Building A Mind-Muscle Connection For Better Muscle Growth
What is the main variable that people tend to associate with muscle growth? Is it lifting heavier? Increasing intensity? Increasing time under tension? These are all great variables when it comes to wanting to build bigger and stronger muscles, but the biggest variable that usually is usually overlooked, is having a good mind-muscle connection to the muscle that you are trying to target. This is an important factor that determines the rate at which you make those sweet muscle gains.
Now some of you may be wondering what exactly am I talking about when I refer to the mind muscle connection, and why it’s important. Isn’t the mind already in control of the movement when you are doing it already? Sort of. Let me explain. When you perform a movement, your brain communicates to that muscle to perform a contraction. Whether it’s a dumbbell curl, leg curl, you name it. You can improve this communication, to in turn increase the amount of muscle fibers that are brought into the movement. More muscle fiber recruitment means a better contraction. A better contraction means: a more effective workout for that muscle.
The mind-muscle connection in simplest terms is described as your brain being able to forcefully contract the muscle that you are trying to contract. This might sound like a simple thing, but trust me, it’s harder than it is. Anybody can flex a muscle, but feeling the contraction is a different story. I’ll take for example the biceps. One simple way to check if you have a strong mind-muscle connection to the biceps is to flex them as hard as you can. If you’re right handed, hold your arm up and try to flex your left bicep and squeeze as hard as you can. If you’re left handed, try to flex your right bicep. Do you feel tension, and strain in the bicep? Do you feel that you can flex and have a better connection with the side that you’re dominant on VS your other side?
If you can feel both biceps contracting with about equal tension, you have a good mind-muscle connection. If not, it might be a problem if you don’t develop the connection over time. It can often lead to muscle imbalances (one side bigger and more developed than the other). This not only works with biceps, but all of your muscles as well. If you find that your chest size isn’t improving, pretend you’re doing a bench press, do you feel your chest muscles contracting under tension when your arms are extended? What about when pretending to do a barbell row? Do you feel both sides of your back forcefully contracting, or is one side more dominant in the contraction?
The reason that having a strong mind-muscle connection is that your body is really good at compensating weaker muscles by using stronger surrounding muscles to aid with lifts. For example, if you’ve been working on trying to bring up your lats, and are trying to pull really heavy weights without having a connection to your lat muscles, your arms will do about 80-90% of the movement for you. Over time this will be a huge problem, because your arms will continue to get stronger, limiting your overall back development.
Here are 4 ways to help you build up this connection to the muscle:
1) Leave your ego at the door
I get it, you’re in the gym, with monstrous guys around you lifting some heavy ass weight. You don’t want to look like a pansy beside the girl who is lifting 30 pound dumbbells so you grab the 35 pound dumbbells and swing into action (no pun intended). One of the most common reasons why people aren’t feeling the contraction of the targeted muscle, is that they lift too heavy of weight. Remember what I said about efficiency? Your body is smart, it’s not going to use weak muscles to lift the weight. Forget about how much weight you’re lifting, and focus on the quality each repetition, trying to feel the targeted muscle contract.
2) Warm up/ Pre-exhaust sets
Perform a few isolation warm up sets for the targeted muscle (between 15-20 reps). Concentrate on squeezing the muscle and pause at contraction. This will help when you are performing the work sets.
3) Perform the exercise slowly
This is a great way to improve the mind muscle connection to the muscle that you want to work. You might want to use a lighter weight for this one. Lift the weight very slowly and concentrate solely on the muscle that you want to work. Take about 4 to 5 seconds for the entire movement and hold the contraction.
The easiest way to develop a good mind muscle connection is to flex your muscles and squeeze. If you’re flexing and you cannot feel tension to the point of being uncomfortable, you need to further develop the connection to that muscle.
Guys/gals, if you want to make serious muscle gains, and really change the shape of your body, the mind muscle connection is really important and you cannot neglect it. Leaving your ego at the door is going to be hard to do for some guys, but if you develop good habits early, you’ll notice better results in the long run. Training hard is important, but training correctly is equally important. Try these tips out for a few weeks, and I guarantee your muscle gains will go through the roof.
See you in the next article.