Mindfulness in Strength Training

Break your training plateau and bring your fitness to the next level with mindfulness.

Many of you are probably familiar with the term “mindfulness,” which is appearing more and more frequently amidst popular health-culture circles across the globe. While “mindfulness” is most commonly associated with meditation practices or psychological health, let’s examine how mindfulness, and more specifically the incorporation of mindful strength training, can be applied to your routine in the gym to achieve exceptional results!

Don't go through the motions, go through your emotions.

Mindfulness is defined as “the state of being consciously aware.” It refers to active examination of the present moment, including the internal and external sensations observed and/or experienced by a person. In regards to training, consider for a moment your own fitness routine. While we love dedication and consistency in training, the word “routine” itself can be indicative of a health plateau, stagnation, or a sense of “going through the motions” – in other words, a lack of progress.

Someone once said, “The brain is the most important muscle you can exercise,” a sentence that contains numerous levels of truth. Without getting into the nitty-gritty science of it, by being mindful of an exercise’s target muscle (or muscle group) throughout the entire motion, neural pathways between the brain and the connected muscle fibers are strengthened and eventually the muscle will contract harder and more readily. This increases the efficiency of movement and range of motion, thereby yielding greater force production, more power, better coordination, and improved endurance, just to mention a few!

So how do we strengthen the mind to muscle connection? The process is actually quite simple and does not require extreme changes to your usual routine; however, mastering this technique requires discipline, patience, and active focus. To begin, identify the target muscle (or muscle group) of the exercise to be performed. Before initiating the exercise, focus your attention on the target muscle, contract it and relax it. Now, with proper form, begin the exercise, focusing all your attention on the contraction of the target muscle. Maintain an active mind throughout the set and reset between repetitions if necessary. Don’t forget to breathe!

Discipline, Patience and Active Focus

To illustrate this idea, let’s take a look at a specific example: the bicep curl. This simple movement is commonly seen in a gym setting, but we often perform the motion throughout our daily lives as well. Consider this: you pull a gallon of milk from the refrigerator. Although you have essentially just performed a bicep curl, it is likely that zero thought was given to the movement or to the muscle it subsequently engaged. The next time you reach into the fridge for a cool glass of protein-packed 2%, focus on squeezing and flexing the actual bicep muscle to pull the milk jug from its place. This is the mind to muscle connection: being consciously aware of how you are performing an action and what muscles are being used to complete it. This mentality should be implemented for every single exercise you perform. The same idea can be applied to posture. When taking a seat in your office chair, your gluteal muscles should engage (think squat form) and take the main “weight” of the action. Similarly, when walking up stairs, be aware of your muscle engagement and weight transfer. Pushing off with your heel instead of your toes will engage your posterior kinetic chain (glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles) and will reduce strain to the knees. These are the ways in which we build strong neural pathways to strengthen the mind to muscle connection. It can be as simple as a change of mindset!

So whether you are the beginner, looking to gain a solid foundation in fitness through strength training, the veteran bodybuilder, hoping to reverse old habits or correct bad form (and possibly find your inner Zen, eh?), or the mellow yogi, wishing to apply the power of your mind to other physical feats, developing a strong mind to muscle connection will benefit you in all aspects of fitness and allow you to better achieve your individual goals!

Practice Mindfulness Today

Get behind our fitness philosophy today by allowing us to design an individualized program for you! We are mindful of various lifestyles, so we offer in-home personal training for residents of Akron, Cleveland, Canton and the surrounding northeast Ohio area, and are able to design personal online programs as well to fit all your training needs! Please call or text at (419)-906-0204 for more information. If you have a question about this article or suggestions for future articles, please contact us at [email protected]

Why Women Should Lift Weights

Why Women Shouldn't be Afraid to Lift Heavy

I am a 26 year old woman. I want to be strong and I want to be fit, but I don’t want to look like a man. Many women are under the impression that if they lift heavy that they will start to get muscles like a man. You look at the incredibly lucrative weight lifting champions who are women and you begin to think that you are going to look like that. I would like to begin by saying that at the moment I am afraid to lift heavy, because I am 5 months pregnant, and that’s the only time that women should really be avoiding heavy lifting. Other than that, women really shouldn’t be afraid to do some heavy lifting! I would love to explain why women shouldn’t be afraid to lift heavy.

You Won't Get "Bulky"

  1. You Won’t Look Like a Man: Let us first stop the myth that you will begin to look like a man if you start to lift heavy. News flash ladies, men and women are different. Men’s muscles show much easier and quicker than women. It is much easier for men to have sculpted arms, strong showing leg muscles and abs, way before women. We don’t have the same balance of hormones or testosterone so we won’t bulk like men. The women who you confuse as men because they are so HUGE are women who are using additional supplements to look like that.
  2. You Aren’t Going to Get Hurt: Stop being a girl about it! Was that too harsh? Look ladies, it’s 2017, the times in which you were afraid to do “tough things” is in the past. It’s the modern day where us women can do just as much as men. The gym is no longer the “man’s place” we must equally have our gender represented. Come on ladies! Buck up! You aren’t going to get hurt lifting weight unless you are doing it wrong. You might get sore, but embrace the soreness!!!
  3. Building Muscle Makes You Stronger: Well duh, of course building muscle makes you stronger! Building muscles is very important. Strengthening muscles can make you healthier, you will be less likely to get hurt when you do things active, you will live longer and the benefits of building muscle goes on and on. These benefits aren’t only for men, women need to build muscle too!
  4. Men DO like Sculpted Women: I am not saying we should only improve ourselves because you want to impress a man (don’t don things for your men…do things for yourself), but I know that I am always striving to look beautiful and sexy for my husband. And you know what? He loves strong women! I am not talking only about the women who stand up for themselves, but physically strong! Long ago are the days when guys want little super model bodies who look like Twiggy. They want strong women who can defend themselves if need be.
  5. Being a Strong Woman is Awesome: If you don’t believe any of these other reasons to lift heavy, then you should know that being a strong woman is totally awesome. You will be a total BOSS if you can flex and your muscles are stronger then the men around you! I remember when there was a live cam at a football game. It was a flex cam that was going around the audience and asking people to flex. They showed a guy who flexed and everybody laughed because he didn’t really have much there. The women next to him stood up and showed her arms. The girl was ripped and the whole crowed roared with applause! That was such a cool moment where the our country thinks it’s amazing that women are lifting weights just like the men.