After reading the title, you want to read it probably because you cannot lay slabs of muscle- whether its a stubborn and lagging body part which refuses to grow no matter how much you work it, or your dumb genes- the key you need to start efficient muscle building process lies in how you engage your mind in your workout.
Yes, you read it right. The mind is a powerful tool.
Your workout is not merely going through the motions of lifting weights. It is constant engagement of your mind into the motions. When the mind and body come together, that is when your muscles are effectively activated. Doing endless sets of exercises without any mindful focus is doing you no good.
So what is mind muscle connection? I don’t really want to get in into the neurotic science of it. These are the only pointers that you need to apply in your next workout and feel the difference.
1. What you are doing 10 minutes before your workout matters!
Before it is time for you to hit the gym, take 5 to 7 minutes in complete recluse, and visualize how would you want your workout to be. Mentally rehearse your script at the gym. Getting into the car, putting your headphones on, doing a warm up, performing heavy sets, whatever it may be. Visualize it. Consider this ritual as important as stretching or warm to your heavy workouts. I don’t want to name it ‘meditation’ to cliche it. Feel the difference.
2. Try to find a workout partner.
Great bodybuilders like Arnold himself have been stressing on the importance of having a workout partner- it holds some serious benefit from the angle of keeping your mind focused in the contraction of the muscle. Workout partners tend to bring your attention back to the set and obliterate any distractions such as a phone.
Bonus tip: To actually feel the benefits to mind muscle connection instantly, ask your workout partner or your trainer to slightly touch the body part that’s being worked. This leashes your mind from wandering away to distant fields, brings it back to the muscle that is meant to be worked.
3. Have a good workout playlist.
Invest some time in making a good workout playlist. It is scientifically scientifically proven that the type of music you listen helps in you building endurance, and building focus around your next set. Scientifically, a workout song should have high BPM (Beats per minute), but don’t dive into such minute details. Recall those songs that fired you when you heard them- made you feel you could punch through walls- that’s what you’re gonna need to kill that next set. Remember, the human body is capable of miraculous things, and your challenge is shut off that caveman survival instinct. (Be sure to be safe at all times, please!)
4. Take some mental notes. (Maybe maintain a journal?)
Developing an unshakable, untouchable mind muscle connection and experiencing great results is not instant. You have to notice things and if possible note down the occurrences that help you focus and get your brain in that muscle. It can be noting down the time of the day you feel most motivated, or working out in clothes you look the best, or training with a particular friend, or watching a certain Youtuber’s videos. Believe me, noticing what feeds your focus and what makes your mind susceptible to wandering away is really important. It is even better if you maintain a what I call “Thought Journal” to have a record of it. You can even apply this technique in other areas of your life where you need to focus. Be it academic work, mental health, curbing procrastination, anything. It works.
5. Mind Muscle Connection is very closely related to Mental toughness.
I will write about cultivation of mental toughness in another article soon, but know that mind muscle connection is almost analogous to mental toughness. They’re very interdependent, and practicing techniques of both with create an unbeatable mind. The major difference in both is that mind muscle connection is more physical- you will have to intertwine your body and mind to accomplish a particular task. Mental toughness comes into play when you are on the that point in the set where you just don’t have any more reps left into you. Continue reading, you chapstick!
6. The 40% Rule
Jesse Itzler, the author of ‘Living with a seal’ describes the most key fundamental in developing untouchable mental toughness. He invited a Navy Seal to live with his family and he describes a situation when he’s told to do pull ups. The seal asks him, “How many pull ups can you do?”. Jesse says, “I don’t know, maybe 10 at the most?”.
“That’s great! You’re gonna do a 100 today”
The following incident taught Jesse a priceless lesson in mental toughness. When you think there’s not one rep left in you, when you think you are done, you are only 40% done. There is still 70% fuel left in you. If you accept this as a rule, imagine how tough you can become. The human mind is powerful beyond measure. We must learn to use it.
Oh, and by the way, this the book I am talking about. It is a great read.
As you’ll notice, building a mind muscle connection is not a treasure find. It happens gradually with practice. It is like any other skill to be learnt. It takes time, and above all patience. But one thing I can promise is- it is worth it. Not only excellent and fulfilling results in the gym, but if you learn to extend these concepts to life generally you can become a phenomenal achiever.
One more thing.
Seeing the benefits of a good mind muscle connection is not instantaneous. It won’t work like you press a button here, and the bulb will switch on. It is same like building any muscle.
Day one- Other than a great feeling, you won’t see any effect on your body.
Day two- still no effect.
Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 15, no effect.
Only when you look back after say 2 months, you’ll realize a you have made a drastic change. Good quality workouts, a generally focused mind. You just have to endure the pain of discipline to leash your mind, keeping it away from your zones.