The Mind-Muscle Connection Is Real Despite Sounding Like BS Bro-Science.
Let me guess. You've landed on this article because you've heard about the mind-muscle connection and you're curious. Is this another case of bros in stringer vests with their nipples out, pontificating about nonsense, while sipping on their BCAA drinks?
Well, you might be surprised to hear, the mind-muscle connection is real. Not only that, it's a crucial part of your training if you want to build a leaner, stronger physique.
But before you carry on reading, let me tell you what you're going to find out.
- What the mind-muscle connection really is.
- What science actually says about its importance for building muscle.
- 4 super simple ways to create a better mind-muscle connection for more muscle and strength.
- The muscle groups you might find easier to connect with and those that might need more work.
That's exactly what you're looking for, right?
Of course I am. So let's do this my friend.
The Mind-Muscle Connection Works. Don't Ignore It.
Hey, I'm Simon (if you didn't know already). And I truly believe the mind-muscle connection is incredibly important for building muscle. If you're a woman wanting to lose fat around your midsection and "tone up" (for want of a better phrase), you need to pay attention to what I'm going to teach you. Likewise, if you're a guy seeking to turn your Dad Bod into a leaner, more sculpted physique, this is equally important.
So promise me no skipping around. Read every damn word.
And to make sure you do, I'm going to show you what a few years of applying these principles did for me.
Not bad, hey? So having seen what the mind-muscle connection can do, it's time for you to read on.
What The Fuck Is The Mind-Muscle Connection?
What exactly is the mind-muscle connection anyway? Good question.
The mind-muscle connection is about "activating" the muscle you're trying to work, mentally. Using concentrated, internal focus during your reps to make the muscle work as hard as possible.
Confused? Think about it this way.
If you're a powerlifter, you have an external focus. Your job is to lift a weight (usually a fucking heavy one) from point A to point B in the most efficient way possible.
With me so far? Cool.
If your goal is building muscle, you think about lifting weights completely differently. You see, tension is your friend. You want the muscle to be under stress (all the fucking time).
So you're less interested in simple moving mass from A to B. You have a deeply internal focus.
See the difference?
Does Everyone Agree The Mind-Muscle Connection Is Important?
This is the fitness industry, so naturally, there's no consensus of opinion. After all, complete and total agreement would result in the onset of the apocalypse.
So the counter argument to mind-muscle connection is this.
If you're lifting with good form, the muscles do their job automatically. Therefore, the mind-muscle connection becomes irrelevant and you don't need to worry about it.
But thank fuck for science!
Because here's where we get all sciencey and throw some evidence into the mix. Now, I know you might not give a monkey's left testicle about science. And if that's the case, I won't get offended if you rapidly scroll on to the next section (which is the juiciest part of the article).
Mind-Muscle Connection Research: What Does It Tell Us?
Messers Schoenfeld and Contreras demonstrated that the mind-muscle connection does in fact exist. Here's a quick summation of their findings.
Muscle activation in a number of different muscle groups, including pecs, glutes, hamstrings, triceps, biceps, and more.
The research showed activation improved significantly through the use of internal cues. For example, getting someone to squeeze their butt cheeks before doing a Romanian Deadlift or Hip Thrust.
Interestingly though, the effect tapered off as load increased. Let's look at the bench press to illustrate this point.
Subjects performing the bench press at 50% of 1RM had 22% greater muscle activation with internal cueing. However, this reduced to 13% with loads at 80% of 1RM.
"So what the hell does that mean, Simon?"
Simply put, it means when you're lifting really heavy shit, internal cueing becomes less of a factor. You pretty much need to channel your efforts into maximum force production to avoid being crushed.
What Can We Take Away From The Mind-Muscle Connection Studies?
Bearing all of the above in mind, the conclusion is pretty simple.
Training to build muscle typically involves weights around 85% of 1RM or less. Therefore, the use of internal cues and a focus on better mind-muscle connection would results in greater muscle development.
But if you're a powerlifter or strongman, just concentrate on lifting that heavy shit.
4 Tips To Create Better Mind-Muscle Connection
Here's the moment you've been waiting for. How the hell to actually create the elusive mind-muscle connection, so you can get the most out of your training?
So let's get stuck into it.
Personally, I believe the mind-muscle connection is hugely important. So much so that I based the Iron Paradise Fitness training principles on it.
L.I.F.T is the 4 step approach to training I use myself and with all my clients. It stands for Lock It, Intent, Force, and Tension.
And before we delve into how it works in relation to the mind-muscle connection, let me show you the results it delivers.
Here's Jacques. Now Jacques was a semi-professional Rugby player who came to me with the goal of building muscle and losing body fat in the run up to the new season. So over a 12 week period we worked together on doing exactly that. And the results speak for themselves.
But using the mind-muscle connection isn't just for the dudes. Check out Hannah's transformation. She dropped 2 dress sizes and built a leaner, stronger body using the exact principles I'm going to walk you through.
And you can see more amazing transformation, just like these, right here.
But for now, here's your 4 top tips for improving your mind-muscle connection.
#1. Lock Your Setup In Place
Setting up correctly for an exercise is hugely important. Because if you get it wrong you're not just risking injury, you're also at risk of not building any muscle.
So take the time to make sure you're positioned to perform the exercise correctly. Clearly, I can't go through every single exercise in this article. That would just be impractical. Instead, head over to my Instagram account where you'll find useful content on exercise execution, plus a whole host of useful information. And don't be rude, say hi while you're there.
With your position locked in place you've prevented other muscle and joints taking over which could detract from the focus on the muscle you're actually trying to work. Now we move on to INTENT.
#2. What Muscle Are You Trying To Work?
When you're performing an exercise as yourself this question. "What muscle am I trying to work and do I feel it there?"
Now, this is not to be confused with, "What muscle do I feel working?" Because there's a high probability it's the wrong one. So here's a top tip for getting it right.
Think about the muscle you're trying to work. And think about how it moves. Hell, if you want to get really geeky, research what its job is. Trust me, this will help so much. For example, the job of the Pec Major (your chesticles) is to bring the arm across your chest. Once you know that, a bench press is less about lifting weight in the air, and more about bringing your bicep across your chest.
It's a completely different way of thinking. A game changer, you might say.
So concentrate on what you're doing. Don't think about just lifting weight. Think about the muscle and contracting it before the weight moves. It all makes a difference.
#3. Produce Force Mindfully
Despite me telling you about the importance of setup and intent, here's where that usually gets thrown out the anabolic window.
When it comes to shifting the weight, ego takes over and all thought of mind-muscle connection vanishes without a trace. It's now all about throwing as much weight around as possible. But you need to change that approach.
Whether you're bench pressing for better breasticles or hip thrusting for gorgeous glutes, you need to produce force with purpose. The force you use to lift the weight needs to be focused. It needs to be channeled to the muscle you're intending to work.
My advice to you is to start with lighter weights and progress in line with your form. Otherwise, you're in danger if lifting lots of weight badly and for no real benefit.
#4. Use The Right Tempo To Create Tension
Tempo and tension are the last pieces of the puzzle. But they're crucial for learning the art of mind-muscle connection.
Your ultimate goal is to maintain tension throughout the entire rep and through a full range of motion. Let's use the lat pulldown as an example.
At the top of the movement your lats should be at full stretch. You should feel your back muscle tugging at your side. At that point you start to bring the bar down, using a controlled tempo. When at the bottom of the movement, it's time to squeeze. Contract those lats as hard as possible, even spending 1-2 seconds in that position really 'feeling it'.
After that, it's time to return to the starting position. And this is where it can get difficult.
To maintain tension through the eccentric part of the exercise, think about resisting gravity as much as possible. That weight stack wants to crash back down to Earth ASAP. But your job is to stop that from happening. Actively resist the bar for a count of 3-4 seconds. When the lat is at full stretch, start the next rep without a single nanosecond of rest.
And if you do that for a couple of sets, your lats will feel like they're going to explode.
A Bonus Tip For Better Mind-Muscle Connection
So you're not quite done. I've got one more tip for you. Activations
A warmup routine that incorporates muscle activations can really help with mind-muscle connection. "So what the fuck is an activation?" I hear you cry. Well this is typically where you contract the muscles you're about to train without using weights. Taking muscles through a full range of motion and squeezing hard when you get to the end of that range.
Here's an upper body activation routine I use with my client programmes to give you an idea of what I mean... p.s turn the sound on.
The Mind-Muscle Connection Takes Time
Even though you've now got a guide on how to create better mind muscle connection, there's still one key ingredient missing. Time.
Mind-muscle connection won't come overnight. It will take weeks, months, even years of practise to perfect. So don't get frustrated and disheartened if you don't master it on day one. Typically, arms and legs are the easiest to get right. But when it comes to chest and back, well these are much more tricky.
But remember this... The more you train and the more muscle you build, the easier mind-muscle connection becomes. So be patient and give it time. You'll get there if you're willing to put the work in.
The Bottom Line On The Mind-Muscle Connection
If the goal is building muscle then you need to spend time working on your mind-muscle connection. It's the difference between effective and wasted time in the gym. But be patient. It won't come overnight.
Time and patience not only applies to weight loss, it applies to building muscle and perfecting your technique in the gym. But it's 100% worth the effort.
Greater mind-muscle connection leads to better workouts, more muscle, and the fast track to your best body ever. So don't overlook it by focusing on lifting as much weight as possible all the damn time. Leave that to the ego lifters stuck at square one and making zero progress.
Want A Free Training Programme To Kickstart Your Mind-Muscle Connection?
Here's what to do nest to get on the fast track to a leaner, healthier, stronger body. Simply click the link below and I'll send you my Lean Life Kickstarter Pack. In it you'll find a free 4 week beginner's training programme (complete with exercise videos and a workout tracker), a guide on calculating your calories, plus so much more.
If you want it, grab it here.
But for now, all I'll say is... Keep living the Lean Life and I'll see you soon.