Mind-Muscle Connection, what and how to do it?
Ever struggled to really ‘feel’ the muscle you are trying to work during exercise? You’re not alone! Mind-muscle connection can be one of the most challenging parts of training, but it is often the key to making progress and seeing muscle building gains.
What is mind to muscle connection? Basically, it is the process of consciously and deliberately contracting your muscles when exercising. This means focusing on the ‘primary mover’ (the main muscle you are isolating or trying to work) when performing a certain movement. An example of this is thinking about squeezing your glutes appropriately during a hip thrust, or imagining the contraction of your bicep during a bicep curl.
When we workout and move, our brain is in constant communication with our muscles. However, there are ways we can improve this communication so that we get more out of our training session, reduce our risk for injury and engage the muscles we want to work.
Here are my top tips for improving mind to muscle connection, and getting the most out of your training:
Choose one or two exercise cues to focus on while performing your lifts. This could be something like ‘hips back’ during RDL’s, or retracting your shoulder blades during a row.
Increase time under tension. This can be done by holding a position, adding slow eccentrics, paused reps, tempo reps, and 1 and ¼ reps, and will help you to place additional stress on the muscle you are trying to engage.
Reduce the weight you are using. Sometimes, going too heavy can affect our form and stop us from engaging our muscles correctly. Don’t be afraid to drop your weights down to slow your tempo and focus on executing your lifts correctly. This is probably my top tip and how majority of my clients make progress!
Minimize distractions while training. Try and minimize your distractions during sets - stay focused on you and your workout, keep your mind present, and focus on 1 rep at a time.
Use touch. Ever see a 'gym rat' touching their muscle? It works! During our coaching seminars it is actually used as well. Get a training partner (or if you can yourself) touch the muscle you are trying to engage: quad, bicep, shoulder, glutes. This will help you to contract that muscle and keep your focus throughout the set.