How many times did you do an exercise and later found out that its purpose was totally different from how you performed it? Have you asked yourself if there is a faster way to reach your goals? In this short article I will explore how sensory perception can help you on these occasions.
When we go to the gym, although we are aware that we’re training the muscular system, we must not forget that the nervous system controls our body, including muscle contraction. With this concept in mind, I ask: is it possible to involve more the nervous system to optimise training results or to gain greater insight if we are performing the exercises correctly? The answer is yes.
To improve the muscular system, the brain and all neurological connections have to adapt first. For this it is crucial that we be attentive and focused while executing movements. It is also well known that tasks that require greater precision stimulate more brain-muscle information flow.
According to studies, if we visualise a movement and the variables that it entails (imagery training) can increase our strength up to 20%. This technique is used a lot in high competitive sport with the aim of making the movement technique as perfect as possible. It is also used in rehabilitation when moving causes pain but it is necessary to improve the strength of the individual.
Other studies also show that when we perform a movement, if we focus on the desired muscle there is greater neuromuscular activation. For example, when flexing your arm (elbow) focusing on the bicep. Try to keep this muscle always contracted throughout the movement. Muscle recruitment and the attention you are getting during exercise will create a much bigger challenge than usual.
This technique can also be used to perform any exercise with a better technique since by creating more attention during exercise you will notice which muscles are working harder and if that is the purpose of the exercise. For example, if you are doing a lat pulldown exercise and the goal is to train that muscle but you feel more the bicep/arms it means that the technique is not correct.
Summary of how to optimise your training using awareness:
1. Perform warm-up in a precise and concentrated manner (ideally involving the joints you will use)
2. Know the purpose of the exercise
3. Visualise the movement
4. Focus on the muscle and try to maintain muscle contraction throughout the movement.
5. correct movement technique or focus if necessary