As babies, from the moment we’re born, we’re developing an ability to control our movements. The classic case being the ability to crawl, stand, walk, and run. After years of growing and learning, we eventually get to the point where we’ve achieved mastery and no longer have to think about how our body moves and functions in order to perform the action. Suddenly, the focus you have on keeping your balance isn’t important, so we stop thinking about it.
The same is true for most people you see in the gym today. For most people, going through the motions and showing up to their gym routines day in, day out is enough. The focus is all on what’s for dinner or what you’re going to do after the gym.
Well, there’s more to it than that.
Drugs and scandals aside, there are reasons why the top bodybuilders are bigger than everyone else. It’s not just your typical repetition, passion, and love for the sport. One of the biggest differences is how they perform the exercises. This is where developing your mind-muscle connection comes in.
What is the Mind-Muscle connection?
When you grab the device you’re reading on, moving your fingers and arms to get you there, you’re probably not thinking about the individual actions each muscle has to perform in order for the movement to happen. Actually, you’d probably go crazy if you tried to. But one of the keys to muscle-building success is the ability to control, fire, and relax those muscles on demand. This is called the ‘mind-muscle’ connection. And just like learning how to walk, you have to develop it over time. But how do you develop superior mind-muscle connection?
Through the power of your mind, of course! Kind of self-explanatory, isn’t it? I mean, it’s all in the name, after all.
But because it’s that obvious, perhaps that’s why most people don’t employ a greater focus on improving it.
The main idea behind establishing a greater sense of mind-muscle connection in bodybuilding is to employ the maximum potential (and number of fibers) of the targeted muscle to contract, therefore enhancing your muscle pump, efficiency of the muscle, damage to the muscle, and subsequent repair of the muscle, which gets you closer to your bodybuilding goals.
Basically, it’s using your mind to control the most efficient way to perform the action.
But realistically, if you can pick up a weight and do a biceps curl, you’ve already got some degree of mind-muscle control. But what if you can’t feel them burning after 2 sets of 12 reps?
Then you probably need to learn how to increase the connection between your mind and your muscle for it to fire more efficiently.
The best 4 ways to improve mind-muscle connection
The first way is through visualization. After all, what the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve. The same is true for building muscle. If your mind doesn’t believe it, your body won’t follow.
This is why it’s important to always visualize yourself performing the movement successfully prior to doing it. When you’re visualizing the movement, focus on imagining your entire muscle contracting forcefully and try to imagine all the blood rushing into your muscle. This establishes a much better connection with your body and focuses your mind on the targeted muscle in question.
As a side note, it’s also extremely beneficial to envision your entire workout prior to even stepping foot in the gym. This will create a stronger mind-muscle connection throughout your entire body, setting yourself up for a successful workout.
- Warm up with perfect sets and low weight reps
Warming up with light weight, perfect form sets prior to performing your working sets is a great way to establish your mind-muscle connection. Using light weights allows you to concentrate harder on your squeezing and contracting with the target muscle. Once you’ve established the initial connection with your warm up sets, add more weight and try to keep that connection going. If you’ve lost it, that probably means that you’ve gone too heavy, too fast.
Remember, in bodybuilding, it’s important to leave your ego at the door. Focus on maximum contraction of the muscle, not the kilos of weight you move.
- Touch, Feel, and Flex
In between or just before beginning another set, give your muscles a touch, feel, and flex. This drives more blood into the muscle prior to performing the movement and keeps your connection going. The additional benefit of touching your muscle while it’s flexed also brings a physical kind of mind-muscle connection, which aids and strengthens your contractions overall.
- Leave Your Ego At The Door!
One of the most common reasons why people fail to develop a proper Mind-Muscle Connection is because they are obsessed with pushing more and more weight. Forget about how much weight you’re pushing, concentrate instead on the quality of each repetition.
Simply put, you can train as hard as you want but if your Mind-Muscle Connection is not fully developed you will never reach your full potential. Getting into the ‘zone’ in sports is one of the toughest things to do but it is one of the most vital aspects of it.
Training hard is important, and of course everybody wants to lift big weights. Letting go of your ego can be a difficult thing to do. Nevertheless, if you want to make serious gains it’s something that you absolutely have to do. There’s no point in working your butt off if you’re not working your muscles effectively.
Think of all that wasted energy. We all want to be able to brag about how much we lift; it’s a part of the game. But if you never master the Mind-Muscle Connection you’re never going to make the big gains you dream about. It’s time to start training smarter not harder.