The Powerful Benefits of Meditation and Strength Training

If you’re looking to transform both mind and body, you can’t go past a combination of meditation and strength training. That may sound a little hippie-dippy, but bear with me! Together, these practices hit both the physical and mental realms for health benefits you can really feel—not to mention that elusive mind-muscle connection sought after by so many gym buffs.

By now most of us know that meditation and exercise individually can work wonders. Meditation can lower cortisol levels, increase happiness, and rewire our unruly minds; meanwhile lifting weights builds calorie-hungry muscle and sculpts us into Greek statues (if only!).

But when it comes to transforming the whole package—body, brain, and even spirit—it’s the combo of meditation and strength training that packs the biggest punch. Let’s learn exactly why these seemingly-unrelated practices are so powerful together. Namaste…and bottoms up!

Benefits for Physical Health

It turns out sitting on a cushion with your eyes closed for half an hour each morning has huge physical benefits alongside the mental stuff. Combine this with a few trips to the gym…and you’ve got yourself a health elixir stronger than that beetroot juice you’re drinking post-workout!

Here are some of the biggest ways meditation can improve your physical results from strength training:

Improved cardiovascular health

If beefy biceps are your main focus in the gym, you probably haven’t given much thought to your heart health. But maybe you should! Recent research shows meditation can improve cardiovascular function in some seriously impressive ways.

We’re talking lowered blood pressure, better VO2 max, improved circulatory function, and better heart rate variability (a marker of heart health). One study even showed an 47% improvement in VO2 max for new meditators in just 12 weeks. Most people have to train like an Olympic athlete to increase aerobic capacity by that much!

So by complimenting your training with meditation, you’ll pump blood more efficiently around that sculpted bod of yours.

Reduced inflammation

While a little post-workout muscle soreness can be satisfying, chronic inflammation is a big no-no when it comes to health and fitness. This is where meditation comes in handy once more.

Studies demonstrate mind-body practices can rapidly reduce inflammatory markers like cytokines and acute phase proteins. This research focused on experienced meditators, but even newbies saw improvement relative to non-meditators.

This reduction in inflammation means less pain, faster recovery, and ultimately better results from all that hard yakka at the gym. Plus, avoiding chronic inflammation reduces your risk of pretty much every lifestyle disease, from heart disease to autoimmunity. Win!

Faster recovery from exercise

We all know that dude at the gym who manages to train at 110% day after day without burning out. Meanwhile the rest of us schmucks need to schedule dedicated rest days to recover properly, or risk lacklustre workouts.

Well new research suggests adding meditation into the mix can significantly speed up workout recovery time. Studies show meditators see faster decreases in exercise-induced oxidative stress and muscle soreness versus non-meditators.

Essentially, by reducing physiological stress and quieting signals of pain, meditation helps accelerate your recovery from each butt-kicking gym session. So you can bounce back quicker—and be ready to smash your next workout instead of limping through it!

Increased Muscle Gain

Now for the benefit all you bros will be waiting for: extra muscle growth! Turns out, meditation changes hormone levels anabolically to help your gym efforts. Studies show long-term practitioners have higher testosterone and growth hormone profiles compared to non-meditators.

Both crucial muscle-building hormones, testosterone and human growth hormone decrease naturally as we age. So meditation could help fight against declining strength and muscle mass in older adults especially.

Through peptide YY (PYY), meditation can also increase levels of the appetite-regulating hormone leptin following exercise. In plain English: this helps boost your post-workout hunger pangs!

As all ripped gym goers know, your ability to literally eat big plays a key role in packing on lean muscle. So by making you ravenous after a hard training session, meditation primes your body for optimal strength and hypertrophy gains.

Benefits for Mental Health

Of course, meditation isn’t all about building big biceps. The mental health benefits might even be more powerful for lifters and athletes.

Let’s face it: Fitness isn’t always fun. Pushing your body to grow requires serious mental grit—a mindset not needed for most hobbies! This inner strength doesn’t just appear from nowhere when you walk into the gym though…it’s cultivated through mindfulness practices like meditation.

Here are the biggest psychological benefits of meditation for gym goers:

Reduced stress and anxiety

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that external stressors can creep in and disrupt life at any moment! But studies show meditation minimizes reactivity to stressful situations—both real and self-generated.

This matters immensely for gym progress and sports performance. After all, excess anxiety or distraction directly impacts what you can achieve each training session. Plus, uncontrolled stress inhibits muscle gains thanks to that pesky cortisol hormone.

So by keeping perceived threats in check, meditation clears unnecessary barriers between you and your fitness goals.

Increased focus and concentration

On the flip side, meditation enhances positive mental attributes that serve gym time. Studies link regular mindfulness with improved attention, concentration and sensory processing. Essentially, followers become exceptional at directing their attention.

Clearly this heightened focus will produce immediate benefits once under a loaded barbell. Lifting huge weight is as much a mental battle as physical. By zeroing-in on each rep, you stand a better chance of reaching the end goal: more plates on the bar each session!

Greater self-awareness and mindfulness

Getting superficially “pumped” or shredded can become an empty goal without meaning. This is why so many aesthetically-focused people lose motivation for fitness down the track.

Here is where mindfulness meditation really shines. By encouraging non-judgemental self-observation, it can illuminate why you train and what you’re ultimately seeking to gain. Over time, this awareness of your “why” gets reinforced each session thanks to a greater mind-body connection.

The result is powerful: a lasting motivation that goes deeper than surface-level aesthetic goals.

Elevated mood and happiness

Lastly, regular meditators report reliably improved mood and wellbeing in daily life—not surprisingly given the above benefits!

This will serve your training efforts and results off the sweaty gym floor too. Let’s be real: sticking to a strict training + nutrition plan long term requires serious commitment. You bet fluctuating energy levels and general happiness can sabotage motivation.

Luckily, studies clearly show meditation boosts measures of wellbeing over time. We’re talking increased happiness, energy, self-confidence, enthusiasm, and lower clinical symptom scores. Now those are some handy mental tools for fitness success!

The Mind-Body Connection

Hopefully you can see by now how connected physical and mental realms truly are. But the relationship between meditation and training runs deeper still.

As it turns out, exercise also boosts the outcome from meditation in beginners:

  • One study showed cardiorespiratory fitness levels directly correlate with meditation-induced pain relief. Meaning the fitter you are, the greater benefit is gained sitting in silence!
  • Other research found just 6 weeks of moderate intensity walking tripled mindfulness gains in novice meditators. Improvements were seen in awareness, non-reactivity, observation and attention.

Why this crossover effect? Under stress, the prefrontal cortex of our brain shuts down rapidly due to excess fight-or-flight signalling. So perceived threats like pain or strong emotions overwhelm us easily.

But through exercising the body and meditation, individuals start to regulate activation in the limbic system better over time. This results in improved self-control and regulation of automatic thoughts/emotions. A classic mind-body crossover effect!

Tips for Combining Meditation and Training

Curious to experience all this for yourself? Here are some simple tips for combining meditation and gym time into an enlightened training lifestyle:

Simple meditations to do before/after a workout

You needn’t lock yourself in a silent retreat for 10 days to start gaining these benefits! Instead, even 5-10 minutes of daily mindfulness meditation can work wonders alongside your usual training.

Before lifting, try box breathing:

  • Sit upright, eyes open or closed
  • Inhale deeply for 4 seconds
  • Hold breath for 4 seconds
  • Exhale fully for 4 seconds
  • Hold empty for 4 seconds
  • Repeat for desired time

This simple rhythm already brings the mindpresent. Or after training, try body scanning:

  • Sitting upright, bring awareness to each muscle group in turn
  • Feel any sensations like pain, length, softness
  • Release judgement and avoid trying to change

Yoga and other mind-body exercises

Want to take things up a level? Yoga, Tai Chi and other unity-based workouts bring meditation directly into physical practice.

For lifters, Yin is ideal with its passive, seated holds targeting connective tissue and joints. And as mentioned, regular yoga unlocks further meditation benefits—likely due to their similar mechanisms of action.

Setting intentions with your training

Lastly, setting intentions before sessions trains the mind to stay focused on purpose, not distraction.

Try this each workout:

  • Sit calmly with eyes closed
  • Visualize your workout, imagining goals + technique cues
  • Set process-based intentions like effort, mindfulness, positivity

Stick with this ritual and it won’t be long before you “feel” your mind syncing up with the body more completely. Pretty soon you’ll be one of those smug yogis ranting about “mind-body connections” too!

Conclusion

Hopefully you can now see why combining mediation and strength training may just secret weapon you’ve been missing for health, but also lifting results specifically.

These complementary practices nourish both body AND mind safely and synergistically—delivering compounding benefits over time.

Sure, getting strong and shredded feels awesome on a superficial level. But exploring the inner workings of your mind and being? That’s where life’s real transformation happens my friends.

So next time you’re lifting heavy or moving through Vinyasa flows, remember the real muscle you’re building: the powerhouse lying between your ears. Your 1RM and beach bod will thank you for it!

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