When we talk about losing weight, we often talk only in terms of body parts, muscles, and joints. The truth is, the brain is the big dog when it comes to our bodies, which makes it no wonder that the brain can also help us lose weight and tone up. By using a connection between our mind and muscles, we can use the brain to build stronger muscles. Here are steps to create the mind-muscle connection that you’ll need to lose weight and tone up:
1. Focus on form.
Lose weight and build calorie-burning muscle by learning proper form for every exercise. Proper form is designed to allow the muscle to operate efficiently. What’s more, using good form reduces the risk of injury.
Many SkinnyMs. workouts include fitness videos that demonstrate form, like the ones included in this Use Your Own Body Weight Workout. Always watch these videos before you dive into a new routine so you can learn—and practice—proper form before you exercise.
2. Focus on targeted muscles.
It’s possible that you’re wasting energy by tensing muscles other than the ones you’re targeting. (If you’ve taken a yoga class you might already be familiar with this concept.) For example, you might tighten your neck during a bicep curl. Work only the areas you’re targeting at that moment and relax any areas not related to the exercise.
A great workout to practice this type of focus is the Armed and Dangerous Workout. This routine uses dumbbells to target the shoulders, biceps, and triceps. As you move through it, be very aware of unrelated muscles you might be tightening.
3. Focus on breathing.
If you’ve practiced yoga, you may be familiar with the idea that focusing on breath can connect the mind and body. Concentrating on breathing clears distractions from the brain and releases tension that may stop muscles from working efficiently.
Even if yoga isn’t your thing, taking a few yoga classes is a great way to learn more about the connection between mind, body, and breath. Try this Hatha Yoga Session to practice focusing on breath control.
4. Focus on visualization.
World-class athletes practice, practice, and then practice more. But they also use a technique called visualization, which is putting an image in your head of what you’re about to do. A baseball pitcher, for example, might visualize himself delivering the perfect fast ball over and over. Research shows that visualization can even strengthen muscles. For example, one study demonstrated that people who visualized working out muscles in the little finger were able to increase the finger’s muscle strength .
Before workouts, imagine the exercises you’re planning to do. For instance, picture each motion your arm will make during a perfect bicep curl.
5. Focus on being realistic.
Don’t set yourself up for failure with virtually unreachable goals, like I’m going to hit the gym for an hour and a half every day until I lose 50 lbs. These big buy-ins can be unachievable, leading to the frustration and stress that will tell you to give up.
Instead, start with small goals in can-do time frames. If you’ve never worked out before, commit to 10 or 20 minutes on a treadmill or doing the Shape Up Size Down Beginners’ Workout. As you see results, you’ll be motivated to add more time and increase intensity. These little steps are easier to achieve and will keep you motivated!
Check our some of our favorite workouts and articles to keep the mind-muscle connection strong:
6 Fat-Burning, 4 Minute Workouts
Top 3 Summer Fitness Challenges- Abs, Arms, and Butt
3 Ways to Lose Weight by Eating MORE
Strawberry Banana Smoothie
19 Skinny Snacks
 NIH Library of Medicine