Updated: Mar 7, 2022
Want to feel more satisfied during your workouts and see enhanced progress? Learn to master your mind muscle connection first!
You'll hear bodybuilders, influencers and some strength coaches talking about it all the time.
"Lower the weight and really try to FEEL the muscle working."
"It's all about the sensation in the muscles. If you don't feel the muscle working you're doing it wrong."
They're all things that you'll hear other people saying, but might not actually know what they mean in terms of the world of strength training and bodybuilding.
In this post I'm going be breaking down what exactly mind-muscle connection is, why it's important if you want to see real gains and also how you can take advantage of it to maximize your progress in the gym, without doing more work.
Then, we'll get into some common mistakes that you might be making in terms of mind-muscle connection.
Let's get right into it!
What Is Mind Muscle Connection?
Mind-muscle connection is exactly what it sounds like. It's a connection between your mind.
In the most basic terms, it's how well you 'feel' your muscles working during a strength training and muscle building focused exercises such as pull ups, bicep curls, quad extensions, etc.
It's a strength training concept that you'll hear lots of people talking about, and for good reason too (more on why that is in the next section).
Mind-muscle connection actually goes hand in hand with lifting with proper form and technique.
You should always try to lift with proper form, unless you've got a very specific (and good!) reason to be doing otherwise.
If you don't lift with proper form, you're either going to be cutting the range of motion short and making your muscles actually do less work over time, or cheating and bringing in other muscles that aren't supposed to be contributing.
Both of those scenarios are going to draw attention and focus away from your target muscles, and hinder the progress that you see yourself making.
A study conducted by Brad Schoenfeld conducted an experiment where they split 30 strength trainees into two groups of 15, with one of them focusing heavily on feeling the muscles contracting during the exercises, and the other focusing on the outcome (what they would get from the exercise).
Each group trained 3 times a week, for 8 weeks straight.
And after this period, both muscular strength and muscle size changed were recorded via tests and ultrasound.
Shockingly, the group the focused on mind-muscle connection saw an average of 12.4% increase in the size of their elbow flexors, whereas the other group saw only a 6.9% increase in those same muscle groups.
That's almost double the gains, simply for thinking about feeling your muscles doing the work!
And similar results were also seen in the subjects' quadricep size, where the group actively thinking about mind-muscle connection saw significantly more growth.
So now you know it works.
Why Is Mind Muscle Connection Important?
Establishing a good mind-muscle connection is going to help you not only feel more satisfied during and after your workouts, but also see better gains and get more out of the time that you spend doing exercise in the gym.
When we work out with the aims of building more muscle mass on our bodies, the sensation of how the exercises feel really does matter.
If you've been working out consistently for a while now, you'll probably have experienced or noticed that some exercises feel really good to perform and really have you feeling like you're working your muscles well.
And you may notice that other times, you can't really feel your muscles doing the work at all, and instead you just tire out during a set as you progress through it.
If you can really feel the sensation of having your target muscles do the work, you can be sure that you're doing the exercise right and are recruiting the right muscle groups.
Plus, those exercises that have you actually feeling the muscles doing the work are WAY more satisfying to perform right?
And if they feel good, you're going to be more motivated to push yourself harder for those extra reps and drive more muscle growth and hypertrophy.
Keep this up for months and months, or years and years on end and you're going to be much further down the line of progress than you otherwise would be.
Motivation and reasons to train hard are real drivers of progress in the gym!
Who doesn't want to go home after every gym session and feel absolutely great knowing that they torched the muscles they were intending to hit?
A study conducted by Thabo J Van Woudenberg conducted an experiment in adolescents (teenagers), and found that there was a positive relationship between the physical activity they performed, and their happiness levels.
They concluded that: "This study confirms an association between physical activity and happiness in adolescents and shows that in the short-term, physical activity promotes happiness and vice versa."
These results likely indicate that being happier (or more satisfied with your workout) would also lead to increased levels of physical activity, and more intense/effective training.
All of this would then result in quicker, more noticeable progress both in your strength levels and the mirror!
Mistakes With Mind Muscle Connection
As with many things in life, there are common mistakes surrounding mind muscle connection you should know about and try to avoid.
Here I'll briefly explain each one and tell you why it's important to avoid these certain mistakes.
Lowering the Weight Just for a Better Sensation
One of the first and biggest mistakes that I see people making when it comes to mind-muscle connection would have to be simply lowering the weight for no other reason, aside from wanting to feel the muscles working harder.
One of the main mechanisms of muscle growth is mechanical tension, which basically means the amount of weight that you're lifting, or the amount of stress that you're putting your muscles through.
In fact, it's been proven to be the primary driver of muscle growth, and you can learn more about this by clicking on the link above.
This means that you shouldn't lower the weight you're lifting or go down to a ridiculously light weight just so that you can 'feel your muscles working better'.
Instead, lift as much weight as you can with proper form (in your desired rep ranges of course).
And then try and feel the mind-muscle connection with that weight. This is going to lead to the best results.
Thinking Your Workout Isn't Effective If You Don't Feel the Connection
This one sort of ties in with the previous mistake, but it's actually pretty common for people to think that just because they can't actively feel their muscles working, the stuff they're doing isn't going to be effective.
This is not the case at all.
When you lift heavy, it's highly unlikely that you're going to be able to feel too much of a sensation in your muscles.
However it's clear that lifting heavy can and will still build both strength and muscle mass.
You don't necessarily have to be feeling your muscles working hard, because that isn't always going to be easy or practical.
As long as you're working hard and are lifting heavy weights, you're going to see some good progress.
How to Take Advantage of Mind Muscle Connection
To finish off this article I'll leave you with some tips to help you make the most out of your mind-muscle connection and utilize it properly for the best results!
Slow It Down
One of the best and most popular ways to take advantage of mind-muscle connection and make it work for you is to actually slow it down on the eccentric portion of the movement.
By slowing it down and maximizing your time under tension, you're undoubtedly going to feel your muscles working more.
Click the link above to learn more about utilizing scientifically-proven time under tension techniques to see more gains in a shorter amount of time!
Stop Cheating Your Reps
Another effective way to make better use of your mind-muscle connection is to stop cheating your reps, and fix up your form.
If you lift with the incorrect form, you not only risk hurting or injuring yourself, but also not engaging your muscles properly and losing the mind muscle connection.
Like I mentioned earlier in this article, mind-muscle connection and form go hand in hand to create and stimulate efficient muscle growth.
When you lift with the correct form, you're going to take your muscles through the best range of motion possible, and also prevent other muscle groups from taking over and drawing attention away from your target muscles.
For example, during a bicep curl you absolutely want to be lifting with proper form and refrain from cheating.
If you cut your range of motion short, you're not going to be working the biceps as hard as you could be. They're literally going to be doing less work throughout each set.
And if you cheat your reps by swinging your body or swinging your shoulders, then you're going to be engaging other muscle groups that shouldn't be working, and drawing attention away from the biceps.
As you literally make your muscles do more work, you're going to feel them better and make better use of your mind-muscle connection!
The last tip I have for you today in terms of utilizing mind-muscle connection is to remove any distractions you may have that could be hindering your ability to focus and concentrate on the exercise that you're doing.
For example, if you usually work out with friends and like to chat to them during the session, try to politely ask them to wait after your set before chatting with you, so that you can focus on the exercises that you're performing!
Or if you're the type of person that likes to look in the mirror as you work out to really hone n on how you look during your exercise, try and face away from it or look somewhere else as you train.
By looking away and not focusing so much on how your exercise looks, you're likely going to be able to concentrate on working your muscles harder and actually feeling them better.
However if you do need to look in the mirror to keep track of your form, then do that.
You can always revert back to watching the mirror as you train in the future.
But just take a session or two to really figure out how improve the sensation of your workouts!
The concept of mind muscle connection is a slightly more advanced idea that mostly intermediate and advanced athletes should be worrying about.
However it is important that you understand it and know how to make use of it for your own training, so that you can maximize your results and progress in the gym!
Simply follow the steps that I've given you in this article to implement it into your training, and you'll immediately be one step closer to your goals.
Do you focus on YOUR mind muscle connection in the gym?
Let us know down in the comments section below!