MUSCLE TO MIND CONNECTION
About a year ago, I noticed that regardless of my hard work at the gym to get bigger glutes, only my legs were getting bigger. My glutes showed very little difference. I used to have specific lower body warm-ups before training to stimulate my focus areas, but nothing specifically activated my glutes.
I started implementing MTM (mind-to-muscle) connection in my workouts, and a glute activation sequence as a warm-up. Since then my glutes just “WOKE UP” and I’ve experienced big differences. At the beginning, it was really hard to be constantly focusing on the glutes, but a couple of months later I noticed that my glutes were organically activating subconsciously which is crucial for growth.
The famous MTM connection has been around amongst bodybuilders and lifters for quite a while. It simply means to consciously contract and activate a muscle when doing an exercise, in order to maximize muscle growth and strength.
This is not a myth. The science behind it is actually pretty cool.
The more you concentrate on a single muscle when performing an exercise, the more that muscle recruits muscle fibres.
An example of that would be performing a Squat, you could either focus all your attention on your quads, or you could think about the glutes and make them recruit more fibres than they would usually.
Don’t get me wrong! When performing a squat, you will still be using more quads than glutes even if you are concentrating on your glutes. That’s just how the body mechanics of this exercise works. However, instead of getting 10% of your glutes involved, you may get 25% , if you activate them and contract them properly throughout the whole rep. (Note that these are just rough percentages).
The same applies for any other type of exercise. BUT, the interesting point to note is that for this to be effective, intensity has to be maintained at 20% to 60%. When lifting at 85%, the muscle contractions are less. Which makes sense as it would be really hard to contract and activate a muscle when you are lifting 85% plus of your 1RM.
So it’s crucial for muscle development to THINK about the muscle you are trying to work on at that moment, ACTIVATE it, SQUEEZE it, CONTROL it, and really FEEL it working throughout the whole exercise.
It seems easy, but at first it is actually very challenging, especially for someone who has never done it before. Our minds are distracted very easily and from the muscle we may just end up thinking about something that has noting to do with the training. Then our bodies go into autosave mode and throws any muscle into it to support the weight.
So how to apply it? In my experience, I found the following tips really helped me out:
Warm up and Glute Activation before working out.
You should be performing a warm-up each and every session. It’s crucial for increasing your body temperature and preparing your muscles, bones, joints and MIND for the workout that is coming. That will allow you to perform the exercise with a better range of motion, without injuring yourself. The most important thing is to make sure you activate the right muscles before you start your training. This way you will be waking them up and getting them used to the movement. So when utilizing weights, the specific muscle will be doing what it’s meant to be doing, without compensating or relying on secondary muscles.
For example: If your workout starts with heavy Hip Thrusts or Squats, you will need to wake your legs and your glutes up, by doing a body weight/high repetition(15-20) glute bridges, multi-directional lunges and maybe add some clams at the end, until you feel them wake up with a subtle burn.
Don’t rush your sets.
Tempo is very important when doing reps. If you are rushing too much it means you are not really FEELING your muscle contracting and extending.
Spend about 3 seconds on the concentric part of the movement, then a short 1 second pause at the bottom of the position, and then 3 seconds on the eccentric part of the movement. This is already a good way to begin thinking and feeling your body in a more connected way.
From there, you can start playing around with tempo training in order to improve or get stronger, and customize how your body best reacts. But remember, take your time and concentrate on the quality of each repetition.
Try squeezing your targeted muscle between sets in order to force additional blood into it and keep reminding yourself which muscle you should focus on. I know the squeeze isn’t the most flattering movement for us girls, but it pays big dividends down the line.
Remember to think about your mind as a muscle too, We all want beautiful and powerful bodies and all too often neglect the training of our minds. The mind plays an integral role in our ability to succeed in the gym and in life, so we need to work it too.
I hope you find this article helpful and thank you so much for reading.