When you first think of mindfulness, you probably get a visual image of slim yoga types.
Even in this modern progressive world where meditation has become mainstream, mindfulness for bodybuilding isn’t spoken about as regularly as it should be.
We do get some references to it under the less flowery name ‘mind-body connection’, but mindfulness can play a wider part in your overall fitness routine and lifestyle and give you the edge for maximum gains.
Mindfulness, the practice of being present and fully engaged in the current moment, can enhance your bodybuilding routine and help you go beyond your fitness goals. Mindfulness for bodybuilding can improve focus, reduce stress, and promote overall well-being all resulting in the best shape of your life.
In this article, I’ll show you the benefits of mindfulness for bodybuilding and provide practical tips on how to incorporate mindfulness into your fitness regimen.
The Benefits of Mindfulness for Body Building
If you don’t think that mindfulness for bodybuilding translates into real-world applications then you’re welcome to watch this one-hour video by IFBB Pro bodybuilder Ben Pakulski who talks about how mindfulness gave him the tools to get the best body ever:
Here are a few of the points that Ben touches on plus more that can help you with your workout routine.
When working out some people don’t have the confidence or the belief in themselves that they can achieve their fitness goals or work out to levels that they haven’t before. One of the benefits of mindfulness in bodybuilding is improved confidence. By practicing mindfulness, bodybuilders can develop a greater awareness of their bodies and their physical abilities.
Mindfulness helps you focus on the present moment and tune out distractions. This can be particularly helpful during a workout when you need to concentrate on proper form, breathing, and muscle activation.
It stops you from wondering about what’s happening later, or what’s happened before, and lets you focus on getting the best workout you can in that session.
Bodybuilding can be a stressful activity, both physically and mentally. Mindfulness can help reduce stress and anxiety, promote relaxation, and improve mood.
Less time – better results
The added benefit of working out mindfully is a more intense, focused workout, meaning you don’t have to work out as often. In the video, Ben Pukulski says he went from working out twice a day every day to once a day 3-4 times a week and still getting the same results.
A mindful mind is also likely to have integrity, aligning your actions with your values, in the world of bodybuilding this means turning up and being honest with yourself. If you make a commitment to work out to the best of your ability, then turn up and smash your workout.
Pain – Physical and Mental
Mindfulness has been scientifically documented as being very effective at pain management. This can help in two ways: first, during the workout, you’re able to tolerate more pain during the workout and therefore able to work harder during workouts.
Secondly, post-workout you may be limited or discouraged from working out again because of DOMs (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). Anyone doing a hard leg day knows that you probably don’t want to get up, let alone work out, for at least a week.
But pain is an indicator of the status of your body, and too much, or the wrong kind of pain can actually be detrimental to your health. This leads us nicely to the next point.
With so many distractions we can actually be desensitized to how our body is feeling. For anyone who spends most of their day at their desk, it is only when you get up that you realize how saw your back, neck, and shoulders are.
Our minds have a spectrum of awareness, we are usually only aware of one thing that we believe is most important. You could be in a noisy cafe and not really paying attention to what people around you are saying, that is until someone says your name.
When you are more mindful of your body, you have a better awareness of the condition of your workout and are better skilled to realize if you’re not working out correctly which may lead to injury.
Related: What is mindfulness?
Reduced stress leads to fat loss
Regular meditation is proven to reduce stress. Lower stress leads to less binge eating and poor food choices, but it also lowers cortisol. There are ongoing studies that show that lower cortisol may promote overeating and weight gain.
Enhances Mind-Body Connection
The mind-body connection is thrown about in nearly every exercise advice suggestion, but what is it?
According to bodybuilding.com:
“the MMC (Mind Muscle Connection) occurs at something called the “neuromuscular junction”, where neurotransmitters called acetylcholine binds to receptors on muscle fibers to activate contraction.
The more you can improve this communication, the more muscle fibers you will recruit. A single muscle head is made up of many individual muscle fibers.
By improving your MMC you are actually increasing the number of muscle fibers being recruited when you perform a lift. This results in a better quality muscle contraction and better workout.”
Mindfulness promotes awareness of physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions. This can help you develop a deeper mind-body connection and improve your overall physical and mental well-being.
How to Incorporate Mindfulness into Your Bodybuilding Routine
Start with a Mindful Warm-up
Before you begin your workout, take a few minutes to focus on your breath and set an intention for your session. This can help you prepare mentally and physically for your workout.
Use Mindful Movement
Incorporate mindfulness into your workout by focusing on the physical sensations of each movement. Pay attention to the muscle groups you are working on, the form of each exercise, and your breath.
Practice Mindful Recovery
After your workout, take a few minutes to stretch and cool down mindfully. This can help you recover faster and reduce the risk of injury.
Mindful Eating for Optimal Performance
Abs are made in the kitchen. As someone who’s enjoyed bodybuilding, I know the hardest part of the routine is what and when to eat. These tips can help:
Listen to Your Body
Pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues, and eat when you are hungry, not just because it is mealtime.
Focus on your food when you eat and avoid distractions such as TV or phone. Take your time and savor each bite, noticing the flavors and textures of your food.
Fuel Your Body
Choose nutrient-dense foods that provide the energy and nutrients your body needs to perform at its best. Avoid highly processed foods that can cause inflammation and slow down recovery.
Mindful Breathing Techniques for Bodybuilding
Either before your workout to prepare your mind to work out or after when you want to recover, mindful breathing is a great addition to your fitness routine. Try one or a few of these breathing techniques:
This technique involves breathing deeply into your diaphragm, which can help you relax and reduce stress. Practice diaphragmatic breathing during your warm-up or cool-down.
Box breathing involves inhaling for a count of four, holding for a count of four, exhaling for a count of four, and holding for a count of four. This technique can help you focus and regulate your breathing during your workout.
Progressive relaxation involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in your body, which can help you release tension and improve relaxation.
Mindfulness for bodybuilding is not just about physical strength, but also about the mind-body connection.
By incorporating mindfulness into your fitness routine, you can improve focus, reduce stress, and promote overall well-being. Practice mindful warm-ups, use mindful movement during your workouts, and practice mindful recovery after your workouts.
Additionally, incorporate mindful eating and breathing techniques to enhance your bodybuilding journey. With consistent practice, you can achieve optimal physical and mental well-being and reach your fitness goals.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be construed as professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of any mental health condition, we strongly advise consulting with a qualified healthcare professional.