The mind muscle connection is one of those things I wish I had known more about when I was younger. For years I ignored, and even fought against, this idea thinking it was some trivial detail that only bodybuilders cared anything about. Now I consider the mind muscle connection one of the most important aspects of training. Ignoring it all those years was a massive mistake on my part.
Why Is The Mind-Muscle Connection So Important?
Here in the west, the idea that mind and body are connected is sometimes a rather new concept. You often don’t hear much about joining the body and mind outside of disciplines like Yoga or martial arts. If anything, our western fitness culture is often filled with the idea that the mind is the home of evil and lazy thoughts that can potentially steer you down paths you don’t want to go. We often hear things like how we are our own worst enemy or that we have to get out of our own way in order to get results.
While there are some bad ideas and thoughts that can set you back, the idea of needing to fight the mind and keep it separate from the body is a very detrimental concept. You simply cannot achieve success without having a strong mindset which can then translate to better physical action. Not only are the body and mind connected, but in some circles they are even considered one and the same. Body is mind and mind is body.
You can see a good example of this through simple anatomy. The mind, or your brain, is connected to your spinal cord which then branches out into your peripheral nervous system through all of the nerves in your body. These nerves are then attached to your very muscles which respond to the signals they receive directly from your brain. In light of this, we can see how muscle is always behaving in response to the instructions issued by the mind. If there is some sort of injury or disruption of the signal from the mind then the effects on the muscle are very much diminished. The muscle simply cannot function. Everything it does or doesn’t do depends on the instructions it receives from your mind.
Every form of training is about teaching your mind to operate your muscles. While we may think of exercise as a form of physical training, it’s actually a very mental discipline. It’s the mental practice to getting the mind to use your muscles in a progressive and more productive way. Training therefore is about training the mind to use the body.
So in the end, everything you want to accomplish in your training comes down to how you use your muscles and everything about using your muscles comes down to how your mind relates to and can use them. Muscle is really simple, it does whatever your mind tells it to do. It’s training the mind that’s the hard part.
There is a simple trick I use before every exercise I do in the gym to improve the mind-muscle connection. The first thing to do is to get your body in the optimal position for that exercise. In the case of doing a push-up this would involve laying on the floor and placing your hands, elbows, shoulders, feet and head just where you want them to be.
Once you’re in the perfect position you tense up all of the muscles you want to engage in your push-up. This might include your chest, shoulders, triceps, quads and abs. This is an important step because most folks usually tense up their muscle reactivity to the resistance of the exercise. When this happens, the muscles tense up in a much less controlled and random pattern. Maybe the shoulders tense more than the chest. Maybe the triceps are hardly in the picture at all. Maybe there’s not enough tension in the abs so the body sags. By actively tensing the muscles you can control where the tension is in your body much more easily.
The last step is to then apply the resistance of the exercise. So for push-ups this means pushing slightly off the floor so gravity is pulling down on the whole body. When this happens the tension of the exercise already flows through the muscles in much the same way you wanted before applying the resistance. This way you can work the muscles you want to work as you would like to work them throughout the set.
Give this 3-step setup process a try in your next few workouts. I promise you’ll start to feel a much stronger mind-muscle connection within a week or two. Your muscles will contract much harder and you’ll have far more control in where the tension is in your body. You’ll be able to bring up lagging muscle groups and you’ll also enhance your best physical features. Not to mention you’ll also gain a heck of a lot more strength and control over everything you do.