If you spend enough time in the bodybuilder realm, you’re bound to hear this confusing phrase touted as one of the prime ways to build muscle. They claim that you just need more ‘muscle activation’ and ‘internal focus’ to achieve maximal muscle growth. These vague teachings seem no doubt more frustrating than they do helpful. Thankfully there’s truth in these confusing sayings, which we’ll explore down below.
Is it just flexing better?
The mind-muscle connection is mostly in the name. It’s strengthening the synaptic connections between your mind and your muscles as you exercise. This is something that develops over time. If you ask a beginner to flex their quadricep, they’ll likely be unable to. This is because their neurotransmitters aren’t used to firing in that specific pattern. However, after months of regularly performing deadlifts or leg extensions, they’ll likely have little issue doing so.
If it just happens over time, do I need to do anything?
This would be the obvious question to ask next. It appears that the more reps you do, the better mind-muscle connection you’ll have. Seems simple enough. However, working through a normal strength training program won’t be enough to really maximize what this training hack can do for you.
This method of focused muscle contraction can have great effects when it comes to hypertrophy. Since building muscle is all about breaking down muscle fibers, then focusing on that will be our main goal in the gym. A strong mind-muscle connection does just that. Feeling specific muscles engage in each part of a full range of motion is going to ensure that you’re getting the fullest amount of work from them possible. This also ensures that you’re hitting your target muscles and not accidentally engaging some other muscles.
Building it into your routine
Compound movements are great for activating multiple muscle groups. Yet in order to best maximize mind-muscle connection when first starting out, you’re going to want to employ isolation exercises in your favor. These are great because they allow you to focus on one muscle at a time to really feel them work. Starting by slowly feeling your triceps work in a push down is going to be perfect. Keep the repetitions controlled and utilize a lighter weight. This way, you don’t have to think too hard about form and can instead devote your attention to how your triceps are feeling as they contract and relax. Do these types of isolation exercises for each muscle group you want to work: pec flys, side delt flys, bicep curls, glute kickbacks, any any other form of pinpointed muscle work.
This type of training will take time and repetition in order for those synaptic connections to really form. If you’re able to flex muscles individually, you’ll know you’re on the right track. Once this confidence starts to set in, take this mind-muscle connection into your compound lifts. Focus on feeling your muscles work in tandem the next time you’re doing a bench press, squat, or barbell row. Eventually, this mind-muscle connection will become so ingrained in your lifts that you activate the neural pathways without even being conscious about it. Pretty soon, you’ll be finding yourself explaining its complexities to your gym partner. Get that brain to work, and level up your weightlifting routine. There’s no reason brain and brawn shouldn’t combine to give you the best possible results.