What is the Mind/Body Connection?

There’s so much more to fitness than most people know. It’s not just about lifting weights, getting bigger arms, or getting a bigger chest. There’s another layer underneath that. Like an onion. Let Uncle Mike peel back the layers.

The most powerful and long-lasting benefit in fitness I’ve ever seen is strengthening the mind/body connection.

If you’re going to invest the time, the sweat, the blood, and resources into training, you must, must, must work on this. There’s no negotiating this. It’s one of the most important traits that you can master for yourself.

First of all, the mind/body connection is real. I know a lot of people don’t think that it’s real...but it’s real as fuck. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Research over the last two decades proves it. It’s not really even up for debate anymore. What you think about your body...how you feel about your body...those things change your body in profound ways. In ways that you probably aren’t aware of.

But what is the mind/body connection? The mind/body connection is the amount of focus you give to each muscle contraction...each muscle fiber. When you focus on squeezing your muscle, not just lifting a dumbbell, that’s the mind/body connection.

Let me give you an example. Bodybuilders can flex individual groups of muscles on their lats. Your average gym guy can’t do this and it’s because bodybuilders have worked hard day in and day out to create that connection between their mind and their body.

But it goes deeper than that. It’s more powerful than that...way more. It is possible to train your muscles just by thinking about moving them. This is real...it’s no joke.

They did a study at Ohio University. They took 29 people...so it was a small sample size. Still, the results are crazy.

For 4 weeks, they put these 29 volunteers’ arms in casts from the elbow to their fingers. Okay, so their entire forearm and wrist were totally frozen. Half of the volunteers performed “mental imagery” exercises five days a week. They would imagine themselves flexing their wrists for 5 seconds. Remember, they’re in a cast, so they can’t actually move shit.

So what happened? When the casts came off all of the volunteers lost strength, every single one. But the group that did the exercises lost a lot less strength. The non-exercise group lost an average of 45% of their strength. The group that did the imagery exercises only lost 25% of their strength.

That’s just crazy to me. I’ve been training for decades now. If someone came up to me and said I could improve my strength just by thinking about it, I would have laughed their ass out of the gym. But in this study, these people retained 20% more strength just by thinking about moving their muscles. They didn’t actually move any weight or even move a single muscle. But they kept more strength.

But so what? The mind/body connection is real. Why does it matter? This is important because if you want to get the best results possible...if you want to be your best...then you have to give everything you got. But...when you lift a weight, your body will not use every single muscle fiber. It will only use what is necessary.

But when you strengthen your mind/body connection, your brain recruits more muscle fibers. You focus your concentration on squeezing the muscle that is moving instead of just moving the weight. Your brain reacts to that attention and will activate more muscle fibers...and guess what? The more fibers you recruit, the more tears you can create in them. More tears mean more gains.

So how do you do it? How do you strengthen the mind/body connection? I don’t have space here to go into a full mind/body connection training regiment. But there’s one way you can practice starting today and that’s with eccentric movements.

Eccentric (ee-sen-trick) movements are where the muscle lengthens while under load. Here are some examples: when you lower the dumbbell from a bicep curl, when you’re lowering down on the squat, or lowering the bar to your chest on a bench press. Slow down these eccentric parts of the lift. Concentrate on your muscles instead of just letting gravity pull the bar down.

Spend at least 3 seconds on the eccentric portions of your lifts. You’ll see improvements to your mind/body connection. Plus you’ll also see improvements in hypertrophy, coordination, and motor skills.

But there are other benefits too. You can strengthen this connection through breathing techniques to reduces stress. I’m just scratching the surface here. But I think a lot of us could benefit from this discipline. Focusing on physical strength through fitness is great. But you have to train your mind. You have to. As we’ve just seen, a stronger mind means a stronger body.

Live like a lion. 

- Mike Rashid King

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