Mind-Muscle Connection: Fact or Bogus?
This week’s study: Attentional Focus for Maximizing Muscle Development: The Mind-Muscle Connection
For decades, bodybuilders have preached about the benefits of developing a mind-muscle connection for better muscle development.
Today, the latest research supports this connection, stating that establishing an internal attentional focus does lead to an increase in activation of the targeted muscle.
This internal focus, or mind-muscle connection as it is commonly referred to, is defined as directing one’s attention to the targeted body parts during a movement. Researchers believe that this internal focus increases mechanical tension, metabolic stress and muscle damage, all which represent the primary mechanisms of muscle growth.
It is still unclear whether the mind-muscle connection actually leads to greater protein synthesis, which would translate into greater muscle gains, but current research does seem to point that way.
However, under heavy loads, researchers have found that an internal focus of attention is not necessarily the best way to go.
That means, an external focus served a better purpose in improving exercise performance and motor learning, by relying on the environment for training cues. Think about “pushing the floor away” with your feet during a squat or deadlift, as opposed to focusing on your leg muscles.
The external attentional focus causes greater force production, which explains why you’d be better off focusing on your environment when going for a heavy lift. It also reduces muscular activity and enhances movement patterns, which facilitates learning a specific exercise.
The bottom line is: if your goal is to increase muscle mass, developing a mind-muscle connection will be of great benefit to you. If your goal is to increase performance (in powerlifting or weightlifting, for example), you are better off using an external focus of attention.
Until next time,
Schoenfeld, B. J., & Contreras, B. (2016). Attentional Focus for Maximizing Muscle Development. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 38(1), 27-29.