If you like to lift heavy and your main focus has been on achieving your goals, you know that planning your weight training volume in order to maximize your results in a minimum amount of time is the key to successful athletic performance and quick results.
But do you know how weight lifting actually affects your body and brain? What makes it so efficient and how can you make it even better for you? We are going to look at a few, very important, but often overlooked factors that will tell us why exercising works wonders.
It is common knowledge that exercising positively affects the brain – as well as cardio-vascular health, overall mood and more. But is there something that makes weightlifting different from other forms of exercise? Studies suggest that working out regularly for just 20 minutes can boost long-term memory by 10%. It also improves cognitive function by increasing blood flow to the brain, and slows down the onset of dementia.
One particular study researched how weigthlifting affects the developing age-related lesions in the brain's white matter, which links together different brain regions. With age, the lesions grow too, and their deterioration affects memory. In this study 3 groups were tested for one year in order to notice the effects of weightlifting on the lesions.
Group 1 trained with weights for the upper and lower body once a week, following a light workout routine. Group 2 did the same, only twice a week, while group 3 did stretching and balance exercises. Groups 1 and 3 showed a significant improvement of white matter lesions, which lead to sustained brain and memory function.
When we work out, our bodies release molecules that stimulate muscle growth, tendon, ligament and bone cells, and strengthen the ones we already have. These molecules also affect brain cells, stimulating more power and efficiency.
Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) contained in some of these molecules, is a protein that helps the existing cells survive, while stimulating the growth of new ones, in order to promote angiogenesis and neurogenesis.
- Angiogenesis is a process that forms new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels.
- Neurogenesis is a process that grows and develops new nervous tissue (neurons).
Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is another hormone released during exercise. It helps the existing neurons survive and stimulates the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses. This hormone is found in those parts of the brain linked to learning, processing of new material, storing memories and higher thinking.
This is suggestive of exercise variety challenging your body to re-adapt and learn new things, new ways of training, new exercises, etc. So training variety is not just healthy because it prevents overuse injuries, but it can also improve the way you process things and improve your thinking.
Proprioception, also known as ‘the sixth sense’, is an overall awareness of bodily position that arises from stimuli within the body. These stimuli are detected by nerves within our bodies, as well as our semicircular canals of the inner ear.
This is important in terms of injury. Proprioceptors in the skin, muscles and joints tell the nervous system about the position of a joint, for example. If this joint is approaching a position that could cause injury to the leg, based on the feedback received from the proprioceptors, the nervous system can make muscle activation adjustments and prevent the damage from happening.
In order to enhance proprioception, wear compression garments when you work out. Research has shown that it they positively affect proprioception, because compression stimulates greater feedback from the skin proprioceptors, due to the tactile interaction between the garments and the skin surface.
Wearing compression leggings also helps reduce muscle oscillation when performing dynamic movements, like running or jumping. Moreover, compression garments diminish and in some cases, even cancel the effects that fatigue has on joint position sense and technique. So this can have some great benefits in aiding focus and performance.
Neurotransmission and the mechanics of muscle contraction at a molecular level can be optimized by the reduction in oscillatory displacement of a muscle. And that helps in turn optimal muscle function, as it involves a sequence of events that begin in the nervous system and end at the level of muscle fibers.
If a variable interferes with an element of this sequence, like oscillatory displacement, it can decrease the optimal muscle recruitment patterns. That’s why compression garments are necessary in order to prevent muscle oscillation.
Compression Garments can improve your strength, muscle power, and enhance recovery, they can also increase blood flow to the brain, and turning your brain-power ON. A study sparked by cases of improved brain function in elderly people who've performed athletic activities in water suggests that wearing compression clothing while working out can significantly improve blood flow to the brain. Water provides pressure onto the body, so compression shirts and leggings work on the same principle.
Knowledge is power! And in this case, you can take it literally. If you want to boost your performance and maximize your results, you must understand how weightlifting affects your brain and how you can enhance this ability to better suit your goals.
Staying active is the key to health and happiness, but weightlifting in particular helps you stay younger for longer by improving your long-term memory and stimulating the growth of new neuronal tissue. Compression garments enhance proprioception which reduces the risk of injury massively, but it also promotes improves blood flow to the brain. So make sure you apply this knowledge to achieve your goals faster and stronger!