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Mind Muscle Connection The Missing Component To Increasing Muscle Growth

mind muscle connection bicep growth activation explained

Mind Muscle Connection The Missing Component To Increasing Muscle Growth?

Using a mind muscle connection is without a doubt a majorly overlooked component when trying to increase muscle growth!

I’m certain that I don’t need to tell you the amount of financial investment driven into researching the power and capabilities of the human mind!

Thousands of people have dedicated there entire lives into studying methods of harnessing and maximising the minds potential power and the data they have collected is outstanding!

So with the unconceivable power in which every single one of us harnesses inside our head, surely overlooking this key element for something as simple as increasing muscle mass is completely and utterly absurd? And yet other then a small number of famous bodybuilders, Arnold Schwarzenegger being one of them, I cant name more then a couple muscle building programs that even touch slightly on the effectiveness of using a mind muscle connection as a tool for increasing muscle size and strength.

So What Is A Mind Muscle Connection?

The brains neurological connection with the muscle is fundamental in performing any activity!

So if we can use our brain to send messages to move our arm and pick up a dumbbell what’s not to say that we cant concentrate on improving this connection. Improving this muscle connection process will aid in optimising the recruitment and contraction of the target muscle cells helping to force the maximum amount of stimulus to the desired areas, in turn enhancing the potential for gains in both muscle strength and size.

In short a mind muscle connection is to consciously provide a greater neural stimulation to a specific muscle (or group of muscles) in order to maximise its contractile force.

Having said that I am not going to sit her and preach to you that with no training and consideration to nutrition that you can grow bigger muscles simply by using your mind!

BUT Believe it or not……

There was an interesting study completed at Ohio University by Brian Clark that states that you can actually use your mind to increase muscle strength!

In short the study involved 29 volunteers having their wrists wrapped in surgical casts for the duration of a single calendar month. During this period, 50% of the volunteers were to think about exercising and using there immobilised wrists.

These thinking exercises were scheduled to 11 minutes a day, 5 days a week, in which the subjected volunteers were to sit completely still and focus their entire mental force on pretending to flex their muscles. At the end of the month with the casts removed the subjects who had completed the mental exercises had wrist muscles that were two times stronger than those that hadn’t completed any mental exercise at all.

Why Is A Mind Muscle Connection So Important When Trying To Gain Muscle?

Pretty much everyone can move a weight from A to B with no real thought into what muscles they are using to do it, but not everyone can focus on engaging and targeting these working muscles effectively to enhance contractions and stimulus.

For example if we take the conventional bench press, the goal for the vast majority of us is to increase the weight over time. but with these consistent increases in weight you may sometimes find it difficult to get a full pump and burn in the chest.

This is because more often then not as we reach the upper portion of our strength curve, near the point at which form begins to break down, other muscles start to interfere to help move the weight. With regards to the bench press, its the shoulders and triceps which tend to take over when the speed of the bar rising upwards begins to stall. Essentially this is your bodies way of protecting itself and shifting the weight the easiest way it can. To counteract this, reduce the weight and focus on using the correct target muscles to do the majority of the lifting.

Don’t be an Ego Lifter!

Not only does lifting too heavy make it more difficult to keep proper form and contract the correct working muscles, but it is also the quickest way to pick up an injury!

Building a solid mind muscle connection in my opinion is one of the most effective methods when it comes to making consistent progress in the gym. So remember its not the amount of weight on the bar that counts. What matters is the amount of contractile force you are subjecting to the target muscle, so if you are not correctly engaging the working muscles, then you are dismissing your opportunity for growth and progression!

Case Study

A study conducted by the European Journal of Applied Physiology, evaluated whether focusing on specific muscles during a bench press can selectively activate these working muscles.

The study involved 18 resistance trained men. The participants were asked to perform a 1 rep max on the bench press during there first session. In there following session 3 separate bench press conditions were performed at loads of 20, 40, 60 and 80% of the subjects pre determined 1 rep max. The subjects were told to selectively focus on using the pectoralis major (chest) and the triceps brachii when performing the lifts. The data for the experiment was collected using surface electromyography (EMG) signals, recorded for both the pectoralis major and the triceps brachii.

The results from the study found that focusing on the respective muscles increased muscle activity at relative loads between 20 and 60 but not at 80% of 1RM. It was also found that the increase in activation at one muscle did not decrease the activity of the other. For example when focusing on activating the triceps the activation of the pectoralis did not decrease.

The conclusions from the study stated that resistance trained individuals can increase tricep brachii or pectoralis major muscle activity, during the bench press when focusing on the specific muscle at intensities up to 60% of there 1 rep max. With a threshold of activation between 60 and 80% appearing to exist.

So How Can You Achieve A Mind Muscle Connection

In order to optimise your mind muscle connection it is first fundamental that you understand what muscles you need to be focusing on for each exercise!

So instead of thinking about where you feel your muscles contracting, instead focus on where you SHOULD feel your muscles contracting. If we use the classic wide grip pull up as an example you should aim to focus on pulling yourself up using only the muscles in your back. Zoning in and feeling your lats contract as your body starts to rise upwards is vital. Picturing yourself driving your elbows downwards to lift yourself up is a good way to start if your struggling to feel your lats contracting. Once you reach the peak of the movement squeeze you’re shoulder blades together contracting your lats and not your biceps.

You’re not finished yet…

The eccentric or negative portion of the movement is often neglected in terms of muscle focus and contraction, yet it offers the same if not further influence towards muscle growth since you are naturally stronger in this portion of the rep!

To capitalise on the negative portion of the rep, force the lats to resist gravity and the weight pulling your body down. Control your descent back to the starting position aiming for around 3 to 4 seconds to reach the position shown in the image below. Allow the lats to lengthen and stretch throughout the duration of your decent.

Pull up excercise mind muscle connection growth                          pull up contracted negative mind muscle connection explained

Once complete, repeat until you have reached your desired amount of repetitions. Keep your mental focus channeled in this manner to help direct the majority of the work to your target muscles to aid in maximising muscle stimulation and fibre recruitment.

Visualisation And Mindset

Visualisation is another point which Arnold Schwarzenegger used to drill home, and its not until you start incorporating this method into your training and general life that you really start to grasp what he was talking about.

Visualising yourself achieving your goals wether it be lifting a certain weight or looking a certain way is a very powerful tool and if used consistently, can be very effective. If you can keep a positive mindset about your training, dieting and general life your progress and overall happiness will follow!

In my own experience I feel that visualisation and mind muscle connection are directly linked in that through thinking positively and visualising your target muscles getting stronger and bigger as you perform exercises can directly correlate to performance.

So ensure that you are making a conscious effort to think positively and get yourself in the right mindset where you can visualise yourself achieving your goals in and I am sure your mind muscle connection will only get stronger!

Free Ebook!

If you interested in learning more about potential methods of increasing your muscle growth I have a Ebook available to Download for FREE Titled:

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References

https://www.ohio.edu/medicine/news-archive/

http://jn.physiology.org/content/early/2014/09/24/jn.00386.2014

http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/2005/11000/EFFECT_OF_ECCENTRIC_STRENGTH_TESTING_ON.28.aspx

Baechle, T.R., Earle, R. (2000). Essentials of strength training and conditioning – 2nd edition. National Strength and Conditioning Association. Human Kinetics.

http://circheartfailure.ahajournals.org/content/3/6/715.full

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26700744

Clark BC, Mahato NK, Nakazawa M, Law TD & Thomas JS. (2014). The power of the mind: the cortex as a critical determinant of muscle strength/weakness.

Lohse KR & Sherwood DE. (2012). Thinking about muscles: The neuromuscular effects of attentional focus on accuracy and fatigue.

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