Control Your Mind: Mind-Muscle Connection
About the Author
Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author of One Size Does NOT Fit All Diet Plan, one of Amazon's Top Gluten-Free and Weight Loss Diets. (You may read more about Abby at the bottom of this article.)
Are any of the things below something that you desire for yourself?
- Better performance in the gym.
- Less stress.
- Cleaner, guilt-free eating.
- Quicker fat loss.
If you said "yes" to the first question, then you are not alone. The majority of the American population wants a healthier lifestyle with better performance and diet. And, who doesn't want less stress in their life? But, you CAN have it all! How? Just pull one tool out of your fitness bag called "mindfulness."
Mindfulness isn't just some gimmicky work that was pulled out of the magician's hat. Mindful living can actually give you everything you need from better results in the gym to controlling what you put in your mouth to transforming your life. All too often, we live on autopilot without really paying attention to the things we do. Mindfulness is the rising awareness when you intentionally pay attention in an open yet discerning way. It doesn't think about the past or the future. It just pauses for the now.
It's time to de-stress, get energized, and rock your self-esteem. In this article, you are going to learn to control your mind. You're going to learn how to build your mind-muscle connection in the gym. Training mindfully doesn't have to be difficult.
If you've been training for some time, your muscles know how to do the exercises. However, with a mind on board, you can take your training to a whole new level. Follow these tips:
Exercise mindfully. This allows you to recruit the correct muscle group immediately so that workouts are more targeted and efficient. Targeted and efficient workouts lead to significant fitness gains. Research shows that mental imagery alone causes activity in the muscle by as much as 10 percent.
Practice mental contractions. Do this for 12 weeks at non-workout times, as well as workout times. Research has shown that after 12 weeks, strength is improved by as much as 13.5 to 35 percent in different muscles of the body after contraction imagery. When you imagine yourself contracting your muscles, your brain sends a message to those muscles whether you are working out or not. However, the brain signal is even stronger when you are training.
Before Training: How to Make the Mind-Muscle Connection
Shift your attitude: Stop focusing on last night's family tv show, your work schedule, or even tonight's dinner. You need to focus on the present.
Set your intention: Spend 2 to 5 minutes getting calm and quiet. You can do this by meditation, deep breathing exercises, or even focusing on a goal such as getting rid of stress. Deep breathing and visualization will help you begin your workout.
Practice flexing. Stand in front of your mirror and make note of how your body responds as you contract your muscles one at a time. This helps with form and control during exercise.
As you begin to train, notice your physiology. Focus on your thoughts, sounds, breaths, feelings, and any other sensations.
During Training: How to Make the Mind-Muscle Connection
Go through the motions. Take some time to go through the motions of the exercise before using dumbbells or barbells. This will help you focus on muscle contractions and prepare your for your strength training.
Focus on the rep. Quality is better than quantity, so focus on getting through one rep at a time rather than the whole set.
Tune in to your breathing. Focus on your breathing during training. Inhale for 1 to 2 counts on the push or pull, and exhale for 3 counts on the release.
Close your eyes. Block out visual distractions for one rep of every set of exercise. This will allow you to fully experience how your body moves.
The key to the mind-muscle connection is to recognize your thought pattern. Thoughts about work, financial difficulties, annoying neighbors, or kids fighting will continually pop up. However, you need to train yourself to overcome them. You can acknowledge the thought, but set them aside so that you can focus on your mind-muscle connection.
Your goal isn't to to get rid of your thoughts completely. Letting them go and focusing on the present will help relieve stress from your body and mind. Learning how to control your mind will become more natural, and the process will definitely benefit you as you become more mindful with your training.
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About the author
Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author. For the past 10 years, she has coached thousands of women locally and online to lose body fat and lead healthy lifestyles. Her clients have lost thousands of pounds, reclaimed health, and call her “Coach No Gimmick.” She is from Northern Virginia but now resides near Charlotte, North Carolina. Abby has been married for 20 years and has three grown daughters, one of which is autistic. She is a 19 year cancer survivor.