Brain Power Leading To Super Strength….Is it Possible? Whenever you go through your normal workout routine, do you ever spend time thinking about your state of mind?
Better yet, do you ever think about the impact your vision plays on your strength?
That’s ok, most people don’t. Most people are completely unaware of the limitless potential that they truly have when they unlock the power of the brain.
Many research studies have attempted, using a myriad of techniques, to determine exactly how much of the brain the average human being uses. Studies include the use of physical tests to determine this, like brain activity as displayed on a PET scan and fMRI, attempt to more clearly understand the brain and the way it works.
The average human being typically only uses anywhere from 10% of their brain. So what is the other 90% doing?
Just like your brain needs fuel (aka oxygen and glucose), your brain needs activation. When the brain lacks activation in certain areas, because you sit too much or stare at your computer/phone all day, your brain becomes unhealthy. This eventually manifests as pain, tightness, decreased strength and increased stress hormones (aka more body fat).
But this surprisingly tends to be the circumstance for most people in the gym. These are the same people who keep plugging away, step after step on the treadmill but still the same body fat percentage, foam rolling and stretching but still tight, cranking out the same lifts but still not seeing significant gains.
Today, all of that changes. Because today, I’m going to fundamentally change the way you think about strength & fitness.
Ok, I’ll just cut to the chase already.
7 Brain Hacks You Need To Know For Super Strength
#1 Increase your Saturated Fats & Cholesterol
If you’re like most people, you’ve been told to stay away from saturated fats and cholesterol because they aren’t good for you, right?
Old school weightlifters – the Golden Era weightlifters – ate nothing but a high cholesterol, high fat, high protein diet and maxed out their potential.
They achieved amazing super-strength capabilities in the gym and were extremely healthy. Research studies began finding high correlations between high fat, high cholesterol diets and risk of heart disease and obesity. Funny thing they forgot to mention though was that the primary study behind this propaganda was done on a rabbit. Rabbit? A rabbit is an herbivore. Humans, on the other hand, are omnivores. But we’ve been swayed by the media, doctors, and big pharma to believe low levels of cholesterol and saturated fat intake are venerable. Wrong!
Your liver actually sequesters cholesterol for many important tasks such as tissue recovery and anabolic hormone production. That’s right, you need dietary cholesterol from high-quality saturated fats in order to produce enough testosterone to get bigger and stronger (not to mention your brain is made up primarily of fat). When I say high-quality I’m referring to grass fed meats, free range chicken dark meat,raw whole dairy, all of which are naturally balanced in fat composition (grass fed lamb typically contains 40% saturated fat, 30% monounsaturated fat, and 30% polyunsaturated fat).
Research also shows that a diet with any less than 45% fat will result in decreased testosterone levels. Testosterone is not only essential for a healthy sex life (in both men and women) but is elemental in building strength, as you well know.
#2 Ditch the Wrist Wraps
Wrist wraps have long been considered a staple piece of equipment for weight lifters. Heavy weightlifters and serious bodybuilders consider them to be stabilizing for the wrist area and excellent for compensating for weak grip, and most won’t workout without them. While there may call a time and place for their use, wrist wraps by and large will jar your wrist joints making you weaker.
Since your brain regulates your muscle strength output, when you jar your wrist joints you activate specific receptors known as nociceptors. Just like you have thermoreceptors that allow you to sense changes in skin temperature or baroreceptors that allow you to feel changes in pressure, you have nociceptors which send signals to the brain whenever they sense a threat is present. And your hands and wrists in particular are especially dense in these receptors.
So when you jar these joints you send a message to your brain that there is a threat, and in return your brain sends a signal to shut down muscle strength output. Additionally, since most of us are neurologically stronger in one hand versus the other, one wrist will get jarred more than the other creating asymmetrical strength dysfunction.
Instead of using wrist wraps, try doing an ulnar nerve glide. Activating the ulnar nerve will help keep the weaker part of your grip super strong (the last two fingers). To do an ulnar nerve glide, bend your elbow to 90 degrees in front of you, then rotate the elbow out to your side. Make sure your palm is facing up and fingers are pointing down toward your earlobe. To drive the movement, tilt your head away from your hand 3 times slowly. Repeat on the other arm.
#3 Importance of Doing Vision Drills for Increasing Strength
Vision drills are not only used by professional weightlifters and athletes but also by military forces and law enforcement agencies. How is your ability to build strength and stamina connected to your vision?
Strong vision, which can be achieved by doing simple vision drills for only a few minutes each day, not only greatly improves hand-eye coordination but can actually make your body move with more efficiency, your reflex reaction time increase and minimize your possibility of becoming injured because your visual acuity is aligned with your brain and your body. Better vision equals better athletic performance.
To break it down scientifically, think of the brain as a GPS unit that is constantly trying to create a clear map of the body relative to space and time. It uses three “satellites” to get the information necessary to create a clear map: vision, vestibular (inner ear balance), and proprioception (muscles & joints). Since most of us don’t get enough peripheral or distance stimulus, our brain gets poor information and thus it limits the amount of strength we can produce because it thinks the situation is unsafe.
By doing visual drills regularly, you improve your flexibility, hormones, and strength. Your eyes don’t just see – they interpret depth perception, your ability to see the peripheral distance around you without moving your eyes – your vision even affects how you think. If you stop and look at something, you aren’t snapping a picture – you’re analyzing it visually. By strengthening your visual acuity, your physical stamina and strength will be indirectly affected because of your accuracy, your ability to judge distance, and your ability to process the visual information about what you are doing while you are doing it.
Try doing these two drills daily or in between sets:
- Eye circles:1. hold a pen at arm’s length and take it in three circles each direction in your peripheral while your eyes stay focused on the pen. This exercise helps activate the six extra-ocular muscles in the eyes.
- Pencil Push Ups: hold a pen at arm’s length and bring it toward the nose until it becomes blurry, then push it back out. Repeat 3 times, per arm. This exercise has the added effect of stimulating your cranial nerve number 10, the Vagus nerve. This helps create sympathetic tone in the body, balancing out the “fight or flight” with the “rest & digest.”
#4 Importance of Doing Vestibular Drills for Strength
Vestibular drills are simple balance drills. The vestibular system involves the entire system within your ear – not necessarily for hearing, the vestibular system is responsible for your ability to balance, your equilibrium (when you feel dizzy, your equilibrium is not in check), and your awareness of up. Your ability to balance is what allows you function in daily life normally without stumbling, falling over sideways, and any other activity that requires the ability to remain in an upright position and remain stable.
Being oriented to your balance and strengthening your ability to do so by doing vestibular drills is an extremely important skill when strength training. Like mentioned earlier, your vestibular system is a satellite your brain gets information from to create a clear map, and when it gets bad information (because you sit too much and don’t exercise it) your brain creates the dreaded blurry map – and strength is limited.
Try this VOR (vestibular-ocular reflex) drill: hold your thumb at arm’s length and keep your eyes focused on it while your rotate your head left to right, up and down, and in both diagonal directions. The key is to never rotate so far that both eyes can’t see your thumb clearly. Do 2 reps in each direction with each arm.
#5 Importance of Doing Joint Mobility Drills for Strength
Your vision and vestibular systems are only two of the three components that feed your brain with critical information about “safety.” The other is proprioception, or your muscles and joints. When your joints are jammed, say, from poor footwear, sitting hunched over a desk all day, etc., our joints get jammed. Jammed joints create weak muscles because they trick the brain into thinking you’ve reached end range-of-motion of that joint when you’re moving when you really haven’t.
The fix for this is to re-educate your brain of that joint’s mobility with a mobility drill. Here are some examples:
1. Ankle tilts: standing upright and shoes off, tilt your foot out slowly. You are focusing on creating a gap in the space between the malleolus (bony ankle protrusion) and your heel. Do 5 slow reps on each foot.
- Toe pulls: standing upright, put one foot behind you with the top of the foot on a yoga block or towel. The goal here is to create a gap in the top of the foot, where the tibia meets the foot. Do 3 slow reps, driving the movement by bending the standing knee. Repeat on the opposite side.
- Thoracic glides: sit with one foot on a yoga block and hold your knee with both hands. Extend your upper back by sticking your chest out, then relax the upper back by caving the chest in and back. Do 3 reps then switch to the other knee, this exercise tells your brain you have more range of motion in your spine than it thought, which allows you to move better, creating less of a threat to the brain.
#6 Doing Math in Between Sets to Improve Strength
Math between sets?
You must think I’m crazy by now. Well, it’s not all that crazy, actually. If we go back to my previous example about how the brain needs activation as much as it needs fuel, many people respond very positively (physiologically) to a cognitive stimulus like math. Just to give you an example of how powerful cognitive load can be, the famous chess player Bobby Fischer was said to have lost 11 lbs during his chess tournament because of the cognitive demands.
Remember, more activation will likely lead to a healthier brain. This means your brain’s “threat” level will be lower (safety of your body is your brain’s #1 job). When the threat level is lower, your brain increases the amount of strength your muscles can produce.
Here’s a simple drill you can try in between sets:
1. Die Counting: hold a die and rotate it in any direction, adding the numbers together each time. For example, if the first number you see is a 1, then you see a 4, and then a 3, you should have calculated a sum of 8. The sum gets larger with every rotation of the die. This is a very simple drill, but surprisingly effective at keeping you strong and keeping your form solid for your next set.
#7 Positive vs. Negative Thoughts on Strength and Hormones
The significance of positive thinking isn’t just for the personal development books. It’s something you should be concerned with if you want to be successful in the gym (or in life for that matter). Research has shown that our unconscious mind gathers 41 million bits of data per second from our environment. Our conscious mind, on the other hand, only gathers about 41 bits per second! Since most of your thoughts are unconscious, it’s important to make sure you’re programming the right ones.
From a physiological perspective, your thoughts are impulses that influence your blood chemistry. If you carry many negative thoughts and limiting beliefs, you will be influencing your blood chemistry adversely – stimulating a cascade of stress hormones to optimize your body for storing body fat and burning muscle. You’re basically one giant petri dish, where your skin is the petri dish, your blood is the culture medium, and the cells affected are the 70 trillion cells that make up your body.
Positive thinking goes beyond just daily mantras and affirmations. You need something practical. Something you can use. Here are two things I like to practice:
1. Gratitude journal: being aware and conscious of what you’re grateful for will help yield better subconscious thinking overall. Write down three things you’re grateful for, every day.
2. Mental Anchors: when you’re feeling lost or unfocused, use a mental anchor. A mental anchor is an association like an image of something you can think of to immediately trigger a new state of mind. My favorite is to think of the falcon. The falcon is so laser focused on its target it can snatch its prey with extreme precision, even when flying at speeds of 200 mph!
So there you have it. Seven simple brain hacks you can do nearly anywhere, anytime. If you practice these habits regularly I promise you will be shocked by the results you will experience in terms of strength, body fat, and overall well-being.If you’re lacking a workout plan, try my Exerscribe app. It’s like a personal trainer in your pocket, providing you with a long-term workout program that adapts to you with every workout.
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Nice post – saved me the cost of some wrist wraps (never used them but was considering starting) – agree with the six others I knew about – with the brain activation thing I like to focus on session specific things – calculate the kg meters lifted, total rep count, plate mass loaded/unloaded etc. – I find it helps keep my head ‘in the zone’
Thanks for the feedback, and yes I train with no wrist wraps myself 🙂
really legit stuff actually. Jet Li even said to be positive and think happiness when working out. I also like the fact and it was funny about studies on rabbits with saturated fat and cholesterol.