Adrenaline, also known as Epinephrine, is a hormone and neurotransmitter. It is secreted into the bloodstream, instantly preparing the body to handle emergency situations-often known as the "fight or flight" response. Stories of how it can give even the most ordinary of people a sudden rush of nearly superhuman strength are not uncommon-a mother lifts an impossibly heavy object in order to free her trapped child, an elderly man delivers a knock-out punch to a would be mugger or a hiker sprints to the top of a tall pine tree to escape a charging bear, and more.
When it's released into the bloodstream the body reacts instantly. The heart starts racing, normal, non-emergency body functions such as digestion cease, glucose levels in the blood increase rapidly and the oxygen supply to the brain and the muscles skyrockets. Most people also report a super-heightened sense of awareness of their situation and their surroundings. Life or death decisions are made with lightning-quick speed and stunning clarity. Without it, humans would have become extinct long ago.
But can the same response be triggered without actually putting ourselves in mortal danger? Is it possible to "flip a switch" and move our bodies into that heightened response, "ready for battle" state at will? Lots of people say that it can be done, using nothing more than the power of our own minds. According to them, all it takes is plenty of discipline and lots of practice.
Epinephrine is temporarily elevated when we exercise at very high intensity levels, which is one of the reasons an intense lifting session can feel so good. At these levels though and with normal training, it's usually enough to make us feel good but not enough to have a significant impact on strength. But if you could control that "adrenalin rush" and bring on an intense burst of epinephrine at will-making the body's energy reserves instantly available-it could really give you an incredible burst of strength for a maximum lift attempt.
There are a number of ways to create an adrenalin (epinephrine) rush in the body without putting yourself in mortal danger. One method is train yourself under conditions that cause your body to release epinephrine. This can mean intense training sessions that push you out of your comfort zone. The keys here are to focus on short bursts of intense training that are outside of your normal comfort zone-this is important. When we're lifting a weight that we know our bodies can handle, the body doesn't need to release that extra burst of epinephrine-fueled energy. It's when we're training in "uncharted" territory that our bodies will have the incentive to give us the boost we need.
Some say that proper breathing techniques can be taught that induce an adrenalin rush. One of these strategies says that learning to control your breathing and matching it to the intensity of your workout can facilitate an adrenalin rush in the body. The theory here is that when we "breathe normally" during an intense training session, our breathing lags behind and the cells wind up with an oxygen deficiency, putting the body somewhat behind the power curve.
Practitioners of this technique say that by matching our breathing-that means breathing hard and deep-to the intensity of our workout from the onset, we can trigger an adrenalin rush. Learning to do this properly will of course require lots of discipline and plenty of practice. You can start by ensuring that you are breathing properly in everything you do. The normal human tendency is to hold our breath when exerting ourselves-for example, doing something as simple as getting up from a chair. When walking, match your inhaling and exhaling to your step. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. The point is to learn to coordinate your breathing with your body's motions.
Visualization is another strategy that some experts say can be used to induce an adrenalin rush. There is an entire school of thought related to visualization techniques, with much of it coming from the martial arts world. Though in any situation, the methodology is essentially the same. It's more complex than it sounds but it boils down to visualizing a previous scenario that triggered an adrenalin rush. It's not just thinking about it though-it entails actually reliving every aspect of the situation in your mind in an effort to induce your body to release bursts of epinephrine into the bloodstream to boost performance.
While the thought of an adrenalin rush for a max lift attempt is appealing, it's not something that everyone can do. Like I said early on, developing the ability to bring one on requires a lot of discipline and even more practice. And though not easy, it can be done. It's important to note though that excessive, long-term releases of epinephrine into the bloodstream will diminish its effectiveness (your body gets used to it) and could lead to health problems. Remember the saying "all things in moderation." But if you think you've got what it takes, it certainly is something that you can learn to do.
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