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MInd-Muscle Connection: How Mindfulness Can Improve the Quality of Your Workouts

Mindfulness and muscle are not words that you often assimilate together. Mindfulness brings up images of quiet concentration, sitting alone on a rock overlooking the ocean as you focus on breathing. Muscle conjures up images of male bodybuilders lifting massive amounts of weight in a hot gym, sweating profusely, and flexing in the mirror. How can these two images be so far apart, yet also interlocked?

I see it regularly and am asked by members from every gym, health club, and fitness center I’ve ever worked at, “what does that (pointing to someone using equipment) do?” There’s a 50/50 shot I have no idea because someone has bastardized something they saw on social media or by another member and is attempting to replicate the exercise. They aren’t mindful at all about what they are doing and why they are doing it. Which also means, they do not know what muscles are actually being used, versus what muscles are supposed to be used.

Mindfulness is about being present in the moment of whatever you are doing, or not doing. If you’re working on a project with a completion deadline of tomorrow morning, you are focused on the tasks to do so. This is practicing mindfulness without realizing it, you’re not thinking about making your grocery list for the weekend. Finishing that project takes all your concentration and physical effort to complete it on time. If your mind wanders to the grocery list, mistakes happen that could cost the sale or possibly your job.

Working out is the same as working on that important project. To lift with proper form and engage the correct muscles, you must focus on your motions, synchronize your breathing, lift with the full range of motion required for the exercise. Any distraction can lead to a major injury at worst, a small injury, or using the wrong muscles and creating more imbalances in your posture. Mindfulness is critical to connect with your muscles to ensure no distractions happen and the resulting negative consequences I just mentioned.

A vital aspect of strength training is to focus on and activate the proper muscles being used in any lift. The body wants to efficient and use the easiest way to lift a load it can. This means using muscles that are not meant to take on the stress of a weight, but do because of postural imbalances, ignorance, and laziness. Can you relate as you think about your own workouts and the movements you do? I can because I’ve been guilty also of all three at one time or another.

When I cue my clients during their sessions, I ask them what they are feeling to get them to be mindful of their movements. With my experience, I can see what they’re doing incorrectly and why, but want them to learn so they don’t continue the mistakes. After explaining what muscles to focus on, they do, and it changes the entire exercise for them. Now they know to be mindful and focus on activating the correct muscles at the right time. This is a game changer for my clients, and they love feeling the muscles contract, and I love seeing them progress from this small change.

Muscle mindfulness is the concept that allows you to focus on activating and contracting the right muscles in each exercise. You stay present in the moment, avoid major injuries, and get better results from your workouts. You also build neuroplasticity, creating new neural pathways that tell your nervous system how to move, stabilize, and lift. For older adults, this relearning of movement patterns helps them to delay signs of aging and keep their cognitive function.

For your next workout, learn what muscles are to be used for the exercises you are doing. Focus on activating and contracting them during the set on each rep. Synchronize your breathing to breathe out during the action of the lift. After completing a set this way, reflect for a minute on how it felt during the movements, and how it feels now done correctly. I promise your workouts will improve tremendously. I know, because I do what I’m instructing you! What’s good for the goose is good for the Gander!

For more help on muscle activation, use my online program Strengthen at Your Desk. It’s simple, easy to follow, and uses muscle mindfulness to help you overcome chronic pain and low energy from sitting at your desk all day. Use it for 10 minutes per day and watch your energy and productivity soar! Get started today!

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