How Thinking Harder Can Grow More Muscle
This is your Quick Training Tip, a chance to learn how to work smarter in just a few moments so you can get right to your workout.
Good form is almost everything in the gym. It’s more important than how much you lift. It’s more important than the type of equipment you use. And it’s certainly more important than how many reps you do.
Prioritizing proper lifting technique isn’t just important to unlock greater strength and power—you’ll also reduce your risk of injury if you’re making sure that every movement is as efficient and safe as possible. But if the only thing you’re paying attention to is how you execute an exercise, you’re actually ignoring an equally important factor for maximizing your gains: How the exercise feels.
Research shows that focusing intently on the target muscle as you contract it can lead to greater increases in size. Known as “attentional focus” (or more commonly, the “mind-muscle connection”), the simple act of consciously feeling a muscle work through a full range of motion can enhance muscle fiber recruitment and activation. And the more fully and effectively you engage your muscles, the more they’ll grow.
Your move: Face away from your gym’s mirrors. By doing a 180, you’ll be forced to pay more attention to how the exercise feels than how it looks, and the resulting biological feedback you’ll receive can be even more valuable for assessing and correcting your form than what you can glean from watching your reflection.
The caveat: The benefits of the mind-muscle connection apply only to strength training and muscle building. If you’re a power athlete or are doing an explosive exercise like the barbell snatch, don’t worry about how the exercise feels—just focus on performing it correctly. When it comes to power-based exercises, focusing on the movement outcome will result in a more efficient lift.
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