Action of Contraction
Believe it or not, we’re all dummies! I do not mean that literally, but for the most part our bodies can twist and turn in almost any direction we so choose. Our bodies are an amazing instrument and if played correctly, the performance body’s performance can be astounding. So what am I getting at?
When we workout, we have all heard the saying “going through the motion” which simply means performing an exercise without really putting any thought into what we are doing. Although this might help you get through exercise it does not help you perform the exercise properly. The result? The body does not benefit and you cheat yourself from achieving maximum gains.
Instead of “going through the motion” we are going to change it up a bit and “think through the motion” in our workouts. Remember the body will move and do what the brain tells it to do. Ultimately when we workout we want to have harmony between our mind and body when it comes to hitting our fitness goals.
Let’s put this into perspective by doing an exercise. I want you to hold up your arm in the position of showing off your biceps. I want you to now squeeze and “contract” that bicep as big and as tight as you can for at least 2-3 seconds. That squeeze, that contraction, is what you should be doing on every rep you perform for each set of each muscle groups being worked on in your fitness routine. It is that “action of contraction” that tells the muscle what to do and ultimately how to look.
Without Form You Can’t Have Performance
I often see a number people make the mistake of being concerned with the amount of weight being lifted and paying less attention to the importance of form. Repeat after me “form is absolutely critical when performing any exercise.” Proper form not only helps with preventing injury but form is key for muscle isolation and muscle contraction, the two factors that help in maximizing muscle gains.
When it comes to lifting weights always remember you should be in control of the weight. The weight should never be in control of you. As a general rule if you are unable to feel contraction in each rep, then you should check the weight. The weight you have selected may be too heavy causing your body to compensate using other muscle groups to assist. Remember in order to maximize muscle gains we want to isolate the muscle group that we are working on.
For proper form and isolation start with a weight range where you are able to perform 10-12 reps easily. This will help you get in the habit of “thinking through the motion” when it comes to form and isolation. “Thinking through the motion” will put in you in complete control of each rep in addition you will develop a nice foundation of strength. Once you have mastered your selected weight range you can gradually increase the weight to help you improve on your muscle gains.
Don’t be Afraid to Go Solo
Too many times I will see people always work both muscle groups together. Don’t get me wrong, it is effective and muscle contraction is being made, but you can take it a step further and enforce it even more. For example: If you are trying to target your biceps by doing bicep curls try doing an alternate bicep curl.
There are two benefits of this first is that an alternate bicep curl allows one arm to lift the weight while preventing the other arm from helping out. The second benefit allows you to train evenly train each bicep, allowing for 2-3 second contraction at the top of each curl and at the same time it avoids any sort of crutch. “Going solo” method is great for:
- Targeting the triceps using One Arm Dumbbell Tricep Extensions
- Targeting calves using Single Leg Calf Raises
Take a Breath
As a trainer I often notice that people have a tendency to hold their breath when executing a lift or performing an exercise. Do not underestimate the importance of breathing through an exercise. Believe it or not proper breathing plays a pivotal role in helping building the ultimate physique. Breathing helps helps with power and stability during strength and endurance training, it fosters relaxation during mind/body and flexibility training, and it help with focus (“thinking through the motion”).
As you working out make it a point to completely inhale and exhale through key points in the set. For example when doing strength or resistance training, such as weight lifting, you should generally exhale on the exertion (or most difficult part of the exercise) and inhale on the recovery (easiest part of the exercise).
Change it Up
Don’t fall into the trap of stagnant and predictable routines. Challenge yourself and your body by changing up your routine ever so often. Changing up your routine helps you avoid the “going through the motion” process of doing the exercise and not thinking. Remember the more the body performs the same exercise, the more comfortable and relaxed it becomes.
The more relaxed it becomes the harder it is to see change. As a general rule you want to try something new in your routine every 3-4 weeks, this will force your body to adapt quickly, also it helps keep your work outs fresh.
Keep the Goal in Sight
Do you know your goal? How are you tracking your progress? What are you doing to stay motivated? As you progress you always want to make sure you have the goal in sight, more importantly you want to take steps to track your progress and make sure you are doing everything to stay on goal. Whether it’s having a fitness journal, or having a workout buddy who keeps you on point, understanding the goal is essential for helping you successfully transforming your body and taking your physique to the next level.
As you focus on “ thinking through the motion” you will be able to finally take control and as a result, see great changes in your body and more importantly muscle development.