I spent 12 years as a PT prior to becoming a professional bodybuilder. One of the most common things that I saw occurring in the gym, was individuals lifting weights with minimal mind to muscle connection.
Sure you can lift a weight but do you really understand HOW?
The action of lifting something requires a complex communication between the brain and the muscle groups involved via the spinal cord and the intricate neuromuscular system. So are you lifting or are you “connecting” with the action?
Results can be fast tracked when the brain and the focus is truly engaged. How many times have we seen individuals swinging weights, looking around to see who’s noticing the size of the dumbbell that they’re swinging up and down!! You may not be this bad, but how AWARE are you of your own mind to muscle connection when you lift?
Let’s take one if the most basic exercises we all know.
The BICEP CURL!
You can simply raise and lower the weight OR you can recruit maximum engagement and do it like this:
- You are standing holding the DBs in front of your legs. Your palms are facing forward and your elbows are slightly in front of your waist.
- Before you even begin your first rep you engage your mind by thinking about your biceps, feeling them in your minds’ eye.
- You hold your elbows dead still in front of your waist as you begin to curl the weights upwards, feeling the gravity increase on the DBs as they move through the horizontal plane and continue upwards towards your shoulders.
- You have not moved your elbows AT ALL. They have remained slightly in front of the waist so you once get to the top the DBs can get no closer to the shoulders without moving your elbows.
- At this point the gravity is significantly less as the DBs have almost reached the vertical plane. So you contract your biceps at this point, (squeezing them as if you were squeezing the juice out of them!) in order to provide a static contraction – which is a different type of contraction to the lifting and lowering contractions that your biceps are performing the rest of the time. This static contraction pumps more blood into the bicep fibres encouraging more growth!
- You then slowly lower the DBs, feeling the gravity increase on the DBs and resisting the pull of it, keeping maximum control all the way down. You still have not moved your elbows.
- Once the DBs reach your legs you pause at the bottom, just before your elbows reach a straight lock out, you feel the tension on the lower bicep fibres where they insert through the elbow then you exhale and curl the weight up to the shoulders once more.
Imagine if you put this much thought and concentration into every exercise that you do!!! Imagine doing squats like this!! It takes a couple of weeks but as you get more practiced at this focus it gets simpler and simpler and you will be able to process the mind to muscle connection quicker.
This is how I have taught myself to train. Every training session for me is like this. Every rep is like this. I don’t thrash weights, I don’t do sloppy reps. I focus on every single rep and make each one count! Every rep is a constant assessment of muscular contraction and maintenance of perfect technique. Once i hit failure and can no longer maintain full range of motion and the technique is about to fall, I use multiple drop sets to regain the technique. Keep the muscles contracting optimally and utilizing a full range of motion whilst incorporating the static contraction and the top and bottom of the rep (and occasionally at the midpoint!). keeping the focus solely on the muscle group/s that I intend to train.
Give it a go! Find an enhanced focus when you lift and watch your physique step up to the next level!