3 WAYS TO GET A STRONGER MIND/MUSCLE CONNECTION
There is a measurable difference in results if you can establish that mind/muscle connection.
Let’s face it; there are a lot of distractions in the gym; friends, TV, music playing, that phone in your pocket that should be in your locker instead, weights banging together, some pretty strange noises coming from some people.
Not to mention yoga pants. Wait. Did I say that out loud? Anyway, it can be a little hard to concentrate.
It’s also easy just to get in a state where your mind just wanders to anything and everything but the job at hand.
Performance based goals such as hitting a certain weight or a certain number of reps are important and necessary. But performance based goals have one big drawback; you tend to sacrifice form discipline just to hit your performance goal. So you end up cheating on the lift. Hitting performance goals is worthless if you have to cheat to hit your goal.
So here are a few suggestions to help you get and keep the connection between your brain and the muscle.
1. Set Skill Goals
Set a goal of improving your skill at any given lift instead of just performance. Let’s say you are doing some form of rowing exercise but you find yourself using too much arm and shoulder movement. Concentrate solely on keeping your shoulders retracted-pretend you are trying to squeeze a tennis ball between your shoulder blades. Maybe your elbows flare out on barbell curls-concentrate on pinning your elbows to your side.
Forget the rep count for now. Worry about rep count when you have perfect form. (Hint: the rep count or the load will probably have to go down when you learn to stop cheating but you progress in strength or size will soar)
2. Reset Between Reps
When doing a heavy lift like dead lifts you want to think in terms of doing 5 sets of 1 rep instead of 1 set of 5 reps. In other words, in the dead lift, you would come to a dead stop at the bottom of each rep, reset your grip, your feet and your back and then do another rep.
Do the same on all lifts. Eliminate momentum. Eliminate “bouncing” the weight up in the opposite direction.
3. Change the tempo
Do slow eccentrics. Lower the weight on every rep with a 3-5 second tempo. You have no choice but to concentrate on the muscle being worked.
A word of caution: Don’t do slow eccentrics for more than about 4 weeks at a stretch. They do a lot of muscle damage (good damage) but you need to allow for extra recovery after a few weeks. 4 week on and 4 weeks off slow eccentrics usually works. When doing slow eccentrics explode upward on the concentric portion.
You can alternate slow eccentrics with slow concentric.