The next time you're in the gym working out, take a look around you. Do you see individuals performing set after set, simply "going through the motions," so to speak?
Do you find that you often go through the motions of your lifts, only to realize after 10 reps that you haven't fatigued the targeted muscle to the fullest, or even worse, that you fatigued other muscles more than the one you were intending to work?
It's certainly happened to me, and I'm sure you've been a victim of it as well. Fortunately, there is a solution to this dilemma. Its root is in the establishment of proper mind-muscle control.
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Get Your Mindset Under Control
Let's begin with an example. We'll use the leg extension for starters. Have you ever done a full set of leg extensions, only to realize afterward that you didn't exhaust your quads as much as you would have liked?
If this occurs, stop and think about the way you are performing your lift, because you might be executing the exercise from your "ankle" and "shin," rather than your quads.
To establish a fuller contraction of a muscle during a lift, one must first be able to fully contract the muscle without resistance. This method of isometric contraction can be informally coined "posing" a muscle.
In between sets, posing a muscle allows more blood to flow to the given area, as well as establishes a direct mind-muscle connection between the brain and the muscle seeking to be targeted.
This enables an individual to be able to flex certain muscles, without the involvement of other muscles, (eg. flexing the posterior deltoids, while making a conscious effort to keep all other muscles relaxed).
The better you can get at performing this task, the more control you will have of your muscles during your workouts, and the better your results will be.
Posing during a workout will bring more blood to the muscle, and give you a greater pump, while posing at home in front of a mirror will allow you to visualize areas that need improvement, while removing subcutaneous fluid, thereby increasing striations and separation in the muscle bellies (provided that one's diet is on point).
How Mind Power Affects Others
Certain individuals have claimed to rely greatly on the power of their minds in order to achieve maximum muscle hypertrophy. Arnold Schwarzenegger for example used to picture gigantic mountainous peaks while performing bicep curls.
Creating such a larger than life image in his mind served as a motivational tool for establishing mind-muscle connection, and remaining completely focused on the muscle at hand. This might sound silly to some, but if you take into account that the mind is what controls the body, it might make a little more sense.
So next time you pound through a set of hanging leg raises only to find out that your abs aren't tired, try relaxing your hip flexors, using less momentum, and focusing your mind on lifting your legs up solely with your abdominal muscles.
And on the way down, try to "resist" gravity instead of letting your legs drop straight down. After all, it is called "resistance" training.