The title of this article is sure to result in chants of “stone her” from computers and bodybuilders everywhere. But honestly, inquiring minds want to know if the mind-muscle connection is a bunch of hogwash.
I mean, is it special magic that makes you as big as the late Rich Piana? Can your brain dictate the amount of muscle you can make by just... Thinking it into existence?
Related - 50 Ways to Not Suck at Muscle Building
I am sure that this topic has been beaten with an ugly stick a thousand times over. Before I beat that dead horse... Again, let's talk about what it is.
The Mind-Muscle Connection
This is pretty much where if you think about a muscle or groups of muscles while you are working them, supposedly they will get more toned and recruit more muscle cells. This is the theory in a nutshell.
In theory, you can become ripped and stronger by thinking it into being. The mind-muscle connection has been around for a long time and has been utilized by bodybuilders for a long time.
Back in the day we were considered integrated into our mind and that our mind could work with our body completely. Nowadays, it is like separate groups of body parts that we tend to isolate just like we would do a 4-day split.
Does this theory hold water?
Bodybuilders and muscle heads tout it, however, there is also some science behind it. There is something called “biofeedback.”
Biofeedback is a non-invasive treatment recommended for many conditions like chronic pain, migraines, and high blood pressure... Oh, and of all things fecal incontinence.
Biofeedback is the science of the mind-muscle connection. It is a mainstream, accepted treatment modality that is used quite commonly for specific ailments.
Biofeedback is done by putting sensors on a client to check what the client is doing heart rate wise, breathing wise and blood pressure. When you are under pressure, these functions change and can raise.
Controlling this can be helpful in getting a handle on pain or helping you relax from stress. However, this is also where the mind-muscle connection comes into play.
So what happened was...
So, you wanna contract your biceps. Let's talk anatomy here.
The upper motor neurons go down the spinal tract and go out the spinal cord. The impulse is sent down to neurons that are “synapsing” with a group of muscle fibers. At the end of the neurons are little tendrils that release neurotransmitters like acetylcholine in order to get to the muscle cell itself.
Once neurotransmitters are sent to the muscle cell, they bind to the receptors on the outside of the muscle cell, the sarcolemma. The impulse or action potential then travels down the “t” tubule and calcium is released from the sarcoplasmic reticulum in response the change in voltage.
Calcium binds to troponin, and then a cross bridge forms between actin and myosin. Ta da, contraction of the biceps achieved...
To stop that contraction, acetylcholinesterase removes acetylcholine from the area and calcium ion is transported back to the sarcoplasmic reticulum.
All this mumbo-jumbo to say how the anatomy works - it's kinda complicated, but you get the idea that the bottom line is that this “chain reaction” comes from the brain. Yup. It all stems from our noggin.
So can you get ripped from mind-muscle connection?
So, we have determined that you have a thought process that can go into muscle movement, but can you make a muscle bigger with mind-muscle connection?
Good form or think it into being?
Things good form will get you:
- If you use good form, more of the right muscle recruitment should happen. What this means is that you will be able to lift heavier and likely tear down and build up muscle and grow bigger.
- Good form also forms a brain pattern so that you automatically use the correct movement pattern, so that when you do progressive overload your brain knows what to do and tells your muscle to do it.
- Keeps you safer from injury. Hopefully, with using good form you will not recruit the wrong muscle groups and will set a good pattern that will keep you freer from injury.
Thinking It Into being... AKA Mind-Muscle Connection
1. First, engage
First things first. You have to engage the muscle and feel it working before you can fix it to get the maximum potential out of it.
2. Proper warm-up
You may need to warm up and have some resistance first then feel the muscle before doing heavy sets. That will help in the patterning.
3. Biofeedback, biofeedback, biofeedback
Once you feel the contraction of the muscle, concentrate on it and make sure you feel it every time you lift. Start with light weight first, then go heavier really concentrating on the contraction and thinking about what and how you are doing it.
4. Pay attention
Knowing is half the battle. Yes, I said knowing.
Now that you feel your muscle working and you can engage it appropriately, it is about consistency with it. In biofeedback, you find a way to control your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure when you feel pain, or a headache etc.
This is the same thing. Pay attention to everything. What you are feeling. How the muscle is contracting. What you are doing to engage the muscle and how you need to do more of that.
Do I think the mind-muscle connection will make you as big as Kai Greene? No. I definitely don’t.
However, the mind-muscle connection works in conjunction with good form to enhance your workouts and increase the possibility of working a muscle out fully with maximal tear and maximal force. This will pay off because you can do the same thing for multiple things-like fecal incontinence.
Come on, it happens...