How many times have you gone to the gym and watched some of the gym-goers you see on a regular basis go about their mundane routine with mindless movements as they lift weights and perform strength training workouts while checking email on their phones, watching the TV screens or even chatting with other friends? With these individuals, there seems to be absolutely no attention placed on the actual technique of lifting the weights up and down while feeling the muscles contract on each and every repetition. These people seem to do the exact same routines for each body part every single month without even contemplating the need to change things up and mix in some new and interesting exercises and training techniques. They end up getting bored as each training session goes by and everything gets stale and worn out which results in zero progress in their attempts to build muscle and burn fat.
It is a positive thing that they are getting into the gym to train but without a bit more thought to their workout regimen, the stimulation of working out just dies off. Results also tend to plateau quickly in this situation which is a motivation killer and many times this lack of desire spirals down into eventually quitting the gym and falling back into unhealthy habits which results in weight gain. Seeing results is one of the key indicators of success and when someone doesn’t get any “payback” for all of their hard work then this lack of progress makes them not want to put in the effort.
Having attention to detail with certain things like following strict technique and form, repetition speed and the overall volume and load being used on each exercise goes a long way for reaching success in the gym. Paying close attention to actually “feeling” the load being placed on your muscles in both directions (concentric and eccentric) is one of main areas lacking with many regular gym-goers. This is what many bodybuilders call the “mind muscle connection” and it’s a very important training technique that champions like Arnold Schwarzenegger used to build world-class physiques. Having a strict mind muscle connection where you place laser-focused attention and awareness on every single repetition is the key to getting the most out of your workouts.
One area where many people make a mistake is the overall load being lifted. If you use too much weight and slack on your form, you will lose the “feel” of the movement simply because you want to get the weight up which usually results in using momentum to lift the weight while taking the tension off your muscles. This is very apparent when you notice someone wildly swinging dumbbells while they do bicep curls. The weight they are using is simply too heavy for them and they end up getting “sloppy” with their form which takes a lot of the attention off the actual muscles being trained. If you ever find yourself in this position, simply decrease the load and choose a weight that you can perform for the specific exercise with very slow and controlled repetitions while using strict technique.
The overall load you use for each exercise along with the repetition range can’t be emphasized enough. You don’t want to lift more than the percentage you need toward the goals you are seeking. Very low reps in the range of 3 to 5 per set are not ideal for building muscle (hypertrophy) and are mostly used when the goal is to increase pure strength. For hypertrophy training, focus on 8-12 repetitions per set for the best range to stimulate muscle growth. It’s important to understand the real science behind training and not just what your ego tries to tell you when you’re in the gym and you notice others lifting heavier weights than you are.
Take the time during each set to really think and feel how the exercise is working while you’re lifting the weight. If the movement doesn’t feel good then move onto a different exercise until you find one that you can actually feel for that specific muscle group. There are many pro bodybuilders who will not perform popular exercises because they don’t get a good “burn” or muscle stimulation, even through others swear by those exercises for attaining gains. This is the true definition of using the mind muscle connection when you’re training and following this concept will go a long way for developing an effective workout routine that works best for you.
So, the next time you’re in the gym ask yourself if you can really feel the exercise, from the time you start your first repetition to the end of the last rep. Are you feeling the stimulation in the target muscle group while pulling or pushing the weight? Are you focusing on strict technique and tempo? These are crucial elements to focus on while you’re working out and they are critical to achieve the physique goals you’re after!
A great tip for implementing the mind muscle connection is to closely watch yourself in the mirror as you perform the exercises in order to be aware of your form, speed and range of motion. Awareness is the key so try including these tips in all of your workouts so you can reap the rewards and keep progressing to reach your fitness goals!