In the world of fitness there have always been athletes who have promulgated the mind-muscle connection, having all your attention focused on the muscle you are working to make it grow bigger. Today we are going to see a study that analyzes whether this really works or not, with some surprising results. And let's see how to apply it to our training.
First, let's see what the study specifically analyzed and what the results:
30 untrained subjects were divided into two groups, one that would focus on the muscle that was working (internal focus) and another that would focus on the result of the movement (external focus).
This means that one of the groups would do the exercises, which in this case were the biceps curl and the quadriceps extension with all their attention focused on the contraction of the specific muscle they were working. While the other group would do the same exercises but with their attention focused on something external, which in this case was the movement of the weight they were lifting.
They trained for 8 weeks, 3 days a week doing 4 sets of between 8 and 12 repetitions. After the intervention, both changes in strength in the biceps curl and quadriceps extension and muscle mass gains in these muscles were measured.
The results in terms of strength were inconclusive and did not reach statistical significance, therefore we can say that in terms of strength there was no notable difference between the groups.
But in terms of hypertrophy the results were clear. The group with the internal focus, that is, the group that did the exercises focusing their attention on the muscle worked, had a 12.4% gain in muscle mass in the biceps, while the group with the external focus had 6.9%. Therefore we see that the gain in muscle mass was double in the internal focus group. The results were similar for the quadriceps, where the gain in muscle mass was double for those who focused their attention on this muscle.
As we see, according to the results of this study, it seems clear that if what you are looking for is a gain in muscle mass, you must use an internal focus during exercises, what is known in bodybuilding as the mind-muscle connection. So let's see how to do it.
When we are training, many times we do the exercises without paying too much attention. After having done hundreds and hundreds of push-ups, pull-ups and more in your life, it is difficult to stay focused on their execution and feel the muscles that are being worked.
We tend to be thinking about other things, listen to music, talk to our mates or, in the worst cases, looking at our cell phone. If you haven't read it, you can take a look at the article I did where we analyze the effects of looking at your phone during training.
What this study gives us to understand is that if we want better results in gaining muscle mass, we have to try to do the exercises concentrating on the contractions of the muscles that we are working in each exercise, feeling them and paying our attention to them, exercising the maximum possible awareness and avoiding entering that state of autopilot in which you are barely able to count how many repetitions you have done.
The idea is to enter each set in a state of maximum focus, almost as if it were a meditation. Which I think would have not only the benefit in terms of hypertrophy but also other added benefits such as helping you improve your ability to concentrate, which today is on the floor for many people due to the fast content of social networks.
In addition, you will have an easier time avoiding errors in technique, and you will also be able to more accurately measure the effort you are making in sets in which you have to try to get closer to failure, which, as we have analyzed in other articles, is another key factor for muscle mass gain.
All this is easy to say, but it is not so easy to put into practice. Maintaining concentration in each and every set and repetitions will require considerable mental effort, especially if you are in an environment that can generate distractions.
Maybe after seeing this article you will be motivated and manage to do it, but the difficult thing will be for you to continue doing it as the days, weeks and months go by, which is when you would really see the results.
For this reason, I recommend that you take this into account and try to have some strategy so that your execution with an internal focus does not fall into oblivion and within a few days you will be talking again or looking at your cell phone while you carry out the repetitions.
For example you can re-read this article from time to time, or if you have the routine written down somewhere, add a reminder so that you see it frequently or any other strategy that helps you not forget about this topic.
Another aspect to keep in mind is that in calisthenics the exercises are not as analytical as in the gym, which means that they normally do not focus only on a specific muscle, as happens in the gym with the biceps curl or the quadriceps extensions. But even if the exercises are complex, you can focus your attention on the muscle you are most interested in working on. In addition, there are a series of calisthenics exercises that are quite analytical, and if you use elastic bands even more so.
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I hope this helps you, try to put into practice what we have learned in this article and see you in the next ones.