Muscle and Mind Connection
Your Guide to the Muscle and Mind Connection
What is it, and how can you get started?
Are the Rumors True?
Your favorite bodybuilder has been tweeting about it all week. Your fitness coach casually mentioned it in passing this morning. Your gym buddies have been talking about it constantly. The muscle and mind connection has certainly become a hot topic in the fitness and bodybuilding world. However, for many, it’s a new concept that needs to be learned and understood.
In a nutshell, the muscle and mind connection is pretty similar to what it sounds like. Essentially, it’s the concept of harnessing the potent strength of your own brain, and using it to enhance your physical abilities. More specifically, the MMC theory involves focusing specifically on a certain body part or muscle while undergoing training. According to enthusiasts of the technique, thinking about a specific part of the body while lifting or training can activate the targeted muscle, allowing it to be more receptive to the exercise.
It’s an appealing theory, and it does make sense. But is it actually true in practice? As it turns out, the answer could very well be a yes. According to research done by Brad Schoenfeld and Bret Contreras, a pair of Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists, there is quite a bit of validity to the supposed power of Mind and Muscle Connection.
When Schoenfeld and Contreras conducted their research, they found that, especially when lifting lighter loads, it was indeed possible to use your mind to “increase activation of the target muscle.”
The Power of a Focused Mind
Most fitness centers are bustling and busy places. That’s part of why so many people chose to join one instead of working out at home. It’s energizing, social, and inspiring to work out amongst your peers. However, it can be distracting— and focus is key for the Mind and Muscle Connection. From overhearing the strains of an enticing looking class, or the laughter of a few gym friends catching up after a session, to the lure of whatever soap opera is playing on the overhead television sets, there are plenty of ways to get distracted while training.
If you’re ready to try your hand (and muscles) on the MMC theory, it’s entirely possible to accomplish at a buzzing gym or fitness center. As we’ve learned more about the power of the Muscle and Mind Connection, we’ve come up with a few helpful hints for staying focused, even when it feels practically impossible:
- Good Vibrations: Om’s the Word
There’s a reason that humans have been using mantras (like the famous “om”) for centuries to focus their minds, spirits, and bodies. Chanting “om” has a long spiritual history in the Hindu tradition, and is often used in yoga practice. However, it can be used in plenty of other situations, including weight training. In fact, it can be a powerful tool in harnessing the power of the Mind and Muscle connection.
When you chant “om,” you will begin to feel a physical vibration in your chest and throat. These vibrations are thought to produce a deep sense of focus. Really, it’s a very similar concept to that of MMC, but it’s been flipped and reversed.
- Repeat, Repeat
The less thought you need to put into the logistics of your routine, the easier it will be to keep your mind focused on one particular muscle. After all, how can you expect to fully concentrate if you have a million concerns swirling around your brain?
A helpful way to ditch some of the background noise is to get into such a solid workout routine that you don’t even need to think twice about what comes next. You’ll just let your muscle memory do the work— it’s a symbiotic relationship, really.
- Just Keep on Breathing
Let’s try something, just while you’re sitting and reading this. Take a moment to breathe properly. Take in a big steady breath through your nose, as deeply as you can. Hold it for a moment, and then breathe out, slowly and deliberately, through your mouth. Repeat that process for a full minute.
Do you feel a bit steadier than you did before? Calmer? More focused?
When you truly focus on your breathing, you are giving your body a special gift. Concentrated breathing is a great way to soothe a scattered mind— it increases focus and calms the body; it can release tension and relax your muscles, hence making them more receptive to the powers of MMC.
- Sound it Out
Grab your favorite pair of sweat-proof headphones, because it’s time to let the power of sound enhance your workout. Whether you choose a specialized workout meditation track, utilize a focus-based binaural beat, or enjoy your favorite chilled out songs, you’ll be able to unplug from your surroundings and fall deeper into a sense of concentration.
Slow and Steady Wins in the Long Run
Your physical training routine is a personal journey, not a race. There is absolutely no reason to rush your fitness process, and that applies even more so when you are practicing the Muscle and Mind Connection theory.
As you develop your relationship with MMC, you will likely find that the more intentional and slow your actions are, the easier it is for you to connect your internal movements and thoughts with your physical ones.
This may not be what you’re used to. If you need help slowing down, it can be helpful to take advantage of the following tips:
- Take Time to Flex
Between sets, it’s helpful to actually flex the muscle that you’re working with. By doing this, you’re increasing blood flow to your muscles, allowing them to pump up to their fullest ability. Once they’ve been pumped up, they are thought to be more receptive to the focused, targeted MMC thinking you’re engaging in.
- Don’t Forget to Press the Reset Button
When you’re lifting, there’s no reason to tear through your reps. In fact, we would advise against that. Instead, take a break between each of your sets. Not only is it easier on your body, it gives your brain a much-deserved chance to reconfigure and take a break before buckling down to focus on your next set. Likely, you’ll find that taking a breather between your hard work encourages you to actually continue with the intense mental activity that you’ve been engaging in, instead of letting your concentration levels taper away.
- Stop and Take a Pause
This is a great tip for those training with lighter weights. As you work with your weights, try to take 4-5 seconds for each movement. Finally, when you hit your max contraction point, give your pose a pause. You’ll certainly feel it— and so will your growing muscles.
Rethink Your Loftier Goals…and Aim for Attainable Victories
For many lifters, fitness enthusiasts, and athletes, one of the most appealing elements of the Muscle and Mind Connection is its ability to hone in on specific targets and goals, and how it helps to reach them.
Look, we’re all for dreaming big and working towards hefty goals. However, it’s important to be realistic about the expectations you’re giving yourself. Having an ultimate goal is great, but it will be a smart idea to break your process down into smaller, more attainable targets.
When it comes to fitness, weight training, and bodybuilding, many people walk into the gym with a specific long term result in mind. Maybe your goal is to lose 50 pounds. Maybe it’s to easily lift 150. Perhaps you want a perfect six-pack or bulging pectoral muscles. That all depends on your personal needs— but the truth is, those specific goals are not actually what matters. It’s also going to be different for every person.
No matter what your goal may be, by breaking it down into manageable and accomplishable victories, you are more able to achieve them in a successful and healthy manner.
If you’ve never broken down a set of goals before, it might seem like an overwhelming process. However, it not only can be very clarifying and a helpful way to work on achieving your targets, but also it can be fun.
- Brainstorm Time!
This logic can be applied to anything in your life, from finishing a massive project for school or work to learning a new skill, like an instrument or a language. No matter what the final goal may be, that’s for the finish line. Before you can hit that, you need to start brainstorming some “milestones” to hit.
What do you think you could realistically accomplish with one week’s work? One month? One year? Map it out and be honest with yourself—there’s no point of setting unrealistic milestones, as they won’t do anything to deliver you to your final target.
When it comes to fitness goals, this can be done in quite a few ways. Start thinking of small ways to work up to your big goal. So, if that means lifting twice as much as you currently can, try working up a few extra pounds every week— and keep track of them. If your goal is shedding a few extra pounds off your own figure, give yourself a weekly weigh-in, with a small goal to hit each time. It’s important not to beat yourself up if you don’t hit your weekly goals every time— that’s why you’ve broken it into smaller pieces. Try again next week. Don’t give up— that’s never going to bring you to the finish.
- Set Performance-Based Goals, Not Result-Driven Ones
As the old adage says, “if you give a man fish, he’ll eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat fish for the rest of his life.” There are plenty of ways to quickly build muscle or lose weight, but these techniques aren’t always very long lasting. It’s far wiser to hone a performance skill that can bring you to a long-term fitness goal, rather than just trying to find a quick fix.
Utilizing the Muscle and Mind Connection technique is a great way to put this concept into practice. By giving individual muscles special attention in each training session you undertake, you are honing your individual performance— not just trying to accomplish a “big picture” goal. In turn, you’ll be developing tools and strength that can and will bring you across the finish line to your final goal.
- Ask an Expert
When it comes to your body, it’s best not to take any chances. If you have a question about the best way to strengthen your body, whether it’s through the Muscle and Mind Connection, or another fitness technique that speaks to you, it’s a good idea to speak with a professional. After all, they’re the experts.
In bustling Boise, there’s no better place to meet your fitness goals and hone your Muscle and Mind Connection than here at Jack City Fitness. By signing up for one of our exclusive partnerships, you are joining a special group of like-minded individuals who want to feel their best in a supportive and inspiring environment.
Jack City Fitness partners are invited to have full access to our sparkling, modern gym facility—24 hours a day! That’s right; with us, your workout can revolve around your busy life— not the other way around. But that’s certainly not all. We offer a large selection of group workout classes, one-on-one training sessions, nutritional counseling, and even online coursesfor when you’re on the go. Best of all, we offer a complimentary fitness consultationsession to every new partner. It helps us to determine your health and fitness goals, and help you achieve them in a way that works for you, your unique lifestyle and body.
Are you ready to let your mind and body work to their fullest potential? Allow us to help make your goals a fully attainable reality! Get in touch with our team at Jack City Fitness today, and we’ll ensure that your muscles and mind are in tip-top condition. We can’t wait to show you everything we have to offer!