Put Your Mind In The Muscle

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One More RepWhere is your mind when you workout? Is it on your To Do List? On your music? Thoughts wandering around inside your head? It should be on the muscle you’re working. This applies to every workout, but especially the shorter ones that you squeeze in because you’re lacking on time. You have less room for wasted time and need to make every minute count. If you’re doing the exercise correctly, you should feel it in the muscles that you are working. Sounds simple enough, but there’s a bit more to it. Let me explain.

Every exercise has a primary muscle that it works, and usually some secondary muscles that help out. For example a lat pulldown. This is a back exercise that is intended to work your lats (duh!). Your ab muscles also get involved to help stabilize and keep you upright, and there’s also some triceps involved to help you pull down. Again, it’s a back exercise and you should feel it in your back.

Wednesday was back day for me and I was doing close grip lat pulldowns. I’m making a huge effort on perfecting form, keeping my mind on the muscle and lifting slowly. I picked my weight, aligned myself and pulled. I intended 12 reps but by 10 slow reps I was dying and couldn’t do another. My form was spot on but there was a problem. My back muscles weren’t worn out and telling me to stop. My back was fine. It was my triceps. Hmmm.

On the next set I again focused on my back muscles and same thing. Triceps screaming “NO!” I figured out that my form was perfect, but because the weight was heavy I had a death grip on the handles. This caused my triceps to engage and put the focus there instead of on my back. Bingo! The next couple sets I lightened the weight just a bit and relaxed my grip. Hello, back muscles. Take that!

If I hadn’t been paying attention to where I was feeling the muscles, I would have thought “Wow, that was a good workout” when instead I worked my triceps on back day. I did nothing for my back. It’s very easy to fall into this trap with things like bicep curls. Grip hard and you’ve got an awesome forearm workout going but not much in the way of biceps. Push off with your back foot during lunges and you’re working calves by accident. See what you pick up on when you really pay attention? (Yes, my hand is raised here as guilty.)

This applies to all resistance workouts whether you are using weights, bands, or even bodyweight. Make sure you know which muscles are the main ones being used in the exercises you’re doing and focus your thoughts there during your workouts. Are you feeling it there? Is that the muscle that can’t do another rep? If not, figure out what you’re doing wrong. It could be form, could be momentum, or it could be a death grip.

Once you start working the right muscles, you’ll notice a huge difference in the way you look outside of the gym.

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