Monday, November 30, 2015

Learn the Mind-Muscle Connection for Better Progress


What is the mind-muscle connection?

Your body does only what your mind tells it to do. And only what the mind believes it can do. Your mind controls your muscles through your central nervous system (CNS).

Any activity, fitness or otherwise, means training your muscles and your central nervous system. At first you have to think about it. Remember learning to ride a bike? Or even getting a spoonful of food into your mouth without getting it all over your face?

But with repetition and practice it begins to happen automatically without conscious thought. “Practice makes perfect”. But, of course, it should be “Perfect Practice makes perfect”. Eventually, the CNS takes over completely.

The body, of course, has musculoskeletal limits. So how do advance power lifters continue to make progress in strength after years of doing the same thing?
The CNS gets more and more efficient at recruiting more and more muscle fibers.

When you were a beginning lifter you probably saw more gains in strength and size than you will ever see again. Most of those out sized gains came from your CNS and muscles learning together at the same time. Remember how you struggled with the bike for so many hours? Then, suddenly, you were racing full speed! It’s the same thing.
 Related Article "Mind over Muscle"

How do you improve the mind muscle- connection?
Perfect Practice.

Each movement (exercise) should be targeting one muscle or one group of muscles. Accessory or supporting muscles shouldn’t be any more involved in the movement than absolutely necessary.

We’ve all seen the guy (or girl) doing bicep curls by swinging his whole body back and forth. He’s doing little or nothing to strengthen or grow his biceps. Then he wonders why his biceps won’t grow. (Plus, he looks like a tool and he’s impressing  no one).

The best way to establish the mind –muscle connection is concentration. Don’t think about moving the weight. Think about contracting the muscle.
The more you concentrate on contracting the muscle the more muscle fibers your CNS will recruit. The higher the number of muscle fibers recruited the higher number of muscle fibers that will grow.

EMG studies( Electromyograchy- measures electrical activity in a muscle) have shown that when subjects are simply told to focus on using a specific muscle before performing a movement, they call upon a higher percentage of those fibers and fewer accessory fibers. With resistance training, your body is able to call upon more motor units to produce more force over time.
Another way to increase the focus on the muscle is tempo. Increase the time you raise and lower the weight and squeeze the contraction hard.

A third suggestion, don't even count reps. Keep all your focus on the muscle, not the reps. Just continue the set until you reach technical muscle failure (your can't do another rep and still maintain good form).
No matter how long you’ve been training,  use this. It will soon become a habit just like riding a bike.

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