Bodybuilders speak of it like a holy grail of muscle growth, but its very existence has been a hot fitness topic for many years…
Today we will finally answer the question:
Is the mind muscle connection real, or is it just a myth?
While those who lift weights will swear this is authentic, people who don’t go to the gym tend to think it sounds a bit crazy.
I mean, it probably sounds weird to hear trainer Zach Evan-Esh explain this is the reason he couldn’t wait to train every day after school, or hear someone like CT Fletcher actually talking to his muscles.
But I get it.
And if you lift weights on a regular basis, chances are you get it too.
Hey, we’d be foolish to just write off something the great Arnold Schwarzenegger once described as the most important training tool of all; the ability to zone in on a muscle and “feel it” working.
“The mind muscle connection is the ability to zero in on the muscle you are targeting, as you work it, causing greater results!”– Arnold Schwarzenegger
But how truthful is that?
Can you really stimulate more growth just by concentrating on a muscle during training…?
Despite its popularity as a training belief, there wasn’t much actual research to support its credibility until the interesting 2012 study which is detailed below.
Let’s get stuck in…
The Mind Muscle Connection Study
In 2012, a team of researchers from the University of South Carolina Upstate set out to test the theory that we can use the MMC to build more muscle.
The trial saw them take subjects through one of two protocols:
- 3 sets of bench press using 50% of their one rep max weight.
- 3 sets of bench press using 80% of their one rep max weight.
On the first set, both groups were advised to simply move the bar and get the reps done. Second time around, they were instructed to focus on using their pecs as much as possible to press the weight, and on the third set they were instructed to focus on using their triceps. (1)
What they found confirms what bodybuilders have been saying for years:
The mind muscle connection is real.
Mind Over Muscle
What may initially sound like training hocus pocus turned out to be 100% correct.
When they were given no instructions, the trainees performed a set which was then used as the baseline for the rest of the study.
Then the “magic” happened…
By focusing on their pecs during the second set, muscle activity within the chest soared by 22%!
When instructed to use their triceps on the next set, muscle activity spiked by 26%!
Applying This To Your Training
The mind muscle connection is as valuable a training technique today as it was back in the 1970’s.
It’ll help you focus more on the muscle you are trying to train, and it’ll help you to build more muscle in those areas once you master it.
However, here’s the thing…
The crazy spikes in muscle activity in the 2012 study occurred when trainees were using 50% of their one rep max weight. That equates to a weight they could lift for 15-20 repetitions.
When they tried the same test using a heavier weight (80% one rep max weight) results dropped significantly.
Because the amount of weight being used was too heavy to be able to focus on any one particular muscle.
A heavy bench press will recruit the muscle fibers of the chest, triceps, shoulders, and lats.
So in order to maximize the mind muscle connection, pair it with your higher rep work.
- Snyder, B. J. et al. Effect of verbal instruction on muscle activity during the bench press exercise. J Strength Cond Res. (2012)