Hey there! My name is Melissa and I’m a BCAK kinesiologist and personal trainer in beautiful Langley, BC. Today I want to chat about the importance of the ‘mind-muscle connection’ as I’ve noticed this to be a re-occurring topic with my clients lately.
Maybe you’ve never heard of the mind-muscle connection before. Well, the concept is simple: create a good mind-to-body connection with your muscles and (theoretically), have increased muscle usage (which can then lead to better gains and more of a “pump” when working out) (Calatayud et al. 2016).
Creating this connection however, can be really challenging, especially if you’ve never worked out before. For example (and this happens often), I will have clients perform a squat; they do the squat (with awesome form of course!) and then I ask them where they felt it; the majority of the time they don’t know. And that’s okay. This is where I take the time to explain where they should have felt it and what to think about next time. The next time we do it, the client has now been cued to create that mind-muscle connection by thinking about their quads / glutes / hamstrings etc. that they need to feel for. For a lot of people, feeling or squeezing their quads, hamstrings, or glutes together tend to be the biggest hurdles.
Simply put, this is what creating that mind-muscle connection is all about conquering. Having good body awareness goes hand in hand with this concept too. I find that clients who can answer body awareness types of questions (like: how tired are you, how sore, how do you generally feel physically) with ease, have an easier time connecting to their muscles and subsequently, forming a greater muscle contraction.
If you struggle to form that connection…
Keep practicing. Practice literally does make perfect, and you can train your brain to connect to your muscles over time. For example, getting in the habit of performing body-weighted squats during warm up to get your quads primed for a heavy squat; doing some glute activation exercises; or doing a quick core workout to make sure you’re activating properly. All of these things can help you if you struggle with this connection. If you don’t get it the first time, not to worry – these things take time and most of my clients require a few sessions to really understand what it is they’re feeling for.
Tactile feedback is the other option. If you can, find someone to place a couple of fingers on the spot you’re trying to activate during an exercise. Having some “tactile feedback” can help your mind create the connection. As you practice, this will get easier and less feedback is needed to help achieve the goal (Gains & Plans, n.d).
Find the joy, be kind, and we’ll chat again soon.
Questions? Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Calatayud, J., Vinstrup, J., Jakobsen, M. D., Sundstrup, E., Brandt, M., Jay, K., … & Andersen, L. L. (2016). Importance of mind-muscle connection during progressive resistance training. European journal of applied physiology, 116(3), 527-533.
Gains, B. T., & Plans, T. The Mind-Muscle Connection (n.d.).