What is the mind-muscle connection?
As we know, the mind, specifically the brain, controls and sends signals that control our every movement. A muscular contraction occurs because a signal is sent from the brain, which tells your muscles to contract. The mind-muscle connection is the ability to focus on creating tension in a specific muscle or region during an exercise. The mind-muscle connection (MMC) can be strengthened and is highly beneficial if you can utilise it.
Muscles are made up of many individual muscle fibres. When effectively using your MMC, you can recruit more of these fibres, resulting in higher quality and more effective contraction. When you do this, you are actively moving the weight as opposed to passively moving the weight, and you can achieve benefits in both strength and hypertrophy. Put simply; the mind-muscle connection is performed by squeezing the muscle doing the exercise throughout the entire movement, meaning the lifting and lowering phase.
Benefits of mind-muscle connection.
Better Muscle Coordination
Coordination is essential in ensuring seamless movement during exercise. A well-trained mind-muscle connection will allow for a tailored movement where muscles are appropriately coordinated and used to their full potential. Incorrect movement patterns are a sign of poor coordination and are a reason for stagnant strength and growth. A developed mind-muscle connection will account for a better understanding of which muscles are being used, resulting in muscles that work together to achieve a healthier, more coordinated movement.
A More Effective and Focused Workout
A positive mind-muscle connection will mean you are more engaged in your workout. If your mind is occupied by the movements you are performing, there is no time to be thinking about other things like what you're having for dinner. Often training time is "me-time"; focusing on individual muscles and wholly on your workout means your mind is taken off all the outside world's problems. It is a great way to relieve stress and get in the zone - also know as becoming completely present. Getting into the "zone" or your "happy place" during a workout means you are more likely to enjoy it and, therefore, commit to it long-term, contributing to a healthy relationship with training.
Studies show that athletes or individuals are likely to see improvements in muscular hypertrophy if they focus on the target muscle while performing an exercise (1). The opposite would be focusing on reaching an outcome, such as getting the weight up. When you have a heavier load, focusing on the target muscles is more challenging as all your attention is on finishing the movement; therefore, it may be more beneficial to use a lighter weight here.
Tips to improve mind-muscle connection
Explore these 5 tips for improving your mind-muscle connection:
1. One cue at a time
A cue is a verbal skill used to teach someone how to do a movement. Cues are essential for coaching correct technique and are often used by personal trainers. Some examples of cues may be, brace your core, drive through your heels or squeeze your shoulder blades together. These verbal cues can come from a trainer, workout partner or yourself and can be used to enhance focus which is required to establish a mind-muscle connection.
2. Time under tension
Time under tension refers to the time in which a muscle is put under strain or stress while performing a movement. The more time under tension, the more likely you will feel the specific muscles working. There are three methods used to increase time under tension:
Slowing down an exercise in the eccentric phase where your muscles are lengthening
Holding for a few seconds at peak contraction
Performing an isometric movement
3. Focused attention
Eliminating distractions will improve your ability to focus on the task at hand. Concentrating on one thing at a time will enable you to be more in tune with your body and help with the mind-muscle connection.
Typically in a gym, there are mirrors where you can watch your muscles work. However, they are not always available, which is where visualisation comes into play. Visualise your muscles' exact movements; picture the muscle fibres lengthening during the eccentric part of the movement and then contracting in the concentric portion. This is a great way to increase focus and improve the mind-muscle connection.
5. Having someone touch the muscles
This one may be difficult if you are training alone and will only be applicable when you have a training partner or personal trainer. Having someone touch the muscles you are working on gives you a better knowledge of where to focus your attention and allows you to pinpoint and perfect your movement.
When to use mind-muscle connection?
Mind muscle connection is essential for optimising your workout and should be utilised every time you engage in physical activity, particularly weight training. However, you may not use a mind-muscle connection when going for PRs, as usually, your attention is on completing the movement rather than focusing on the working muscles.
The mind-muscle connection is the ability to focus on creating tension in a particular muscle or region during an exercise.
Put simply; the mind-muscle connection is performed by squeezing the muscle doing the exercise throughout the entire movement, meaning the lifting and lowering phase.
Benefits of strengthening your mind-muscle connection include better muscle coordination, muscular hypertrophy and a more focused workout.
Follow the tips above to help strengthen your mind-muscle connection.
Try to connect your mind and muscles in all your training sessions to optimise the effectiveness of your workout.