“The Mind-Muscle Connection” is the conscious and deliberate focus on what tension you´re able to create during an exercise. It is a common tool used in resistance training, and especially within disciplines such as body-building where muscle growth is in focus. The more attention you´re able to direct to the muscles used, the better the training effect. Why? Because a deliberate movement will activate the right muscles and more muscle fibers. This is important to understand especially when trying to grow or define your body – which is why we in our classes stress the term “connect with the muscle”.
In the end, this concept is a matter of focus and being mindful and attentive when you exercise. Here are some tips on how you can improve your understanding and implementation of the mind-muscle connection:
Study anatomy: The more you learn about the human musculoskeletal system, the more you´ll understand how movements are performed.
Think about the joints rather than the muscles, and focus on what drives a movement: In any movement, one or more limbs need to move in order to carry out the movement. When two limbs move closer to each other and bend or extend over a joint, you get either a contraction or extension; focus on this! An example is the bicep curl where you lift your forearm towards your shoulder and get a contraction in the muscle between these body parts, or another way of saying it: you bend in your elbow joint. What drives the movement is the bicep; attached in the shoulder and the forearm (simply put).
Close your eyes and visualize: Visualizing a movement pattern can help you understand the mind-muscle connection better; focus all your attention to the muscles you´re using and preferably without any distractions.
Add learning cues: Adding cues to a movement is about using a language that will better make you understand which muscles you´re using. An example for the exercise cable oblique twist or “The Golf Swing” on the Baseline can be this: “twist your obliques as if your shirt gets pulled from the side.” Ask your coach if you´re uncertain of what to use.
Increase time under tension: More time under tension will make you “feel it” more when your muscles are working. This can be done either by slowing down the movement or including a little pause in the peak contraction of the movement (e.g. in bicep curl this will be on the top when your hand is the closest to your shoulder).