Why do you train? Whether you spend your days knocking out cardio, piling on the heavy weights, sweating through a spin class, or leaving it all on the floor of the BOX after your CrossFit WOD, you do it for a reason. Individually, the reasons may include weight loss, muscle gain, improved conditioning, better health… but collectively, the reason we train in any discipline with hopes of achieving any goal is in the name of getting an edge. We improve our bodies, our appearance, our physical capabilities, so that we can gain an edge. And there is one key behind all of this training which can give us the ultimate edge… Mind Muscle Connection!
Weights are dumb. They’re make of cast iron and really don’t do much thinking on a daily basis. Their only job is to be heavy, precisely heavy enough to stimulate the muscles you’re targeting when training. People, on the other hand, aren’t always dumb. Sure, every gym has a few lunk heads that will have absolutely bizarre training methodologies, but most of us at least attempt to develop some sort of system, strategy, or roadmap to create a plan of attack and implementation at the gym. We know the importance of lifting X amount of pounds for Y sets of Z repetitions. Choose a few exercises and voila, you have an instant workout for any muscle group. But there’s more to it, and the missing link to optimal and consistent progress lies at the individual repetition level.
Mind-muscle connection is the name of the game. Every repetition should be about feeling that flex, that point of contraction, that much fiber firing. Move slower through your reps, sure, but move more deliberately as well. Don’t concentrate on the music in your ears or the other people in the gym. When you’re completing repetitions, you should be thinking about nothing on Earth except the flex and contraction of each and every individual repetition of the workout. Athletes who are able to discover the mind-muscle connection will make gains faster than their reckless peers who just toss weights around the gym. Are you up for the challenge? Let’s check out a few techniques you can employ to achieve greater mind muscle connection in the gym.
For most exercises, the negative portion of any repetition, or the lowering of the weight back to the starting position, usually just takes care of itself. We use all our strength and energy and focus on moving the weight, then we just let gravity lower the weight back into position. You’re wasting half of the repetition when you do this! By slowing down the weight as you lower it, making the negative portion of the repetition last 4 to 6 seconds, you are able to recruit additional muscle fibers which contribute to strength gains. Just with and positive pressing part of repetitions, be sure to focus on making the mind-muscle connection.
It’s long been said that every wise lifter checks his or her ego at the door when entering the gym. More injuries have been caused by a big head than any tight muscle. Using less weight can be boring, unexciting, and can have a draining effect upon enthusiasm. But in return, you are able to move the weight at a slower pace, with little to no momentum. This means the intended muscle fibers are actually the ones doing the work, and not the hips, back, or other areas of the body which pick up the slack when you’re swinging the weight. You are able to achieve the intended mind-muscle connection on each and every repetition by retaining full control over the weight. It’s not always easy to leave the heavy weights sitting there, but your results will speak for themselves!
It’s long been noted that one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s arms measured a full inch bigger than the other. In pictures of him, you can see his right bicep, peaked like a mountain, with a clear biceps split. The left arm, while still world-class, lacked the same level of definition and development. Did he train one arm differently than the other? Of course not. But when Arnold posed for pictures – many, many pictures over the years – he always chose to flex that right biceps. And the mind-muscle connection achieved over and over amounted to “loadless training”. He tensed that arm and fired those muscle fibers and gave his biceps a small workout every time he flexed that lone arm. Use this to your advantage! Practice flexing key muscle groups on both sides of your body. Hold poses as if you were in a show, even if you never have plans to compete. Your muscles will discover some maturity and etched in detail you may never have discovered otherwise!