Do you fling or do you measure?

Not in the cooking sense, but rather while strength training. Are you mindful and calculating, using slow motion as you lift weights while focusing on your muscle strength, or are you going through the reps as quickly as you can, using momentum and quick shallow breaths?

A main reason I go to group x classes at the gym once or twice a week is to be with health-minded people, to see friends. But invariably I have a cringe worthy moment when I see someone using speed and momentum as they lift and lower free weights; swinging the weights without focus on form. Repeated often enough throughout a lifetime and you have a recipe for repetitive motion injuries of the joints- some of the most common injuries in the U.S. that include tendinitis and bursitis. And not to mention the facial and neck tension when one is constricting and releasing their breath at a higher than necessary cardio rate. Add to that the frozen facial muscles and there you have accelerated skin aging.

Behold the notion of mindful weightlifting. Think of the inward focus of yoga – that combined with lifting heavy stuff – and you will feel the sensation of where your energy is focused, where it’s working. Also referred to as intention-based training, you feel your movement patterns and become really aware of your muscle.

For example, in a slow squat, you can feel your hamstrings take over- they are engaging, firing and tiring, as noted by Jeremy Frisch, owner of Achieve Performance Training. By holding, or slowing these positions, you become more mindful of what you are to feel, what you are feeling, and that improves the detail of the action.

The idea is to be fully aware of your flow of energy, movement, and presence, which serves as a vehicle for arriving at a higher level of consciousness. There’s not a demand for you do a specific number of repetitions, sets, or exercises.
-Chris Willitts of mindfulstrengthtraining.com

Mindful strength training is built by moving at a slower pace while building self awareness. The benefits include:

  • enhanced senses during lift and lower of weight
  • awareness of the degree of tension in working muscles
  • precision and stability by remembering body positions and joint angles
  • attune to note skills and areas that need correction that might not have been noticed previously
  • improved proprioception– the body’s way of orienting to the surrounding space- preventing falls, for example
  • setting the stage to focus the energy to one specific goal and feeling

So this is all great, you may think. But what about when the instructor is counting out your reps in group x and you feel that you have to keep up? What I do when I’m not lifting on my own time at my own pace, but rather in a class is to slow down- I might do 1 rep for every 3 or 4 that the instructor is doing. I started doing this before understanding the concept of mindful training- I’m tall so I couldn’t keep up anyway without throwing out my shoulder or elbow joints.

If the speed of the cardio classes with the myriad of reps are formidable to you and keep you away from group x classes, this slow movement training could benefit you.  Originally termed the SuperSlow program from an osteoporosis study, the researchers found that women who were weak and frail used the method and made dramatic gains in strength.

The key to the SuperSlow weight lifting technique is to remove the momentum. By disallowing muscle rest, you “super charge” muscle growth because your muscle has to continuously work throughout the entire movement.

 

Another key is to work your muscle to the point of failure, meaning the point at which you simply cannot perform another repetition. Besides building more muscle in a shorter amount of time, [and] being more intense, SuperSlow is far safer than regular forms of weight training. -Dr. Mercola

On the flipside of the slow movement, mindful training is also necessary for fast, highly controlled, high intensity interval training (HIIT). When sprinting on the treadmill, elliptical machine or stationary bike, for example, you have to be aware of the control and the concentration required to keep that explosive repetitive motion. Here Dr. Mercola discusses and demonstrates HIIT in the gym; I personally like to practice HIIT in the pool in the form of aqua running or sprints outside in the park.

As a general rule, slow, intense weight training should be done once every 7 days for muscle recovery.

Next time you consider that preprogramming that so many of us has adopted over the years to work out harder, longer, more often- remember, exercise alone is not enough to lose weight. Our bodies reach a plateau where working out more does not necessarily burn extra calories. 80% of our diet determines our body composition.

With less time in the gym, more time playing, sleeping and eating a nourishing diet, you naturally add an abundance of time and feeling good to your day.

Have you experienced a slowed down weight training session? Do you do any form of HIIT, in or out of the gym? Please share.

 

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