A body—one that is strong, healthy, pain-free, and gives us a sense of freedom to do what we love—is what true strength is all about. Our muscles are under our conscious control, and we must try to connect to them mindfully within each workout in order to engage them properly and change our overall strength, tone, and stamina. The main goal within our personal Essentrics workouts should be to keep evolving our bodies, rather than reaching a plateau. As we gain a wider range of mobility, we must balance that with the addition of specific techniques that help to build our muscle tone.

People often wonder whether a dynamic stretch workout will yield the same strengthening benefits as a high intensity program that also involves weights; the benefits of Essentrics confirm this truth that workouts which use one’s own body weight can indeed be very strengthening. The biggest challenge with building muscular strength and tone without the addition of external weights is that strength must become mindful!

 

WHAT DOES MINDFUL STRENGTH MEAN?

All movement begins with our mind! We are in control of our muscles and, unlike the smooth muscles of the digestive system or our heart, our skeletal muscles are the muscles that are under our conscious and voluntary control. Although the messages sent from the brain to our muscles appear to be delivered right before our eyes, we must consciously tell our muscles what it is we want them to do or the amount of force we want to recruit and use. Our body is so intelligent at gauging intensity, that it creates both fine-tune motor movements such as delicately picking up a feather—to movements that involve more strength like lifting a table or a heavy bag.

Each is programmed within our minds and our brain must figure out which messages to send, by assessing what action is required. This means that when we do not have something physical to lift or pull or push etc., we need to ensure we are mindful and aware of the strength we are trying to recruit. It is up to us to challenge ourselves when we do not have the addition of external weights. We must stay focused, mindful, and present during our workouts so that we are always noticing how to connect to our bodies and create lasting changes.

 

 

ECCENTRIC VS CONCENTRIC CONTRACTIONS

Essentrics offers a unique way to tone our muscles. Gravity is a force that acts upon us constantly and with this program, we most certainly use this force to our advantage in building tone and developing a long lean look to our muscles. To help you better understand this concept—imagine lifting a heavy bag…as you bring this heavy object towards you (this is a concentric contraction) and then place this heavy bag back down onto the floor (this is an eccentric contraction). Now in order to not abruptly drop this heavy bag, but rather, to lower the bag with complete control we must contract our muscles as they lengthen. We can consider eccentric contractions as our body’s natural braking system against a weight or the force of gravity. This example is easy to imagine because we are using an external weight (the heavy bag), however, throughout our workouts—we want to keep this idea in mind, in order to ensure we are adequately contracting the muscles (this requires a lot of mindful effort that comes from within). It is as if we must create and build this imaginary weight from the inside out!

 

STRENGTH AND TONE

When it comes to building strength and tone, there are important key techniques to explore, especially if you are looking to make your workout more challenging. Some of these include: imagery, resistance and continuously elongating our muscles out and up. Creating resistance through imagery allows us to use these eccentric contractions throughout our workout and forces us to consciously control our movements. Muscle tone requires that we have some degree of tension within our muscles—smooth and controlled motions are going to build up that strength and tone throughout our entire body. When we feel strong, we feel like our body is supported, and we start to feel more relaxed and at ease in our own body. Our posture is maintained, and simple things like walking, going up stairs, bringing in the groceries and doing household chores begin to feel easier!

We cannot have just flexibility alone…Essentrics offers a simple approach to finding a balance within each and every muscle—this is what makes it such a dynamic program! Strengthening through body awareness and contracting our muscles as they lengthen, is an important way to train our muscles. When done correctly, and with a sense of ease, control and awareness, this workout produces not only aesthetic changes, but changes that promote the health and wellness of our entire body…this is what mindful strength is all about.

Join me this week to explore these key mindful strengthening techniques in action and see how you can evolve your workout through the power of your mind!

 

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