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The strain of the weight

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The strain of the weight






The strain of the weight,

To lift another set

The perceived exertion

Can create false intent.


To lift the weight may require your best,

But if not for the mind

You can lack focus and the mind-muscle zest.


It is important to realise

That a mind-muscle connection does exist,

And once tapped into

Will improve your overall body list.


You can go through the physical motions

And not care one ounce,

But take my word for it

Injury will eventually pounce.





The hardest struggle for most people during exercise is the fact that it never gets easier. I would even argue that it actually gets harder as the body gets fitter. So what could possibly be the answer to making work-outs easier, and still reap the benefits of getting fitter. Brad Schoenfeld (Mind in Muscle, 1998) argues that there is a large mental component associated with exercise and harnessing ones mental acuity can substantially improve overall results including fitness whilst decrease perceived exertion and injury.


The mind has a powerful impact on the muscle and if visualised correctly, one can feel the muscle working through a complete range of motion during exercise performance. Rather then thinking about where you feel a muscular stimulus, it requires you to think about where you are supposed to feel the stimulus. This may seem foreign to many, and its relevance to training may not be apparent immediately. However, until you are able to develop a mental link with your muscle, the effectiveness of your training efforts will be severely limited.


It is perceived amongst many aspiring trainees that weight training is the mere action of lifting a weight from point A to point B. Unfortunately, while these individuals might perform an exercise with what appears to be satisfactory technique; they truly fail to adequately stimulate their target muscle (Schoenfeld, 1998). For example, in the lat pull down, it is quite common for a person to feel the majority of stress in his biceps. Since the biceps initiate the movement of the weight during the lift, the arms will necessarily receive a good deal of stress during the lift. Hence, without ability to visualise your muscles contracting, an individual will be inclined to use his arms, rather than the larger muscles of the upper back to lift the weight.

Obviously, this will diminish the overall effectiveness of the exercise.

To maximally induce muscular stress, you must consciously visualise the muscle being trained and use that muscle effectively to raise and lower the weight. You must be oblivious to your surroundings with all outside distractions purged from your mind. As you perform each repetition, the target muscle must remain under conscious tension, making sure it is the prime mover throughout the movement (muscle mag, December issue, 2000, p9).




In the example of the lat pull down, your entire focus should be on sculpting your back to muscular perfection. Accordingly, you must make an effort to pull the weight down with the muscles in your upper back without the assistance of supporting muscles. Continue moving the weight in this fashion and, when you reach the bottom phase of the movement, squeeze your shoulder blades together, feeling a distinct contraction in latissimus dorsi (back).

As you let the weight ascend upwards, your back muscles should resist the gravitational force of the weight. It is all-too-common for a person only to concentrate on the positive (concentric ) portion of a movement and mindlessly let the weight drop uncontrollably on the negative (eccentric movement). Not only does this release tension from the muscles and compromise results, but also it substantially increases the risk of bodily injury. By maintaining muscular control throughout both phases of a movement, optimal benefits will be realised.


Finally, when you approach the starting point of the exercise, you should feel a complete stretch in the lats, and, without hesitation, should proceed to the next repetition by repeating the process. This will force the target muscle to remain under constant tension, assuring that your mind is focused on the movement. Keeping your mental focus in this way will direct the majority of stress to the muscles of your back and maximise muscular stimulation.


In order to enhance your visualisation technique, it is beneficial to utilise a technique referred to as “guided imagery” (Willis & Campbell, 1992). With this technique, you visualise the way you want muscles to look and then imagine them taking this form as you are training (Rusken, 1993). For instance, when working your abs, you should envision yourself with a well defined 6 pack, devoid of any body-fat. As you perform your set, visualise your mid-section becoming tighter and harder. With each repetition, try to make this image a reality, applying the same thought process to each muscle group that you train.


To enhance your sense of guided imagery, it can help to use a role model as a source of inspiration. This entails visualising the muscles of someone’s physiques who you admire such a famous celebrity, bodybuilder or perhaps even someone who works out in your gym. You may, for example think of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biceps as you perform a set of standing curls. As you curl the weight, you should imagine your biceps looking like Arnold’s growing to Olympian proportions. This type of association can have a motivational effect and allow you to become more in tune with your own body.

Finally, don’t be discouraged if it takes longer to develop a mental link with certain muscles than with others. As a rule, it is easier to mentally connect with the muscles of the arms and legs than it is with those of the torso (i.e. back, chest, and abdominals) (Schoenfeld, B. 1998). Since your arms are used in virtually all exercises for the torso, a higher degree of mental attention is required to isolate these muscles. With a little practice and patience, you soon will be able to connect with all the muscles in your body.


If you want to achieve your ideal physique and maximise your body’s potential, it is imperative that you develop a keen mind to muscle link. Once you have mastered this concept, you will undoubtedly notice a big difference in the quality of your workouts. Training is a highly mental process and you can accomplish more than you ever thought possible simply by having a proper mental attitude.




Ruskan, J. (1993). Emotional Clearing: R. Wyler and Company. USA


Schoenfeld, B. (1998) Mind in Muscle: www.highnrg.com/articles/archive


Willis, J.D. and Campbell, L.F. (1992) Exercise Psychology: Human Kinetics: USA


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