If someone told you that in order to increase your strength, flexibility and mobility, you just need to focus a little bit better, you’d probably tell them to grow up. However, it would probably be worth hearing them out.
The mind to muscle connection has been used by bodybuilders for years, increasing direct focus to the activating muscle in order to grow in strength and size. Effectively, thinking about the working muscle before using it.
Now it may sound silly, or even a little hippy to visualise what part of the body is supposed to be working but the science doesn’t lie.
If we strip back how we actually move our bodies day to day, nothing would move if it weren’t for the brain. If we didn’t create the thought, fire off the specific neurons, send the messages through the nervous system to activate the muscles, tendons and bones to create a movement, we wouldn’t move at all. However, our daily movements have become so ingrained in our subconscious mind that our amazing brains do this all day long, without you having to put in too much effort.
If a bluetooth mouse wasn’t connected to the computer, would you expect to be able to move the pointer across the screen?
Now, when we learn a new movement, like when you are a child learning how to brush your teeth for the first time, you have to really think about what it is that you are doing. You have to watch yourself in the mirror, feel where the toothbrush is in your mouth, and then repeat, repeat, repeat until it becomes muscle memory.
It’s the same when you learn a new lifting technique, or stretch. You have to think about what it is you are moving, where in your body you are feeling the movement and mechanically, set your position up properly.
This takes a LOT of thought and effort. It takes lots of attempts at getting it right. It takes failing the lift, adjusting your position, slowing the movement down. That’s because we are letting the brain find the muscle.
Now, as someone with ADHD, which is a notoriously anti-focus disorder, trying to get your brain to connect to the moving part and for a longer time is a challenge however, it’s not impossible.
And with neurodivergence in general, there is a higher rate of dyspraxia and hyper-mobility, therefore creating a strong mind to muscle connection with your strength training drastically reduces your risk of injury and pain.
As a coach who has been in the industry for over 5 years now, I have used many cues while training to help my clients understand WHERE in their body they should be feeling the movement.
Silly ones such as:
● Imagine you are squeezing oranges in your armpits - to engage the lats in a deadlift
● Put your shoulders in your pockets - to stack the rotator cuff in overhead pulling and carrying movements
● Imagine Tom Hardy/Angeline Jolie is behind you - to sit into the hips for RDLs
● Nips not neck! - To get the barbell in the right position for bench press
When you know where in your body you should be feeling the movement, it makes it more valuable to know how the exercise is helping your body
You can be told to do a deadlift, a squat or a sit up but never actually know where in YOUR body you should be feeling it.
And sometimes, you may be feeling the exercise somewhere else entirely! That’s where we make adaptations, change small things like hand or feet positions to get the right place for your body, because we are all different.
So the next time you learn a new movement, ask the coach what you are supposed to be working on, where in your body you are meant to be feeling it and get hippy with it!
Send the thought to the working muscle, take your time, increase your time under tension and always ensure there is a distinct start and end point to every movement and I promise you,
You will get stronger than ever!