We've all made it through a workout when our head is just not in the game. We let our thoughts drift to career, obligations, family, to-do lists. We're simply going through the motions. To get the most out of your workout and guarantee it is as effective as can be, we must learn to master our most important "muscle" - our brain.
Believe it or not, but you can train your brain to work with you during your workout to make those glute bridges burn, your bicep muscles shake, and your thighs quiver more so than if you weren't activating your brain.
How many times have you done mindless bicep repetitions and feel nothing? Or, you do a set of squats and wonder if you're supposed to be feeling it in your quads or your glutes? Chances are, you've been there with one exercise or another.
These are 3 ways to improve that connection and get a better, more effective workout!
1. Your Workout Time is Sacred
This may be the most difficult step. Before you ever start your workout, I want you to go in with an intention. Say it out loud. "I will strong after my workout," "I will focus 100% on my workout for the next (insert your allotted time) minutes," "I am doing this workout for MYSELF." Whatever you need to say to yourself, say it! Turn your phone off, put your headphones in, and get to work. Don't answer that work call. Don't look at your text messages. Don't get sucked in to the memes of Facebook. Don't. Do. It.
2. Properly Warmup Your Whole Body and Activate Your Glutes
Before starting any workout, you must take the time to properly warmup your body. A dynamic warmup is the most effective which gets your whole body moving in patterns, exercises, directions similar to what you will be doing in your workout.
Once your body is warmed up, let's focus on the glutes. Most of us have what I like to call, sleepy glutes. We have desk jobs, we commute in the car/train up to several hours a day, we sit at our kids' basketball games or sit at home on the couch after a long day. That's a lot of sitting and not a lot of glute activation.
This sleepy glute issue is the primary reason we don't feel anything in our backsides when we're doing squats, lunges, deadlifts, hip thrusts, etc. We often feel nothing. RED FLAG!Our glutes make up a huge part of our posterior chain - back, core, glutes, hamstrings, etc. This is the foundation of your body - if your posterior chain is weak, you are headed for weakness and/or injury.
How do we get those glutes activated? Check out this very helpful video for 7 glute activating exercises from renowned and trusted glute professional, "The Glute Guy", Bret Contreras.
3. Focus on Each Muscle
Continuing from above, it's time to focus on each muscle and muscle group. After you watch the video above, I want you to think about squeezing your glutes. Squeeze them hard and think about the muscles in your backside firing up. Now, relax. Do this again. Grab a band and get to work on those glute activating exercises above!
Let's say you are doing bicep curls - I want you to flex your bicep muscle. Wherever you are. Do it again. Now, hold it for 20 counts. Now, as you have that muscle under tension, I want you to lower your arm all the way down to full extension (just like if you were doing the exercise in the gym.) Now, keep that tension and curl it all the way back to the top of your shoulder. Do you feel the difference between concentrating on the muscle movement compared to when you do the exercise without activating your brain?
Last one! Now, I want you to sit up as straight as you can. Think about those beautiful back muscles and how strong they are. Then, I want you to squeeze your shoulder blades back together like you are trying to pinch a penny in between your shoulder blades. Relax. Do it again. Hold for 20 counts. This is your lat muscles activating. You should feel these when you are doing rowing movements, pulldowns, single arm rows, etc.
Your mind-muscle connection is vital to a strong workout program that brings results. Try these tips this week in your workouts and let me know what differences you feel!