Body awareness in fitness and strength training
No matter what exercises you do in your fitness program, it’s essential to perform them correctly. And for that, you need good body awareness. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same level of body awareness. With the right strategy, however, this ability can be learned.
Why body awareness is so important
Everyone has their own priorities when it comes to training. Some want to build muscle, others want to improve their endurance, and others want to get better in both areas. You can achieve this with regular, sufficiently intensive, and individual training. If you’re going to continuously improve your performance, you should also work on your coordination skills. Good coordination of movement helps you to improve in all areas of sport. The significant advantage is knowing exactly which muscles you need to tense during an exercise and which ones can rest. And that’s precisely why you need good body awareness.
Your brain restructures itself
The brain plays a decisive role in body awareness. Through appropriate stimuli, it is not only able to restructure itself, again and again, but it can also establish new connections. Experts call this neuroplasticity. But the whole thing only works through constantly new sensory experiences. In other words, learning new and more complex exercises. Here’s an example: If you only bench press to strengthen your pecs, you will eventually reach your limit. Your performance stagnates, and that can be frustrating. But if you incorporate new exercise variations and set new stimuli, you can expect a further increase in performance. The reason: thanks to new connections in the brain, previously unused muscle fibers come into play. Provided you perform the exercises technically correctly. This is how you proceed:
- You look for a new exercise that you have not yet performed.
- This new exercise should correspond to your abilities, i.e., it should not overtax you right away.
- For example, if you are working with weights, 60 percent of your one-repetition maximum is sufficient.
- You perform this new exercise when you are rested, i.e., at the beginning of the workout after the warm-up.
- It helps if there is someone around to watch the correct execution of the movement. If this is not the case, practice in front of a mirror.
Body awareness goes through three phases
Phase 1: In the first phase of body awareness, it is vital to consciously perform the new movement. This is why the weight is low at first. In addition, it is perfectly normal to use muscles that are not actually needed. That’s why the new exercise may not yet look so smooth.
Phase 2: After a short time, the muscular interaction improves. The motor program is now stored in the brain. This can be seen because the movement sequence looks increasingly better.
Phase 3: In the third phase, the movement is then automated. You are then able to perform the exercise correctly even under adverse conditions. This can be, for example, an unstable and soft surface.
Practice new exercises again and again
Once you are in the automation phase, practicing a new or heavier movement again makes sense to continuously improve body awareness. For example, this does not mean that you should stop doing bench presses. But performance increases, as many studies show, are only possible after a certain point by training as variable as possible.