How To Improve Your Mind-Muscle Connection With These Practical Tips
Are you struggling to build muscle? Or are you looking for ways to optimize your muscle growth? Maybe you’re struggling to build a specific muscle group like your shoulders or your glutes? In this post I will be discussing the mind muscle connection, what it is, how to improve it and why it is important.
Let’s have a look at some of the practical tips you can use to improve your mind muscle connection.
Practical tips to help you concentrate and flex a muscle
Add a warm-up set. Adding a warm-up set before you start with your working sets will ensure that your muscles are primed for performance. This will make it easier to build that mind muscle connection because your muscles will be activated and ready to work.
Add cues to your workouts. It will help you focus on contracting the muscle you’re trying to target. For example, you can tell yourself to squeeze as you get to the concentric phase of the exercise.
Partner up. If you have a training partner, you can ask them to tap your target muscle when you perform the exercises. This makes you more aware of where the muscle is which helps you activate it better. Warning, this might be awkward when it comes to glute related exercises. So you can go ahead and skip the tapping here.
Slow and steady wins the race. Try to not rush through your reps. When you perform slow and controlled reps, you can focus more on contracting the muscle.
Lower your weight. Progressive overload and a challenging weight are essential for muscle growth. That being said, lowering the load is the best way to achieve a good connection. When you are lifting heavy weights you won’t be able to pay attention to the muscle you are targeting because you’ll be focused on moving the weight( and not getting squished).Make sure you include both heavy and light weights to get the best of both worlds.
Visualize. Think about the muscle you are training and imagine it growing larger as you are doing each rep. Don’t be afraid to let your imagination run wild. Arnold Schwarzenegger used visualization as well. He said, “In my mind I saw my biceps as mountains, enormously huge, and I pictured myself lifting tremendous amounts of weight with these superhuman masses of muscle.” But don’t panic, using his method isn’t going to give you enormously huge muscles.
Last but not least, understand how your muscles work. Understanding your anatomy helps you to contract your muscles better. If you know how your muscles work, you’ll know how to train them and maximize your growth.
What is the mind-muscle connection?
In short and in non-sciency lingo, it is when you activate your muscle mentally.When you are making a mind muscle connection, you are consciously and purposefully targeting a particular muscle. For instance, you can use the mind muscle connection for glutes. When you are performing a hip thrust, you would think about contracting your glute muscles as you perform the exercise.
Yes I know, you’re working your fine ass off in the gym, and now you have to get your brain involved too?
I know this sounds a little hocus pocus but bear with me.
Bodybuilders have been arguing for years about whether the mind-muscle connection exists. Some say it does while others say it is as mythical as the Greek goddesses (gasp).
They believe that by practicing good form, the muscle you are trying to target will activate automatically.
This is where Dr Bret Contreras aka the Glute God comes in. Bret conducted a study to determine whether the mind-muscle connection exists.
In this study he had bodybuilders perform a range of upper and lower body exercises. During the first test, they completed the movement with the intention of not using the target muscle; however, during the second test, they focused on using the target muscle.
The study showed that by focusing on the muscle, the lifter achieved better activation. They also found that the mind-muscle connection works best with lighter loads.
The study was conducted with advanced lifters. Thus, the results with beginner to intermediate lifters may differ. This does not mean you should not develop the ability to connect your mind to the muscle. It is a skill which you should practice from the start of your lifting journey.
Why is the mind-muscle connection so important?
You may be wondering, does the mind-muscle connection matter?
Mastering this skill is important because many of your smaller muscles do not activate without some degree of effort. Even when the exercise targets the muscle.
This is not only true for smaller muscles but also larger muscles. Your glutes aka booty have the potential to be the largest muscle in your body. But due to a sedentary lifestyle or a typical desk job, your glutes become “dormant”. It thus makes it harder for them to activate during glute focused exercises.
Practicing your mind-muscle connection will help your muscles activate more effectively. An adequate mental link will also lead to the recruitment of more muscle fibers. This means that you will get a better muscle contraction.
Ultimately, it will prevent other dominant muscles from taking over the movement.
The benefits of a mind-muscle connection
MMC can help you build up those muscles that won’t grow.
MMC helps you target smaller muscles that don’t activate well during exercises.
You can improve overall muscle growth because it helps you to recruit more muscle fibers.
You can use MMC to “exclude” dominant muscles in order to build less dominant muscles.
Listen Belinda(we’re giving Linda a much needed break), if this hasn’t convinced you to start building your MMC then I don’t know what will. Not using the mind muscle connection is leaving gainz on the table. It is simple to incorporate in your routine and will help you get closer to your goals. Who doesn’t want that eh?
PS: Don’t forget to check out the Free Resources section for some useful guides and cheat sheets!