T Nation

Feeling the Muscle Work


#1

Hey Christian,

My name is Cooper and I'm a 17 year old lifter from Australia. I'm currently training 5/3/1 and am seeing good strength gains. However, I was reading one of your articles on T-Nation one day called 5 secrets to building muscle. The article, like all your articles, was very informative and interesting to read. But what could my attention was in the article you went on to say that " if someone doesn't feel a muscle working during an exercise, he won't stimulate that muscle enough to grow at a maximal rate".

You also go on to give some advice on how if a person wishes to learn how to feel a muscle work during an exercise they should perform an isolation movement before a compound movement like fly's before bench or something to that effect.

But I was wondering how do you "feel" more complex muscle groups like the back or front, side and rear delts work during a set? How would u incorporate the techniques listed in your article into a workout and if so could you provide some examples ?

Basically all I want to know is how do you feel a muscle working during a set? I read it over and over again in books and magazines but I've just really never had it explained to me and I try but I can just never really seem to feel the muscle working. Is it because I haven't made a solid base in my strength training (only squat 120kg, deadlift 130kg and bench 100kg @ 110kg) and should i therefore first focus on building my compound movements before worrying about feeling the muscle or what?

Sorry about this massive essay Christian, I'm just so frustrated by this whole thing as I can never seem to feel my muscles work! Especially my back and shoulders. And although I do focus mainly on the big lifts I still would like to optimally recruit the smaller yet just as important muscle groups during my assistance work because although I want my numbers to go up i still want to actually look like I lift.

Thanks a lot for your help Christian it's very much appreciated and I thank you for giving up your time to help me out. Keep up with the great articles I, wish you could write one everyday!

Cheers,

Cooper

Sent from my iPhone


#2

[quote]CJW wrote:
Hey Christian,

My name is Cooper and I’m a 17 year old lifter from Australia. I’m currently training 5/3/1 and am seeing good strength gains. However, I was reading one of your articles on T-Nation one day called 5 secrets to building muscle. The article, like all your articles, was very informative and interesting to read. But what could my attention was in the article you went on to say that " if someone doesn’t feel a muscle working during an exercise, he won’t stimulate that muscle enough to grow at a maximal rate".

You also go on to give some advice on how if a person wishes to learn how to feel a muscle work during an exercise they should perform an isolation movement before a compound movement like fly’s before bench or something to that effect.

But I was wondering how do you “feel” more complex muscle groups like the back or front, side and rear delts work during a set? How would u incorporate the techniques listed in your article into a workout and if so could you provide some examples ?

Basically all I want to know is how do you feel a muscle working during a set? I read it over and over again in books and magazines but I’ve just really never had it explained to me and I try but I can just never really seem to feel the muscle working. Is it because I haven’t made a solid base in my strength training (only squat 120kg, deadlift 130kg and bench 100kg @ 110kg) and should i therefore first focus on building my compound movements before worrying about feeling the muscle or what?

Sorry about this massive essay Christian, I’m just so frustrated by this whole thing as I can never seem to feel my muscles work! Especially my back and shoulders. And although I do focus mainly on the big lifts I still would like to optimally recruit the smaller yet just as important muscle groups during my assistance work because although I want my numbers to go up i still want to actually look like I lift.

Thanks a lot for your help Christian it’s very much appreciated and I thank you for giving up your time to help me out. Keep up with the great articles I, wish you could write one everyday!

Cheers,

Cooper

Sent from my iPhone[/quote]

With 5/3/1 you obviously should do the main movement as a standalone, to respect the intent of the program. Work done to learn to “feel” the muscle should be thus done as assistance work.

You don’t always program all the small part of a muscle before doing a compound lift. For example you wont necessarily be able to feel the lateral portion of the deltoid doing the work on a shoulder press. But you should feel it in the overall shoulders.

But you can still do an isolation exercise for the lateral portion of the deltoid. For example you could do a set of lateral raises right before (superset) doing a set of dumbbell shoulder press.

For the lateral raise you should focus on pushing the arms away to your sides instead of thinking about lifting them up. You should also use a constant tension repetition style: never relaxing the muscles during a set. That means not going all the way down and holding the weight 1 second at the top focusing on contracting the deltoids.

For the rear deltoid you can activate it with the rear delts machine (reverse pec deck) with a pronated grip done in the same rep style as above, then immediately doing a set of seated cable row (or barbell row) where you pull toward your chest.


#3

A weird tip is also to put some sport rub only on the muscle/part of muscle you want to learn to feel. The hot sensation from the rub will make you more aware of that muscle and will help you better feel it during a set.


#4

Thanks CT this should help a ton.


#5

Oh and one more thing

So feeling the muscle work during a set is really just a matter of training that muscle on a consistent basis and consciously paying attention to it until the mind muscle connection is established? You can’t just walk in and immediately expect to feel it working if those pathways haven’t yet been established yeah?


#6

@CJW: Closing your eyes during a set and never training in front of a mirror helps too.


#7

[quote]CJW wrote:
Oh and one more thing

So feeling the muscle work during a set is really just a matter of training that muscle on a consistent basis and consciously paying attention to it until the mind muscle connection is established? You can’t just walk in and immediately expect to feel it working if those pathways haven’t yet been established yeah?
[/quote]
Definitely. I personally think there is some merit to making minor adjustments during every set to perfect your body position in an attempt to really hit whatever muscle you are going. Never be satisfied with how you do a set. There is always something you can, and should, do better.

  • Colby