Working out is always good right?

Not so quick. Working out using bad form does more damage than good. Improper form results in injuries and lost time. It slows progression down to a snail’s pace.

Proper form isn’t about working longer or harder. It’s about working smarter and that means putting our conscious attention and focus to good use. It means connecting our minds to our activity.

Much like mindfulness has taken over as the go to for stress help and relief and empowers us to take stock of each moment, we can benefit tremendously from the power of mindfulness when working out.

Referred to as “attentional focus” or a “mind-muscle connection,” (MMC), this type of mindfulness enhances muscle fiber and activation. In other words, the more fully and consciously we engage our muscles when working them, the quicker and larger they grow.

This psychological aspect of training focuses on “deliberate muscle contraction,” feeling every rep and recruiting specific muscles. Additionally, when our conscious attention aligns with our muscle’s movement, it allows us to move efficiently with a full range of motion, helping reduce the risk of injury.

When it comes to fitness training, good form is what produces stellar results, not added reps or additional weight. Good form is accelerated with conscious focus. That means being present, in the moment and consciously feeling the full range of motion that a muscle goes through when activated. It’s muscle mindfulness.

There are three primary ways to establish a mind-muscle connection.

Internal focus, verbal clues and physically feeling/touching the working muscle.

Internal focus means placing one’s attention internally on specific muscles and instructing them to work harder while actively lifting. Verbal clues can come from a workout buddy or coach and touching the working muscle allows us to feel what is happening.

If you have not yet engaged the power of your brain for increased muscular gains you’ve been missing out. Why not get the most out of every workout moment, by engaging both the power of your mind and your muscle as a working team focused on a specific fitness goal?

Muscles are made of muscle fibers that go to work when the brain signals them to do something. When working out, muscles need to be contracted as hard as possible to squeeze the most out of each rep. Mentally focusing on muscle contractions leads to more muscle activation resulting in “the best bang for your buck” or maximizing your gains.

Here’s a few tips to strengthen your mind-muscle connection.

Warm-up before each exercise –
A proper warm up gets the blood flowing and activates the muscles. And one warm up does not fit all training. There are general warmups and specific ones that address, for example, heavy lifting. Skipping a warmup might get you out of the gym quicker but it opens the door to injury. Once injured there is nothing to do but see the injury through till it’s healed. Is saving a bit of time worth the risk of injury and being sidelined for an undetermined amount of time? Injuries don’t save time, they steal it.

Focus on single-joint exercises –
If turning the focus inward is your goal, then single-joint exercises work better than compound ones.

Focus on the muscle not the lift –
The strength of a focused mind results in the strength of the muscle produced. Don’t worry about the number of reps or weight used. Focus on the working muscles, on the technique and feel every rep. as it is performed.

Slow the pace –
Building muscle is not a race. It’s easier to feel the muscle stretching and working when the reps are slowed down. Isolation muscular movements are particularly effective with slower reps.

Use the mirror –
Images in the mirror are great motivators. Looking at a specific muscle you want isolated as you are working it can help with focus and concentration. It’s also a great motivator to see the advances you’ve made so don’t be ashamed to use the mirror to admire your finely toned triceps.

Use lighter weights –
Using lighter weights helps us focus on our muscles. It’s hard to go slow or consciously think about a contraction when lifting heavy weights.

Practice visualization techniques –
Use the power of visualization. Envision your muscle fibers working hard as they pull on one another, imagine them stretching while contracting as the muscle fibers are pulled apart. See the muscle cells stretching, changing and growing. “See what you want to be.”

Focus on one muscle –
If compound exercises are performed, the focus should remain on one muscle at a time. Without a specific focus, the mind’s energy wanders. Give it focus and purpose when deliberately contracting by focusing thoughts on a specific movement, a specific muscle.

Creating a mind-muscle connection is empowering but keep in mind that everyone is different. What works for you may not work for your gym buddy or workout friend.

Staying focused on the task at hand (living in the moment) keeps us laser focused on form, especially important when it comes to lifting intensely. Activating our mind muscle connection seriously increases
intensity. It’s a good thing!

Remember, “where the mind goes, the body follows.”

The mind is a muscle. Why not put the power of the mind to work when training?

Training your brain to workout at the same time you are working your muscles is the most effective way to maximize your mind-muscle connection and achieve the fitness results you started training for in the first place.

Increase your longevity, strength, and disease protection. Build your self-confidence and self-esteem and love looking in the mirror at your reflection!

“Reclaim Your Longevity” can help you do just that…

For more tools and resources from Carolyn Hansen to assist you in attaining your health and fitness goals and achieving the success you desire in life, please visit:

Carolyn Hansen Fitness