A mind-muscle connection is the ability to feel a working muscle. As you train you can feel the muscle through the concentric and eccentric parts of the exercise.
Steve Reeves understood the importance of the mind when training. It wasn’t until Arnold that the mind-muscle connection became widespread. Arnold was a huge advocate of training for a pump. This requires a strong mind-muscle connection.
Compound movements use several muscle groups. This makes the mind-muscle connection more important as focusing on the wrong muscle is easy. The bench press is a common one. A lot of bodybuilders lift as heavy as possible and never think about the working muscle. As a result, they fatigue the triceps and delts and fail to isolate the chest.
A poor mind-muscle connection can cause some body parts to grow slower than others. Taller bodybuilders generally struggle with pushing exercises such as bench press. Long limbs mean taller people have further to move the bar. It’s common for the triceps to take over and do the heavy lifting.
If you’re struggling to form a mind-muscle connection, here are some tips to get you on track.
Use an isolation exercise before performing your compound lift. This will help you focus on the muscle that’s lagging and allow you to build a connection with that muscle. Once you have a slight pump, you will find it easier to further focus on that muscle during the compound lifts.
For example, perform a few sets of light chest flyes before bench press. Keep the weight light and think about stimulating the muscle, not breaking it down. This is not a working set, it’s a way to activate and engage the chest before your compound lift.
Understanding anatomy helps build a mind-muscle connection. Spend some time researching muscle insertions and how each muscle activates. It’s not as simple as you think but you will reap the rewards.
Strength Training Anatomy by Frederic Delavier is a great place to start. The book covers all muscle groups and uses illustrations to show muscle activation. If you’re serious about bodybuilding it’s a must-read.
Bodybuilders of the Golden Era mixed up their training tempo. This helps build mind-muscle connection but also shocks the muscle into growth.
A good place to start is a 4-second eccentric. For example, in a bench press take at least 4 seconds to lower the bar to your chest. Hold the stretch at the bottom and squeeze the chest as you push up.
The more you can understand how the body moves, the easier you’ll form a mind-muscle connection. Don’t underestimate how important it is. You won’t achieve your best physique if you neglect the mind when training.