Can you use your brain to increase your muscle gains, lose weight, and transform your body? You might be surprised by the answer!
While you're exercising, if you solely focus on you how you execute an exercise, you're missing a huge part of the equation... which is your brain!
Research shows that if you focus intently on the muscle that you're working, you can see a greater increase in size. This is known as "attentional focus" or "muscle-mind connection."
Not only will your muscles grow faster, but you'll also reduce your risk of injury by being more intentional with your movements.
What is the muscle-mind connection?
Let's define muscle-mind connection. Basically, it's focusing on what you're doing when you exercise. Rather than letting your mind wander, you want to focus it intently on the activity you are performing. Whether that means simply feeling the movement (rather than looking in the mirror), or visualizing the muscles you're targeting, the point is that you truly have to focus.
Back when I was a swimmer, I remember my mind always constantly wandered. My muscles hurt, so I wanted to focus on something else besides the pain! That's definitely natural, but the whole point of muscle-mind connection is that you focus through the pain. You're strong - you've got this!
How do you achieve muscle-mind connection?
1. Limit Distractions.
How many times do I have to say it?! Focus!
Kidding, but not really! Although it's become the norm to watch TV or listen to a podcast while you work out, don't turn on these distractions because it makes it harder for you to focus on your muscles and your workout.
Am I saying workout in complete silence? Not necessarily. But if you barely can focus on a thought due to your music being too loud, turn it down a bit. Avoid looking at your phone, and try to truly focus on your exercises.
2. Use visualization.
To help you focus, visualize the muscle that you're working on. And I don't mean looking in the mirror. In fact, it's best if you don't look in the mirror, and focus on how you feel instead!
What I mean by visualization is you should actually visualize in your mind that specific muscle you're targeting. That will help you foster the connection between your muscles and your mind.
3. Warm up.
You've probably heard this one so many times. I get it, it's tiring. But when you warm up your muscles, you're activating them, waking them up, and getting them ready to go. You're also practicing your muscle-mind connection before you even begin your workout.
While you're warming up, concentrate on the muscle, feeling the way it squeezes and contracts while you move.
4. Increase time under tension.
Time under tension is the amount of time you spend performing each repetition. Slow down your repetitions in order to increase your muscle-mind connection. Try to count how long you perform each repetition, and then increase that count as you practice.
5. Don't focus on the amount of weight you're pushing.
To achieve true muscle-mind connection, you have to focus on the quality of each repetition, not the amount of weight you're lifting. Leave your ego at home and don't lift too much. If the amount you're lifting forces you to break form, go down in weights.
Remember: Stay Focused
It can be so hard to focus on your workout. Especially if you're running on a poor night's sleep, or you had a stressful day at work. But focusing during your workout will increase the amount of growth you see in your muscles, which will then ramp up your metabolism.
If you are more intentional with the time you spend in the gym, you will see more results at a quicker rate. Even though muscle-mind connection is challenging, it is worth it in the end if you want to propel forward on your journey to well-being!