Working out really does require a lot of energy. But not only physically. Today I want to break down the idea of mind-muscle connection during workouts. The concept of mind-muscle connection involves actively focusing on a specific muscle group in order to improve workout performance. I want to share my experience and personal insight on this technique while also showcasing a factual approach to this idea by providing past reports on the credibility of this claim.
After looking at a collection of articles, it seems pretty promising that there is truth behind this mind-muscle connection claim. A study published in the National Library of Medicine found that participants who focused on working out a specific muscle were able to increase the intensity of their workouts by up to 60-80% (Gribble, S. et al, 2015). The study used 18 men who had fitness experience and evaluated their workouts in two separate sessions; in the first session, the participants were not given directions to focus on the workout, and in the second session, the 18 men were told to consciously focus on targeting the specific muscle group. The conclusions of this study supported the idea that there is a correlation between the mind and muscles. The problem with this study is that it used men who were experienced in strength training, meaning that the participants could have subconsciously been using the mind-muscle connection strategy in the first place. However, another article from T-Nation reinforces the findings and says that “there’s definite evidence of the mind-muscle connection, and this phenomenon is more evident in certain muscles than others” (Contreras, 2014). This article ultimately explains how lifters in the T-Nation study who used the mind-muscle connection strategy were able to activate different muscles without changing the form of the exercises. This suggests that a mind-muscle connection is actually relevant to improving exercise efficiency. My favorite findings were in an article from Dr. John Rusin who provided three takeaways from the topic of mind-muscle connection. Author Ian Padron says,
- “ You can enhance the connection with tempo work and isometric contractions like slow eccentrics and flexing.”
- ” A conscious effort to activate the target muscle before and between every set while actively visualizing its action and desired appearance during a movement will help to develop this powerful connection.”
- “The mental aspect of training is just as important, if not more important, than the physical.” (Rusin, 2020)
So after a collective amount of research, I strongly believe in the mind-muscle connection theory. Awareness of your movements allows for a targeted workout, which one can argue is more effective. Because there is such a strong mental relationship with working out, exercise can become a distraction from everyday life.
In my personal experience, if I am sidetracked and distracted mentally, my workouts are usually less effective. To avoid distraction, I listen to uplifting music. I also make sure I have the capacity to handle a workout that day. There is a difference between being lazy and actually not being capable of working out. I was listening to a podcast about discipline from Emma Chamberlin and I was able to relate to her. Emma talks about how discipline is good to create consistency with fitness but there are some days where it’s okay to take a break. A break isn’t because you’re lazy but because you mentally need it. So when I workout, I have to make sure my head is in the right place and I am not exhausting myself. I’ve noticed that if I push past my limits and force a workout, I am not successful at achieving this mind-muscle connection. For me, achieving a mind-muscle connection is a way to detach and truly put energy into myself. I am able to reach this connection when I am knowledgeable about the exercise I’m performing. Overall, I think that practicing a mind-muscle connection when working out is the key to maximizing a workout both physically and mentally.
- Contreras, B. (2014, September 29). Mind-muscle connection: Fact or BS? T-Nation. https://www.t-nation.com/training/mind-muscle-connection-fact-or-bs/
- Rusin, J. (2020, February 11). Developing a mind-muscle connection for muscle hypertrophy. Dr. John Rusin. https://drjohnrusin.com/developing-a-mind-muscle-connection-for-muscle-hypertrophy/
- BodyLogix. (2019, March 8). The importance of mind-muscle connection. BodyLogix. https://www.bodylogix.com/blogs/training-advice/the-importance-of-mind-muscle-connection
- Gribble, S. W., & Schoenfeld, B. J. (2015). The mind-muscle connection: Evidence, mechanisms, and applications to resistance training. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 29(1), 285-296. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26700744/