For most males, this starts at an early age as we begin to produce high levels of testosterone almost over night. I’m not talking about what happens when you discovered your dad’s hidden stash of Playboys, although that in itself is a pretty monumental milestone. I’m talking about flexing your pythons while standing in front of the bathroom mirror.
I’m going to take it back a step and start from the beginning. At birth, most infants possess near perfect mobility as they begin to learn to move their body parts one by one. Wiggling the toes and fingers, moving the limbs, moving the head and neck, and then eventually reaching for the milk recepticals. Ahh the motherload.
The fascination of boobs although short-lived will begin again in a few more years but that is a story for another time. The point that I am trying to get at is that the child is exploring new movemets in order to gain stability and control of his body. This will continue through preadolescence where children learn to move, stabilize and perform many complex tasks.
This self exploration of movement culminates for many right around puberty as we begin to significantly increase in strength and become more fascinated in boobs once again. This time though we have to work a little harder to get them which is one of the reasons I picked up my first Weider bench and barbell set when I was 15 years old.
Back then it was all bench pressing, curling, and shoulder flies so I could work those little pipe cleaners into the guns you see today.
Looking back it may not have been the most sound program but it was helping me to learn more about my body than some people do their entire life. I used to stand in front of the bathroom mirror with my shirt off (calm down ladies) and individually flex certain muscles in various poses. I would rock that double biceps pose like Arnold back in the day.
What I didn’t realize back then was that this somatopsychic technique was allowing me to not only locate the different muscle groups but to control them individually. Plus it just looked badass. Bodybuilder in training.
Most people, on the other hand, are not able to isometrically contract certain muscles on command such as their glutes or pecs. They lack that mind-muscle connection which falls under the “if you don’t use it, you lose it” category.
When I am working with certain clients I ask them where they feel certain exercises and when the Jeopardy music starts in the background I will take it a step back and ask them to isometrically contract the targeted muscle group.
For example, a client doing a glute bridge who feels the contraction in the hams or quads I will have stand up and practice clenching their glutes until they feel where they should be feeling the exercise. One cue I like is to tell them pretend like their last dollar is between their butt cheeks and someone is trying to steal it. That usually works.
Flexing or voluntary muscle activation is an important skill as it helps to prevent certain muscles from becoming dormant during exercise and certian movements. I have talked about gluteal amnesia in the past where the glutes don’t fire properly which will create overcompensation of the quads and other hip muscles. No bueno.
One way to create that mind-muscle connection is to employ progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) techniques. This is where you learn to relax by going through a series of alternate muscular tensing and relaxing phases in order to become aware of somatic tension. The benefits of this technique are reduced muscle tension and awareness which may cause an increase in smooth, fluid, or efficient movement as well as increased range of motion around the joint.
A relaxed body will create a relaxed mind.
The takeaway of all of this is that you should learn to actively flex certain muscles like a bodybuilder. Don’t be afraid to bust out some poses in front of the mirror and hold for a few seconds. Learn how to control each muscle group and you will learn how to control your body.