There are several variables to keep in mind during a workout. We have the weight, the series, the repetitions, the speed of movement, the technique, the cadence and, among others, the mind muscle connection. We understand by mind muscle connection the fact of concentrating on the muscle that we are working at that moment. For example, when doing bicep curls a good mind muscle connection would be the fact of thinking about your biceps as it contracts in order to feel the contraction to the maximum.
In theory, this simple fact of thinking about the muscle you work with could improve the results, but is this really the case?
MUSCLE NEURO CONNECTION
Well, strange as it may seem, it has been proven in several studies that focusing on a muscle can increase the involvement and activity of this muscle during exercise. For example, in this study we saw how the activation of the triceps and the chest changed when doing a bench press when the user concentrated on one muscle or the other. The same results were seen in this other study when doing upper chest pulley pulls. In this case, when individuals focused on their lats, the work of this muscle group increased.
But not everything are advantages. In both studies the weight used during the measurements was relatively low (less than 60% of the maximum repetition of each individual) which makes it possible to do the exercise and focus on the muscle since weight is not a problem, but if we work with high loads, the results are not the same. In this study, in which several weights were used, it was found that as the weight was increased, the activation effect caused by the mind muscle connection was disappearing. When the load went from 50% of a maximum repetition to 80%, the activation difference decreased by 13%. Above 85% of the maximum load was checked as the individual’s force output decreased.
WHEN TO CONCENTRATE ON THE MOVEMENT
From the conclusions drawn in the studies it is a good idea to work the mind muscle connection especially when we are working with relatively low weights. If your goal is to gain muscle mass working on this connection could result in increased hypertrophy. But, if your goal is to gain strength and increase your performance and for this you use high charges you must forget this connection. Your goal should only be to lift the weight you have in the bar and nothing else. Any “distraction” beyond completing the movement will impair your strength and ability to move it.
IMPROVE THE MUSCLE NEURO CONNECTION
This is important because not everyone is able to feel the muscle that is working in each exercise, but there are small tricks and tips that will help you with this connection:
It is essential to know what muscle you are working and although it sounds obvious, this is something that does not happen with exercises like the biceps curl, but with exercises like deadlifts. This is why it costs us less to feel this connection with isolated exercises than with multi-joint exercises.
If you can not feel that activation try touching the muscle. The simple act of placing a finger and squeezing a bit in the area that you are working on will make your mind automatically go to this point of the body. Lower the weights and do more repetitions. As we saw in studies with low weights, it is easier to feel this connection and it is also when more results will be given to us. And finally, the mind muscle connection works. Like everything, the more you practice it the more you will feel it and the easier it will be to locate those muscles in each exercise. In the end this is like riding a bike. When you start noticing the muscle then it is very simple.