Updated: Feb 21, 2019
In a previous blog article, I wrote about the measurable cognitive benefits of effective exercise.
In that blog post I also made the point that exercise with a strong weight resistance component can help improve memory skills. This is because exercise that combines coordination, resistance and cardiovascular effort helps improves cognitive functions by strengthening the connection between neurones.
But how do you translate these scientific principles onto the gym floor?
Well, a good place to start is in how we exercise our legs, and covered in this blog post is a simple couple of workout routines involving two such legs exercises.
You can undertake these exercises separately (though it is far more interesting to mix these exercises together and with others) and you can make them as challenging as you want, just so long as you keep in focus the importance of precision and delivery.
So, let's line up the two exercises to build up both legs and brain.
Exercise 1: The weight resistant squat:
Undertake this exercise (otherwise known as the barbell squat) with a deep squat movement each time, to really engage your glutes!
To begin with, find a squat rack or a squat stand and set the height of the bar to be about the same height as your collarbone (as in the video above). If it is your first time with this exercise, start with just a bar on you shoulders, and then warm up with a few sets using just the bar until you become confident with the exercise.
Next, step up to the bar, facing it. Then step under the bar and put your hands around it (using a thumbless grip, so that our wrists are properly aligned with our forearms).
The width of your grip will be dependent on your flexibility of course, but generally a narrower (closer to your shoulders) grip will help create a shelf for you to place the bar on, using the muscles in your upper back (the bar will then sit on your rear deltoids).
Once the bar is on your back, stand up, brace your core (by tightening your glutes and flexing your stomach!) and step back.
From here, with your feet slightly wider than your hips and with your toes slightly pointing outward and your backside back, squat down slowly, dropping so the tops of your legs are parallel, and then stand back up again.
Aim to achieve 10 repetitions of this movement during 4 sets of repetitions, with each set undertaken at a slow pace (count 3 seconds for each squat to really get down, for example) to give your brain the time to understand what is happening during the repetition and to localise which muscle(s) are involved.
When each set is completed, take no break, or a very minimal break of between 10-15 seconds, and then push on until you have achieved the complete 4 sets.
Second exercise: Jumping lunges:
With this exercise aim for 16 repetitions (8 for each leg) during 4 sets.
To deliver an effective jumping lunge, first stand with your feet slightly apart. Then step into a normal forward lunge, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle, while keeping your upper body as straight as possible.
Next, push explosively into the air, switching the positions of your legs so that you land and can immediately drop into another lunge, but with the opposite leg forward. As demonstrated in the video above, the point here is to balance yourself during the delivery of the exercise.
When completed, allow yourself a 30 second break, then repeat the rep' set for another 4 sets.
You might find that need to reduce the weight on the resistant squat barbell when undertaking the first of the exercises. This is fine, however, as an effective pace is crucial in both of these exercise, and indeed to success in all sports.
The ability to maintain a challenging and efficient pace at a high level is what makes the difference between routine and great training.The choice is yours ultimately; to lift as heavy as you can and become fatigued in the process, or to be confident of being able to lift and jump, and then lift again without the need to take a 5 minute break between sets.
Above all, maintain a sport mentality whenever you train, as it is this that will drive you on to a more balanced and effective training routine.
Life is shorter than you think, so make the experience of living intense.
Keep moving, find yourself in the course of the journey, and be smart in the decisions that you make whilst on that journey!