If you’re struggling to gain muscle or if you’re working out at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic and want to improve your form, you’ll want to know about the mind muscle connection.
It’s a method that can help increase gains even if you’ve plateaued.
Using the mind muscle connection to get in a great chest workout doesn’t even require the gym. You can use resistance bands or the free weights in your home gym.
(And you can buy resistance bands and freeweights at the GymHugz store).
What is mind muscle connection?
It’s easy to get stuck into thinking that building muscle is just about the number of reps or the weight you’re lifting. You go into the gym and you curl, crunch or lift thinking that if you do enough of them at a set weight, you’ll get bigger and stronger.
It can be frustrating when that doesn’t happen.
One of the things that could be holding you back is your lack of mind to muscle connection.
We already know that psychology plays an important role in success. Sports psychology helps Olympic athletes get an edge over their rivals and premiership footballers take better penalties.
We shouldn’t be at all surprised to find out that the mind plays a key role in building strength in the body, too.
And it’s not just bro-science, either.
By fixing your attention on a single muscle each time you use it, you’re creating a connection between your brain and body.
Bodybuilding.com has a thorough explanation for what this means for your workout. You need to isolate a specific muscle group and then feel it working with each rep. This isn’t about crunching or curling your way through. It’s about concentrating on each muscle as you work it.
The mind and muscle connection begins when the brain releases acetylcholine which tells the muscle to contract. If you can focus on improving the communication between brain and muscle, you’ll release more acetylcholine and activate more muscle fibers which leads to a more effective contraction and a better workout.
It’s one way of increasing your gains.
Why a mind-muscle connection is important
People don’t always realise that there’s more to building muscle than just working the big ones you can name off the top of your head.
The human body has a lot of smaller muscles which support the larger ones you’re targeting. Ignoring these secondary muscles means you’re not working out efficiently. Your results will start slowing down. Isolating secondary muscles mentally and learning how to contract and release them in addition to working the primary muscle will lead to a more effective workout.
Nitrocut.com goes further and says that a brain-body connection is also important in helping to prevent injury. If you’re switching off the attention and just going through the motions, you’re not listening to what your body is telling you and that leaves you more vulnerable to injury.
When we stop going through the motions and engage our brain when we exercise, we’re setting ourselves up for something greater.
How to improve mind-muscle connection?
Bodybuilding.com recommends that you practice flexing and posing, even if you have no interest in professional competitions. You may feel self-conscious but it is one of the best ways of developing a connection between your chest muscles and your brain.
It goes on to suggest, too, that you should slow down your reps so that you can feel each movement in the muscle. This will help you know what each contraction is supposed to feel like and which muscles are working.
You should also focus on the muscle you’re using rather than the weight of what you’re lifting.
You can ask someone you’re working out with (or a trainer) to tap the muscle you’re using. By tapping the specific area, it sends a stronger signal to the brain. In some exercises, you’ll be able to tap your own muscle.
You need to visualise in your mind which muscles you’re working. Many of us just power through or daydream until we’ve hit our target but that won’t help improve the connection between mind and muscle.
You can use machine weights or free-weights to develop a mind-muscle connection but given the current lockdown and the number of people working out from home, we wanted to highlight how a connection can be made even with resistance bands.
Using resistance bands to improve mind-muscle connection
Resistance bands aren’t only good for home-workouts. The control they give throughout the movement (including the release) makes them a powerful addition to anyone one’s gym. Combining resistance bands with the muscle and mind method works because of the level of control needed to use them correctly.
They’re also a great option for anyone suffering from an injury.
If you’re looking for chest exercises, then you can try these with resistance bands to increase your mind-body connection.
Push-ups are simple and effective. Put the band behind the chest and hold it tight with the hands and then do a regular push up. The band will be pulled across the back as you lift giving you a deeper workout.
Concentrate on the muscle you’re using rather than getting stuck into the number of reps you want to complete.
You can try chest presses, too, by fixing the resistance bands to a wall or doorway. Push the bands in front of you and then concentrate on what muscles are stretching in your chest. Focus on that as you increase your reps rather than the number you’re aiming for. Feel where the squeeze is and focus on that.
During the current lockdown it might be difficult to find a spotter to tap the muscle for you, so make sure you’re slowing each rep down and focus your mind on the part of your body you’re moving.
You can also do a chest fly by securing the band behind you and holding onto the end of the band. You can bring the ends together slowly and deliberately to better feel where the squeeze is coming from.
Using a connection between the mind and the muscle can be applied to all elements of strength training. You can use it for lifting machine weights, free weights and resistance bands. You can also do the same if you have a dipping station.
If you’re stuck waiting for the gym to open, or if you’re not sure when you’ll be heading back -- you can buy resistance bands along with free weight sets in the GymHugz store.