Often we think of physical exercise as being, wellllll, purely physical. Life outside of the gym can be mentally taxing therefore we tend to take a brain vacation when we train. For good reason too. It helps maintain a level of sanity that allows us to deal with this crazy world if we can free our mind of thought for a period of time each day. However, there are some real benefits to keeping your brain engaged throughout your workout. I’m not talking about doing a Sudoku puzzle during your rest breaks, rather improving the mind-muscle connection to create a more effective workout. To steal a yoga term, “be mindful.” Focus on your breathing, on your body, on the movement. During a typical Results Fitness workout this can be really difficult. By the fourth round your thoughts are consumed with “make the burning stop” and not “Is my core braced? Joints aligned? Neutral chin?”
SO, HOW DO I LINK THE MINDY & BODY?
One way to be more mindful during training is to perform a set of slower, controlled sets as part of the warm up. Thinking about activating and contracting the target muscles really works to prime the body before the intensity dial gets cranked up to 100. Take squats for example. Perform a set of squats slowly – 5 seconds to descend, hold for 10 seconds (3 breaths) at the bottom, 3 seconds to ascend – while focusing on making your thighs and butt do the work and keeping your heels on the ground throughout the entire movement. See the diagram below for more instruction.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
If we improve our target muscle activation and improve the movement quality, then we are able to recruit more muscle fibers which means building more muscle. (I’d also say you are reducing your chance of injury because the intended muscle is doing the work.) Besides making you look more awesome, a little extra muscles provides a host of health benefits. Not the least of which is burning more fat at rest.
Yes, you read that right! One additional pound of lean muscle burns an extra 50 calories a day! And that’s while you’re resting. Multiply that over the course of a year and you will have burned an additional 18,250 calories, or 5.2 lbs, by simply adding 1 pound of muscle! Does that change your mind about settling for the pink dumbbells?
Got it? Or still need some help? As part of our special INTRODUCTORY OFFER (only $69), not only do you get unlimited group training and 3 semi-private sessions, but you also get one private session! During private sessions our coaches focus heavily on proper technique and muscle activation, and we can guarantee you’ll hear the words squeeze, engage, and tighten more than you ever thought possible in 60 minutes. In the meantime, try practicing mindful muscle activation with these three common exercises:
(Click HERE for a printable PDF of these exercises.)