Ever hear people in the gym talking about how they can “feel” the muscle that they are training throughout each repetition of their workout? Ever watch training videos of Kai Greene (pictured below – one of the largest, most insane looking pro bodybuilders in the entire world) and wonder how he has built so much muscle when he often uses weights far lighter than those used by his counterparts? Ever wonder why some of the “strongest” guys in the gym don’t show any evidence of muscular development? Well, many of your questions will be answered by having a better understanding of the mind muscle connection (technically referred to as neuromuscular innervation).
The main reason that you will want to improve your mind muscle connection is so that you can increase the number of muscle fibers that you recruit while you are lifting, increasing the contraction of your muscles on every repetition. More recruitment and more contraction will result in increased mass and strength – both very good things!! A good mind muscle connection will enable you to control, fire, and relax a particular muscle on demand. Those of you who follow me on Snapchat (@shomoshotime) have probably seen me jiggling my boobs (more commonly known as pec dancing) recreationally throughout the day. This very fun habit takes a great degree of established mind muscle connection to perform, and I hope nothing more than to help all of you to perform this awesome feat. So listen up. I’m about to lay down 3 ways that you can better leverage the mind muscle connection.
Before you walk up to that dumbbell rack to perform your curls, take a few seconds to get yourself into a proper mental state. Imagine the set you’re about to perform. Think about how you are going to raise up the dumbbell with your biceps, feeling the peak contraction once you have raised the dumbbell to your shoulder. Then think about slowly lowering it down, feeling the muscle stretch as you execute a complete range of motion before exploding the weight back upwards for another tight squeeze.
Personally, when I don’t take a few seconds to mentally check in before performing my set, I usually end up using a bunch of muscles that I don’t want to be using (for instance, I may use my front delts a lot when I am performing dumbbell curls). Once I mentally play out my set for myself, I feel so much more in control; I feel so much more muscle recruitment and focus.
A lot of gymgoers warm up incorrectly. They’ll walk around flapping their arms back and forth like they’re Michael Phelps or something. They’ll go sit in a sauna for 5 minutes (like literally warming up lol). They’ll touch their toes and jump around a few times. You can’t warm up incorrectly and expect to train well. Not only will you not feeling an optimal mind muscle connection, but you’ll put yourself at risk for injury (yikes).
I like to follow a dynamic warm up routine. Typically, I will begin by performing 3 very light sets of my first exercise (15-20 reps per set with a weight that is about one-third of my working weight). I like to pause throughout the motion, and I place a great deal of emphasis on stretching and squeezing my muscle as much as possible. I ensure that I am using exactly the muscles that I am seeking to train with the motion. Then, I’m ready to use my working weight. While I do my heavier working sets, I try my hardest to maintain the same level of control and contraction throughout the repetitions as I did during my warm-up sets. Can’t control the weights as well as I’d like to anymore? Time to lower the weight! Always remember three things when you perform a weight training exercise. Focus on the contraction and squeeze. Try to keep your form tight. And remember to breathe.
Before your sets, try to flex the muscle that you aim to exercise (for instance, flex your chest before a bench press) for just a few seconds. This may help you to maintain a stronger mind muscle connection. I notice that this is very helpful for me personally when I perform the incline barbell bench press. When I tense my chest before performing the exercise, I am able to better ensure that I am pushing the weight with my upper chest once I get under the bar (as opposed to pressing it primarily with my front delts).
Give these few tips and tricks a try next time you’re in the gym and let me know how it goes. And as always, feel free to shoot me an email if you have any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope that this read has been a helpful one for you fam.
Until next time, bang bang!