As you know, movement is controlled by the brain. The first step towards muscular contraction is a signal sent by the brain to your muscles telling them to contract. You might say that the Mind-Muscle Connection (MMC) occurs at something called the “neuromuscular junction”. This is where the mind meets the body. The brain releases a chemical neurotransmitter called ‘Acetylcholine’ to communicate with muscles in the body.
The more you can improve this communication, the more muscle fibers you will recruit. A single muscle head is made up of many individual muscle fibers. By improving your MMC you are actually increasing the number of muscle fibers being recruited when you perform a lift. This results in a better quality muscle contraction and better workout.
When you’re in the middle of a set, what’s going through your mind? Are you simply trying to force out as many reps as you can? If this is you, I’ve got some tips below to help you develop your MMC and maximize your gains.
You should be seriously committed to feeling each and every rep in your target muscles. A lot of people feel like they have something to prove in the gym and are compelled to lift with their egos. Conquering your ego is something that you must do if you want to get serious about training and achieving your goals. You might be benching 275lbs, but if you’re not maximizing the work done by your chest, you’re wasting a whole lot of potential. You might even be setting yourself up for failure.
2. Warm Up Sets!
Try doing a few warm-up sets (high reps of 15-20) with a very low weight. Close your eyes and concentrate on your target muscles. Concentrate on “squeezing” the weight and pause for a moment at the point of maximum contraction. If you’re worried about wasting energy before your working sets, try this on an off day.
3. Perform The Exercise Slowly
You will probably want to use a lighter weight than normal for this. Take 4 or 5 seconds for each of the concentric and eccentric parts of the repetition. Again it helps to pause for a moment at the point of max contraction.
4. Flex Your Target Muscles In Between Sets!
This forces additional blood into your muscles, pumping them up further. You are more aware of your muscles when they’re fully pumped, which makes it easier to mentally isolate them.
Simply put, you can train as hard as you want but if your Mind-Muscle Connection is not fully developed you will never reach your full potential. Athletic performance is enhanced when you are able to mentally block out external pressures and distractions. Try not to let your mind wander in the gym. You’re not there to socialize (at least you shouldn’t be), you’re there to workout. Training hard is important, and of course everybody wants to lift big weights. Letting go of your ego can be a difficult thing to do. Think of all that wasted energy. We all want to be able to brag about how much we lift; it’s a part of the game. But if you never master the Mind-Muscle Connection you’re never going to make the big gains you dream about. It’s time to start training smarter not harder.