Mind + Muscle Connection

Ever had those days where you leave the gym feeling like you didn’t get the muscle pump you were hoping for, or wished you had left the gym feeling like a gorilla dragging its knuckles across the floor from a kick arse arms day?

Well maybe you just weren’t focussed enough? When you enter the weights room, if it be at home or in the gym, leave your day at the door. Turn off all distractions but sure use your emotions or your music to help set the intensity for your workout.

Weight training is generally seen as a highly physical activity but there is also a psychological aspect through using attentional focus…Mind muscle connection…. For a brief description there are 2 types … internal and external. The internal focus is generally when your mind is helping you to activate your muscles through the exercise. For example, during a squat, think about engaging your glutes along with your quads for more results. External focus is how your body deals with its environment. During a squat you think about driving your heels through the floor – not being so focussed on the muscles but more on technique. Both types of focus are as important as each other. However, sometimes one is more important than other dependant on goals. Athletes such as body builders, sculpting and world bikini champions who focus on physique generally focus more on the internal focus developing each and every muscle. Power lifters, weightlifters and sportsmen would generally focus on the external focus perfecting their form and technique to enhance their performance.

You see a muscle is actually very complex. A single muscle is built up of many individual fibres. Using your internal focus activates all the muscle fibres during the exercise which results in a better contraction of the muscle and achieves a better result.

So how do you acquire this skill of mind muscle connection??

Try these pointers…

* Focus on your workout – turn away from distractions so you pay 100% of your attention on your reps, leave the audio books and podcasts.

*Visualise the muscle working even when you cant see the muscle. For example, working your back. Think about where the muscle is and how it is contracting

*Try ‘warm up’ sets first before your ’work sets’. – use a lighter weight and go for more reps.

*Use cues – Like when your training is taking you through a new workout they generally give you pointers to focus on: drive through your heels, contract your abs, shoulders back….

*Increase the time the muscle is under tension. Contract the muscle for 2 – 3 seconds, then hold it for 2 seconds, and slowly release the muscle for 2-3 seconds. Keep focussing on the muscle form and shape.

By focussing on the muscle as it works it means you don’t actually have to lift heavy amounts of weight to get the effects of hypertrophy (muscle gains). So great news… stop worrying about the quantity you’re lifting and worry about the quality of each and every rep.