Is The Mind Muscle Connection Real?

mind muscle connection

Bodybuilders often speak about it.

But is the mind muscle connection real?

Today you’ll find out.

Those who don’t train with weights tend not to really “get it” when it comes to the mind muscle connection – how can you thinking about your arms make your arms grow faster?

But anyone who watched Pumping Iron or followed classic bodybuilding back in the day will be familiar with this term.

Arnold and co had it nailed down to a fine art.

“The mind muscle connection is the ability to zero in on the muscle you are targeting, as you work it, causing greater results.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

mind muscle connection

But how truthful is that?

Can you really stimulate more muscle fibers just by concentrating on a muscle when you train it?

Despite it’s popularity in bodybuilding circles, many people believe it to be nothing more than a gym myth, merely hocus pocus cooked up by some bodybuilders who’d taken one too many pills.

Well, it’s time to delve into some startling facts which emerged in 2012.

Is The Mind Muscle Connection Real?

Trust Science

A team of researchers from the University of South Carolina Upstate completed a study to discover whether the rumored effects of the so-called “mind muscle connection” were even possible.

They took their subjects through one of two situations:

  • 3 sets of bench press using 50% of their one rep max.
  • 3 sets of bench press using 80% of their one rep max.

During both situations, the subjects were given the following conditions:

  • 1st set – no instructions.
  • 2nd set – focus on using your chest.
  • 3rd set – focus on using your triceps.

What they found will confirm the theories every bodybuilder has “known” for years. (1)

is the mind muscle connection real

Mind Over Matter

What initially seemed like hocus pocus turned out to be solid truth.

When given no instructions, the subjects performed a regular set on the bench press and this was used as the baseline for muscle activity.

Then the “magic” happened.

When they were told to focus on lifting the weight with just their chest muscles, muscular activity in the pecs soared by 22%.

bodybuilding mind muscle connection

When they were told to focus on using their tricepsmuscle activity in the triceps climbed even higher, this time by 26%.

mind muscle connection

Applying This Knowledge To Your Training

The mind muscle connection is a valuable asset.

However, it is worth noting that the crazy increases in muscular activity shown above both occurred when subjects were using 50% of their one rep max – a weight they could lift for around 15-20 reps.

When they tried the same thing using 80% of their one rep max – think 7-8 reps – results dropped significantly.


It is expected that this sudden drop-off happened simply because of the amount of weight which was being used.

mind muscle connection

By going heavier and completely overloading the pecs, more muscle fibers from surrounding areas were forced to get involved.

So, during a bench press we’d be talking chest, lats, triceps, and shoulders.

All of that makes it much harder to zero in on just one muscle while you force out the rep.

So you should definitely learn to “Focus!” on the muscle – because The Rock – it’s best to keep it for your higher rep work.

Here’s a post on high rep training.

During those low rep sets, just concentrate on getting that heavy bar back up from the depths.

the rock focus

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1. Snyder, B. J. and Fry, W. R. “Effect of verbal instruction on muscle activity during the bench press exercise.” J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Sep;26(9):2394-400.

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