The Mind-Muscle Connection
Joelle Cavagnaro FRÉ Ambassador since Jan 2018
The Mind-Muscle connection essentially means you are truly feeling and connecting with the movement you are completing.
Having a good mind-muscle connection means that you are really able to FEEL the muscle pulling, engaging, etc. Typically, it’s very hard to grow a muscle if you can’t actually feel it working. This is what we call “going through the motions”. It may sound silly, but lifting the weight is not enough, you have to FEEL those muscles working. Think about flexing the muscle WHILE you are lifting. As someone that has been lifting for roughly 7 years, this is STILL sometimes a challenge for me. Many of us all have those 1 or 2 “stubborn” spots that are hard to connect with. Some people have a hard time feeling their pecs work, or maybe their back muscles, or shoulders. The harder it is to feel those muscles working, the harder it is to grow them. So, how can we improve our mind-muscle connection?
* Practice Flexing: It may sound silly but intentionally squeezing/flexing your muscles can make you more aware of the muscles you’re working. Believe it or not, practicing muscle contractions can help to improve the neural connection between your brain and your muscles. Try it! Straighten your leg to flex your quad or flex your bicep right now. Hold that flex, squeezing hard for about 10 seconds...Now straighten out your arm or leg. Every rep, you should be feeling the squeeze like you did just now. Flexing in between sets (although you may feel awkward), can also be helpful in keeping those muscles engaged.
* Slow Your Tempo: Instead of quickly banging out your reps, SLOW DOWN. Typically, this means you’ll have to lighten the weight, but I can assure you...slow, lighter, MEANINGFUL reps are much more effective than fast, sloppy, heavy reps. Be deliberate. Allow your muscle fibers to sloooowly stretch and shorten. Try taking 10-20 seconds to complete a rep (10 for the concentric component - muscle shortening, and the other 10 seconds for the eccentric component - muscle lengthening). Wait til you see how much more you feel the muscle working!
* Isometric Holds: Isometric exercises are ones in which the joint angle and muscle length do not change during contraction. For example, planks. Thus, an isometric “hold” would mean “pausing” at a certain point in the range of motion of an exercises. Let’s take a preacher bicep curl for instance. Try lowering the weight a third of the way down, pausing for 3-5 seconds, lowering until two-thirds of the way down, pausing 3-5 seconds, lowering completely, then flexing back up. Try that for a few sets and I can assure you, the mind-muscle connection will be present.