1. Use Lighter Weight
As you learned, the mind muscle connection diminishes as weight increases. Specifically, studies showed a decline between 60 and 80% of 1RM.
For that reason, I recommend starting out at 40% of your 1RM to learn the technique. Then, build back up to 60 to 75%. So check your ego at the door because it’s like starting all over!
Of course, you can still include some heavier sets to build strength. Just keep it light when your goal is to use mind muscle connection for growth.
Again, focus less on how much weight you lift and more on how you lift the weight.
2. Use Good Form
You can concentrate until your forehead veins pop, but if you don’t use the proper form you won’t get a mind muscle connection.
For instance, your bicep isn’t activating much if you swing your whole upper body during a curl. Instead, try to keep everything else still in order to isolate the target muscle.
In addition, you can use specific exercises which make it harder to cheat. Such as the preacher curl for biceps.
Another trick is to lightly touch or tap the target muscle during the exercise. This seems to help the brain connect to a specific spot. I couldn’t find any studies to confirm this, so the evidence is anecdotal.
However, in my experience, it helps for muscle groups you can’t see like your back. As an example, you could have your spotter tap your lats during pulldowns. Or use your free hand to touch your tricep during single-arm cable pressdowns.
Also, I use this tactic on the leg press to emphasize my outer quads. And on seated calf raises to activate the gastrocnemius. At the very least it helps you feel that the target muscle is contracting.
No, I’m not talking about having a posedown. Rather, I’m referring to flexing the target muscle in between your sets.
First, flexing individual muscles forces you to use the mind muscle connection. And second, it’s like a mini drop set. In that it allows you to work the muscle more in the same amount of time. Which, by definition, increases intensity.
Visualization is an incredibly powerful tool. Oftentimes the most successful people have a specific vision of what success looks like.
In fact, Arnold Schwarzenegger said he visualized his biceps becoming as big as mountains while he did curls. And there is growing scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of mental imagery and visualization in sports3.
Whether you clearly picture the end result you desire, like Arnold. Or you internally visualize the muscle activating as you train. You will find that you actualize what you visualize.
The mind muscle connection is a biochemical process. And studies show that your mind does increase muscle activation. But it takes practice to hone this connection.
Of course, not everyone needs to improve their mind muscle connection. But if your goal is to grow new muscle as quickly as possible, then it’s worth adding to your toolbox.
Finally, to me, it’s a more strategic way of training. In that you’re actively thinking about what you want to happen. And where your mind goes, your body will follow.
“What you think, you become”