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Health & Fitness

How the Mind-Muscle Connection Can Help You Get More Out of Every Workout



You know the phrase “mind over matter?” Turns out, it can apply to your workouts, too. One of the buzziest theories in fitness right now is something often referred to as the mind-muscle connection, and the basic idea is that just by thinking about your muscles moving your body through an exercise, you can help them work more efficiently.

Pretty much any trainer will tell you there are big benefits to be found in mentally connecting to your movement, simple as it may sound. “It can be very easy to disassociate from your workout by chatting with your friends or paying more attention to the instructor. But what we’ve seen is that if you focus on contracting the muscle that you’re involving, then you can get a better result out of it,” exercise physiologist and ACE-certified personal trainer Pete McCall, C.S.C.S., as well as host of the All About Fitness podcast, tells SELF.

There are a few different theories that suggest why brain power is such an important tool in getting the most out of your time at the gym—and while some are still under investigation, others make a convincing argument for channeling the mind-muscle connection in your own workouts.

First, it’s worth noting that neurological evidence shows that our brains play a major role in regulating muscle movement and strength.

“Muscles are a puppet of the nervous system, and a muscle that does not have nerves regulating it is essentially useless in terms of force production,” Brian Clark, Ph.D., executive director of the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute and professor of physiology and neuroscience at Ohio University, tells SELF.

This means that muscle movement begins in the brain, and it plays a major role in regulating strength—remarkably, the brain can regulate strength without you ever moving a muscle. Clark coauthored a 2014 study that found that participants with one arm immobilized in a cast could avoid loss of wrist strength simply by using imagery, thinking through the process of flexing their wrist.

Here’s how the connection works: “Whether you’re actually doing a task or just imagining a task, if you’re imagining it correctly, you see increases in the EEG signal, which suggests that the neurons are being activated,” says Clark.

This neurological signal is then sent down from the brain to the muscle you’re thinking about. The theory is that if you visualize an exercise and specific muscle movement as you do it, you can train the brain to send stronger signals, which translates to more muscle engagement, likely by either recruiting more muscle fibers or getting the fibers to work more quickly and efficiently, he says.

The jury’s still out on whether mentally moving through an exercise while you do it improves muscle recruitment on its own, but early research is promising.

Of course, as with all things that sound too good to be true, there’s a kicker—you’ll see bigger strength benefits actually working out than just thinking it through, stresses Clark (so you definitely shouldn’t give up that gym membership if you’re physically able to exercise).

But these findings give us a clue into how the mind drives movement, and new research is exploring the question of how thinking about your workout while you’re doing it can give you better results than just mindlessly performing the exercise alone.

Clark points to a few recent studies from other researchers exploring how mental effort affects workouts, including one published in June 2017. In the study, 18 young, healthy participants were put in a low-intensity strength training program for six weeks and divided into a high mental effort group, a low mental effort group, and a control group that didn’t exercise. The participants in the high mental effort group gained more strength than the other groups, even though the workout intensity was the same for both the high mental effort and low mental effort groups.

While promising results like these are buzzy among fitness pros who’ve been advocating for the mind-muscle connection for years, these are early, small-scale studies (the study above also didn’t test imagery directly), so it’s hard to say whether thinking about your muscles working actually leads to better performance, independent of other factors.

But until more research is published, there are actually some other reasons to think about your muscles as you use them.

Thinking about engaging the correct muscles during an exercise is an excellent path to better form, which does lead to better results.

Actively focusing on the muscles you’re trying to engage as you move through an exercise can be the difference between a “meh” rep and a killer one, exercise physiologist Dean Somerset, C.S.C.S., tells SELF. Take squats, for example. “If you don’t feel the glutes flexing whatsoever but you just keep pumping out reps, you might be working your quads and hamstrings, but you’re not getting the benefit that you’re actually looking for,” he says. “If you’re working on decent technique, it’s going to be a much more effective exercise.” Actually thinking about the muscles you’re trying to target is a simple but effective place to start.

By focusing on form, you’re also less likely to rely on the wrong muscles to get you through an exercise, which can lead to pain and injury.

Plus, simply picturing your muscles working can help you get in the zone.

From a psychological perspective, McCall and Somerset both say that a major benefit they see from implementing the mind-muscle connection is just feeling engaged with your workout (which probably means you’re working harder, too). “A big buzzword is mindfulness. When people are really focused on what they’re doing, they’re able to hone in on that exercise more easily. It’s a matter of quality—you’re intrinsically focused on what you’re doing,” says Somerset.

“When you see somebody focused on what they’re doing, you see a tremendous difference [in performance],” adds McCall. “It’s kind of like a form of meditation. If you focus on the muscles that you’re using, you just become more in tune with what your body is doing,” McCall adds.

Ready to try it? Here’s how to use put the mind-muscle connection into practice.

The good news about the mind-muscle connection is that it’s really as simple as it sounds. As you’re working out, actually picture your muscles contracting as you move through an exercise. For example, if you’re doing a bicep curl, imagine the bicep muscle contracting and lengthening as you lift the weight up and down. You can do this during pretty much any exercise or type of workout, says Somerset, but it’s particularly useful in exercises where it’s easy to drop into improper form (like rowing exercises and even running). If you’re not sure what specific muscle or muscles you’re targeting with a more complex exercise, ask your trainer or the class instructor to give you the lowdown.

Bottom line? A mental workout doesn’t top an actual workout, but there are benefits to doing both. It doesn’t take any extra time or physical effort to simply channel your thoughts, so there’s nothing to lose and only potential strength to gain.

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Health & Fitness

Yoga Helps You Lower Blood Pressure



Hypertension is a common disease nowadays, which, if it’s not treated correctly can cause many damages to the other organs of the body. People who suffer from high blood pressure need to lower blood pressure in order to neutralize the effects of hypertension on their body.

Changing the lifestyle and sometimes taking medicines is recommended for the people who need to lower blood pressure.

Also, check out: Eight Amazing Benefits of Teaching Yoga

It is very helpful in the treatment of hypertension the yoga lifestyle, which can really help you lower blood pressure. Yoga exercises, called asanas, involve stretching and moving the body into various positions. During these exercises, any tightness or tension observed in the body should be consciously relaxed. Yoga practice offers stress management techniques, which are essential to lower blood pressure. There are many yoga asanas, maybe hundreds or even thousands, but only certain asanas can help you lower blood pressure.

The most efficient for lowering blood pressure are the forward bends, which have a pacifying effect on the brain, the nervous system, the blood circulation to the brain, and they also help you reduce the stress. All these lower blood pressure. Furthermore, these asanas slow down the pulse rate, so they lower blood pressure.

They are also helpful to lower blood pressure the sitting asanas, such as Upavista Konasana, which remove the tension from the ribs and the intercostals muscles and also help you breathe easier. Many hypertensives have difficulties in breathing and these asanas help them in this matter and they also lower blood pressure.

Other helpful asanas are the supine poses, like Supta Baddhakonasana, which relax the abdominal region and have a calming effect on the nerves, facts that lower blood pressure.

There are also recommended for those who need to lower blood pressure, the inversions, such as Halasana and Setubandha Sarvangasana, which have a refreshing effect on the nerves and reduce the sympathetic tone very fast. The usual practice of these asanas regularizes blood pressure, so lower blood pressure when it’s abnormally high.

At these previous asanas, you can add the pranayama and the Svanasana, which relax the mind and senses, and stabilize the blood pressure, so lower blood pressure in case of hypertension.

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Health & Fitness

3 Distractions Which Can Interrupt Your Workout



You need to keep in mind that you have to work out on a regular basis. Only when you are able to do that, you will be able to get good results. At the same point in time, you have to keep in mind that there are quite a few distractions which will divert you from your workout. You have to avoid these distractions at all cost. Only when you are able to avoid these distractions, it will become easier for you to work out on a regular basis.

Also, check out: How to Prepare Your Body For Your Favorite Workout?

1 Friends and gym buddies:
The 1st and foremost workout distraction which you will face is friends as well as gym buddies. The problem with them is that if they come along with you to the gym, you will become more accustomed to their company. Thus, on a day when they are not at the gym, you are more likely to miss the gym as well as the workout as well. The perfect solution for this is to discipline yourself in order to head over to the gym and complete your workout irrespective of your friends as well as gym buddies.

2 Weekend plans:
You need to keep in mind that you have to always opt for a proper workout schedule. Only when you are able to afford a proper workout schedule, it will become easier for you to avoid any kind of weekend plans which might interrupt your workout. You have to at the most use resting day in order to attend to your weekend plans. When you are able to do that, it will automatically become easier for you to avoid interrupting your workout.

3 Following your friend’s workout:
You need to always keep in mind that you have to stick to your own workout. In many of the cases, when you’re following your friend’s workout, you might be following a higher level workout or the lower level workout. It will not be that effective. That is why; you have to always stick to your own workout. There are many exercises which might not be in your workout. You should not be tempted by them. This is one of the main distractions which people face. If you follow someone else’s workout, the effectiveness will be reduced. Moreover, you will be distracted from your carefully crafted workout.

Thus, when you’re at the gym or when you’re thinking of completing your workout, it is important to always avoid these 3 distractions. When you are able to avoid these 3 distractions, it will become much easier for you to complete your workout on a regular basis without any problem at all.

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Health & Fitness

How to Prepare Your Body For Your Favorite Workout?



Each and every individual just wants to opt for the more advanced workout. However, you need to keep in mind that you have to 1st and foremost prepare your body. Only when you are able to prepare your body, it will become easier for you to undertake advanced workouts. It is not just about the stamina but also to ensure that you are able to protect your body.

You have to also keep in mind that the preparation will ensure that your body is more flexible. It will also ensure that you are able to avoid injuries as well.

Also, check out: 3 Muscles That You Should Target in Your Workout

We will today share with you a few ways with the help of which, you will be able to prepare your body adequately for your favorite workout.

1 Try an alternative form of workout:
Instead of using the same exercises in order to prepare your body, you have to try out different exercises. If normally, you practice the boxing workout, you have to try out Yoga in order to prepare your body for your workout. This will ensure that your body becomes more flexible and you are able to perform your normal work out regularly.

2 Balancing exercises:
Irrespective of the type of workout which you practice, the balancing exercises will always benefit you. It will ensure that you are able to keep yourself flexible and also balance yourself. One of the best exercises, in order to increase your balance, is to go for the single leg balance. You will just need a band in order to conduct this exercise.

3 Lateral lunges:
With the help lateral lunges, you will be able to train your upper body as well as lower body. This will ensure that it becomes easier for you to stay flexible and also prepare your body for your favorite workout.

You need to keep in mind that when it comes to preparing your body, you have to slowly increase your repetitions of the preparation exercises. When you are able to increase the reputations, the body will become more and more accustomed to these workouts. As a result, you will be able to avoid any injuries as well.

Thus, instead of just starting with any high-intensity workout, it is a much better idea to use these exercises in order to prepare your body. When you are able to prepare your body, it will become easier for you to build your muscles and at the same point in time ensure that you are able to complete your workout on a regular basis.

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