One of the keys to successfully achieving your fitness goals through resistance training (weight lifting) is to have proper form and tempo. I find that many of my clients have very limited body awareness when it comes to either isolating a muscle/muscle groups, or knowing where their body’s limitations truly are.
To help someone achieve better body awareness, and thereby better body toning and fat loss (through resistance training), I often coach my clients to exercise using senses other than visual (eyes/sight) or kinetic (touch). The way to do this is simple, you close your eyes, and breathe!
Okay, it might not be quite that simple, but allow me to clarify. As you perform any exercise – let’s say standing dumbbell biceps curls – you make sure both feet are evenly spaced and that you are balanced in your disbursement of weight to both feet (i.e., not having one foot placed in front of the other, or leaning slightly to bear more weight on one foot).
Then you close your eyes, and slowly curl the dumbbells up (by bending the elbow) and then slowly back down to starting position – al the while breathing in with the up, and out with the down. Repeat this for the requisite amount of reps (i.e., 10-15 repetitions). As you conduct the exercise in this manner, it is essential that you pay attention to how your body feels, what muscles are contracting, what muscles (if any) are straining, how your spine feels, and when your muscles feel fatigue.
By keeping your breath to a slow and even pace, there should be less tension within your core and your focus can easily stay on the muscles that are supposed to be utilized in the exercise. Also, by keeping a slow and steady pace, while having your eyes closed so you have to FEEL instead of SEE your form, you’re more likely to have better form which will result in quicker results and less risk of injury.
I recommend trying this approach with at least one standing exercise, one seated exercise, and one supine exercise (lying on your back) all of which conducted with dumbbells (vs. machines). This way you can fully benefit from better body awareness and control as you move the weights without assistance and without visually watching your form.
So next time you’re at the gym or at home with your dumbbells, give this a try and note any new understandings you experience about your body and how to use your muscles. Your fitness goals will thank you!
Breathing, something we do automatically thousands of times each day. Even if we try to hold our breath, our brain takes over after just a few seconds and forces us to breathe. It’s so automatic that we take it for granted, But breathing is not just our body’s built-in function for staying alive, it’s also a tool that you can manipulate for the benefit of your body and brain.
Yoga and meditation fans already understand that breathing is imperative to a successful stretching of muscles or relaxing of the mind, but there’s even more to it than that. Breath control can beneficially regulate your blood pressure, heart rate, metabolism, and your body’s negative reaction to emotional stress. Specific breathing technics can also help control the brain’s release (or cessation) of chemicals and hormones that affect your organs and central nervous system. How’s that for something we ignore all day long?
Here’s the key, you must become more aware of your breathing. The easiest way to do this is by studying your breathing habits and keeping a mental or written diary. Over the course of the next few days, take note of your breathing many times throughout the day and especially during specific situations – like when exercising, arguing, driving in traffic, working, dealing with your children, watching TV, and even when eating. Pay attention to the speed you breath, the depth or shallowness of your breaths, and whether it’s from your nose or mouth.
A lot can be learned from these days of study about how you handle stress and how your body is being affected by what you’re focusing on (or more likely fretting over). Set an hourly alarm on your watch or smart phone if you need help remembering to pay attention to your breathing.
Once you see where/when the most detrimental affects are occurring (i.e., rise in blood pressure or heart rate, stress headaches, tension throughout the body, etc.) the next time you find yourself in that situation(s) try this:
Stop what you’re doing
Close your eyes
Take 10 very slow, deep breaths.
The best technique for this is to breathe in through the nose to a count of 7, hold for 3, and then exhale through the mouth to a count of 10. It might take a little training to become comfortable with this count-and-breathe method, but it’s so worth it. If you want blatant proof of the positive affects of this, place your right fingers upon your left wrist (finding the pulse point) and feel it slow down as you breathe).
I cannot stress enough how important breathing is – and for reasons you might have never realized. Go ahead, take a moment and see for yourself. Breathe in, breathe out, repeat.