Most strength athletes strive to build as much muscle mass as possible. You may try many different approaches and methods during your training career, always searching for maximum hypertrophy. In the process, you will inevitably reach your limits.
But how do you increase muscle growth when plateaus can no longer be easily broken through? The mind-muscle connection comes into play here. You will learn what this term means and why it is crucial for your success in this article!
- Improved muscle feeling
- New stimulus
- Remedy weaknesses and asymmetries
- Variable applicability for all strength athletes
What does mind-muscle connection mean?
The mind-muscle connection is about actively feeling the muscle and better perceiving and internalizing the feeling of muscle contraction and movement.
The stimulus here is not achieved by moving the heaviest possible weight. Rather, the mind-muscle connection is intended to offer strength athletes the advantage of better targeting their own muscles and thus isolating individual muscles. Therefore, you not only hit the muscle better but also focus more on control and stimulation.
No progressive overload
In contrast to many equally effective training systems, the main focus here is not on hypertrophy through progressive overload, so you are not forced to increase your performance in training from week to week.
Of course, a well-designed volume of repetitions and weight sets an excellent stimulus for muscle growth, especially at the beginning. However, you should not always think only about the weight and the reps. This is where balance matters. Not every workout needs to be targeted at using more weight or doing more reps.
The mind-muscle connection is all about feeling the target muscle. The focus here is on the body and the movement sequence. Here you concentrate on the internal focus.
Internal focus and external focus
The internal focus is the concentration on one's own body. Here, the muscle feeling, and the targeted control of the responsible musculature, in combination with the necessary movement sequences, are in the foreground.
The external focus, on the other hand, emphasizes the environment. In the case of the squat, for example, this concerns the platform, the cage, and the weight.
With the mind-muscle connection, the focus of attention is thus placed on the contraction of the muscles. A better concentration on this is accompanied by greater activation of the muscle cells. You then set a more efficient stimulus, and a more efficient stimulus leads to more muscle growth.
Try to focus on each repetition in a set and always perform them the same way.
Mind-muscle connection in detail: motor units
The first thing to understand is how the movement of our muscles takes place. Two muscles always work antagonistically to each other. Let's take the biceps and the triceps as an example.
Both act antagonistically to each other. The biceps performs a flexing motion, while the triceps performs a stretching motion. The contraction of one muscle leads to the stretching of the other.
Here, the movement is coordinated and controlled by our brain. The motor neuron (nerve cell of the central nervous system) and all activated muscle fibers form the motor unit.
The mind-muscle connection favors the activation of more motor units. A higher level of motor units improves muscle regulation and control. This is also referred to as the recruitment of motor units.
The advantage for you here is that you focus completely on the target muscles. The concentration is on the activation of the muscle and the movement process.
This places less strain on the auxiliary muscles. This relief shows that a higher effort is needed to perform the movement. The internal focus here ensures improved concentration, and the muscle feeling is improved and strengthened.
The benefits of the mind-muscle connection
A good mind-muscle connection offers various advantages that are important for your success in the gym. First, it improves muscle feeling and the coordination of individual movement sequences. You learn to control your muscles even better and gain more control.
You probably know the problem of the notorious asymmetries. For example, the right arm is 1.5 cm larger than the left. With a good mind-muscle connection, you can counteract these imbalances.
You focus on the smaller arm during the workout and work on it in a concentrated way. You can better isolate the smaller arm and load it with special attention through a better muscle feeling. This way, you'll create a greater stimulus and stimulate muscle growth.
If there is a dysbalance, train the muscle unilaterally. This way, you isolate it even better!
Each of us has our weak points. Some quickly develop a broad latissimus, while others are blessed with strong quadriceps. Although much of this can be attributed to genetics, it is not only genes that determine the expression of a particular muscle group.
Rather, training plays an important role here. In particular, a strong mind-muscle connection can help you improve the stimulation of the target muscle. By recruiting many motor units, you increase the contraction and activation of muscle fibers.
This way, you can actively work on your weak points and isolate them accordingly. You set the necessary stimulus here that you were lacking before.
How do I optimize my mind-muscle connection?
First of all, a good mind-muscle connection requires one thing above all: practice. You should take the time in your workout to focus completely on the movement for one to two sets. Less weight is fine here.
Strengthen your internal focus. In this case, the activation of the target muscle is what counts. You can go through the sequence again in your head before the actual execution. Concentrate on the movement and the muscles responsible for it.
It can also help if you watch yourself in the mirror during the exercise. This makes it easier for you to learn the movement patterns and visualize the process better because you see that your target muscles are actively working.
Feel your target muscles. Concentrate on feeling the activated muscle and internalize the movements.
Use the isometric contraction of your muscles. This means that you tighten the muscle during an exercise but do not move it for a certain moment. Let's take the Bench Press as an example.
Release the weight in a controlled manner and hold it at the lowest point of your execution for a certain moment before pushing it up again. You will feel your chest muscles working much more intensely during this time.
In addition, you also achieve an additional stimulus through the isometric contraction. This stimulus can increase further depending on the duration of the contraction. This way, hypertrophy can also be increased.
To further optimize your mind-muscle connection, you can use the exercise evaluations in our Alpha Progression app. Here you'll find a wide repertoire of effective exercises that can work your target muscles.
Focusing on building a strong mind-muscle connection is worthwhile for strength athletes of all ages. Beginners will learn how to target their muscles better and faster, and advanced athletes will be able to target their weak points and asymmetries.
Furthermore, this is a good alternative to the principle of progressive overload. Both approaches can also be combined well in a workout and thus allow more variations to generate new stimuli.
All in all, it pays for you to engage with your mind-muscle connection during your workouts.
Of course, this development process takes some practice, but if you can accelerate your muscle growth this way and work on your weak points, you will have more success in the long run.