Muscle-Mind Connection: Use It To Unlock Beast Mode
Hitting a wall with your workouts? The muscle-mind connection might just be your new best friend. If you haven't yet explored how to train your mind in order to help you achieve peak performance at the gym, now's your chance!
So what exactly are we talking about when we say the muscle-mind connection? New research suggests that an internal strategy of mentally focusing on the muscle you're training can actually increase activation of it. It doesn't appear to be as effective when you're training at a very high intensity, but it's still a good reminder that at the end of the day, concentrating more on what you're doing will help keep your focusâ€¦ focused!
Grow your muscle-mind connection with two simple tips.
1. Center yourself.
This tip is straight out of the meditation playbook. Even before you begin your workout, take the time to center yourself with your breaths. Start by breathing in for six seconds. Hold the breath for two more, then breathe out for another seven. Biologically speaking, this helps control your heart rate. But it also helps you build your internal focus and block out unwanted external stimulations.
2. Focus on improving the little things.
When it comes down to it, the muscle-mind connection is ALL about focus. To bring it down to a manageable level, add a small goal to focus on throughout your entire workout. These can take one of two forms: skill-oriented or performance-oriented.
Consider the importance of keeping a neutral spine during deadlifting. It's crucial to displaying and maintaining proper form, yet so simple that you may not even realize you aren't holding your spine quite right. Instead of focusing completely on the movement of the deadlift, zero in your focus on keeping the spine neutral. Keep the focus on your spine until you have completely integrated it into the movement. This way, not only are you deepening the muscle-mind connection, but you're also improving your deadlifting ability/form in the long run.
Once you've mastered that small focus, move on to the next potential weakness you've identified in your workout.
By performance-oriented, we're simply referring to the amount of reps you're aiming to hit within your workout. Focusing on an appropriate exercise â€“ as well as an appropriate rep range â€“ is vital to building your performance goals. An appropriate exercise is one that does not seriously tax your nervous system â€“ so the deadlifting from our previous example is not a good fit here â€“ but also one that you've mastered.
Bodyweight chin-ups, on the other hand, are not nearly as neurologically taxing. But if you try to add 100 of them to your routine, you'll more than likely be going overboard. 40-60, on the other hand, is much more reasonable, while still providing a challenge.
The trick is then to hit your goal gradually throughout the course of your training session. Perform the chin-ups between other exercises, with a manageable goal of something like 10-12 reps in 4-5 sets.
Focusing on reaching the goal gradually throughout your workout helps to center your mind on the specific task. You're adding to the total mass of your training, but you're also helping block out mental interference, as well.
Fitness encompasses more than just your body. If you find yourself getting distracted at the gym, the mind-muscle connection is one way to help get yourself back on track. Now that you have some tips on how to utilize it, hit the weights with your honed mind and prepare for ultimate success!
As always, nutrition is key. Make the most of the muscle-mind connection by ensuring that your body is always properly fueled. Find your preferred diet in our How to Meal Prep guides and your preferred meal management bag among our many styles, including gym totes, gym backpacks, and sports duffle bags!