T Nation

Mind in Muscle, Muscle In Mind?!


Im panting, sweat dribbles down my face. My eyes, now blurry with sweat, slightly sting. The barbell i just racked still rings out loud, the clang echoing...I wipe my brow, before looking dead ahead. A young man, sleeveless T and and all, is "curling" Dbs, his arm raising with each rep, his back swaying with momentum, all the while, he's chatting with his buddy, who looks equally as "ripped."

What is the Moral of this story? Mind in muscle, Muscle in Mind. Some may simply say 'Mind in muscle,' but i dont think that's good enough, i think there's a level beyond.

So what is "Mind in muscle"? It is your connection. It is you BEING in your lift. It is taking a movement, Db curls for example, and making the COMPLETE entirety of the impact directed at your biceps and the muscles associated with this curl movement (which in a supinated position would mainly be the Biceps brachii and Brachialis). If you're raising your arm, you are in the wrong. if you are swaying, you are in the wrong. Now some may note here the use of Cheat movements. Yes, cheat movements can be effective IN THE HANDS OF ADVANCED lifters. But this is neither here nor there...

Back to "Mind in muscle," it is about a connection. It is you feeling the movement in your designated muscle. Its about feeling the flexion, feeling the contraction, FEELING the blood surge into that muscle. Its not simply about doing a curl. If your goal of bicep curls is to complete the bicep curl movement, you have the wrong focus. YOUR goal is to stimulate the muscle. The weight, the reps- Those are just Catalysts for you to Stimulate THAT muscle. When you begin lifting as a means to Stimulate, rather than simply to move weight from here to there, is when you begin to truly grow, both in muscle and expertise, which can only help you further.

Now to separate, how is "Muscle in Mind" different? You walk up to a new weight, something you havent moved before. You look at it...you doubt yourself. You think about the last set, not too much lighter than this one, but was relatively easy, easy in that it didnt push you to your limits; but, you look at this new weight...you dont know. You think it might be too much. You shake your head, and approach the weight. Your set lasts a whole couple seconds. You drop the weight, shaking your head, you were right, you couldnt do it.

Alternate Universe You walks up to that same weight. He is you, has your same build, your same strength...But he approaches it eagerly. "I had that last set no problem," he says aloud. Without thinking twice, he picks the weight up...8 reps later he drops the weight... his muscles burning, sweat dripping down in symbolic tears of joy. Joy that comes from overcoming, joy that comes from progressing...joy that comes from seeing your growth FIRST HAND. Your Muscle...rather, your strength is in YOUR mind. Your muscle is a product of your strength, and your strength is a product of your mental fortitude.

Mind in muscle, Muscle in mind. I have this written, along with many other quotes, on a large white board on my wall. I beg you, i IMPLORE you...Dont become a gym zombie. Put yourself into your work, feel your lifts, fuel your growth.

Mind IS muscle...Muscle IS mind.


fucking epic post !

All Hail Akuma !


Ah thank god another one, these are the best i like them way more then most of the current articles on this site.



I agree. Well the articles on this site suck but still.


Nah, Dont belittle the articles guys, they have plenty of useful information, some people just dont read em though.


good stuff akuma01...you posts are one of the primary reasons i still read shit here in the BB section. thoughtfully written.

some areas are easily connected to, whereby others are cultivated w/ time and the processes of thinking and feeling. feeling and knowing, am i pulling w/ my lat OR is that movement generated w/ bicep momentum? is that contraction in my rear delts OR are my traps dominating the movement...wow that grip seems to allow the outer head of my biceps to feel more taxed AND this angle w/ this amount of chest forward coupled with this amount of scapular retraction allows me to take the movement away from the anterior deltoids and put it in the chest primarily.

being present for each rep, each concentric, each eccentric also pays dividends. some sets are thinking/feeling sets and some sets are balls out war, move this or be crushed...the mindfulness comes being aware of what you are doing,when, and why. each method is a tool, learning which tool for which job becomes part of the craft of building your house brick by brick.

again, well written akuma01.


Not to mention that this site is free....


I'm not talking about the whole site. I have 1000+ post so obviously I like T-Nation however a lot of articles on here confuse the reader more than they teach.


I think that's because most readers ARE confused about their training goals i.e training ADD, jumping from one program to the next when a new article comes out etc.


Awesome stuff Akuma!!!
Been applying your posts into my training and holllly shit been feeling alot more progress lately!
Keep it up! :slight_smile:

I think this concept of muscle & mind connection is the single most fault in people in general at gym. Its like what is you? In terms of personality and thoughts and involuntary action, how is that seperate from voluntary muscle action? You see it so often people just doing the exercise to get reps where as you said it Akuma, it has to be one, the whole body, to lift a weight and I think people to need to delve into that theory a bit more for themselves in order to grow.


By far one of your best threads so far!

If many people were to go by how they feel when they workout, they would no longer be asking "how many sets/reps should I do?" or "how many exercises should I do?" There would no longer be as many "clueless" lifters who seem too afraid to do a bit of trial and error. They will ask the questions as and when needed - to themselves WHILE working out.

Your muscles will tell you. Number one goal is to focus; if you still don't feel like the target muscle is worked enough, do more sets...simple. Different rep schemes will yield a different set scheme. There are good guides but nothing is written in stone.

If there are parts of the target muscle still not tapped into enough with the exercise you did (this you will be able to feel, or at least discover while exercising), do another one that hits it from a different angle.


I am currently in the process of training my 14 yr old son and would have to say that trying to maintain a balance between feeling the muscle and and using progrssive heavier weights is a challange.


I think that 'feeling' the muscle is something that has to be experienced to be understood, and for a lot of trainers, it's a matter of time before they can truly get the most out of each session. I remember Shawn Ray saying that he could get a great workout with nothing but a couple of 35 lb dumbells. He understood it.



My question is, is it good to go for more of a base of strength first? Like BB rows or DB curls, both use body english to get heavy weight up. So would it be better to just get the weight up THEN really concentrate on your muscle. I'm not saying ignore it entirely but it's hard to focus on getting a lot of weight to go up and feeling every contraction at the same time. I have been focusing on just going heavy on deads, bench, squats, and rows. Other accessory lifts i make sure i really feel every contraction with little body english.


I say no. I see people in the gym doing Db rows, and it looks like their concern is getting the weight up. Well, they do it leaning against the DB rack, torquing their back through the movement, and slightly curling the weight up with their biceps. All in all, it makes the movement of the lats minimal.

Going for base strength does not mean substituting weight for form, thats how you injure yourself. Proper cheating is a completely different story. Its a tool for the advanced who already know how to isolate muscles in movements, its second nature, they dont have to concentrate on it. When im curling 80lb dumbbells, yes, i may sway a bit, but the point is my ELBOW is locked in at my side, so the range the weight has to take does not decrease at all. So my curling weight goes up and up, and my body may sway a bit more on each set; but, My elbow is locked at my side the entire time, so the contraction of the bicep doesnt change. Its not something i have to think about.


Yeah I know myself i spent a long time doing just trained movements and not muscles, way too long. I still made gains in size and obviously strength but its just not the same. You know?


I use good form. The point i was getting at is im not going to do a 1 second hold and a 3 second eccentric on a 400lb BB row. Now when i do get to that level of strength i can drop a hundred pounds then do the 1 second hold and 3 second eccentric. Hope that cleared my question up.


lol i think that turns it into a bit more of a statement than a question, really. But yea, im not saying focus on the eccentric on ALL movements, there are many movements i do where its not priority (IE Pullups, Barbell rows, etc); but, One's ability to focus solely on a particular muscle through a lift doesnt necessarily go hand in hand with their eccentric/concentric speed. I wasnt attempting to say "The only way you can truly feel a designated muscle is by pausing at the top, and lowering the weight at 1/4 the speed." Speed is an entirely different tool all together.

Essentially the cliff notes of what i was getting at was:

A. Focus on your lift. Be sure a DB row doesnt become a Lat row + a Bicel curl + an oblique twist.
B. Believe in your strength. There are stories of Mothers lifting cars to save babies. Imagine if you were to tap even a quarter of a power like that in the gym, imagine the gains. Sometimes, what is holding us back most is our self.


I gotcha, i don't ask a lot of questions (lots of reading and getting in the gym to get a better understanding of what i read) so i just like to make sure my mind is in the right place lol.


This whole thread is malarky.

I don't know what you guys think is priority when lifting, but when me and bros go we usually just make sure we're doing a little bit more than the guy next to us. I mean, I'm like sitting there, doing concentration curls with 10s. And then this dude who clearly has no idea what he's doing (but is probably just juicing his brains out) goes and does 25 lb preacher curls right next to me. The worst part is, he keeps his head down and pretends like he's not directly challenging me and my bros.

So anyway, we all grab different DBs that are heavier than his. I grab 40s of course (since I'm Alpha Bro) and I grind out 25 reps (with a little assistance from my bros on the part of the exercise where I curl the weight up.) I finish, and stare the guy right in his eyes. I think he gets the point, because after only 1-2 sets he gets up and leaves the exercise... LOL! What a tool. At least he now knows who is the King of the weight room.

So me and my bros do a few more sets, nothing major, like 8-10 more sets of this while we plan which order we're going to hit the bars on that particular night.