Is there a connection between the mind and body and what does it mean to our workouts?
Doctors and healers have noticed the connection between our physical and mental health thousands of years ago.
By the 19th century, most people have been already convinced that emotions are directly related to illnesses and people have been advised to visit sanatoriums and seaside centers to treat both their bodies and minds at once.
Gradually, the emotions have begun to concede their rank as a cause for bacterial and toxic diseases, and the newly discovered antibiotics have treated illness after illness.
Over the last decades, scientists have even come to the point of trying to attribute biological bases to behavioral imbalances such as autism and others.
In parallel to that, the link between stress, emotions, and health has been rediscovered.
We all have the brain-muscle connection
This is covered in some ancient medical and philosophical systems. We also have a connection: body-brain.
A typical example of this is how one usually feels mentally uncomfortable the day before their throat starts to hurt or before their nose gets stuffed and so on.
There is another connection that covers the body and the brain, and that is food. We have all heard the maxim “you are what you eat.”
This means that any crumb or drop that passes the barrier of our mouth affects (positive or negative) on our health and how we feel.
We will be talking about the brain-body connection and more precisely how we could use it to optimize our physical activities with it.
We’ve all heard the phrase “think about the muscle as you train it” in the gym.
What does this mean and what is the effect of “thinking” or “not thinking” during a workout?
Whoever of you have been in a yoga class has probably noticed that almost all the time the “linking” of the mind to the body and the “realizing” of the practice is being repeated.
This is practically the same as in training: the directed thought, the brain impulse is what makes us move in a certain way.
There is, of course, another side to the question: what if we perform the movement in the right form and technique, it is not necessary (even impossible according to some people) to consciously activate the muscular work.
So, how important is the control of the muscles during workouts?
The targeting of the thought and purposeful activation of certain muscles increases the work of the particular muscle group where the attention is focused.
Exercises that enhance the brain-muscle connection
Exercises have been shown in a recent experiment.
These exercises have shown how we can shift the focus from one muscle group to another, for example:
- Squats with a focus on the quadriceps or with a focus on the gluteal muscles;
- Romanian deadlift with a focus on the gluteal muscles or the rear hip;
- Sips with a focus on the armpits or the broad back muscles;
- Push up with a focus on the triceps or the chest muscles, and others.
The results show a significant difference in muscle performance depending on whether they are consciously activated or not.
The greatest difference in the results makes the movements covering the lower part of the body.
The study clearly shows that yogis (and bodybuilders) have been right for centuries that the body and mind work in sync, and this proves the phenomenon of the neuromuscular dynamics during strength training.
Factors that prevent conscious brain-muscle activation:
1) In the last few years, the number 1 enemy of proper training has turned out to be phones.
You can see every third person in the gym talking on the phone, writing SMS or updating status on a social network.
If you want to achieve high performance on your workout, leave the phone aside.
It distracts you from training and prevents you from concentrating on the movements you make.
2) Conversations. No matter how enjoyable and educative sometimes they can be, conversations with “co-training people” also distract you from your main activity in the gym.
3) Do not think about what you are going to eat for dinner or what you need to do during the day. The time in the gym or on the yoga mat is only for you. The concentration requires the greatest effort and the most practice of all.
Make everyday efforts. Focus on the breathing and try to synchronize it with your movement. This way you will saturate your cells with oxygen, and all the muscles will start to work more efficiently.
Another practice you can apply is to count your steps when you walk – this is a proven method for improving the concentration ability.
4) Learn the mechanics of the movements you will perform in the gym. When you do not know the exercises and do not know which muscle groups they are involved in, just imitate the exercise without really benefiting from it.
Nowadays, the connection between the brain, the body, and nutrition is becoming more and more evident.
Scientists and psychologists are persistently persuading us to treat our health with our attention, as our overall well-being depends on it.