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Mindfulness and Exercise

mindfulnessHey everyone!

Before I get into the tricep exercises that I have found to give the best growth, I must diverge for a moment and talk about your mindset during workouts.

I cannot stress the importance of being in the moment when you are working out. The popular word these days is mindfulness, and it applies to weight lifting as much as it does anything else.

Let’s get into it!

Mind-Muscle Connection

mind muscle connection

There are many articles and studies that show the connection between the mind and the muscles. These articles and studies show that being in the moment, thinking only about what you are doing and focusing on the muscle that you want to activate, will enhance the gains you have in muscle hypertrophy (growth).

This should not surprise us, as we all know that we are much more productive in anything that we do if we just focus on the task at hand and stop our minds from wandering to other thoughts.

Being in the moment is the best way to be productive. When we are talking to someone, we need to be listening and trying to understand what they are saying, and not just thinking about what we are going to say next!

This is also true in our workouts. We need to set the environment for success, with minimal distractions. Then we need to set our mind to the task at hand. Know the exercises that you are going to perform, the order you are gong to perform them, the number of sets and reps, and then get started.

Your only thought should be about the muscles you are using to perform the exercises.

Mindful Focusbench press

Let’s use the bench press as an example. This is a fairly straight forward exercise. You lie on the bench, you lift the weight off the cradle, you lower the weight to your chest, and you push it back up.

Therein lies the problem. If you have been involved in weight lifting for any period of time, the mechanics of the bench press will be second nature. We can almost do a bench press in our sleep!

But we shouldn’t take it for granted. We need to have a mindful focus when we do this exercise, and any exercise. WE need to ficus on the chest muscles (pectorals) and the triceps, and the shoulders, and the biceps, as all these muscles are involved in the exercise. Your focus will be on contracting the pectorals at the bottom of the motion to start the weight back up to the top. This is what will give you the greatest gains.

The secondary and equally important, benefit of mindful focus is the reduced risk of injury. Concentrating on and understanding which muscles are involved in the motion will allow you to engage them and keep them from injury.

Mindful focus will become your best tool for making gains in the gym.

sets and reps

Whenever we speak of weight lifting, we speak of the number of sets of each exercise we will be doing and the number of repetitions in each set. As I have mentioned before, the sets and reps will vary depending on the outcome you are moving toward.

Let’s speak of sets first. There has been much written, and I have read a lot about the number of sets you should be doing. The bottom line is, you should be aiming for 3-5 sets of each exercise in your routine. Keep this in mind as we speak of repetitions in each set based on outcomes.

There are three basic outcomes that we should mention. The first outcome is strength. If your goal is to become super strong, then you should be aiming at choosing a weight that you can perform 5 repetitions for the 3-5 sets. This is how power-lifters train. They lift really heavy weights for a few repetitions and a few sets.

The next outcome we will mention is endurance. If you want to condition your muscles so they can perform for long periods of time, then you will want to choose a lighter weight and perform between 15 and 20 repetitions of each exercise for the 3-5 sets. This is how long distance runners train.

The third and I might add, most popular outcome, is training for hypertrophy, or an increase in the size of your muscles. This is the reason most people lift weights. They want to look better, and looking better to them means they have larger muscles.

If this is your goal, then you will want to choose a weight that you can perform between 12 and 15 repetitions for the 3-5 sets. You should be working really hard on those last few reps, and I would suggest that you have someone there with you in case you can’t quite get the last rep done.

This is how you will grow your muscle. For a detailed explanation, check out this article.

rest between sets

The next point that needs to be made is about the time to rest between sets. The time of rest between sets is also linked to the outcome desired. If you are trying to gain strength, then you need to rest for three to five minutes between sets. Remember, you are trying to lift very heavy weights. You will need to give your muscles time to recover between sets.
If you are training for endurance, then you should only rest for 30 – 60 seconds between sets, as this will cause your muscles to work, work, which is what they need for endurance.

And then there is the rest of us, who want bigger muscles. The time to rest between sets for us is one to two minutes. Just enough time for the muscle to recover a little, but not long enough for full recovery. Remember, in order for a muscle to grow, we must break it down so it has to rebuild. Shorter times between sets will do just that – break the muscle down.

We can do our recovery in the days between working the same muscle groups. By this I mean that our chest muscles can rebuild in the two or three days that we rest them between workouts.rep range

Then we need to talk about the pace of your workout. Don’t rush, but don’t be a sloth. It should take between three and five seconds to complete each repetition. As an example, for the bench press, it should take two to three seconds to lower the weight to your chest; one to two seconds to push it up. This will allow you to focus and concentrate and make that mind-muscle connection.

Last Words

So there you have it.

There is a direct connection between our mindfulness and muscle growth. The more we focus on the muscle we are working, the more growth there will be.

The more we understand our own goals, and then use the correct sets and reps and weight choices, the greater our results will be.

I know that was a lot of information. For another perspective, check out this article.

Thanks for listening. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

See you in the next post.

Have a great day!

Tom Fitzsimmons

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