The brain is a marvelous machine…one that is not fully understood, but is continually being examined and explored. The brain is plastic or in other words the brain is able to change. This change is not normally a conscious effort but something inherent that is continuously occurring. Through the movements, thoughts, actions etc… that are performed the brain is shaping itself to be better at the input it receives.
Think about a normal day. What does it entail? The brain is keeping track and modifying itself to both the conscious and subconscious actions. We like to think that the brain and body will do what we want it to, but in reality this is far from true. The big and small things are remembered and accounted for often resulting in discomfort, weight gain, pain, etc…
These unfortunate changes are typically thought of only as the results of a sedentary life style which is often a reality, but what is frequently overlooked are that in the active individual the seemingly insignificant choices made daily can also produce these results. Fortunately the brain can reverse the changes and even be improved beyond where the beginning was. Consciously creating the desired or specific change requires work and effort.
Strength is one such change that comes in various shapes and sizes. While the meaning of strength is often debated in America there is one common perception that to be considered strong a certain body image has to be achieved before any strength can be acquired. This idea, as silly as it may sound, plagues many people and often intimidates some so they never explore the idea.
This misconception is unfortunate. Strength should be considered a functional aspect of life. It is not about lifting heavy weights or having every muscle clearly defined, but rather functioning and moving in life free of chronic discomfort, pains and overall fatigue. Life no matter how monotonous is filled with complex movements which are often loaded.
To help the brain start to form a clear simplified map that can be filled in with time. Movements need to be broken down into its base components. From here the brain understands the movements better and the movement can be loaded with weight and eventually various positions.
Take the press, if the arm is unable to start bent at the side and glide its way overhead ending in a locked elbow and “packed” shoulder the brain views the movement as a threat. Then if weight especially heavy weight is added an urgent signal from the brain is sent often resulting in pain, discomfort or worse an arm that collapses under the weight. The brain controls all signals and only sends these warning signals when there is not a predictable pattern to follow. By learning what each individual movement feels like without the weight reduces the load and allows the brain to process the motions and create a pattern. This is merely a starting point, load and complexity are allowed to be added as the brain adapts and changes to the new input.
This process takes time and practice. The brain changes with the integrated movements and patterns. With practice this process becomes more natural and one’s body awareness starts to expand exponentially. The more detailed the map becomes the easier it is to learn new movements and patterns; resulting in a greater range of motion, fluidity of movement and yes the more weight that can be lifted.