus and help improve the ability of the muscle fibers to work together to generate a force.
6. Use one limb at a time.
Using one limb at a time forces your mind to focus on balancing. Exercises like split-leg squats, lunges or step-ups and one-arm overhead presses with a dumbbell or one-arm chest presses all use one limb at a time. This forces you to focus all your energy and strength on only one specific body part, helping you recruit more muscle fibers to move more weight as compared to when your focus is split between both arms or both legs.
7. Focus on your grip.
Training your mind to concentrate on your grip while you lift can engage the muscles of the hand, wrist and forearm. This can also help you enhance your mental focus on what you're doing as you move the weight. This is especially important when using barbells, dumbbells or kettlebells.
Learning how to implement these strategies can help you improve your mind-body connection so when you’re working out, you can really focus on what you’re doing and make the most out of the limited time in the gym.
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