Over the weekend I was lucky enough to participate in a small workshop training course with IFBB Professional Athlete Michelle Brannan. I couldn’t pass up the chance to not only meet one of my fitness idols, but also to hear more about Michelle’s training both for herself and her clients. Of course everyone is different and will respond to training techniques in a unique fashion, but I love to be challenged and inspired when it comes to working out. It was also great to meet 5 other ladies who lift – all slim, sexy and toned – no Incredible Hulk lookalikes in sight 😉
Michelle, in the middle in black, and me to the right…. talk about pressure!
One piece of advice she gave us which has really stuck with me is about the very powerful mind/muscle connection that many of us overlook. Although it happens so quickly (in milliseconds usually), our limbs and muscles move after our brain sends them a signal to tell them to do. This opens up “pathways” between the brain and the relevant body part moving, so particular movements such as walking, sitting down, picking up an object etc become completely second nature. Which in turn means that movements such as contracting your abdominals, retracting your shoulder blades, or clenching your glutes are all movements which could become second nature, and encourage us to move with purpose, and indeed for the benefit of the growth of our muscles. If you can’t learn to “squeeze” a certain muscle, how can you possibly hope to tone or build it?
Think of this in simple terms – if I ask you perform a bicep curl, but you feel it in your shoulders rather than the front of your arm – wouldn’t you start to wonder if this was working? And in time become disappointed when it wasn’t? Yet if you look at the way people often perform a bicep curl on their own in the gym (shoulder hunched, elbows away from the body, thrusting the hips to move the bar) few people actually have that mind/muscle connection when it comes to this particular movement. They’ve learnt to do it a certain way (and let’s face it, if you thrust your hips and let momentum carry the bar up then it’s much easier to lift bigger weights….. just not with your bicep muscle doing the work!) and this then becomes a “pathway” between the brain and the muscle fibres…. just not the right ones. If you can break that move down, stop, and allow yourself to focus on the bicep muscle itself…. focus on it contracting to allow your hands to lift the bar or weights away from your body, and controlling the movement on the way down….. then you’re on your way to building stronger bicep muscles. Connect the mind to the muscle you’re using, learn how to make it work, learn how to isolate it and you’ll be amazed at the results you start to see….
Thanks Michelle for some amazing food for thought!