The focus of fitness is so often aesthetic, which makes it easy to focus solely on the external aspects of workouts: losing weight, gaining muscle definition, or moving with more strength, speed, and power.

While these are fantastic fitness goals, a crucial element of fitness success is often overlooked: the quality of your mind-muscle connection and kinesthetic awareness. Read on to discover what this is and how it can increase your performance and results, and decrease your risk of injury. 


Mind-muscle connection is your ability to consciously engage and contract specific muscles during exercise. It involves directing your attention inward, focusing on the muscles being worked, and mentally visualizing the movement. This seemingly subtle shift in approach can have profound effects on the effectiveness of your workouts and the results you achieve, as “thought can be a powerful stimulator. Just thinking about moving a specific muscle can strengthen it, even if you don’t actually move it” (Runner’s World, 2023).

It’s tempting to go through the motions of an exercise without paying attention to how it feels, but any degree of mental disengagement will affect your progress. When you consciously focus on the muscle you’re targeting, you’re better able to recruit and activate the relevant muscle fibres. This ensures that the intended muscle is doing the majority of the work during each repetition, leading to more effective muscle stimulation and growth.


Kinesthetic awareness (also known as proprioception) is your ability to sense the position, movement, and orientation of your body in space without relying on visual cues. It involves collaboration between sensory receptors in your muscles, joints, and tendons and your central nervous system.

Proper proprioception allows you to intuitively adjust your movements, maintain balance, and coordinate complex motor tasks with precision and efficiency. Whether it’s executing a perfect golf swing, mastering a yoga pose, or navigating through a crowded room, this heightened awareness plays a critical role in enhancing physical competence.


Mind-muscle connection and kinesthetic awareness isn’t just about building stronger muscles, it’s about fostering a deeper connection between your mind and body. By developing this relationship, you become more attuned to all of the signals and feedback your body provides. This allows you to make adjustments to technique, intensity, and form to optimize your workouts while also fostering a deeper understanding of daily physical cues such as hunger, stress, illness, and the need for rest.


When it comes to exercise, take a moment to mentally visualize the muscles you’re targeting and how they should contract before you move. Block out distractions and focus your attention on the muscles being worked, emphasizing slow and controlled movements throughout the entire range of motion. Your breath can also be a big help here: try coordinating your breathing with each repetition, inhaling during the eccentric phase (lowering) and exhaling during the concentric phase (lifting).

To build your kinesthetic awareness, try activities that heighten sensory perception and deepen your understanding of the body’s movements. Mindful exercises like yoga, tai chi, or Pilates (which emphasize slow, controlled motions and precise body alignment) can be a fantastic tool here. On top of this, incorporating proprioceptive exercises such as balancing on unstable surfaces (like a stability ball or Bosu) can enhance your body’s sensitivity and responsiveness. If you’re struggling to visualize or understand your movements, try using a mirror as a visual guide to get started. Better yet, hire an in-home or virtual personal trainer to lead you with physical and verbal cues.


Mind-muscle connection and kinaesthetic awareness are incredible tools to elevate your overall health and well-being. Using the power of your mind to strengthen muscles and improve your form can deepen your understanding of the body while improving your overall function.

Next time you hit the gym, remember to take your time. Be present, focus on how you feel, and don’t forget: if you’re struggling to connect with your body, Nielsen Fitness is here to help! We offer in-person training in Toronto, Collingwood, Ottawa & Hamilton and virtual personal training everywhere. First workouts are zero pressure and always free – you can book yours here.