​Most people think of exercise as a physical pursuit. But to do it correctly you need to get your mind involved as well.

Mind Muscle Connection (as we call it; MMC for short) is a critical – but often over-looked – ingredient for success, and one we focus on a lot with our clients. Here’s a primer on what it is, why it’s important, and how you can use it to improve your fitness.

WHAT IS IT?

In simplest terms, it’s a conscious and intentional connection between the mind and the body. When it comes to exercise, using MMC means tuning in to the exercise you’re doing and consciously engaging a targeted muscle during an exercise (as opposed to moving intuitively without thinking).

Studies have shown that using MMC can increase the amount of muscle fibers a person recruits, resulting in a better quality of muscle contraction and therefore larger increases in strength.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

Our bodies like short cuts – we are programmed to make things easier for ourselves. When we perform exercise that involve multiple muscle groups, our bodies default to the dominant (strongest) muscle(s) to get the job done – but often that’s not what we want.

​Let’s take the glute bridge (below) for example. It aims to target the glute (aka bum) muscles. In this movement, you would lie flat with your feet on the floor and knees bent, and lift your hips in the air. The hamstring, glute, low back, and core muscles are all involved here – but if you don’t consciously focus on engaging the glutes, the hamstrings will take over because they’re more dominant.


​In the long run, this can lead to muscle imbalances – which can lead to injury – which is why understanding how to use MMC to engage your less-dominant muscles is critical for long-term success.

HOW DO WE USE IT? 

The first step to MMC is knowing which muscle a particular exercise is designed to target. As trainers, we remind our clients of which muscle group they are supposed to be feeling – tapping on the actual muscles before and during the exercise, keeping them focused with cues.

For an individual without a trainer on hand, here are three tips for establishing MMC:

  1. Start off with lighter weights. Dropping the amount of weight you are lifting can help you focus on the desired muscle group.  With a lighter weight you can slow down the motion and focus on the “squeeze” more easily.  Gradually start to increase the weight again once you can feel the contraction of the right muscle.
  2. Always warm-up first. You want to prime your muscles before you go into your working sets.  Practice contracting the muscle without any weights first, then do a set with half the weight you would typically lift.  Here, you should be able to feel the most tension in the muscle group you are targeting.
  3. Create tension through visualization. Create cues for yourself during specific movements.  For example, during a squat imagine spreading the floor with your feet to increase the activations of your glutes. When you are doing the bench press, imagine that you are pulling your hands together without physically moving them.

 
Mind muscle connection is like any other skill – it can be developed and improved over time.  If you want to learn more about how you can do this, contact us at info@nielsenfitness.com for a free assessment and consultation.