Flex Your Brain: The Mind-Muscle Connection
How many of us make it to the gym, just go through the motions, and leave feeling like we accomplished absolutely nothing? Weightlifting is not strictly physical training... there are psychological aspects to it as well. It's not always easy to stay focused during a workout, and our mind sometimes starts to wander in the middle of a set. In order to maximize our training, we need to learn how to activate our muscles properly. This is where the secret to success comes in... the mind-muscle connection (MMC).
The MMC is literally the connection between your brain and your body. It is the signal that is sent by the brain to tell your muscles to contract. Muscles don't grow because a weight is moving up and down. They grow when they're forced to work and contract against resistance. The more you improve this communication, the more muscle fibres you recruit when you train. This will result in a better muscle contraction and thus, a more effective workout.
When you're working out, what is going through your mind? Are you just trying to force out as many repetitions as possible regardless of your form? Well, it's time to change that thought and develop your MMC to maximize your gains. It is important for you to understand what muscles are involved in each exercise. If you know what muscles you are working, it is much easier to focus on this connection. Every time you perform a rep, you should be committed to feeling it in the target muscles. If you find yourself sacrificing your form and trying to lift the weight at all costs, not only are you at risk of injury, but your target muscles are not getting a good quality contraction. You're just wasting your time and your energy. If you consistently train like this, your brain will develop poor movement patterns, and it will never learn to properly communicate with certain muscles in your body. You'll be setting yourself up for failure.
Here are some tips to consider to maximize your MMC:
1. Lighten your load: don't be obsessed with lifting heavy weights... concentrate instead on your form and the quality of each movement.
2. Lift slowly: don't rely on momentum to lift weights... take a few extra seconds to raise and lower the weights slowly. You can also pause at the peak of the contraction to stimulate more muscle fibers.
3. Flex your target muscles: squeeze your muscles at the end of each rep to force additional blood into them. This allows you to increase your awareness of them when they're pumped.
4. Visualize: mentally imagine the exercise you're about to perform and what's happening to your muscles as you do so. You'll feel a greater sense of control and avoid unconsciously recruiting secondary muscles.
Just think and they will grow.