Did you know that there is actual, scientific proof that you can recruit more muscles- getting better results and more brain-body muscle activation- just by THINKING about it? It sounds crazy, I know. The connection of our brain to body, mind to muscle matters so much to the health of our entire body as well as the optimal function of our muscles.
The study I came across that proves this point was done by Prof. Brian Clark, at Ohio University's Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. As part of the study, 29 participants had their hands wrapped up (essentially, immobilized) in a surgical cast for a whole month.
During this month long period, half the participants spent time--5 days a week--sitting still and "performing mental imagery of strong muscle contractions," i.e. thinking about flexing the muscles in their immobile wrists.
To their surprise, once the casts were removed, the participants that did the brain-body visualizations had wrist muscles that were two times stronger than the participants that had done no visualization work at all. It also appeared that the participants that performed the visualizations also had better connectivity with those muscles after the casts were removed. Isn't that AMAZING?!
I get excited over studies like this not because I want to be able to visualize my way to a stronger, more capable body (though, wouldn't that be nice?) but because that is how I train, and that is how I teach exercise. Mind-to-Muscle, ALL the way! It is further proof (as if we needed any more) that Teresa Tapp is once again WAY ahead of the curve. So many of us tend to exercise mindlessly, not really thinking about how we are moving in space. This was how I used to be! Just gotta get that workout DONE and "checked off the list," right?
As a T-Tapp Workout Trainer, I love teaching people this Brain-Body method of muscle activation. Correct cuing and visualization is a crucial aspect to my student's success, and as such I often remind them where they are supposed to FEEL it and how to activate muscles from the inside-out. Starting the moves slowly allows the brain to catch up to what the body is doing, and further ramps up the muscle fibers being recruited. After all, a single move from a T-Tapp workout is equally activating 5-7 different muscles at a time, while requiring no weights or equipment!
In case you've ever wondered, that's why there is NO music with a T-Tapp workout! There is just SO much brain-body connectivity going on, and it requires your full attention! And when you're thinking about what muscles you're activating and how you are moving your body and where you are "feeling it," what is the result? More brain-body connection, better neurokinetic flow, and better muscle activation overall. The workouts themselves may LOOK simple, but as I have explained, there is much more going on than meets the eye!
With regards to our fitness and our health, the mind & the body--and, more specifically, how they synergistically work together--matters immensely. Our nerves are the messengers from the brain to our body. If the signaling is being cut off or is garbled, like a crackling radio picking up incomplete signals, the message just won't get to the muscles. Poor signaling can mean little muscle activation in your workout.
You could also have imbalanced muscle activation, where one side of the body or muscle group bears the brunt and stress of the movement while the other side grows weaker and weaker. Many times we aren't aware of the imbalance until years later, when an injury occurs. This is why getting all the muscles firing (activating) synergistically is very important. Having a well-established brain-body connection can even help improve your outcome going into an accident or injury. If you already have those neural pathways clearly carved out in the brain, this helps your body reconnect and bounce back even quicker after an accident. Muscle memory to the rescue!
Because the more muscles you can recruit, the more power you have in your workouts, the better strength you will build, and the more glucose you'll burn as a result. And, if you're doing T-Tapp, you are also getting better coordination by systematically crossing the left/right brain meridians. What's not to love?
As we age, the brain-body connection can become weaker, with coordination becoming an issue, leading to slips, falls, and trouble balancing. This, combined with the fact that we tend to lose some of our precious muscle mass as we age (sarcopenia), can leave an individual feeling frail and weak, unable to do the things they used to do.
And yet, we simply accept this as our "fate." The end result of a lifetime of imbalanced muscles, improper alignment, poor body awareness, and, of course, weakened brain-body connection is exactly what we are seeing displayed to us as the norm for the "aging process" in our culture today. How can we reclaim our fitness if we already feel discouraged by pain?
The great thing about T-Tapp is the workouts can work for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. Low impact, no jumping, no equipment, etc. Take Berei Brandenstein, pictured below, age 89. Several years ago, she had a heart attack caused from complications to medications she was on at the time. She credits T-Tapp for so much more than just her rehabilitation, inch loss and better posture! In fact, not only has she been able to go off of all her medications, she was also able to improve the bone density in her lower back by 15 % (one of the most difficult places to gain bone density), just by harnessing the bone-building power of T-Tapp! Yes, you CAN gain bone density without having to use weights.
In my opinion, T-Tapp is 50% physical effort, and 50% translating external cues to internal muscle activation. The encouraging thing about this is that no matter how poor your coordination is, how imbalanced your body feels, how old you are, how young you are, or how shaky your brain-body connection is right now, I can promise you it WILL improve with mindful practice.
Below are just a few of my FAVORITE T-Tapp Workouts. Click the picture to see a description! All of the ones on the bottom row are digital, meaning you could get started with T-Tapp right now! No need to wait for your DVD to come in the mail!
Our bodies and brains are intertwined more closely than we could possibly imagine. Exercise is an important factor in our health and wellness journeys, but it doesn't have to be confusing, intimidating, or overly difficult. It can even be FUN, if we let it! Here's to working smarter, not harder, with T-Tapp!
P.S. Come see me on Instagram! I'm always up to something! :)