Sun 23 Dec 2012
Well, the world didn’t end as predicted. I suspected we would all be here on the 22nd, so I stuck with my 3 way split with 5 days between workouts. I probably would have preferred a 7 day respite, but it didn’t fit my work schedule.
12/18/12 at Fike Gym
Dumbbell lateral raise-Jrep halves
Dumbbell rear deltoid fly- Jrep halves
Dumbbell overhead press
EZ barbell curl, then reverse curl (dropped weight by half)
Forearms-dumbbell finger curl done MAE style
Nautilus Pullover with SS retrofits
MedX Row with SS fall-off cam
MedX Chest Press
SuperSlow Systems Pulldown
SuperSlow Systems Neck Flex/Ext
These were both good workouts. There was considerable local effect, but not an excessive systemic effect…not on the day of the workout or the recovery days that followed. Recently, the RenEx guys have posted some articles on the “mind-muscle connection”. I read this with some interest, as I have always assumed that this connection was important, but I have not always felt that I was good at it. Also, I have watched many people train that I cannot imagine any sort of connection being at play, but they seemed to produce excellent results. The assumption is that the “mind-muscle connection” is a pre-requisite for good results, but the evidence really is circumstantial at best. We have to rely on someone’s subjective assessment that they indeed have such a connection.
The discussion that ensued made reference to a youtube video of Kai Greene referencing the mind-muscle connection and trying to teach it to a less-advanced bodybuilder who Kai feels has not made that connection (but still has way more muscle than most of the participants on the discussion boards). This led me to watch several other videos of Kai Greene training, and frankly I cannot imagine that he is making any sort of connection that remotely approaches what the RenEx guys are talking about. The most revealing video was one where Dorian Yates was trying to take Kai Greene through his high intensity chest and back routine. It was evident there that Kai was almost unteachable and was almost unable to use techniques and positioning that Dorian used to create peak loading and intense contractions. His instruction of the “Yates Row” was in particular a flail.
Sometimes I believe what makes some trainees and bodybuilders believe they are making the mind-muscle connection is simply the fact that they have some grist for that mill. In order to feel that connection, it really helps if you have a lot of muscle to begin with. This may simply be more challenging for your 150 pound personal training client. Sometimes I wonder if trying to teach this connection to someone with minimal muscle mass is akin to making a blind person describe the color green. Stated differently, perhaps the quickest way to get the perception you are making this connection, is to take a considerable amount of steroids and induce a lot of muscle mass. I believe this is Mr. Greene’s real secret. Steve Michaelic was also cited as an advocate of the “mind-muscle connection”, but he was also a notorious user of pharmaceuticals. Tom Platz is often cited as someone who trained intensely and with a powerful mind-muscle connection, but videos of him training at age 57 and off drugs do not indicate any such connection that I can appreciate.
This is not to say that I think the mind-muscle connection is unimportant; I believe it is very important and that the less gifted you are, the more you will need to call upon it. It is however, more difficult to achieve with smaller amounts of muscularity. I do believe the connection can be cultivated, and much of it can be done outside the gym. To make this connection you have to become practiced at contracting all of your various muscles (or muscle groups) in isolation. This can be done while lying in bed, watching TV or almost any other time. Simply try to isolate a muscle in your mind and contract it without involving any other surrounding muscles. If you cannot do it initially, contract the target muscle in conjuction with other muscles, then gradually release the contraction of the contributing groups until only the intended muscle remains contracted. Do this over and over until you get better. A way to greatly enhance this process is to practice it when you are quite sore from a previous workout. Your awareness of sore muscles is much greater, and their activation threshold for contracting will be lower. You can deliberately plan a bodypart specialization with the intent of making yourself sore so that you can become practiced at isolating a controlling those given muscles in the days that follow.
Over time you can become quite adept at muscle control and can move and twitch most muscles the same way most folks can twitch their chest or biceps. Once you develop this degree of awareness, you can apply this connection during your workouts. When you are performing a movement become aware of the conscious attempt to contract the targeted muscles AND the conscious effort to turn off the uninvolved groups. The best way to do this (and very hard to accomplish) is to focus on the feel you have in the involved muscle and to IGNORE your awareness of the equipment. This is especially true on machines. There is a tendency to focus on the movement arm of a well-designed machine or the weight stack of a poorly designed machine. You must not do this, instead focus only on the mounting sensation of burning and cramping. Mentally dive down below that and mentally access the process of muscle contraction. Actually envision and feel the sliding filaments and shortening sarcomeres. The deeper you can dive into your body the better you can become at generating force. Oddly, the movement arm will now continue to move when you don’t expect it to. It will move well after the point in time continued movement would have occurred if your consciousness were focused on the movement arm. Give this process a try. I bet you will be surprised how much of your focus has actually been on the movement arm, and how little to what is going on in your body. This problem is particularly true for those of us who are equipment geeks. Ironically, the best equipment should allow us to move away from thinking about the equipment and worry only about what is happening internally. It is definitely a process, and I am nowhere near as good at it as I should be at this stage of the game. But hey, it is another opportunity to get better. Give these techniques a try and let me know what you think, and share what techniques of your own that you find useful.
Post your WOW’s and your thoughts.