By Lydia Kraus
Have you heard of the Muscle Mind Connection, or MMC, before? Most of us who lift on a regular basis have heard this term tossed around. But what is it? The Muscle Mind Connection is the psychological aspect of weight lifting. That’s right, lifting weights is not all about brute strength! Read on to find out what MMC is, how it can help you, and how to implement it into your routine.
Muscle contraction begins when the brain sends a signal to your muscles by way of a chemical reaction. When the chemical is released at the neuromuscular junction (between the nerve and the muscle), a contraction takes place! Every muscle is made up a number of muscle fibers. The more of these fibers that you are able to engage (through a proper MMC), the better you will be able to contract your muscles, get a good pump, and crush your workout like never before.
Have you ever felt like you’ve hit a plateau in your lifting? That you’re at the top of your rep range in all of your sets for a given muscle group, but you just are not able to increase weight? Is there a particular muscle group that you find difficult to engage and get a good pump? Building a strong Muscle Mind Connection will help produce a more effective workout. When you lose focus of your muscle contraction for a given exercise, secondary muscles end up taking some of the workload away from the muscle group you are trying to target. Bodybuilding.com wrote a great article on the Muscle Mind Connection and uses the example of doing a bench press. If you are bench pressing a heavy load but are not focusing on your chest muscles doing the work, it is easy to over-engage your shoulders and triceps, thus limiting the force put out by your target muscle group, your chest. By strengthening the line of communication between your mind and muscles, you will be able to better active your target muscles and recruit a better pump. In addition to getting a more effective workout, and gaining more mass, a proper MMC will help you avoid injury.
Implementing a better psychological connection to your lifting program will take practice. Here are a few simple ways to begin:
- Be okay with lifting less weight. Take time in your lift to focus on the contraction and extension of the muscle group you are targeting. As Bodybuilding.com said, “Your muscles don’t grow because of the weight moving up and down. They grow because they’re forced to contract by acting on that weight.” Get a better contractions, get better growth.
- Do a warm-up set! When your muscles are pumped up, you can feel the contraction better. Try doing some warm-up repetitions at a lighter weight to get that pump (don’t forget to focus and engage the MMC in your warm-up) so that your working sets are done at maximum effectiveness.
- Don’t rush! Practice slow, controlled 4-5 second contractions and 4-5 second extensions.
- Free yourself from distraction and a wandering mind. Stay off of your cell phone and try to engage less in conversation. It is easy for the Muscle Mind Connection to be broken by wandering thoughts and stopping to chat or scroll through social media postings.
- Flex your target muscle group between sets. This will help you actively feel that muscle group when you’re doing your working sets.
Good luck! If you’re interested in starting from scratch and setting up a new program to help you maximize your MMC, talk to a trainer today! If you simply have further questions about how this process works or are looking for clarification, I’m always here to help!
Brent McGrath June 16, 2010. “4 Tips To Help Train Your Brain For Massive Gains: Mind Muscle Connection!” Bodybuilding.com, 16 June 2010, www.bodybuilding.com/fun/4-tips-to-help-train-brain-massive-gains-mind-muscle-connection.htm.