por Anita Herbert
Mastering the mind to muscle connection (MMC) is the greatest technique that you can learn in the gym. I can guarantee you that anybody who is rocking a “goals” physique is utilising the mind to muscle connection in their sessions. It is the secret to creating a balanced physique, a strong body and one of the fastest ways to make progress.
What is Mind to Muscle Connection (MMC)?
Mind to muscle connection is essentially a simple concept; it is the connection between your brain and your muscles when you are lifting. It is the focus we use to ensure that we are more accurately hitting a specific muscle group. It is why we “activate” our glutes, before leg days for example, to make sure we are working our glutes more than our quads.
The notion behind MMC is simple: When you consciously and deliberately place attention on the contraction of the muscle you are working, the quality of the contraction is enhanced.
So why practice MMC?
Without the MMC practice you cannot be sure you are targeting the right muscle(s). Unfortunately, proper form alone doesn’t guarantee mind to muscle connection is evoked. I’ll use the example of a squat and how if executed without MMC you may be targeting muscle groups you don’t intend to. When squatting, we can target our core, hamstrings, quads and glutes. When we are focused and practicing MMC we can specifically target glutes or our quads for example, however if you are not utilising MMC you will always be utilizing your strongest and most dominant muscle group.
It is this lack of focus and mindfulness in training that contributes to physique imbalances in the body. When we just flow through the motions mindlessly, our most dominant (strongest) muscle groups will always be used to generate strength first and as a result, the less dominant muscles remain untouched.
How do we practice MMC?
In order to learn how to deeply connect to your muscles, you will need to bring focus to every gym session and practice with every rep. Before starting your session, warm up and activate the specific muscle(s) you intend to work. It's all about activating the right muscles to complete the movement you're doing. The most common example, as mentioned above is the glute activation. Before a leg day you see everyone whip out their booty bands and go through their routine. Why are they doing this? They are activating their glutes. They are telling the booty to wake up and that it is time to work. They are connecting with the muscles they want to focus on. You can do this with any muscle whether its shoulders, back, hamstrings etc. If you want to learn more about glute activation, be sure to check out the blog I've written HERE.
There are a couple of things you can do to work on your MMC during your workouts.
Firstly, leave your ego at the door, too heavy a weight selection will ruin your mind to muscle connection. Perform the movement with a light weight choice at first to ensure that your form is correct, and really become aware of the exact movement that makes you feel the best contraction in the muscle you want to work. Play around with it if you aren’t feeling it where you want to; change your stance, straighten your wrists, do you need to bend your knees more etc.
Once you’ve found your sweet spot, the key to improving MMC in your workouts is by emphasizing the resistance portion of each rep and by utilising time under tension techniques. Slow, controlled reps are the best way to feel the burn and the muscle contracting. Do not rush. Take your time. Don’t swing around heavy weights only pushing partial reps, using your whole body to lift the weight. Strip it back. Slow, focused, intentional movements.
Whilst we are training we really want to be mindful of our inner environments. We want to silence the chatter that may be floating around our head. Mindfulness is an important aspect of every workout. We need to bring an attitude of respect for ourselves when we are in the gym. Respecting the work that we are about to do and being present in our bodies. We aren’t in the gym to chat, to look at other people, to scroll on our phone, to be thinking about work or our partners, sister or dinner. We are in the gym to work on ourselves, to better our health, physique and fitness. By understanding this and by being mindful, it will increase the quality of my workout.
Another trick I like to implement to help with focus in sessions and also for MMC is to visualize. When I am lifting, I really see the muscle working in my mind. I see myself lifting the weight, I see it contract which then in turn, helps me feel it contract so much more. I get such an incredible burn doing this. Research shows that visualization can even strengthen muscles.
Mind to muscle connection is about becoming the master of your own body. It is about being in control during your sessions. It is about mindfulness, focus and respect. I challenge you to implement these techniques and see the difference it makes to your future training sessions.
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