Train your mind for more effective workout | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Working out at a gym in Manila. INQUIRER / MARIANNE BERMUDEZ
Working out at a gym in Manila. INQUIRER / MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

Mind-muscle connection is the simple act of consciously feeling a muscle working through a full range of motion. Simply put, intentionally placing your full attention on the contraction of the muscles that you are working on allows the muscle’s performance and development to be enhanced.

The ability to focus the tension created during training of a specific body region or muscle in the body not only enhances muscle fiber recruitment and activation, but also improves imbalance and avoid injuries.

To put it simply: every movement of the body follows the instruction of the mind. The connection between the body and the mind, like all other structures in our body, is strengthened through use and weakened through neglect. A poorly trained mind-muscle connection means that individual muscles cannot be coordinated properly, which leads to poor form and injury. In addition to that, muscles that are “poorly tied in” often “refuse” to grow and develop.

Serious gains

Research shows that engaging the correct muscles during an exercise is an excellent path to better form, which essentially targets key muscle groups better and helps one to develop at a timelier manner. If a person consciously promotes the connection between mind and muscles, they will benefit from a whole range of advantages, including better muscle coordination, improved self-awareness and control, and ultimately, more motivation during training.

Better muscle coordination. There are basically two different types of muscle coordination: intramuscular and intermuscular. The former pertains to the cooperation of the muscle fibers within a muscle, and the latter relates to the cooperation of the muscles with each other. The more frequently we perform a movement, the better the muscles involved are coordinated.

• Improved self-awareness and control. Mind-muscle connection means being aware of what is happening inside the body, such as breathing or thinking about the muscle you’re contracting. The more the body and mind work together, the better the self-perception develops and helps the body to adapt to changes.

• More motivation during training. When we are committed to consciously feeling our movements, our thoughts are completely in the present. By training the mind and the muscles to work together, we can focus completely on the workout and create a moment of distraction from our work, personal problems and issues. This is the stress-relieving benefit of working out that people often forget.

A good mind-muscle connection will be helpful in your pursuit, whether your goal is to lose weight or to build up strength. For instance, trainers and coaches would often tell their clients to “squeeze” a particular muscle during workout sessions. These timed cues mean that by simply thinking about squeezing a particular muscle during a movement, you activate that muscle much more effectively than just mindlessly smashing out the reps.

Training strategies

A poorly trained mind-muscle connection leads to poor form and injury. Above and right, gymgoers at a Manila fitness center. —MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

It can be very easy to disassociate from your workout. But simply picturing your muscles working or focusing your thoughts on your form can help you get in the zone. If you’re not sure what specific muscle or muscles you’re targeting, ask a coach or the class instructor to give you the lowdown. Here are some training strategies to think about in your next session: • Increasing weights. Being able to get a heavy weight up is not a guarantee that the muscle you are trying to target is being used to its full potential. If the weight is too much for the muscles to handle, mind-muscle connection cannot be made effectively. Ask your trainer what the proper weight for each workout and muscle group is.

Proper form. Good form is vital to avoid injury and get the most out of your training. Breathing techniques should also never be underestimated. Ask your trainer what kind of workouts would work best for your goals and how to observe proper form on your own.

Applying proper technique. In adapting an effective mind-muscle connection, there is a need to shift the focus from the amount of weight you’re lifting to the quality of the reps. Instead of frequency, track your progress by observing how the movements actually feel. Ask your trainer if there are techniques they can share on breathing and focusing on the workout.

Mindfulness plays a big role in putting mind-muscle connection into practice. From a psychological perspective, people are able to hone in on that exercise more easily when they are intrinsically focused on what they’re doing. In the case of strength training, paying more attention to movements results in a more efficient lift. And the more fully and effectively you engage your muscles, the more they’ll grow.

As we find ourselves cooped up in our homes, mindfulness seems to be an impossible task. But the good news about including mind-muscle connection in your workouts is that it’s really as simple as it sounds. Whether you’re sticking to your home workouts or slowly getting your gym routine back on track, channeling your inner thoughts doesn’t require expensive equipment or fancy accessories. It’s all in your head. —CONTRIBUTED

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