Want to get stronger? Improve your mind-muscle connection. – Triathlete
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Think back to your last lifting exercise — were you 100 percent focused on the task at hand, or were you thinking about what to make for dinner, swinging at work or daydreaming about vacation? It’s easy to let your mind wander while doing an activity you’ve done a thousand times before (more bicep curls – zzz…), but putting your mind on autopilot can negatively affect your results and may make that elusive mind-muscle connection even harder. in incorporation.
“Some fitness enthusiasts question the mind-muscle connection and think it’s a scientific-ethical provocation,” explains kinesiologist Jessica Kasten, MS, NSCA-CSCS, CPT. “But it has been used for years by bodybuilders who swear by its effectiveness, and new research backs up their claims.”
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They’re called “focus curls” for a reason
Visualization is used by athletes of all levels, and pros spend a lot of time mentally improving their performance by seeing a basketball enter the hoop, feeling their skates make a perfect turn and watching themselves cross the finish line first to win the 5K. However, the mind-muscle connection is a little different, and it happens when you’re actively thinking and focusing on feeling a targeted muscle contraction and stretching as you actually do.
“The mind-muscle connection brings conscious awareness of a movement or body pattern that is distraction-free,” says Matthew Zannis, a physical therapist at the US Olympic Performance Center. For example, direct your attention to flexing and pressing your biceps [in a curl] Your brain focuses on that exact muscle, causing the body to pump more blood, making neural connections and releasing chemical mediators that pave the way to greater levels of performance in the form of strength, size and power.”
Also known as an “inner focus” it’s a useful skill if you’re looking to develop size and strength. On the other hand, the external focus of attention is task-oriented and includes cues such as driving across the floor with your heels or moving a weight as slowly as possible. These are more useful for motor control, performance and sports.
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Wherever the focus goes, the chemistry flows
So how exactly does all this work? Imagine your muscles and nerves speaking different languages; A neurotransmitter called acetylcholine is the translator that helps them communicate. The better the connection, the more muscle fibers are recruited and the greater the muscle contraction. “Acetylcholine is released at the neuromuscular junction, which is a small space between a nerve and a muscle fiber, telling the muscle to turn on,” Kasten says. “These molecular signals…contribute to increased muscle growth and adaptation.”
“When the mind and body are well connected, high levels of three important neurotransmitters are released: brain-derived neurotrophic factor, vascular endothelial growth factor, and fibroblast growth factor,” adds Zannis. “Together, these help develop larger, more connected nerves and enhance neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to adapt, grow, and evolve to new movement patterns—leaving us more coordinated, stronger, and better moved.”
Sharpening the mind-muscle connection can also solidify stronger muscle memory, which can work to your advantage if you’re injured or have to be immobile. “Consciously thinking about moving a target muscle and engaging it can actually strengthen that muscle without any exercise at all,” Kasten says. study In the Journal of Neurophysiology In which participants wore a surgical splint on their wrist for four weeks: Half were instructed to imagine flexing their wrist for 11 minutes a day, five times a week. The other half did nothing. When the casts were removed, the group that imagined flexing their muscles was twice as strong as the control group.
a study Posted in European Journal of Sport Sciences Comparison of the effects of applying internal (mind muscle) vs. external focus of attention to resistance training on muscular adaptations such as hypertrophy and strength. After eight weeks, participants in the indoor focus group showed more biceps growth — 12.4 vs. 6.9 percent — than those with the external focus.
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With practice comes mastery
Improving the mind-muscle connection is all about repetition. Here are Kasten’s tips to help you build a strong connection, starting from scratch.
- Start with a single-joint exercise. Practicing a movement like biceps curl or leg extension makes it easier to identify and isolate a specific muscle to focus on.
- Use a moderate load. Going too deep automatically shifts your focus from internal to external, negating the potential benefits. Choose a weight that is 60 percent or less of your set maximum for one rep, and complete between 12 and 20 repetitions for best results.
- Perfect your shape. The sloppy technique requires additional muscles to engage in order to perform an exercise, which ultimately distracts you from paying close attention to the movement of the target muscle.
- Focus on each rep from start to finish. As you start into the lift, activate and shorten the muscles on the way up (concentric), squeeze them hard from the top (isometric), then consciously feel them engage and resist on the stretch as it lengthens (eccentric). Move slowly to better define your focus.
- Minimize distractions. Put your phone away or pause your music so you can give your full attention to your workout.
- Flex between groups. Contracting and focusing on the target muscles helps improve the mind-muscle connection by allowing you to feel it and activate it even while you are not lifting the body. It also gives you a little more of a pump and allows you to sneak a little more volume into your workout.
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