Mind-muscle connection, how to get better muscle activation when training
Many people are talking about how important it is to implement the “mind-muscle connection” while strength training. To use the mind-muscle connection means to focus your attention on the muscle you are working on during the particular set.
Two types of attentional focus have been found to be the main ones – internal and external.
The external attentional focus is when you think about your environment while the internal attentional focus involves concentrating on your body – for example, on the muscle you are working on or on your movements.
It’s been shown that the external focus of attention during exercises leads to greater maximum force, better performance on athletic ability tests and more reps performed on tests of muscular endurance.
But it’s been found that the internal focus of attention leads to greater activation of the muscle. The mind-muscle connection producing internal attentional focus leads to more gains in the size of the muscles over the run.
How could the internal attentional focus possibly enhance the muscle growth?
While you are training for strength, the activation of the muscle is affected mostly by the level of recruitment of motor units. Still, it can also be affected by how often are the motor units firing signals and by some other factors. When your muscles are highly activated, then more motor units have been recruited to complete the given task. Additional ones will be recruited if the CNS (central nervous system) decides that the current force production levels aren’t sufficient to complete the intended movement.
More motor units will be recruited if the load increases (for then more external force production is required), when the movement speed increases or when fatigue occurs. And in unfatigued conditions the internal focus of attention recruits more motor units because there is a need for larger agonist muscle force production at the same speed of movement.
How to implement this
Don’t think where are you feeling a muscular stimulus but rather think about where it’s supposed to feel this stimulus. For example, if you are doing a lat pulldown, focus on the process of pulling down the weight only with the muscles in the back and when you reach the negative part of the rep, force the lats to resist the force of the gravitation so you muscles can length in a controlled manner.