Your brain is the boss; it doesn’t matter what you are doing, your brain governs almost all voluntary and involuntary actions. You might not be aware of it as, a lot of times, it’s working in the background, but you’d better believe it’s there.

When you exercise, you may well let your mind wander or simply focus on lifting and lowering the weight by thinking about nothing other than completing the prescribed number of reps. This could be a mistake. It seems that, if you want the best possible results from your workout, you need to strengthen something called the mind-muscle connection.

WHAT IS THE MIND MUSCLE CONNECTION?




Most people believe exercises done with proper form is all that’s required to activate the muscle. However, a lot of professionals and trainer believe in something called the mind-muscle connection (MMC). In simple terms, this is activating the muscle you are working on using your mind rather than just the weights, so you can “feel” it during the exercise. Have you ever done a really advanced exercise and noticed you couldn’t feel anything? That was me the first time I did nordic curls.

The mind-muscle connection is part of bodybuilding. In strength sports like weightlifting and powerlifting, the aim is to lift as much weight, and that requires the synergistic recruitment of many muscle groups simultaneously.

However, if you want to build your muscles and make them more toned or bigger, you will find that simply “gripping and ripping” doesn’t always get the job done. Instead, you need to ensure that the target muscles are the ones doing most of the work. That’s where the mind-muscle connection comes in.

By directing your focus on the muscle that you want to work, you are more likely to keep that muscle under tension while you exercise. This helps eliminate momentum and prevents you from using muscles other than the one you are targeting. In short, there will be less cheating, and you’ll get better results.

Good form does not guarantee a solid mind-muscle connection, although it’s a good place to start. Using good form tends to ensure that more stress goes onto the target muscles but, if you want to zone-in with laser-like precision, you need to exercise your brain along with your muscles.

Making the mind-muscle connection is simple but not always easy. Concentrate on the muscle you are working and see it in your mind’s eye. Notice how it shortens and then lengthens as you do your reps, note how it feels as you do each one. Concentrate on the movement and make sure that the target muscle is the one doing most of the work. Squeeze the top of every rep and control both the concentric and eccentric phase. Think of the mind-muscle connection as being almost a form of meditation.

A strong mind-muscle connection increases motor unit activation which means, at the end of your set, more muscle fibres will have been recruited and exhausted. This will produce superior muscle building results even if you do the same number of reps using the same weight as normal.

Unfortunately, the mind-muscle connection is all too easily broken. External distractions like loud music or someone speaking to you as well as the pain that you feel while exercising can separate your mind from your muscles, despite your best intentions.


4 ways to enhance the Mind Muscle Connection:




1) Slap it, scratch it, shake it – the target muscle that is! Stimulating the skin stimulates the muscle underneath. The sensory and the motor nerves have shared pathways – just in opposite directions. Once you have woken up your muscle by stimulating the skin surrounding it, you should find you have a stronger mind-muscle connection.

2) Tiger Balm – yes, that pungent muscle rub can help strengthen the link between your mind and your muscles. Take a hefty dose of Tiger Balm, or any other strong heating liniment, and rub it on the target muscle. Then, as you do your reps, focus on the tingling sensation you can feel. This will raise your kinaesthetic awareness. Over time, you should be able to stop using the balm as your mind-muscle connection will be strengthened. REMEMBER to wash your hands thoroughly before going to the bathroom!

3) Less weight, less speed, more tension – using an empty bar, or the lowest resistance setting on the machine, perform the exercise of your choice while focusing on generating maximum tension in the target muscles. Notice how the movement feels. Add a little weight and repeat. To the uninitiated, you should look as though you are lifting heavy weights when they are, in reality, very light. As the weight increases, you may find that you lose your mind-muscle connection as you work to overcome the greater load. Decrease the weight again to re-establish the link.

You can also use this “dynamic tension” method to practice establishing the mind-muscle connection out of the gym by performing exercises using a broomstick or even just moving your limbs to simulate the movements.  

4) Wear compression clothes – the pressure exerted on your muscles by compression clothes helps to increase kinaesthetic awareness. Wearing a compression shirt will increase upper body awareness – especially in the arms, chest, and upper back. Compression shorts will increase awareness in the thighs and hips. This is all down to something called “Hilton’s law” which states that the nerves that supply and innervate the skin are the same nerves that innervate and stimulate the underlying muscles.

No compression wear? No problem! Just ask your training partner to place their hand on the target muscle.


Summary




If you want to get strong, your training should be all about compound exercises, heavy weights, and performing each exercise explosively. If, however, you want to develop your muscles for aesthetic reasons, cultivating a stronger mind-muscle connection may be very useful.


Above all, understand that anytime you cannot feel the target muscle working, you are probably going to get less than optimal results from your training. Lower the weight and focus on the muscles you want to train – put your mind in the muscle.


Feel your muscles come to life during your training with the help of PSI pre-workout!