The Mind Muscle Connection

Simply by training with the heaviest weights possible, you are going to find that you immediately increase your ‘mind-muscle connection’. That’s because you’re going to be at least trying to engage as much muscle as possible. And the law of SAID (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands) tells us that this would then make us better at recruiting that muscle in future.

But you can also engage muscle muscle fiber in some other ways. One method is to use something called overbearing isometrics. An ‘isometric’ exercise is anything that involves contracting the muscle without moving it – a ‘static hold’. Normally, this means holding a weight until you can’t hold it any more and you slowly let it drop.

When your aim is to increase the mind muscle connection though, you can do this another way by pulling or pushing against an immovable force. Bruce Lee used to do this by chaining a barbell to the floor and then trying to squat or curl it. This is the equivalent of trying to lift 100% of your 1 rep maximum (the most weight you can move for one repetition) and as far as your body is concerned, there is zero difference!

Another way to build the mind-muscle connection is to practice contracting the muscle and really focussing on it – both during exercises and straight after. If you watch strength athletes on YouTube, they’ll often contract their muscles and pull a pose straight after lifting. That’s not (just) vanity – it’s also to help enforce that  connection.

This is also why it’s so important not to just let your mind wander during your training.

Hysterical Strength

If you wanted to go beyond even powerlifting-strength and see what it’s like to experience the kind of strength that’s almost superhuman, then you may be interested in stories of ‘hysterical strength’.

Hysterical strength is a term that describes the superhuman strength some people experience when they are in extreme danger. When you hear stories of mothers lifting cars off of their children, that’s an example of hysterical strength. Another famous story involves a rock climber lifting a rock off of themselves in excess of 300 KG.

How is this possible? Well, while these are just urban myths, studies suggest that the right neurochemistry can in fact allow us to override the ‘safety switch’ in our brain and tap into untold power – recruiting up to 100% of our muscle mass. Studies show that adrenaline plays a role in this and that simply tricks like shouting during lifting can create a slight surge in this to allow you to lift heavier.

Of course this is kind of annoying for everyone else in the gym though...

Practice Makes Perfect

Note that the mind-muscle connection is also what we refer to as technique’. When you have good technique, it’s because you have strengthened connections in the brain corresponding to very precise and specific movements in the body. You’re constantly using particular neural networks in your motor cortex and this is in turn going to strengthen those connections and help you to better control your body when performing those precise movements. Not only will this result in better muscle fiber recruitment but it will also help you to more effectively perform the
technique, thereby avoiding any wasted energy that might come from overbalancing or otherwise just not performing as well as you might.

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