Improving Your Mind Muscle Connection

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Something very rarely spoken about in the fitness & bodybuilding world, is the unique connection between our mind & muscles. The mind muscle connection is important for a number of reasons:

  • Targeting weak areas which require extra development
  • Ensuring correct form & decreasing the chance of injury
  • Further stimulating muscle fibers & hypertrophic growth

A correctly phased physique transformation plan will incorporate phases with strength, hypertrophy & endurance. The hypertrophy phase is the most significant when incorporating mind muscle connection. Specifically in muscles you can’t see, for example:

  • Posterior deltoids
  • Middle back (Latissimus dorsi, Trapezius, Rhomboids)
  • Hamstrings

These are muscles which you generally can’t see through the contraction, and without seeing the muscle contraction, we need to utilize the MMC (mind muscle connection).

So What Exactly Is Mind Muscle Connection?

Quite simply put, your brain sends messages directly to your muscles fibers, every time you require stimulation for a specific muscle contraction. Your nervous system & brain are activated frequently & responsible for sending messages and creating connections with your muscle fibers.

And by the way, this is all based on science and proven through research based testing. Recent EMG studies have shown that when subjects are told to focus on a specific group of muscles before performing a contraction, they were able to recruit a higher amount of fibers. With following a resistance based training plan you will regularly call upon additional motor units to produce force over time. 

How To Utilize Mind Muscle Connection With Training

The best way for stimulating a contraction through your mind muscle connection is utilizing tempo. This is essential the timing of each movement with an exercise contraction. The slower your eccentric contraction, the more stimulation and focus you can put towards the target muscles.

For this reason slow eccentric training is recommended for hypertrophy phases, where muscle development is the primary focus. A slower eccentric contraction can also improve coordination and control throughout the movement, this leads to greater muscle fiber activation & a more efficient contraction.

My recommendation would be to start your exercise with a 3-5 second eccentric contraction, pause & a 1 second concentric contraction back to your starting position. Follow this with your training for 4-6 weeks, then change to a strength or endurance phase.

Why Is Mind Muscle Connection Important

Mind muscle connection can give you the edge you’re looking for when you either hit a training plateau or you want to further develop certain lagging areas with your physique.

As mentioned in the beginning of this post, there are muscles in areas of your physique which are inconspicuous & generally harder to focus & force growth. However, these muscles are very important for developing a well rounded & balanced physique. If your posterior deltoids are too small for your anterior deltoids, or your rhomboids are too small for your trapezius muscles, then your physique won’t have proper symmetry.

This becomes even more important if you are a physique, bodybuilder or fitness model competitor. A large part of competitive bodybuilding is symmetry, the competitors with a well balanced physique will always attract the judges over a less balanced &  unproportioned physique.

Although genetics do play a role with overall symmetry, that doesn’t say that a well planned training & nutrition program can’t optimize your physique for balance & symmetry.

Wrapping It All Up!

I believe all training plans should have in some areas (especially hypertrophy) a tempo & mind muscle connection focus. The strong connection between our brain, nervous system and muscles is a unique factor which needs to have appropriate consideration.

Remember the key points to take home are:

  • Focus on tempo, in particular slow eccentric contractions when targeting MMC
  • Focus on muscle groups which are inconspicuous, aka posterior muscle groups
  • MMC is a science based technique & highly proven through research trials

Hope you enjoyed this post, leave a comment – let me know how you go with incorporating mind muscle connection into your own training program!

References

1. Lewis CL, Sahrmann SA. Muscle activation and movement patterns during prone hip extension exercise in women. J Athl Train 44: 238–248, 2009.
2. Marchant DC, Greig M, Scott C. Attentional focusing instructions influence force production and muscular activity during isokinetic elbow flexions. J Strength Cond Res 23: 2358–2366, 2009.
3. Schoenfeld BJ. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. J Strength Cond Res 24: 2857–2872, 2010.