Does mind-muscle connection work? What is a mind-muscle connection anyway? Let’s talk about it.
What Is Meant By Mind Muscle Connection?
Mind muscle connection is the use of internal cues to squeeze a muscle to “feel” more or to get a heightened sensation in a muscle. It’s a trained skill that enables the active shift of body weight among muscles to tone them up, and relies on a particular area of the neuron, or brain cell which is called the ‘neuromuscular junction’. It is the network connecting the mind and the body via chemical regulators like Acetylcholine.
Essentially, it can also be a tool to learn how a muscle feels when contracting. However, if the internal cues are wrong, it might recruit fewer muscle fibers and thus acquire less force output from the targeted muscles.
Take the bicep curls for example, when you think of “up” during the curl and squeeze the triceps while curling the biceps up, you might be using more than the designated muscle while training the biceps.
On the overview, it might not seem like a terrible idea but when you use the wrong cues for your heavy training sets, you are stimulating your brain to spend more effort and energy than required to train the biceps, making it a triceps and delts exercise as well.
What Are The Different Types Of Mind Muscle Connection?
Resistance training is based on the duration and intensity of the concentration period of the brain, which is termed focused attention.
Focused Attention is bifurcated into two components:
- Internal Focus
Internal focus, or the conscious repetitions of the required procedures
under the exercise regime. An example could be experiencing the strain on
your flexed arms or the norm of keeping a straight back through a press-up.
- External Focus
External focus or the reaction gauged by your body in response to the
workout it is subjected to. So considering the previous example of
press-ups, the frontal external focus is to push the body away from the
The mind-muscle connection can be forged by both these focus regimes to improve muscle wellness.
However, it’s instrumental to find a balance between shifting your focus on
the muscle, individual, or groups that are primary to the workout
For example, for the press-up, the target muscles would be the deltoids,
pectorals, abdominals, and triceps. A proper understanding of your target
muscles before the workout is extremely beneficial for concentration.
It’s important to note that before attempting any exercise or training routine, it’s crucial to have proper knowledge of its scientific relevance so that
you can only take calculated steps towards your regime.
Is Mind Muscle Connection Even A Real Thing?
Simply put, yes. Mind Muscle Connection is a scientifically backed theory
to make a greater impact on your one-on-one or group workouts. And, to be
honest, most of us only have a specific amount of time to dedicate to
A longer answer lies in an article in a March 2018 publication under the
European Journal of Sports Science when a research team experimented on the
idea that the subject of our focus may bring a change in our muscles. The
experts observed and recorded two groups of volunteers under resistance
training for 8 weeks.
The first group called the External Focus Group (EFG) was situated to
monitor the outcome of the training lift while the second, called the
Internal Focus Group (IFG) was on cue to assess the contractions of the
target muscle during the training.
Here are some of the interesting discoveries made:
- Upper-Body Strength
The volunteers of the IFG resulted in a rapid increase in elbow flexion
strength or the bicep curl than those on the EFG. By targeting their
training focus specifically on the bicep muscle rather than just lifting
the weights, the strength rate of IFG participants was boosted by 16.2%
whereas the EFG saw a meager boost of 2.6%.
- Lower Body Strength
However, it’s interesting to note that seemingly the internal focus
technique proved less effective as they moved to the lower body. The EFG
participants saw an improved quadriceps strength or the leg/knee extension,
by a huge margin of 20.4% versus the IFG, whose gain was at a 10.1%
The experts hypothesized that the reason behind this difference could be
that the upper human body is generally programmed for fine motor abilities
while the lower body has the mechanism to naturally carry out gross skill
output. This simple analysis led to the conclusion of the reduced ability
of mind-muscle connection in the lower body.
- Effects On Muscular Hypertrophy
Added to strength alterations, the researchers also observed muscular
thickness or muscle hypertrophy. Here the IFG reflected a superior
hypertrophic statistic within their biceps of about 12.4% versus the EFG
whose hypertrophic rate was limited to 6.9%. The lower body hypertrophy
appeared constant across both groups.
How To Align The Research With Your Workout?
- If hypertrophy is the goal, you do not want other muscles to try to
fill in for your biceps’ function.
- Likewise, if performance is the goal, you do not want to waste more
fuel than needed to curl the dumbbell up, and it’s prudent to take
an internal focus.
How To Enhance The Mind Muscle Connection?
The solution here is to focus on good techniques that can potentially train
your muscles to recruit more fibers so you can handle progressive overload
Good techniques mean proper setup for the exercise, proper execution, and
correct tempo. Hence, you can get the most out of the movement by involving
the major muscle motor units. While also cutting the expenditure of energy
requirements aiding in a speedy recovery.
In simple words, the practical application is the following:
- Checking Energy Expenditure
Less energy wastage in your reps will help you to recover faster between
sets and allow you to train the muscles harder, so keep your energy expend
- Specificity In Target Muscle Groups
Specificity is key to get the most out of your training so when it comes to
hypertrophy, most beginners are not efficient in their training as the
skill level is relatively low compared to an intermediate trainee
Instead of using more muscle groups than the targeted muscle group, and
facing the consequences of a lesser output locally but more globally with
reduced stimulus to the targeted muscle. Focus on the goal of getting more
from doing less so you can have better recovery and more resources to train
harder in a session.
- Appropriate Choice Of Training Gear
Before choosing heavier sets in a training regime, execute the coordinated
movements with a relatively lightweight to get the form right and to get
awareness on which exact movement brings the best contraction to feel to
you upon the muscle you target.
What Are The Benefits Of Mind Muscle Connection?
Constant training and conscious promotion forge the mind-muscle connection,
that brings a whole array of advantages.
The 5 crucial advantages of trained mind-muscle connection are:
- Muscle Coordination Enhancement
Mind Muscle Connection strengthens the intramuscular and intermuscular
coordination which enhances muscle mass growth potential.
- Improvement In Self-Awareness And Control
Mind Muscle Coordination helps in the development of better
self-perception, which allows training to target individual muscles
directly and intensively.
- Compensation for Muscular Asymmetries
Muscle asymmetries occur when we allow the stronger muscle side to
compensate for the weaker one. Mind muscle connection aids in balance,
through deliberate training of the weaker side.
- Enhanced Hyper- Irradiation
Developed mind-muscle connection, allows you to involve more muscles for
movement and build tension. Additional tension means more strength,
improves stability, and prevents injuries.
- Improved Mental Health and Motivation During Training
Mind muscle connection elevates the hormones in the body while you train,
thus boosting your mental health. Along with that, doing massage therapy
for faster recovery and joining meditation centers for improved focus can
further improve the mind muscle connection.
In conclusion, using the right internal cues for mind-muscle connection can
improve your training quality, but the wrong one will make it worse.
However, mental coaching is crucial for achieving this mind-muscle
Our expert personal trainers at Tsquared assist and guide you to achieve
just that. You must know what focuses you apply and if they are right for
the particular muscle.
If you are uncertain about the right internal cue for each muscle and its
potential relation to the exercises, it’s more prudent to reduce focus on
the mind-muscle connection.
Rather, choose to lift weights hard with progressive overload at >75%
1RM and try to achieve fatigue in the last 1-2 sets with enough reps.
This will help you to achieve a sufficiently safe exercise form and train
your muscles for movement recognition.