Let there be no doubt, the mind is your most powerful tool. Have you heard about the mind-muscle connection? The ability to establish a link between your mind and the muscles you are training is critical for success. If you let it, your mind can take your workouts to the next level.
In this article, we will look at what the mind-muscle connection is, and how to establish it.
Are you ready for better workouts and gains?
What Is The Mind Muscle Connection
The mind muscle connection can be defined as focusing all of your attention on the target muscle to enhance the quality of your contraction. As you improve contraction quality by intentionally focusing on both the targeted muscle group and movement, you will see improved gains.
The purpose of creating this neurological connection between the mind and muscle is to engage more muscle fibers through the entire movement. This intentional effort is the difference between going through the motions and actively building muscle.
Is the Mind Muscle Connection Real?
The power of the mind is as real as it gets. Successful people from all walks of life, not just bodybuilders and athletes, will attest to this. Success begins in the mind. No doubt you’ve heard this before, and it couldn’t be more true.
When it comes to the mind muscle connection, it’s not bro-science, and research studies support it.
Can You Build Muscle By Thinking About It?
The activation of a muscle is a biochemical process. Your muscle receives a signal from a motor neuron to contract. Next, a chemical reaction takes place that causes muscle fibers to shorten. The neurotransmitter acetylcholine is the brain chemical that causes the muscles to move.
As you increase your mental attention on the target muscle, more acetylcholine is produced. This means a better contraction. Your brain and nervous system work together to improve the quality of muscle fiber movement.
Research has indicated that directing all your mental attention on your target muscles as they're contracting causes a higher number of muscle fibers to activate. (1)
Choline belongs to the B-Complex family of vitamins. One of its primary functions is to act as a building block for acetylcholine production. For this reason, many pre-workouts contain choline. Black Powder Pre-Workout takes it to the next level. There are two types of choline in our innovative Lock N Load Focus complex. This complex is designed for optimal acetylcholine synthesis and maximum focus.
Mind Muscle Connection Research
There have been studies conducted on how the mind affects sports performance for decades. Here are two studies that look at the mind to muscle connection.
Mind Muscle Connection Study #1
One study looked at whether or not test subjects that focused on the pectoral muscles during the bench press activated those muscles. To see this effect researchers measured muscle electrical activity as test subjects performed the bench press.
The researchers concluded that test subjects focusing on their pectorals were able to increase muscle activation. It should be noted that the effect was reduced as weights exceeded 80% 1RM. This suggests that as the load gets heavier, your focus shifts away from the muscle activation to moving the weight. (1)
Mind Muscle Connection Study #2
In another study, pectoral activation was measured during push-ups. Researchers concluded that test subjects focusing on their pectorals were able to increase pectoral activation by 9%. (2)
The bottom line is that mental focus leads to better results.
Why Is The Mind Muscle Connection Important
When it comes to your workouts, the mind muscle connection raises your level of commitment to every rep. This requires a focused effort to feel the target muscles working from start to finish. It also means you are committed to getting the most out of your workout.
Contrast this mindset with the person that comes in and does set after sloppy set. They are more interested in their phone than the weights. They put the phone down long enough to knock out an awkward, poorly executed set. You can tell they’re counting the seconds until they can glue the phone back in their hands.
Of these two types of people, who do you think is going to get more out of their workout?
Mental focus is a key to success in any endeavor. In life and business, you have to believe in your ability to succeed. Both top-level athletes and successful businessmen will both tell you, one of the main reasons they are successful is because they can see their success in their mind.
Mind to Muscle Connection Techniques
Here’s a breakdown of the techniques to help you establish a mind to muscles connection:
- Think about the target muscle
- Visualize how you want your muscle to look
- Touch the muscles as they are being worked. This is a pre-set exercise that will help you understand the function of the muscle.
- Perform your reps slowly as you direct your focus on feeling the target muscle work, making sure your form is perfect
- Hold & contract your muscles at the bottom and top of each rep
- Flex between sets
How To Improve Mind Muscle Connection During Key Lifts
As noted, the mind and muscle connection begins when the brain releases acetylcholine. This tells the muscle to contract. If you focus all of your mental attention on the target muscle, you can create a connection between your mind and your body.
One way to help you achieve this is by using a good pre-workout. Of course, Black Powder Pre Workout is the best choice. We mentioned the importance of choline earlier. A two-scoop serving of Black Powder provides 2g choline bitartrate and 300mg AlphaSize for optimal acetylcholine production. Give yourself a huge mental advantage with Black Powder.
The Mind Muscle Connection: Chest
Begin by thinking about the workout to come. Visualize the workout, and what you want to accomplish. After you’ve taken your Black Powder and NO2 Black, as you're heading to the gym, visualize your chest.
Think about how you want it to look. Think about performing your exercises. See yourself hitting your reps and sets, using perfect form, and feeling every rep. Picture yourself at the end of a tough set, flexing your huge, pumped chest.
This about feeling the muscle work. This is why you should understand the function of each muscle. If you know how your chest muscles work, you can feel it easier during your sets. Put your hand on one of your pecs and move your other hand slowly across your body in a hugging motion.
That’s your chest working. Additionally, you can place one hand on your chest, and using your other hand, execute a chest press movement. You should feel your chest working as you do this. Take your time, and get to know this feeling.
Now, begin with a lightweight bench press. First, you must make sure your form is correct. If you have any doubts and have no one to check your form for you, use your phone and video yourself. This allows you to pinpoint weak points in your exercise performance.
Next, remember this is not about how much you can lift, it’s about feeling the chest muscles working. Therefore, leave your ego home. Now, slowly perform a bench press. Take your time, be sure your form is correct. You don’t want to just drop the bar and heave it back up while you arch and twist your back like a pretzel. Keep your back flat.
As you begin, use your chest muscles to slowly lower the bar, stopping just above your chest. Squeeze hard and slowly push it back up. Your working rep performance should be 4-5 seconds down, pause and squeeze, then explode it back up under complete control. At the top, squeeze your chest muscles hard again.
Starting the movement with the target muscles and squeezing at the top and bottom will help you establish the mind muscle connection. If your mind is connected to your chest, you should feel every inch.
While it’s true the bench involves delts and tris, and yes you should feel them, they should not overpower your chest. The bench press is a chest exercise first and foremost. At the end of your set, flex your chest. Hit some chest poses, and focus on how your chest feels.
Follow this procedure for all your chest exercises. Always make sure you begin the movement in the target muscle. This means use that muscle to execute the exercise. Be focused on that muscle at all times. It may take practice.
Don’t be discouraged if you need a few workouts to get there. Practice, and you will get there.
The Mind Muscle Connection: Lats
It’s common for people to have a hard time connecting with the lats. They are part of the back muscles, and you can’t see your back contracting when you train. You have to go by feel. Before you begin working on connecting with your lats, pick a bodybuilder with back development you admire.
Check out his/her best back poses, especially a rear lat spread. Notice how involved the lats are in poses like a front double biceps. Get that image in your mind. Now if you can, check out your own back in a mirror so you can see how your lats look.
Now, the best way to learn how to feel your lats working is with lat pulldowns. Lat pulldowns are a primary lat width exercise. We will want to follow the same procedure with this exercise as we did for the bench press. To mentally connect with your lats, put one hand on your lat, holding your arm straight above your head. Pull your arm down slowly as if you’re doing a pull down. Feel that? That’s your lat working.
Next, before you begin the exercise, picture your hands and arms as hooks, nothing more. Think about the function of the back muscles you will be working on. To establish a mind muscle connection with your lats, use a lightweight and begin the pull in the lats. Do not begin the pull in your arms. Let the lats pull the arms. Focusing all your mental attention on your lats only, flex the lats hard and slowly pull the bar down, letting your arms follow.
Hold and squeeze at the bottom and slowly allow the bar to go back up. Your lats should fight the upward ascent every inch. Just before the lockout, hold and squeeze again. Is your mind connected yet? If so, great job! If not, practice. You'll get it!
Do all your sets this way. Yes, heavyweight is important. However, does it take your entire body to pull the stack down? Do you let the bar return to the starting position with no muscle involvement? Then your mind is not involved in the exercise, and your back isn’t either. Your mind is connected to the muscle when you can feel it through the entire movement.
If you are mentally focused on the exercise and the muscles it’s working, that’s the mind to muscle connection. When the set begins to get tough, you have to get tough mentally. Force out those last few reps while staying in perfect form. Feel the lats working every brutal inch.
The Mind Muscle Connection: Back
As noted, the lats are part of the back, and we did lat pull-downs to work width. Now, we need a back thickness exercise, such as bent rows. This exercise works back thickness and involves the entire back, except the lower back.
Remember, to mentally connect with this muscle, you have to understand the function of the back.
Follow the pattern we have established with our other examples. Think about the exercise, and the muscle it will be working on. Think about that bodybuilder with the great back you admire. Visualize your back looking that good.
Before you start, perform the motion with your arms, with no weight. Imitate a bent row. As you pull your arms back as if you were doing a bent row, squeeze your back hard. Feel that? That’s your back muscles.
As you begin the movement, use a lightweight, and remember, your arms are hooks. Focus all your attention on your back and how it’s supposed to feel, and begin the movement by pulling with your back, not your arms. You’ll feel this in your lats as well as the rest of your back.
Slowly pull the bar up, focusing on and using your back muscles. When the bar reaches the top, hold and squeeze. Now, slowly lower the bar, fight your descent with your back muscles. At the bottom, hold and squeeze again.
This exercise will involve the biceps and forearms, and yes, you should feel them, but you should be mentally connected with your back. You feel the back working through every inch, not your arms, which are just hooks.
To recap, establish the mind muscle connection by doing the following:
- On the way to the gym, visualize your exercises, the target muscles, and how they will feel.
- Before you start your workout, touch your muscles, and perform the movement with no equipment. By doing this, you are understanding the involvement and action of the muscles you are working on. You are also establishing your mind to muscle connection.
- Use a light weight and perform your reps slowly. Start the rep by using the target muscle, as in beginning a lat pulldown by pulling with the lats, not the arms.
- Focus all your mental attention on the muscle you are working on. Become the muscle.
- Make sure you stop and squeeze at the top and bottom of the exercise.
- Make sure you feel the target muscle through every rep. If not, that’s OK, but practice until you do.
- Keep your focus on the task at hand. Ignore the rest of the gym. Commit to the rep 100%.
Now, let's look at a few more muscle groups...
The Mind Muscle Connection: Shoulders
You’ve done this a few times now. Follow our protocol as established. Focus completely on the target muscle and commit to the rep. For shoulders, use front raises, side laterals, and rear laterals.
These are isolation exercises and should be easy to establish a mind-muscle connection with.
The Mind Muscle Connection: Triceps
Triceps can be hard to feel for some people. The best exercise to work on a mind to muscle connection with your triceps is the triceps pushdown. This exercise works great with the protocol we’ve established.
By now, you know how it works. Use that protocol with the triceps pushdown to learn how to establish your mind muscle connection.
The Mind Muscle Connection: Abs
Who doesn’t want six-pack abs? Visible abs begin in the kitchen but are built in the gym. Like any muscle, you have to establish the mind muscle connection with your abs every time you train. As you know, it’s easy to feel everything but your target muscle working. Follow the same protocol we have been using.
For abs, a good exercise to help you establish a mind to muscle connection is the ab wheel or ab rollout. If you understand how the abs function, and how to do this exercise, you can connect your mind to your abs and feel them working throughout the movement.
Establish A Mind Muscle Connection Every Workout, Every Time
It’s common for some people to overlook muscles like abs, hamstrings, and glutes. Don’t overlook any muscle, or underestimate the importance of any muscle. As we have seen, it's crucial to understand the function of these muscles, and how they feel as you are exercising them.
Follow the protocol we have outlined in this article. This is how you establish the mind muscle connection on every muscle, every rep, every time. Remember, the mind is the ultimate tool, and it's the key to success.
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Mind Muscle Connection References:
- Calatayud, Joaquin, et al. “Importance of mind-muscle connection during progressive resistance training.” European journal of applied physiology 116.3 (2016): 527-533.
- Calatayud, Joaquin, et al. “Mind-muscle connection training principle: influence of muscle strength and training experience during a pushing movement.” European journal of applied physiology 117.7 (2017): 1445-1452.
- Suinn, Richard M. “Visualization in sports.” Imagery in sports and physical performance (1994): 23-42.