Mind-to-Muscle: Making the most of your workout
Posted on September 15 2018
Lifting is strenuous and extremely physical - it’s you against the iron. But there is more to it than simply body mechanics. While the concept of lifting is straightforward, there is a lot more to effective training than simply “picking things up and putting them down”! Specifically, the elusive mind-to-muscle connection.
A lot of old-school bodybuilders and trainers are cognizant of mind-to-muscle and its benefits. The basic tenant of this philosophy is simple: Concentrating on a muscle group while training it makes it easier to engage that muscle group, and thus to grow.
Recent studies have actually shown that developing an internalized strategy of focus on the targeted muscle effectively maximizes muscle growth. Crazy, right?
Aside from staying thoughtful and focused during your training, there are two key mind-to-muscle strategies that will help you activate your focus muscle groups, and will keep you constantly improving as a result.
Set Performance & Skill Goals
Begin every workout by selecting a simple, achievable but challenging outcome and focus entirely on that goal during each set. These could be performance goals, such as putting up more weight, hitting more reps, jumping higher, etc. - or skill goals, which relate to form, movement, and positioning. For instance, many people struggle to keep elbows up and under the bar for front squats. Take a set to focus entirely on keeping your elbows up and under the bar. Focus on each of your weak points relative to the movement for a set, and work to maintain consciousness of each area of improvement as you train.
Slow Down & Reset
Unless you’re actively focusing on conditioning/heart rate/VO2 max, etc. - pause between sets. Don’t rush. Every time you pause between sets, adjust your focus, set mental performance or skill goals, and even take the time to perform each rep with precision and thoughtfulness. For instance, for deadlifts - rather than driving through your rep count to perform your set, take the time to pause, adjust your grip, keep the muscle tension, and drive into the next rep without simply powering through the movement. This strategy will push you toward a stronger performance rate, so you can lift heavier while positioning better.
Maintaining a mind-to-muscle connection is, at its core, a simple and easily executed philosophy - and one that will significantly improve your ability to set and achieve lifting goals. Stay conscious.