Probably at some stage of bodybuilding you’ve heard or read the term mind-muscle connection. In the simple words it means ‘feeling’ your muscle while training. It’s quiet difficult technique and takes months or even years of practice to learn however it’s very effective. Once you learn to feel and use properly muscles you are exercising you’ll be growing faster without lifting extremely heavy weight.
How muscles work
Most of human muscles under tension work the same way. They can lengthen, shorten or stay the same length. This is how it looks in practice – during bench press for example:
- Lowering weight to your chest – lengthening – eccentric part of movement;
- Pressing the barbell up – shortening muscle – concentric contraction;
- Holding barbell on fully extended hands – isometric hold (length stay the same).
How our mind work
It’s our brain that makes our muscles contract. We want either to lift the weight up, put it down or hold it and our body does it for us. This is how general population lift and this is basically how it works. However this isn’t how bodybuilder should train.
How bodybuilder’s mind work
Bodybuilder first think about the muscle he is going to use and then he pulls or press the weight using mostly only the muscle group he is training at the moment. He is focused on the body part he’s working out continuously until he finishes the set.
To exercise the most effective way we should build the connection between our mind and muscle. In other words we have to focus on, feel and use the muscle we are currently training. I’ll describe it below on the barbell curl example.
1. Curl barbell up – flex
Thinking in your head about biceps, curl the barbell up – flex your biceps. This is the shortening muscle contraction.
2. Hold the weight up – squeeze
Holding barbell up, near your chin, squeeze your guns as hard as you can. It’s an isometric hold where the length remains the same.
3. Lower barbell down – stretch
Keeping your guns contracted, squeezed; lower the weight thinking about stretching the biceps. That’s an eccentric part of movement when muscle lengthen – being stretch.
Doesn’t matter what exercise you do the form stays the same: flex, squeeze and stretch. Think about it all the time while training any body part.
How to learn the mind-muscle connection
I believe this technique is quiet difficult to learn or maybe takes more time. At the start you’ll not be able to feel your muscles during training. However what you should do is to think or rather imaginethat you are actually tensing trained body part during exercise. This is how you going to learn.
Other way to learn it is training with the lighter weights. I find it very difficult or even not possible to feel my muscles while working out with very high intensity. It’s far easier when weights are lighter. So once a month or every two months you can sacrifice a week for training with lighter weights and more repetitions; and try this method then. Aim for about 15 repetitions in each set and use lighter weights. However don’t rush your movements, imagine that weight is actually heavy and control every single repetition while contracting trained muscle.
Don’t go to failure. Finish the set when you still have energy to do 1-2 reps. Besides learning how to contract your muscles correctly (mind-muscle connection) you’ll improve your endurance, capillarity and make training itself more interesting.
Practice it during warm-up as well. Do first two lighter sets before proper workout as usual however treat the weight as it was very heavy – perform repetitions a little bit slower trying to contract trained muscle.
The idea of mind-muscle connection is to constantly thinking about, feeling and contracting trained muscle. The mechanism in all exercises is the same – you have to flex, squeeze and stretch it. Of course remember about tempo – the right speed of lifting weights.
Once you’ll learn this method you’ll grow far faster and may find that you are actually bigger than boys lifting heavier weights than you. It will also be helpful when you’ll want to pose and flex right muscles in front of a mirror or during competition; or simply show off your physique to anybody else and make a good impression.