The study suggests that focusing on the muscle you are exercising can lead to increased muscle activation and, ultimately, better muscle mass and strength gains. If you are doing a triceps dip or an overhead triceps extension on a cable machine, ensure you are actively "squeezing" the muscle and focus on the muscle being exercised. Finish your workout and slam down 40 grams of protein, and you are on your way to bigger triceps.
Muscle Mind Connection: Legit Science or Bro Science?
For years, trainers and fitness gurus have said to use the muscle mind connection to “focus on the muscle” you are exercising to build muscle during resistance training.
When you mentally focus on the muscle you are training, you engage the muscle-mind connection, which can boost muscle activation and growth. This conscious concentration on the targeted muscle or muscle group during an exercise can lead to a more effective workout and, over time, contribute to better muscle development.
Isolation exercises, such as the preacher curl or overhead triceps extension, offer distinct benefits in this context. These exercises allow individuals to distinctly feel the muscle groups in the upper arm contracting. This heightened awareness and focus on the muscle can lead to more effective muscle engagement and, over time, more significant muscle growth.
Muscle Mind Connection:Studies
The act of concentrating on a specific body part during training is referred to as the “mind-muscle connection.” Prior research has shown that when individuals focus on the muscle itself rather than the movement of the bar during exercises like biceps curls and isokinetic elbow flexions, there’s an increase in biceps muscle activation. This heightened activation occurs even when they perform the exercises at different speeds.
Researchers placed electrodes all over the subject’s chest/heads of the triceps brachii. They told them they were performing a pushup study to examine the effect of pushups on muscle activation. Subjects performed 1 set of 3 reps of the pushup variation, with a 2- second concentric and a 2-second eccentric phase, under three different pushup styles:
- Regular push up
- Push up focuses on selectively activating the pectoralis major. The advisor told the subjects, “During this set, try to focus on only using your chest muscles.”
- Push up focuses on selectively activating the triceps. The informer told the subjects, “During this set, try to focus on only using your triceps muscles.”
Result of Mind Muscle Study
So at the end of the study, the researchers found that focusing on the chest while doing pushups increased this muscle’s EMG amplitude (i.e., muscle activation) by 9% compared to the group that was just told to do pushups. Focusing on the muscle during training, as seen in a previous study, increased chest muscle activity by ~17% during a bench press at 50% and 80% of 1RM.
The group that emphasized their triceps during pushups found a link between the duration of strength training experience and the success of the mind-muscle connection in boosting triceps activation.
The study indicates that by concentrating on the targeted muscle during exercise, there’s an uptick in muscle activation, which can contribute to superior muscle growth and strength outcomes.
If you are doing a triceps dip or an overhead triceps extension on a cable machine, ensure you are actively “squeezing” the muscle and focus on the muscle being exercised. Finish your workout and slam down 40 grams of protein, and you are on your way to bigger triceps.
Calatayud J, Vinstrup J, Jakobsen MD, Sundstrup E, Colado JC, Andersen LL. Mind-muscle connection training principle: influence of muscle strength and training experience during a pushing movement. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2017 Jul;117(7):1445-1452.
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