Isometrics and Mindfulness practice

I am very fond of the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn. If you never heard of him and his work, I would reason he extracted the practical aspects of Buddhism and provided a modern theoretical foundation that incorporates scientific evidence. His work centres around the practice and cultivation of “mindfulness”.  It is defined as:

“Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally”

This way of being can in a way enrich our life as it has a profound effect on our parasympathetic nervous system. So it does not surprise that his method is called “Mindfulness based stress reduction” (short MBSR). To cultivate mindfulness Meditation practice and Yoga are used. The essence of Meditation is the focus on the breath. One observes the breath as it enters the nose, down into the respiratory tract and into the lungs, and backwards. In one Meditation method, which is called Body Scan, one combines the act of observing the breath with mentally “scanning” your body parts. For example, when you “scan” your feet, you try to follow the breath down directly into your feet and backwards. The same method is used in MBSR-Yoga.

As I have written in my “About”-side I am interested in methods that combine fitness training with mindfulness practices. One way to incorporate the MBSR practice method into strength training is with Long Duration Isometrics. Normally Isometrics are used with maximal contraction for a short duration for multiple sets if the goal is to increase max strength or for the duration of 45s with moderate tension for hypertrophy. There is one other method that uses a form of pre-exhaustion with even longer durations (90 seconds), but the goal of this method is to fatigue the muscles as much as possible. With this High Intensity Training method, one should have only one to two sessions weekly (max. 3).  From time to time I use these methods too, but they are not exactly in line with my philosophy, thus for regular practice I use isometrics differently.

First, in the spirit of mindfulness practice let´s forget about counting seconds. I will concentrate on my breathing and count my breaths instead. Second, as I want to repeat the feeling that I get with the light dumbbell protocol, I will use only moderate tension that I can keep approximately for 10 to 15 slow concentrated, continuous non forced breaths. I will breath in through the nose, follow my breath through the respiratory tract into the tensed muscle and backwards. One important principle which I keep in mind also, is trying to relax every other muscle that is not currently worked on.  After the 10 or 15 breaths when the targeted muscle feels pleasantly worked invigorated and full I will release the tension and observe for a few breaths the relaxed state of the muscle, then I will continue with the other body parts.  Like the light dumbbell protocol this training can be repeated daily, but it should be combined with a more dynamic form of training as the joints do need movement to be supplied with nutrients. Anyway, if you are interested in way to practice mindfulness and do something for your fitness and health, give this method a try.


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