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Control Your Mind: Mind-Muscle Connection

Updated on September 30, 2013
Abby Campbell profile image

Dr. Abby Campbell is a Naturopathic Doctor & President of 911 Body ResQ, an online store providing organic and non-GMO supplements.

About the Author

Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author of One Size Does NOT Fit All Diet Plan, one of Amazon's Top Gluten-Free and Weight Loss Diets. (You may read more about Abby at the bottom of this article.)

Are any of the things below something that you desire for yourself?

  • Better performance in the gym.
  • Less stress.
  • Cleaner, guilt-free eating.
  • Quicker fat loss.

If you said "yes" to the first question, then you are not alone. The majority of the American population wants a healthier lifestyle with better performance and diet. And, who doesn't want less stress in their life? But, you CAN have it all! How? Just pull one tool out of your fitness bag called "mindfulness."

Mindfulness isn't just some gimmicky work that was pulled out of the magician's hat. Mindful living can actually give you everything you need from better results in the gym to controlling what you put in your mouth to transforming your life. All too often, we live on autopilot without really paying attention to the things we do. Mindfulness is the rising awareness when you intentionally pay attention in an open yet discerning way. It doesn't think about the past or the future. It just pauses for the now.

It's time to de-stress, get energized, and rock your self-esteem. In this article, you are going to learn to control your mind. You're going to learn how to build your mind-muscle connection in the gym. Training mindfully doesn't have to be difficult.

Control Your Mind: Mind-Muscle Connection
Control Your Mind: Mind-Muscle Connection | Source

Mind-Muscle Connection

If you've been training for some time, your muscles know how to do the exercises. However, with a mind on board, you can take your training to a whole new level. Follow these tips:

Exercise mindfully. This allows you to recruit the correct muscle group immediately so that workouts are more targeted and efficient. Targeted and efficient workouts lead to significant fitness gains. Research shows that mental imagery alone causes activity in the muscle by as much as 10 percent.

Practice mental contractions. Do this for 12 weeks at non-workout times, as well as workout times. Research has shown that after 12 weeks, strength is improved by as much as 13.5 to 35 percent in different muscles of the body after contraction imagery. When you imagine yourself contracting your muscles, your brain sends a message to those muscles whether you are working out or not. However, the brain signal is even stronger when you are training.

Before Training: How to Make the Mind-Muscle Connection

Step
Instruction
1
Shift your attitude: Stop focusing on last night's family tv show, your work schedule, or even tonight's dinner. You need to focus on the present.
2
Set your intention: Spend 2 to 5 minutes getting calm and quiet. You can do this by meditation, deep breathing exercises, or even focusing on a goal such as getting rid of stress. Deep breathing and visualization will help you begin your workout.
3
Practice flexing. Stand in front of your mirror and make note of how your body responds as you contract your muscles one at a time. This helps with form and control during exercise.
The mind-muscle connection usually begins with getting into the here-and-now through meditation, stretching, or yoga.
The mind-muscle connection usually begins with getting into the here-and-now through meditation, stretching, or yoga. | Source

As you begin to train, notice your physiology. Focus on your thoughts, sounds, breaths, feelings, and any other sensations.

During Training: How to Make the Mind-Muscle Connection

Step
Instruction
1
Go through the motions. Take some time to go through the motions of the exercise before using dumbbells or barbells. This will help you focus on muscle contractions and prepare your for your strength training.
2
Focus on the rep. Quality is better than quantity, so focus on getting through one rep at a time rather than the whole set.
3
Tune in to your breathing. Focus on your breathing during training. Inhale for 1 to 2 counts on the push or pull, and exhale for 3 counts on the release.
4
Close your eyes. Block out visual distractions for one rep of every set of exercise. This will allow you to fully experience how your body moves.
One Size Does NOT Fit All Diet Plan
One Size Does NOT Fit All Diet Plan | Source

Summary

The key to the mind-muscle connection is to recognize your thought pattern. Thoughts about work, financial difficulties, annoying neighbors, or kids fighting will continually pop up. However, you need to train yourself to overcome them. You can acknowledge the thought, but set them aside so that you can focus on your mind-muscle connection.

Your goal isn't to to get rid of your thoughts completely. Letting them go and focusing on the present will help relieve stress from your body and mind. Learning how to control your mind will become more natural, and the process will definitely benefit you as you become more mindful with your training.

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Helping those who desire it!
Helping those who desire it! | Source

About the author

Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author. For the past 10 years, she has coached thousands of women locally and online to lose body fat and lead healthy lifestyles. Her clients have lost thousands of pounds, reclaimed health, and call her “Coach No Gimmick.” She is from Northern Virginia but now resides near Charlotte, North Carolina. Abby has been married for 20 years and has three grown daughters, one of which is autistic. She is a 19 year cancer survivor.

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    • Abby Campbell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Abby Campbell 

      5 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Yes! Part of the reason why we exercise is to get rid of stress and frustration in our lives. What better way to put our mind to the muscle to help with that! Thank you for commenting, Kathryn! :-)

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 

      5 years ago from Windsor, Connecticut

      What a great concept, Abby! Practicing mindfulness is always good, but I had never thought of it relating to exercise. It is very easy to go on autopilot, but it is nice to know that this technique is helpful in bringing fitness training to a whole new level. And the fact that it helps relieve stress, too, is a bonus. There's no reason to constantly be thinking about things that are going on in our lives.

      Thank you for sharing this with us, and have a wonderful night.

      ~ Kathryn

    • Abby Campbell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Abby Campbell 

      5 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Hi MsDora. Yes, it is interesting, isn't it? I know when I'm working out, I try to only focus on the reps that I am doing, and it helps me tremendously. Then I thank God when the set is over! LOL.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      The mind-muscle connection is a very interesting concept, and I can see how it will improve our chances to get the results we want. Thank you very much. Voted Up and More.

    • Abby Campbell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Abby Campbell 

      5 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Yay! Nothing like trying to stay in the moment to get something done. Thanks for stopping by, Eric! :-)

    • Abby Campbell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Abby Campbell 

      5 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Yes! Thank you for commenting, hfortinberry. I love that "aha" moment! :-)

    • Abby Campbell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Abby Campbell 

      5 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Hi Bill. Thank you. It's been tough this last month or so as I've taken on a new full-time job. But, I'm getting into the swing of things and hopefully will back at it regularly. Good to see you stop by! :-)

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      All I can really say about this is that I am going to go do it right now. Good enough?

    • hfortinberry profile image

      H.B. Fortinberry 

      5 years ago from Connecticut

      It's all about the mind, and when you gently suggest to people who are mindlessly going through the motions of "exercising" to isolate the muscles and concentrate on the specific muscles worked on, don't you love it when there is that "Aha moment" look in their eyes? Keep writing and doing what you do...Thanks.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It's good to see you writing again, Abby. Great information as always from a lady who knows her stuff. :)

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