Mind-muscle connection (MMC) means to bring your attention to your body as you move. However, MMC is more than just moving with intention. It also means thinking about actively engaging the target muscle as you engage in movement.
Why is Mind-Muscle Connection Important?
Research shows that just thinking about the muscles moving and working activates the muscle fibers even more than if you performed the exercise without focus and attention. In other words, the more you focus on the target muscle while performing an exercise, the greater your strength and muscle memory gains will be.
When we focus our mind and attention to our movement, the neurons within our brain fire and send signals to our muscle fibers to contract. This improves the strength of contraction and also the quality of movement.
Does Mind-Muscle Connection Make a Difference to My Workout?
When recovering from injury, including brain injury, the connections between our muscles and brain can be damaged and signals may not travel as fast or at all. If muscles aren’t used for any length of time, the connection between the mind and those muscle fibers weaken resulting in atrophy (shrinking) of our muscles.
Actively thinking about contracting our muscles can help re-train both body and mind to work together, helping to heal the brain, strengthen the body, and prevent future injury.
Physical activity and exercise are vital to recovery after a brain injury. Whether you are starting exercise for the first time or returning to exercise after injury, strength training and cardiovascular activity can help to improve strength, mobility, cognitive function and overall quality of life.
Some tips to help you move mindfully:
Move Slowly – Give your muscles time contract by using the 2:1:2 counting method. Lift for 2 counts, hold at the top for 1 second, then lower for 2 counts. The more time you have to focus on contracting the muscles the easier it is to foster MMC.
Use Visualization – Picture the muscles contracting and relaxing in your mind as you count and perform the exercise. This brings your attention to focus eliminating external distractions and noises.
Use Cues – Focusing on cues during an exercise can draw your attention to muscles to enhance activation. For example, while performing a squat, focusing on centering your weight through your heels will engage the glute and quad muscles more.
Mind-Muscle Connection Exercise Program
This workout focuses on bringing our attention to our body and to movement through fostering of the mind-muscle connection (MMC). I will guide participants through a full body strength workout beginning with a dynamic warm up to prepare the body for exercise. The strength workout consists of the following exercises:
Bent Over Row
Chair Push Up
Seated Leg Extension
Core Lean Backs
Each exercise will be performed for 30 seconds followed by a 45 second rest for 3 complete rounds. We end the workout with a cool down of static stretches. Modifications for all moves in this workout are also provided below.
Exercises and Modifications:
Sit to Stand or Alternating Knee Extension
Bent Over Row
Shoulder Blade Squeezes
Seated Deadlift or Leg Curls
Heel Push into Ground
Brain Injury Recovery & Exercise Professionals
As exercise professionals, we know that everyone can benefit from regular exercise or physical activities when these movements are performed efficaciously. This is even true for people who have sustained a traumatic brain injury. Professional guidance from a certified exercise physiologist, who understands the barriers to movement and exercise, can help you achieve your physical activity goals.
If you are recovering from an injury and have questions about or need guidance on starting or getting back to an exercise routine, contact us today for a complimentary consultation and find out how our team can help you.
Shriya MaharajCertified Exercise Physiologist
Shriya believes in finding ways for clients to be active no matter their mobility or fitness level. She uses a combination of education and exercises principles to help clients, including the elderly and those with musculoskeletal, neurological, metabolic and cardiovascular conditions, complete daily activities and manage pain.