The secret of Mind Muscle Connection: How minimal adjustments maximize your training progress
There are many strategies when it comes to getting stronger. Most focus on training and nutrition. The Mind Muscle Connection is one of the most important skills for building strength and muscles and for passionate, motivated, and joyful training.
Undoubtedly a crucial factor if you want to look good.
But especially when it comes to strength building, many overlook a critical component.
Today is about the mystery of the Mind muscle connection – an invisible connection between body and mind, which you can consciously train if you want to get stronger.
This is a guest contribution from John E. Sarno M.D., the author of “The Mindbody Prescription“. Today you dive into the secrets of your nervous system that few know:
- What is the Mind Muscle Connection?
- Why should you train your Mind Muscle Connection?
- Why you can maximize your training success with minimal adjustments.
- Why a good Mind Muscle Connection gives you more fun and passion in training.
- How to train and improve Mind Muscle Connection.
The article is one of the most comprehensive of what you will find online on this important topic. If you like it, you should also take a look at it John’s books to throw.
What is the Mind Muscle Connection?
If you move heavy weights to get stronger and calories – and protein-rich eats, you are already doing a lot right.
However, many people forget what muscle strength is. There is a very simple calculation among athletes:
More muscle mass = more strength.
This equation is not entirely wrong. When you build muscle mass, you increase the strength potential of your body.
However, you will discover the essence of the matter if you ask yourself how you use this potential. The answer is simple: by your will!
It is you who muscle fibers coordinate, which arranges or regulates the voltage build-up and thus decides on power development.
That means muscle strength is primarily one ability.
It is the ability of your mind to use the existing potential and to give the structures involved the appropriate instructions.
The Mind Muscle Connection is the link between the mind and muscle.
It is the one that makes the decisive difference between beginners and advanced.
Why you should train your Mind Muscle Connection
If you train and consciously promote the connection between the mind and muscles, you benefit from a range of advantages. Some of them should surprise you.
Here are the 5 essential advantages of a good Mind Muscle Connection at a glance (Explanations follow):
- Improved muscle coordination
- Improved self-perception and control
- Compensation for asymmetries
- Greater utilization of the hyperirradiation effect
- More fun, passion, and motivation in training
The bottom line is that you will get significantly stronger in no time and, at the same time, have more desire for training.
Let us first take a closer look at the individual advantages.
Advantage # 1 – Better muscle coordination
Every movement of the body follows the instructions of your mind.
The instructions are sent to the muscles via the central nervous system ( CNS ) from the control center, the brain. This connection between mind and body, like all other structures in our body, is strengthened by use and weakened by neglect.
A poorly trained Mind Muscle Connection means that individual muscles cannot be properly coordinated, making movement sloppy and wasting tons of power. Furthermore, they “refuse” poorly connected muscles to grow.
An average person uses just 20 – 25% of the power potential of his muscles because the muscles involved in the respective movement cannot be properly coordinated.
There are two different types of muscle coordination:
- Intramuscular coordination: The cooperation of the muscle fibers within a muscle.
- Intermuscular coordination: The cooperation of the muscles with each other.
Both types of coordination are important to carry out a movement cleanly on the one hand and to develop as much force as possible on the other.
Poor coordination can often be seen, for example, when the knees of a training beginner slacken inwards, or the upper body is unstable.
Intermediate movements, such as the removal of the knees in this example, are a sign that the individual muscle fibers and muscle groups do not pull together and, therefore, cannot be coordinated properly.
As a result, both strength – and growth potential are lost.
When you get stronger, there are two factors responsible:
- You build muscle mass and/or
- You improve your coordination.
Building muscle mass is a very expensive process in terms of energy. Because of evolution, your body tries to store energy rather than waste it unnecessarily because that was exactly what made our ancestors survive.
Your body, therefore, always prefers to improve coordination. It builds significant muscle mass when the coordination potential is gradually exhausted.
The more often a certain movement is carried out, the better the muscles are coordinated, resulting in a more fluid, powerful, and healthier movement.
In an uncleanly coordinated movement, support – or stabilization muscles sometimes take on the part of the main muscles, which can lead to overloads much faster.
Therefore, you should master the movement sequence perfectly with every exercise before using larger additional weights.
Bruce Lee got to the point when he said:
“I’m not afraid of the man who practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I’m afraid of the one who practiced a kick 10,000 times.”
A helpful tool for beginners is a simple broom style that gives a feeling for the barbell movement without having a significant additional weight.
An improved Mind Muscle Connection means better coordinating the muscles and developing more strength.
Advantage # 2 – Better self-perception and control
The more often the body and mind work together, the better the self-perception develops.
Arnold Schwarzenegger once said: “You need to put your mind in the muscle.”
It means: “You have to empathize with the muscles.”
Beginners, in particular, often have problems feeling the target muscles of a movement. They don’t feel how they are exhausted. You sit in the studio on the lat pull – machine and feel the highest arms, not the back muscles.
The basic rule is:
It won’t be irritating enough if you don’t feel a muscle.
The further the training experience increases, the more this rule applies.
In the beginner, the muscles will still grow due to the largely untapped potential, but the point will come very quickly where things will not go at all or only very slowly unless you train the Mind Muscle Connection and learn to empathize with your muscles.
You have to feel them and be able to tense them up consciously.
An improved Mind Muscle Connection means that you target individual muscles in a more targeted manner and thus train more intensively.
Advantage # 3 – More muscle – Symmetry
Almost everyone has to deal with asymmetries. Usually, one side is stronger and more muscular than the other.
This is because you use one side more often in everyday life, and this side, therefore, has a more pronounced Mind Muscle Connection.
How to compensate for asymmetries:
- Train one-sided exercises. Train with free weights, preferably with shorts – instead of barbells. With dumbbells – bench presses, both halves of the body are more decoupled than the barbell – variant. You avoid the stronger side supporting the weaker side. Such exercises ensure that the stronger side only performs as many repetitions as the weaker side. (“The stronger side is waiting for, the weaker side”)
- Use the weaker side more deliberately in everyday life. You will only be able to make real progress on the way to a balanced body if you make your everyday life – balanced for most of your day. So try to use your weaker arm in everyday activities such as lifting a box, holding a bag, or opening a door. This improves the Mind Muscle Connection on this page so that you can also use it more in training. In the long term, asymmetry is approximately balanced in this way.
An improved Mind Muscle Connection helps to balance asymmetries.
Advantage # 4 – You use the hyperirradiation effect
Hyperirradiation? I know it sounds like rocket science, but it’s easy to understand:
The more muscles involved in the movement, the more strength you can develop.
You can test the hyperirradiation effect very nicely at home. Let’s experiment:
- Grab a stable pole with one hand and press as tightly as possible.
- Concentrate only on tensing the forearm muscles and consciously remove any tension from all other muscles. Try to leave your legs, stomach, back, shoulders, and upper arms as relaxed as possible and only press them with the power of your forearms.
- Now do the same experiment again, but take an upright position this time.
- deliberately tens as many muscles as possible. (“maximum body tension“)
- Tighten the legs, buttocks, and abdomen to have a stable, strong stand, and consciously use the back, shoulders, and upper arm muscles when pressing.
- Guide the energy from the entire body through the forearms into the hands and grab as tightly as possible.
You will immediately feel that you can develop much more power. This effect is called Hyperirradiation.
The force ( is the tension ) transferred from other muscles to the actual main muscles. This means that all deliberately tense muscles support each other.
The better the Mind Muscle Connection is pronounced, the more muscles you can incorporate into a movement, and the greater the tension. More tension is synonymous with more power.
At the same time, you improve movement stability through the additionally tense muscles, which better protect you from injuries. For example, the back remains conscious due to the deliberate contraction deadlift stable in a neutral position instead of getting around.
An improved Mind Muscle Connection leads to greater use of the hyperinflation effect and, thus, more strength and stability.
Advantage # 5 – You are with fun, passionate, and motivated during training
These are many advantages that an improved Mind Muscle Connection gives you to develop strength and muscles. In my eyes, however, this point is the most important:
You inevitably focus fully on your workout by training the connection between the mind and muscles.
It is impossible to think of your mother-in-law’s visit while drawing your attention to the movement and contraction of individual muscles.
If you are fully involved and try to tense as many muscles as possible to feel the movement – then your thoughts are completely in the here and now. You only think about overcoming the challenges you face in training.
This is when you are in the flow and forget everyday life’s worries and problems.
Training is a fulfilling and cleansing experience with which you order your consciousness.
My thesis is as follows:
Those who find the flow in training will also be highly motivated long-term and will be happy to stay tuned.
On the other hand, some people stop training after just a few months because they do miss motivation and start to feel the training as agony rather than joy.
In many cases, this is because they never really got involved in the training: they were unwilling to invest energy in focusing their thoughts.
It takes energy to focus your own thoughts on performing a specific task. Uncontrolled thoughts jump back and forth. It seems easier to let the erratic mind run all its freedom and thoughts in an uncontrolled manner.
However, this also means that you also lose passion with the focus if you let your thoughts wander into the past or future:
- How do you want to enjoy your training when you are completely somewhere else in your mind?
- How do you want to feel the tension in the body pulsating when you think about which film you could watch in the evening?
- How do you want to be able to passionately fight for resistance in the studio when you are mentally back at work?
- How do you want to step toward becoming stronger if your thoughts are everywhere during training – but not in the here and now?
To design your training into a fulfilling experience, you can concentrate – and this type of concentration requires deepening the Mind Muscle Connection.
Training the Mind Muscle Connection helps to find the flow in training and thus increases passion, fun, and motivation.
Key Facts – Why you should train the Mind Muscle Connection
Training the Mind Muscle Connection helps you.
- better coordinate the muscles and thus develop more strength.
- to target individual muscles in a more targeted manner and thus to train more intensively.
- to compensate for existing asymmetries.
- better use the hyper-irradiation effect and thus gain more strength and stability.
- to find the flow in training and thus increase passion, fun, and motivation.
Now that you know the main benefits of a well-developed Mind Muscle Connection, it’s time to take action.
How to train the Mind Muscle Connection
You have already learned the most important aspect with which you improve your mind-muscle – connection: You are fully involved in training by consciously feeling the movement and contraction of the individual muscles.
Attempts to deliberately tighten both the target and support muscles and include them in the movement.
Above all, this is a question of practice.
The more you concentrate, consciously tighten individual muscles, and involve as many muscles as possible in an exercise, the more powerful your Mind Muscle Connection will be.
I mentioned it at the beginning: it is an ability. Train them, and you will automatically improve.
In addition, I am now showing you four tools with which you can train the Mind Muscle Connection in a very targeted manner:
- Peak contraction
- Static exercises
- Insulation exercises
Let’s go through them one by one.
Mind Muscle Connection Training # 1 – top contraction
The top contraction method helps you improve the interaction of the individual muscles.
Briefly stop movement at the top point and then tighten all muscles as tightly as possible.
A top contraction on the pull-up looks like this: You stop the movement shortly after your chin has passed the pole and then consciously tighten all muscles. When lifting and squatting, this point corresponds to the upright position.
By consciously contracting all muscles, you improve your ability to involve as many muscles as possible in one movement. So you train to make better use of the hyperirradiation effect described above.
Top contraction: How to use it correctly.
Using the top contraction costs a lot of energy. As a result, you create fewer repetitions overall. For this reason, it is advisable to use this technology in a well-dosed manner.
Two sets per training session are sufficient to achieve good results with them — using network exercises and at the end of an exercise.
So if you have a leg workout consisting of squats, Leg presses, and leg stretches on the machine, you can carry out the last set of squats and leg presses with peak contraction.
Mind Muscle Connection Training # 2 – static exercises
Static exercises, especially the forearm support ( also called “plank” or “board”), have a training effect similar to that of the top contraction when carried out correctly.
Even with static exercises, you train the muscles to pull together through a conscious contraction. In this way, you promote the interaction of the individual muscle groups.
However, I often see how static exercises are carried out incorrectly: Many people try to carry out the exercise as power-saving as possible to keep the position longer. As a result, a static exercise loses its actual meaning.
Let’s look at the correct version using the example of the forearm support.
Static exercises – Technik – Example: Forearm support ( Plank )
- Place your elbows under your shoulders.
- Press the clenched fists into the floor as firmly as possible.
- Span the entire “Core “- Area ( Body Center ) as tightly as possible.
- Lift the body into a straight plane where only the feet, forearms, and fists have contact with the ground.
- Your back is in a stable, neutral position. That means you neither round it nor fall into the hollow cross.
- Your head is in the straight extension of the body.
- You press your legs tightly, tighten your butt and build up the greatest possible tension in the entire body.
- Tip: Try to move the toes and elbows towards each other ( without actually moving them ), increasing your body tension.
The following video illustrates the technology:
Efficiency is not the focus here:
You do not perform a static exercise as power-saving as possible, but rather – on the contrary – as much body tension as possible.
In this way, you train the Mind Muscle Connection ( specifically the interaction of the muscle groups ) and the entire stabilization muscles of your body.
Static exercises – How to choose and apply the correct exercise
In addition to the forearm support, there are other effective static ones Bodyweight – Exercises, with which you achieve a similar training effect.
- Side forearm support
- L – Sit
- Squat Hold ( Keep the knee bow at the lowest point )
- Front lever
- Back lever
- Human flag
Most of these exercises are very demanding and, therefore unsuitable for beginners. However, there are many simpler variants and thus levels of progression with which you can learn these exercises.
Tip: If you want to learn and master the heavier bodyweight exercises step by step, I can recommend the book “Complete Calisthenics” by Ashley Kalym. These and many other bodyweight exercises with individual progression levels are described in detail.
If you want to train your Mind Muscle Connection in a targeted manner, simpler exercises such as the forearm support, the side forearm support, the L – Sit, or the Squat Hold are sufficient:
- To do this, perform one of these exercises at the end of your workout for a total of 3 sentences.
- Keep as long as possible maximum body tension.
- Write down the duration for which you could keep an exercise clean. This gives you an orientation about your progress.
- As soon as you can hold an exercise for more than 30 seconds, you can switch to a more difficult variant. This is done, for example, by lifting an arm or a leg on the forearm support.
Mind Muscle Connection Training # 3 – isolation exercises
Now it is getting a bit paradoxical because the techniques mentioned so far aim to promote the interaction of the muscles and to make better use of the hyperirradiation effect. It is anti – isolation technique, so to speak.
Why can isolation exercises help you to strengthen the Mind Muscle Connection?
Quite simply: Each of us has muscular weaknesses. Some don’t want their arms to get stronger. Others don’t really get their backs to grow. Isolation exercises are one way you can deal with your weaknesses.
Insulation exercises work in two ways:
- You train the affected muscle directly.
- You train the Mind Muscle Connection of the isolated muscle so that you can also include it more easily in joint exercises in the future.
Here is an example.
Isolation exercises – Example: How they help you to eliminate weak points
Let’s say you had trouble improving your back width.
The best exercise for a strong, wide back is the pull-up.
Many people, especially beginners, face the problem when pulling up: they do not feel their backs properly and therefore pull more with their arms. Incidentally, the same problem often occurs with the lat pull.
At this point, I would like to remind you again of the basic rule above: if you do not feel a muscle, it will not be sufficiently irritated.
To solve the problem, you can train your back in isolation, for example, with the exercise “Latzug with stretched arms.” Concentrate consciously on the contraction of your latissimus ( broad back muscle ). Perform the exercise slowly and concentrate and feel the contraction of the latissimus.
The Mind Muscle Connection to your back muscles will gradually improve so that you can tighten them, even more, when you pull the clothes, and this weak point has been fixed.
A very high concentration is the key to success when performing an isolation exercise.
Isolation exercises – How to use them correctly
If you want to fix weak points using isolation exercises, you can incorporate targeted exercises at the end of a workout.
A good method is after the actual workout (in which the focus is on network exercises should be) 5 – 10 additional minutes “Freestyle.
You can use this period for all kinds of fun gadgets or work on your weak points. Then you can train isolation exercises in a targeted manner.
Notes on the “Freestyle” – Block:
- There are no fixed training parameters. Here the focus is absolutely on the fun.
- You don’t have to count repetitions and stop breaks.
- Train in this time window just as you please.
- Insulation exercises are also not subject to fixed parameters in this section.
- Focus on the contraction of the trained muscles – everything else is secondary here.
Mind Muscle Connection Training # 4 – posing
Admittedly, more than enough strength athletes run around with razor blades under the armpits and admire themselves in the mirror (and forget to train their legs).
Nevertheless, conscious posing (“Posing”) is underestimated because it is an excellent way to train your Mind Muscle Connection.
When posing, you learn to target certain muscles in a targeted and firm manner. This makes it easier for you to contract these muscles more during training.
You can do the posing in two ways:
- Either you specifically tense individual muscles and thus achieve a similar effect to isolation exercises
- or you tense several muscles in the network and thus promote the interaction of your muscles.
In any case, posing is a worthwhile technique with which you learn to master your body better.
The advantage is that you don’t need any other aids except a mirror. Therefore, you can practice it within your own four walls to the exclusion of the public.
I do not give you any special instructions for use. Whenever you feel like it, you can use specifically tens a few muscles.
Focus on the contraction and feel how it feels. That is what the Mind Muscle Connection really trains effectively!
Key facts: How to train Mind Muscle Connection
You now know four effective ways to improve your Mind Muscle Connection specifically:
- Peak contraction– Briefly stop movement at the top point and then tighten all muscles as tightly as possible.
- Static exercises– Instead of performing the exercise as power-saving as possible, you focus on maximum body tension.
- Insulation exercises– Plan a 5 – 10 minutes “Freestyle” – block after your workout, which you can also use for isolation exercises.
- Posing– When posing, you learn to target certain muscles in a targeted and firm manner. This makes it easier for you to contract these muscles more during training.
Mind Muscle Connection – Conclusion
The Mind Muscle Connection is one of the most important skills for building strength and muscles and for passionate, motivated, and joyful training. It is the crucial difference between beginners and advanced athletes.
If you haven’t gotten any further training or maybe even lost the fun of it, training the Mind
Muscle Connection could be the missing piece of the puzzle for you. Then you should integrate one or more of the described four techniques into your training plan:
- Peak contraction
- Static exercises
- Insulation exercises
Ultimately, every athlete, even every person, benefits from a pronounced Mind Muscle Connection because the mysterious term hides nothing other than good body control.
A well-trained Mind Muscle Connection gives you control and a deep connection to the only “object” that accompanies you all your life.