Get More Out of Every Workout with a Mind-Muscle Connection
By Dominic Pereira
By now we all know that our brain is in charge of everything our body does and feels. It helps us think, walk, sit, talk, pick up items, etc. So it makes sense that your mind is able to improve the way you work out and help you increase muscle strength; aka having a mind-muscle connection.
What is a Mind-Muscle Connection?
“As you know, movement is controlled by the brain. The first step towards muscular contraction is a signal sent by the brain to your muscles telling them to contract. You might say that the mind-muscle connection (MMC) occurs at something called the “neuromuscular junction”. This is where the mind meets the body. The brain releases a chemical neurotransmitter called “acetylcholine” to communicate with muscles in the body.
When acetylcholine is released at the neuromuscular junction it crosses the “synapses” (the tiny space that separates the nerve from the muscle) where it binds to receptors on the surface of muscle fibers. Voila, muscle contraction.” [sic]
Neuromuscular activation is a well-known term often used by physical therapists when they are helping people with injuries strengthen their mind-muscle connection. According to Wellwood Health, “This brain to muscle connection happens naturally within the neuromuscular system when the nervous system (neural) and the muscular system (muscular) are working together effectively.”
In conclusion, the mind-muscle connection is merely focusing your thoughts on the muscle you are using during your workout whether it’s lifting weights, Yoga, Pilates, etc. to ensure you increase the muscle fibres used; allowing for a better quality workout.
“…almost like ‘flexing’ without actually making any large body movements.”
Alan Snyder, DPT, owner of Breakaway Physical Therapy.
The figure above displays the interaction between nerves and muscle fibres.
Benefits of a Mind-Muscle Connection
- Better form – as you’re focusing on the movement, you’ll reduce your chances of obtaining an injury.
- Enhanced performance – since you are focusing on your form and properly executing the movement, you’ll be more in tune with your body’s ability to either push harder or ease off.
- Great stress relieving method – as you’re focusing on the workout, it can help you forget about things causing you stress (even if it’s just for an hour).
How to Effectively Develop a Mind-Muscle Connection
Here are a few tips and tricks to help develop a mind-muscle connection:
1. Clear Your Mind
In order to fully focus on your workout and your form, you have to try and clear your mind of unrelated thoughts, like your to-do list. This will allow you to fully connect with your body during your chosen workout.
2. Focus on Your Form
According to SkinnyMs., proper form is not just for creating an effective mind-muscle connection; it’s crucial to ensure you reduce the risk of injuring yourself during your workout.
If you’re focusing on the muscle you’re working on, you’ll notice if your form starts slipping or if you’re doing the exercise too quickly to really feel it working.
3. Gain Strength From Inside
According to Sheer Balance, by focusing on the strength you have inside, you’ll start to understand the deeper framework within your body and start correcting its imbalances, misalignments, etc.
“If we can manipulate our bodies with our minds, we can correct misalignments and unhealthy posture, balance muscle groups making sports or daily activities easier, safer, and more enjoyable, and we can remember how to feel the strength of our body and all that it’s capable of doing.”
4. Slow It Down
According to Bodybuilding.com, by performing exercises slower than usual, you’ll be able to concentrate on the movement and which muscles are being contracted. It will help visualise the muscles you are using. And if you’re unsure where certain muscles are, try researching them before your workouts to know where to feel the contraction.
5. Warmup Properly
Important for any type of workout or movement, warming up the body remains essential in order to properly wake up your muscles and ensure they are warm enough for a great workout.
For instance, if your focus is on your legs for a specific workout, doing small, unweighted squats, hip bridges, etc. beforehand will get them warmed up, allowing you to know exactly which muscles are working during your exercises.
6. Eccentric Exercises
According to My Fitness Pal, performing eccentric exercises will ensure your muscles are properly stretched before contracting. Eccentric contraction is when you slowly lower yourself or weights to really help you focus on the movement and ensure your muscles are working optimally.
The bottom line? There are immense benefits when slowing down and focusing your mind on your movements. You’ll be able to increase strength without having to start using heavy weights or additional equipment.
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