“The Mind-Muscle Connection” refers to a well-known concept in the world of weight training. Of course, in relation to my blog it has multiple meanings. Yet, I find it necessary to elucidate the concept vis-à-vis bodybuilding, to make a claim for bodybuilding’s (and thus the body’s) inherent connection to the mind.
Any bodybuilder will tell you about the importance of the mind-muscle connection. It is a mental connection to, of focus on, a particular muscle or muscle group. The mind-muscle connection allows for a better contraction, and thus a better workout and better results. For many advanced weight trainers it is an absolutely necessity for progress.
The gym is full of demonstrations on how to perform exercises incorrectly. Often this is due to the fact that people are simply going through the motions of the exercise without isolating and concentrating on properly contracting the muscle being trained. Typically people heave weights by over-incorporating secondary muscle groups or simply using momentum. The successful bodybuilder knows that this is normally not an efficacious method for growth.
The mind-muscle connection allows for more effective weight training. Here is an example using a common exercise – the bench press:
In performing the bench press the primary muscle group involved is the chest and the secondary muscle groups include the shoulders and triceps. Certainly technique plays a major role in proper weight training. However, while performing the bench press, I will concentrate on my chest, picture it working in my mind, and focus on its contraction to ensure that I am driving with my chest, while also consciously ‘relaxing’ my secondary muscle groups, thus forcing my chest to handle the majority of the work. The contraction itself is just as though I were flexing the muscle without any weight, squeezing the contraction on the positive movement of the repetition.
The ability to acquire and maintain the mind-muscle connection takes awhile. One must actively learn to make the connection, as well as practice cognitive control to focus exclusively on maintain that connection. Furthermore, establishing a mind-muscle connection is easier with some muscle groups than with others. I find that this has to do with the visual. Back, for example, is typically the most difficult because we simply do not see our backs as much, and if we do it is in a much different way. What I mean is, usually we have to strain to see it, and then only get a partial view. There is a visual lack. Because I feel that the mind-muslce connection has, in part, something to do with our ability to picture the muscle working, certain muscle groups, like back and hamstrings, are difficult to ‘connect’ to.
Lifting weights makes it difficult to maintain the mind-muscle connection, as the mind and body become fatigued throughout the set as well as the workout. The muscles become filled with blood, causing an intense pump. Pain sets in as the muscles fatigue. There are things happening all around – engaging the senses, particularly the visual and auditory. All of this is mentally distracting, allowing the mind-muscle connection to be more easily severed, thus demanding a more refined cognitive state.
It took me years to ‘learn’ the mind-muscle connection. Furthermore, over time my ability to obtain and maintain the connection, as well as achieve a stronger connection, has improved. It would also make sense that I could, and will, continue to ameliorate my mind-muscle connection. The mind should be strengthened and grow with the body. Moreover, it seems to me that training the mind in this way increases general cognitive abilities regarding focus and concentration.
The mind-muscle connection is a great example of the interconnectedness of the mind and body. With it, bodybuilders train both mental and physical strength and endurance, thus improving both mental and physical health and/or performance.