Do you ever find yourself just going through the motions? In that case it is time for you to get inside your muscles and start to feel the movement!
You can improve your workout, making it more effective and efficient, just by applying your mind. This is the mind muscle connection.
Movement comes from stimulation which can be internal or external. Thankfully some movements are subconscious, for example pulling away when touching something hot, so you don’t have to think about these survival reactions!
Some movements we consciously control and involve sending instructions from our brain throughout the movement. For example, gripping and maintaining your grip on a weight whilst moving your hand towards your shoulder, creating a contraction in your bicep and a bicep curl appears.
When you think about all the muscles and joints that are involved in even this simple movement, the human body can start to become seriously complex and impressive.
More stimulation means more recruitment and in turn more muscle.
Increasing the weight is one way to stimulate muscles because you have to work harder to move the object. However this can lead to injury and recruitment of different muscle groups if not carried out safely and correctly. Spending longer carrying out the movement, increasing time under tension, can also increase muscle stimulation and recruitment.
Imagine, literally, that without changing anything else you can increase muscle stimulation just by focusing on the movement that you want to occur.
During a bicep curl, try focusing on your bicep throughout the exercise. It will improve your technique as well as increasing bicep stimulation.
Certain people will have varying degrees of success when it comes to this so don’t worry if at first you don’t succeed. You may also find you are able to feel the contractions in certain muscle groups more than others. As they say, wonderful things take time and you must start somewhere!
Obviously, this can be applied to any muscle group. The more you practice the more you will be able to focus and increase the reaction in the desired muscle.
The mind muscle connection can even lead to increased flexibility, for example in yoga classes when you breathe into the muscle and try to increase the stretch during the exhale. Makes sense now you think about it right?
Having this sort of focus at any point in your life can help you achieve a ‘flow state’, which leads to more optimal performance. If you have something important to do, you need to focus on it. It’s unlikely you can have your phone in one hand and pizza in the other and still get 10/10 on that test, as much of a shame as that is. It's an unfortunate truth of the human condition and it applies in the gym as well.
A great way to get into the zone and increase your focus is to make sure you prime the body before exercise. This doesn’t just have to be some long winded warm up (although some mobility exercises may be of use). It could just be doing an extra set of each exercise at a lower weight to prep the muscles for the ‘working’ sets. To get used to the contraction, the technique and the speed of the movement.
What’s great is you don’t need to do anything extra to implement this idea, you can apply it into everyday life and can practice this kind of ‘gym meditation’ anywhere.
For example, going up the stairs how often do you just drag yourself up? Try treating each step like a step up and focusing on firing your glute to really push you up to the next level.
Overall implementing this technique will more than likely reduce your chance of injury, help you reach your goals quicker and make you become an all-around better functioning human being.
Give it a go, minimal effort and maximum results.
put the phone down - wise words! So many people now spend their lives not concentrating, and unbelievably you see it in the gym too. We all need to focus more.