Mind Muscle Connection Summary
- The mind muscle connection involves consciously engaging and activating specific muscles during exercise. Research suggests that a strong mind muscle connection can enhance muscle activation, potentially leading to greater muscle growth.
- A recent study found that muscle growth was similar between muscle groups despite one group having higher muscle activation and also “feeling” the exercise more.
- When training to failure, it may not make a difference if you are actively focusing on a muscle group or not.
Does Focusing on Muscle Contractions Increase Muscle Hypertrophy?
The Mind Muscle Connection is a widely accepted concept in the bodybuilding and fitness world. It refers to the conscious and deliberate focus on the muscle being worked during exercise, with the belief that this mental focus enhances muscle growth. (Schoenfeld & Contreras, 2016) But is it rooted in scientific fact or just another gym myth? A recent scientific study has begun to challenge this traditional belief. This article aims to explore the validity of the mind muscle connection with respect to a recent study.
What is Mind Muscle Connection?
The mind muscle connection involves consciously engaging and activating specific muscles during exercise. Research suggests that a strong mind muscle connection can enhance muscle activation, potentially leading to greater muscle growth. Techniques such as visualization, focusing on muscle contraction, and performing slow, controlled movements can help improve this connection. Developing a mind muscle connection can also improve exercise technique, reduce the risk of injury, and enhance overall training effectiveness.
Benefits of the Mind Muscle Connection for Beginners
- Increased Muscle Activation: Focusing on the muscle being worked can lead to increased muscle activation, which can ultimately result in better muscle mass and strength gains.
- Enhanced Muscle Contraction: Exercises like the preacher curl or overhead triceps extension allow for a more intense muscle contraction because of the isolation and focus on the muscle groups in the upper arm.
- Improved Workout Efficiency: By focusing on the muscle being worked, you can achieve better results in a shorter time.
Mind Muscle Connection and Muscle Activation for Bodybuilders
Research has shown that the mind-muscle connection can increase muscle activation during exercise. For instance, when subjects were instructed to focus on their chest muscles during pushups, there was a 9% increase in muscle activation compared to those who were just told to perform pushups.(Calatayud et al., 2017)
The mind muscle connection is particularly effective for increasing muscle activation, especially during low-intensity exercises, with one study showing an increase in muscle activity by 17.6% at around 30% of a one-repetition maximum (1RM). However, the effectiveness of the mind-muscle connection decreases as the intensity of the exercise increases. At higher intensities, such as 80% of a 1RM, there was less muscle activation despite the focus on the muscle. (Calatayud et al., 2016; Snyder & Leech, 2009)
The mind-muscle connection is more effective with single-joint exercises, such as bicep curls or triceps extensions, and less effective with heavy-weight training or fast, explosive movements. (Calatayud et al., 2018) This suggests that the mind-muscle connection may be a useful tool during periods of lightweight training for those looking to build muscle but less so during periods of heavy-weight training.
Interestingly, one study found that muscle activation was greater when individuals focused on squeezing the muscle themselves rather than being verbally instructed to do so. (Fujita et al., 2020) This suggests that the effectiveness of the mind-muscle connection may be enhanced by personal focus and intention.
Can Focusing on the Mind-Muscle Connection Enhance Muscle Growth?
A controversial study was published on hip thrust vs. squats for glute hypertrophy. The study found no differences in muscle growth between the two groups, but if you dive into the study, there were some very interesting findings. Subjects were instructed to complete the exercise for muscular failure.
-The subjects “felt” their glutes working harder during the hip thrust, yet muscle growth was similar for the squat, despite the subjects feeling their muscles work harder.
– EMG or muscle activation was greater during the hip thrust, yet muscle growth was the same.
Interestingly, the study found that despite differences in perceived muscle engagement, muscle growth was similar across both the hip thrust and squat groups. This was true even when participants reported “feeling the muscle contract” more in the hip thrust. The results of these studies suggest that the mind-muscle connection theory may have limitations. While the mind-muscle connection is not entirely dismissed, it appears that other factors, such as training to failure, may play a more significant role in muscle growth.
In conclusion, while the mind-muscle connection remains a popular concept in fitness and bodybuilding, recent scientific research suggests that it may not be the key determinant of muscle growth. Further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms of muscle growth.
Calatayud, J., Vinstrup, J., Jakobsen, M. D., Sundstrup, E., Brandt, M., Jay, K., Colado, J. C., & Andersen, L. L. (2016). Importance of mind-muscle connection during progressive resistance training. Eur J Appl Physiol, 116(3), 527-533. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-015-3305-7
Calatayud, J., Vinstrup, J., Jakobsen, M. D., Sundstrup, E., Colado, J. C., & Andersen, L. L. (2017). Mind-muscle connection training principle: influence of muscle strength and training experience during a pushing movement. Eur J Appl Physiol, 117(7), 1445-1452. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-017-3637-6
Calatayud, J., Vinstrup, J., Jakobsen, M. D., Sundstrup, E., Colado, J. C., & Andersen, L. L. (2018). Influence of different attentional focus on EMG amplitude and contraction duration during the bench press at different speeds. J Sports Sci, 36(10), 1162-1166. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2017.1363403
Fujita, R. A., Silva, N. R. S., Bedo, B. L. S., Santiago, P. R. P., Gentil, P. R. V., & Gomes, M. M. (2020). Mind-Muscle Connection: Limited Effect of Verbal Instructions on Muscle Activity in a Seated Row Exercise. Percept Mot Skills, 127(5), 925-938. https://doi.org/10.1177/0031512520926369
Schoenfeld, B. J., & Contreras, B. (2016). Attentional Focus for Maximizing Muscle Development: The Mind-Muscle Connection. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 38(1), 27-29. https://doi.org/10.1519/ssc.0000000000000190
Snyder, B. J., & Leech, J. R. (2009). Voluntary increase in latissimus dorsi muscle activity during the lat pull-down following expert instruction. J Strength Cond Res, 23(8), 2204-2209. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181bb7213
The mind-muscle connection (MMC) is a concept that has been gaining traction in the world of strength training. It refers to the conscious, intentional contraction of muscles during physical activity, with the aim of maximizing muscle work and growth.
Developers in Japan introduced Blood Flow Restriction Training (BFR) in the 1960s, commonly referring to it as KAATSU training. This training method requires users to apply a pneumatic cuff (tourniquet) close to the targeted muscle.
Take biceps curls, for example. A beginner might simply lift the weight, focusing on the movement of the arm. However, a bodybuilder with a better mind-muscle connection would focus on the contraction and relaxation of the biceps muscle itself. They would pay close attention to both the exercise’s concentric (lifting) and eccentric (lowering) phases, ensuring that the muscle is engaged throughout the entire movement.
This concept is not limited to single-joint exercises like biceps curls or leg extensions. It can also be applied to compound lifts, such as squats or bench presses. For instance, during a bench press, one could focus on the contraction of the pectoral muscles, rather than simply pushing the weight up. This could lead to a more effective workout, as the right muscles are being worked in the right places.
However, developing a good MMC is not as simple as it sounds. It requires a great deal of mental energy and concentration. It’s easy to let your mind wander during a workout, but the potential benefits of the MMC make it worth the effort to maintain an internal focus.
External factors can also affect the MMC. For instance, lifting a weight that’s too heavy can cause the form to break down, which can distract from the focus on the target muscle. Therefore, it’s often recommended to start with a lighter weight when trying to develop a better MMC.
Proper form is also crucial in developing a good MMC. By ensuring that each rep is performed with good form, you can ensure that the target muscle is being worked effectively. This is particularly important for beginners, who may not yet have the muscle memory to perform exercises correctly without close attention.
In conclusion, the mind-muscle connection is a powerful tool in strength training. By focusing your mental energy on the target muscle during each rep, you can ensure that your workouts are as effective as possible. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced bodybuilder, developing a better MMC can help you get the most out of your workouts and see greater increases in muscle size and strength.