The Mind-Muscle Connection and Proper Form
I’ve heard some Lifters talking about the Mind-Muscle Connection a lot in the past. As a beginner, I thought it was kind of strange. I didn’t really care about proper form, and I definitely didn’t think about the muscle actually contracting.
In my defense, I saw high level bodybuilders with amazing physiques using terrible form on certain exercises. Eventually I realized the true importance of the MMC and Proper Form.
In this post, I will discuss how they can potentially impact your progress.
I’ll start with Proper Form:
There is no doubt that Proper Form is important.
People in the fitness community often say, “That guy is massive, but he has terrible form, yet you’re telling me form matters?”
The people they are usually referring to are professional bodybuilders with elite genetics, who are on a ton of steroids. These guys do work their asses off, and of course, because of elite genetics they can make so much progress even with bad form.
Proper Form definitely matters but you don’t need to be completely perfect throughout the movement.
If you focus too much on proper form you’ll end up having to lower the weight by a lot, and you might even get less reps at a lower weight because you’re not used to doing it correctly.
I think this can be a good thing for certain exercises like Bicep Curls and Tricep Extensions, so you can properly work your arms. Arm exercises are very easy to use momentum and cheat on, which incorporates more muscles into your reps. I.e., you might end up getting a back workout if you cheat too much on curls.
The purpose of Bicep Curls is to work your Biceps not other muscles, other than maybe forearms.
But as far as big movements like the Bench Press, you don’t need to be perfect if you aren’t a powerlifter.
Keep in mind, having appalling form on the bench should be avoided. Your elbows should not flare out and your shoulders shouldn’t be in pain. But you don’t need to keep a huge arch in your back, and keep your elbows so tucked that feel like you’re doing close grip(powerlifting form).
Just because you do your reps perfectly doesn’t mean you’ll grow twice as much as the next guy.
The idea is that you should use good form, but don’t use so much weight that your form completely suffers.
Here is an important, take home point about proper form…
For example, say your Chest isn’t growing, start doing a little less weight and focus on contracting the muscle at somewhat higher reps.
If you normally struggle using 80 lb dumbbells for 4-6 reps with bad form, instead use 60 lb dumbbells for 10-12 reps with good form.
Do the reps slower than usual, and don’t use momentum to move the weight.
My chest actually got bigger when I lowered the weight on Cable Crossovers and focused on the contraction of the muscle. (Cable Crossovers are a phenomenal chest exercise by the way.)
This is Where the Mind-Muscle Connection Comes into Play.
What is the Mind-Muscle Connection?
I would define it as the ability to feel your muscles fully working during a given exercise. And also the ability to alter the way you do that exercise, so you can really feel the muscle working.
To this day, I never really feel my chest working very much on any Barbell Bench Presses.
Because of that I only use Dumbbells for my presses.
I like to do Incline Dumbbell Bench Press for 5 sets of 6-8 reps.
Not only do Dumbbells provide a great range of motion, but they can correct muscle imbalances that barbells might cause.
I can truly feel my Chest working while doing this exercise.
This matters to you as a lifter, because you know that you are actually working the muscle you are trying to target.
It does, however, take some experience in order to develop this connection.
Some fast learners can probably develop it right away, while guys like me, it took about a year of lifting.
You need some experience in the gym trying different exercises and targeting certain muscles before you can do this.
Overall, How Important is the MMC and Proper Form for making progress in the gym?
Truthfully, they do matter.
While feeling the muscle contract doesn’t directly mean it will grow as a result, it does mean that you are targeting the muscle you are intending to target.
If you lower the weight you use and start using better form, your body will eventually be used to doing these exercises the right way.
Eventually, you will be able to use heavier weight with proper form which will certainly help your progress.
I can’t believe I didn’t mention how using good form also means that your risk of injury is a lot lower, especially on exercises like deadlifts and any heavy compound lifts.
Seasoned lifters will respect a guy that uses good form and still manages to lift heavy.
The Mind Muscle Connection matters more to bodybuilders than powerlifters, but is overall important, regardless of why you step foot in the gym.
Sometimes, if you don’t quite feel the muscle working, it indicates that you are in fact using bad form.
I.e., if your shoulders burn while doing flat bench you might have your elbows flared out too far (bad form).
At the end of the day, I can’t promise you that you’ll gain “X” more amount of muscle if you do this.
But I can say with certainty, it will be easier to avoid serious injuries, and make lasting progress if you use good form, and develop a strong Mind-Muscle Connection.