The Mind-Muscle Connection


There are several different methods that trainers and weight lifters alike turn to for maximum strength and muscle gain. One of these methods is called the mind-muscle connection: a way in which the athlete consciously and deliberately creates a muscle contraction. Basically, we have to actively think about using the muscle we are working which seems like common sense, right?

Well, a study by the department of health sciences at CUNY Lehman College et al. found that there are significant results that show greater gain if you just simply think about using your muscles. Piling on the weight can help increase your strength over time, but it isn’t going to help you reach hypertrophy, maximum gain in muscle size. This study took two groups, both doing two exercises: leg press and barbell curls.

Both groups performed these exercises to failure while also doing progressive overload, adding weight when possible. However, one group (internal) was told to focus on squeezing their muscles while the other group (external) was told to just keep adding weight when possible. 

In the end, the internal focus group gained higher hypertrophy in their biceps than the external focus group. This means that mind-muscle connection is a valid means to gain muscle size. However, both groups had little to no difference between their quad size or overall strength. This could be due to a variety of reasons: maybe the subjects weren’t skilled weight lifters or we tend to be aware of our upper body more than our lower body. Regardless, the evidence points to real benefits stemming from mind-muscle connection.

So, the mind-muscle connection is basically a way to help you activate your isolated muscles. Even flexing can help you strengthen your mind to muscle connection! A good way to increase your attentional focus is to turn away from the mirror when you’re performing your exercises. Start to think about how the muscles feel and not how the exercise looks. Thinking about your muscles as they go through a whole range of motions can help activate and strengthen your mind-muscle connection.

What can you take away from this? There are several studies on mind-muscle connection that show relatively the same results. However, these studies do not take into account heavier compound movements such as squats or presses. That being said, we don’t know if the mind-muscle connection will or will not work during those lifts. It’s up to you to decide if it works for you! 

A disclaimer to this method: mind-muscle connection is mainly for strength training and muscle building. If you are a crossfit athlete or perform more explosive movements, it would be wise to focus more on performing the movements correctly rather than thinking about how your muscles move.

We’re always looking for ways to build our best selves, and the mind-muscle connection is a smart and easy way to help us achieve our fitness goals. Whether you want to be stronger, build more muscle, or simply be more in-tune with your body, the mind-muscle connection won’t steer you wrong.