Mastering the mind muscle connection involves focusing on targeted muscles. It’s never enough to engage in different workouts without paying attention to how your mind works.
When you use your mind during muscle building, you fix your attention on a specific muscle. And this allows you to achieve better results in lesser time.
For one, many weightlifters and bodybuilders make one common mistake – leaving their mind out of bodybuilding. Basically, they believe that the body does all the work. So they focus on the weight, machine, or number of reps they have to do.
The big error here is: Bodybuilding isn’t only about what your body does. It’s equally about how your mind perceives the movements your body makes. In essence, the mind muscle connection is about creating and sustaining the link between your mind and the muscles you train.
This post will take you through the benefits of the connection between your mind and muscles. Also, you’ll discover tips to help you maximize your mind-muscle connection and achieve more with less.
What is the Mind Muscle Connection?
In its simplest definition, the mind muscle connection (MMC) entails staying focused during physical training. It’s the psychological dimension to weightlifting or bodybuilding which many people ignore.
Going more scientific, we’ll define the mind-muscle connection as the middle point where the brain sends a signal to a muscle to contract during a particular movement.
To communicate with your muscles, your brain employs a specific neurotransmitter – acetylcholine (one of the chemical neurotransmitters). After this chemical is released into the tiny space connecting the muscle to nerves, it interacts with muscle fiber receptors and produces contractions.
In essence, when your mind connects with your muscles, you activate more muscle fibers. And the more muscle fibers you can engage, the more muscle contractions you’ll achieve when you work out. Plus, you can’t get a good pump without muscle contractions.
What Science Says About MMC
In trying to understand how your muscles establish a connection with your mind, you need to know what attentional focus is.
Attentional focus refers to what you think about as you train – your environment or your body. The two major types include:
- External Focus – This sort of attention entails focusing on the weight you’re lifting or other gym equipment.
- Internal Focus – This focus pays attention to the movement of joints or performance of muscles during a workout.
Now, science believes that external focus results in improved athletic performance, higher reps during training, and greater gains during motor learning.
However, some researchers studied the mind muscle connection in trainers who had some experience in strength training. They discovered that internal focus boosts muscle activation and leads to a huge increase in muscle size. Ultimately, muscle activation is a function of the recruitment of muscle fibers.
So, studies claim that focusing on specific muscles during training increases the recruitment of more muscle fibers. This in turn leads to the activation of the muscle groups in question. Thus, it is safe to conclude that increased muscle hypertrophy is connected with the mind muscle connection.
Other studies emphasize the impact of attentional focus on muscle growth. When subjects had internal focus of attention, they observed a higher increase in muscle size and growth compared to those who merely moved the weights.
Benefits of the Mind-Muscle Connection
What if there was a way to boost your muscle growth without spending long hours in the gym? What if you didn’t have to do 15 reps before losing the weight you most desperately want?
That’s where the mind muscle connection comes in.
Your mind works closely with your body so that you can accomplish your goals. Whether you’re concerned about muscle hypertrophy, building your upper chest muscles, losing weight, or adding mass, you need your mind.
Major reasons you should activate the connection between your mind and muscles are:
- Being mentally connected to your body improves your performance during training. As a matter of fact, the awareness you develop about how your body moves and how a joint feels helps you to track your progress and determine whether or not you’re in the right form.
- Again, the mind muscle connection enables you to reduce injury during training. Usually, when people train without monitoring how their body feels, their chances of overtraining becomes higher. In essence, when you connect your mind with the muscles you’re trying to train, you develop a sense of caution for your breaking points. You’ll know when to take a break and rest.
- Another major benefit of using your mind during training is to experiment with workouts. When you establish a link between your mind and your body, you can try out different workouts until you’re sure of the most advantageous one for you. For example, if you find it difficult to perform the barbell bench press with your mind on your pecs, you should switch to the dumbbell press or other forms of chest exercises.
- The biggest perk of the mind muscle connection is muscle activation. During resistance training, it’s important to feel the impact of the lift or moves you make. With your mind in it, you can activate the target muscle and feel the quality of the weight that you lift. In fact, the concentration and focus you give to the process of the weightlifting rather than the weight itself will help you see results quicker.
Tips for Mastering Your Mind Muscle Connection
- Set Your Mind on the Muscle Not the Weight
With the results supporting the importance of internal focus of attention, it’s advisable to emphasize the muscle rather than the weight.
When you train, pay attention to the targeted muscles and try not to pressure other muscles which are unrelated to your current workout. For instance, when you perform shoulder workouts, shift your focus away from the dumbbells to the shoulders and biceps.
- Never Skimp on Warmups
It’s the practice of some to skip warmups and go straight to their main workouts. When you don’t give your body the opportunity to prepare for the bigger tasks, it doesn’t get to circulate blood to the muscles you hope to use.
Hence, always take the time to warm up with few reps of squats, stretches, jump rope exercises, and other basic workouts. These simple yet significant exercises will increase your mind-muscle connection.
- Take it Slow
As you feel your muscles contract, be careful to take intervals and breaks. Taking it slow increases your awareness and enables to you feel each muscle’s reaction correctly.
So for the eccentric and concentric aspects of your workout reps, allow some time to track your progress. Simply hold a muscle and contract it to trigger muscle growth. Also, train with lighter weights when you’re trying to establish the mind muscle connection.
- Allow Some Muscle Tapping
When you train with other weight lifters or bodybuilders, ask one of them to tap your targeted muscle as you work out. This sends some form of message to that muscle and gets you in sync with it.
To illustrate, a gentle tap on your upper pecs allows you to focus your mind on the upper chest muscles, thereby enhancing the growth in that area.
- Visualize your Muscles
It’s never enough to train for muscle growth. You should also learn to visualize what’s going on with your muscles. Can you feel the rush of blood? Can you feel the activations and contractions? What’s happening to a joint during a specific movement?
Keeping all these questions in mind allows you to create a mental picture of your muscle activity. In the long run, your muscles and mind will achieve a synergy that will enhance and speed up muscle growth.
- Leave Your Ego Behind
When you train, it’s essential that you get rid of the “how-much-weight-am-I-pushing” ego. Focusing on the weight and the quantity of reps that you do prevents you from integrating your mind into the workout program.
So ignore the need to prove a point to anybody or yourself about how much weight you can push. And focus instead on the quality of each rep on your muscles and body in general.
- Set Realistic Goals
Every beginner has the urge to spend an hour per day in the gym working out until they see results. But the truth is: setting unrealistic goals only leads to failure and disappointment in oneself. Cut down on the frustration by starting with 10-15 minutes of exercise per day.
Irrespective of your fitness goals, start small. Immerse your mind in the exercise and allow yourself monitor the progress. Remember, consistency is vital when performing muscle growth or bodybuilding workouts.
Growing your muscles shouldn’t be difficult when you understand the tricks involved in mind muscle connection. It’s true that focusing on the target muscle helps you to focus on form rather than external distractions such as the weight or noise in the gym.
More importantly, establishing a deep connection with your mind helps you to listen to your body and know your limits. You get to determine how much reps you need to build a muscle or lose weight.
Finally, you become more confident about your looks as you can now concentrate on the muscle behind the move rather than the move alone.