Establishing the Mind-Muscle Connection

Well folks, the time has come to pay homage to our bodybuilder forefathers. It sounds funny, but a lot of what has been passed down through the fitness industry, from a resistance training and muscle building standpoint, has come from....bodybuilders?!

Now I know what you're thinking.. "why in the world would I care about reading this..I don't want to get too bulky or look like a bodybuilder." For starters, lifting weights will NOT make you bulky (but that's a topic for another day!) Resistance training is beneficial for increasing bone mineral density, preventing injury, improving your metabolic rate, etc. Strength training is also beneficial for mental health. Researchers at the University of New Mexico found that strength training led to lower reporting of anxiety and depression in adults. (Check out the study here!)

So we all know that we should be resistance training (whether it be body weight, lifting weights, or using machines) in some capacity. A big component of resistance training is building the mind-muscle connection, or in other words "feeling" the proper muscles working. Every human movement is controlled by higher brain center function. It takes time to not only learn how to perform an exercise, but to "feel" the muscles working during that exercise.

                           A very complicated process, but this diagram shows the simple mechanism. Go science!

                           A very complicated process, but this diagram shows the simple mechanism. Go science!

Think about a baby that is learning to walk for the first time. Walking is a skill that takes time to learn. At Progressive Athletics, we often say "exercise is a skill." The mind-muscle connection is important to establish to make sure we target the proper muscles, prevent injury, and build body awareness.

Performing an exercise, such as a bicep curl, is not simply moving a weight from point A to point B. While performing a bicep curl, it's important to consciously think about the bicep as the main mover of the weight. A good trainer will give you certain cues during any exercise to make sure that you "feel the muscle" working. When we perform an exercise, we should consciously be thinking about how our bodies are producing the forces to overcome the resistance.

It takes time to learn exercise form and to establish a mind muscle connection. After a few months of training, these movement patterns begin to feel effortless and fluid. Then we get to bump up the weights or reps *insert evil laugh here*

Don't forget to lift heavy (relative to you), properly, and with purpose!