Author Topic: Making Progress: Mind-Muscle Link  (Read 3293 times)

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Making Progress: Mind-Muscle Link
« on: March 04, 2010, 06:50:43 am »

02/03/2010: Making Progress: Mind-Muscle Link

by: adarqui

For quick abstracts of various mind-muscle topics, or to contribute, click here:
Peer Reviewed Section: Mind Muscle Link

*** WARNING *** Utilize this information at your own risk. *** END DISCLAIMER ***


Usually, when people bring up the topic of visualization, it'll get clowned on, or someone will recommend deep relaxation & heavy meditation. I, from experience, believe their are simple & effective techniques anyone can introduce into training. This blog entry covers a few methods used to improve anaerobic performance related to power & strength events.

First off, there has been thousands of studies on the effect of imagery, music, and mental imagery on performance. Reports that analyze many of the various studies, conclude there's a 50/50 split on whether or not visualization is effective or worth implementing.

First off, let's go over some facts:

  • When you perform a movement, or watch someone perform this movement, many of the same areas of the brain are activated, such as the motor cortex.
  • Thinking about contracting a muscle, or performing a movement, can increase EMG activity (electrical activity of the muscle).
  • The intensity at which you think about contracting a muscle, has a direct impact on the resultant EMG activity. For example, the harder you think about contracting a muscle, the greater the EMG activity.
  • Visualizing performing a task correctly vs incorrectly, has an impact on how successful or unsuccessful the task will be performed.
  • Mental imagery containing intense situations can raise heart rate and arousal.
  • Mental imagery containing relaxing situations can decrease heart rate and arousal.
  • Certain mental imagery, such as thinking about spicy fajitas, can invoke significant physiological responses, such as salivating in this example.
  • Music has a direct impact on performance, which includes aerobic & anaerobic exercise, strength, power etc.
  • Motivational music usually has a positive impact on performance, but results in a higher perceived exertion.
  • Relaxation music usually has a negative impact on performance, but results in a lower perceived exertion.
  • Actual imagery of ones self, such as video, is an effective tool at improving kinesthetic awareness (awareness of one's body in space).
  • Imagery, mental imagery, and music are used to rehabilitate patients, such as in physical therapy or people with various degrees of paralysis.

Some of the biggest benefits of visualization remain debated, with studies that prove & disprove its effectiveness. Here are some of those benefits:

  • Short term visualization techniques can temporary increase strength.
  • Long term visualization techniques can long lasting increase in strength.
  • Visualization techniques can alter motor programming, ie, can significantly change the way a person performs a task, such as by changing muscle activation strategies & patterns.
  • Visualization training leads to a more rapid onset of learning or motor programming.
  • Imagery & Mental Imagery can have a positive impact on flexibility or joint mobility.

Having said all that, it's time to get into a few methods which incorporate the mind-muscle link. The methods I list are not advanced by any means, but I have found them to be effective in my own training & the training of my athletes. If you have any techniques which you have found effective, please share the goods.

Linking the emotion of training to performance

The English word 'emotion' is derived from the French word émouvoir. This is based on the Latin emovere, where e- (variant of ex-) means 'out' and movere means 'move'.

Always train with emotion.

When I was finally able to jump around 35+, something interesting started happening. Just the thought of jumping would give me goose bumps and a surge of adrenaline. This would make me very alert, excited, and ready to train, even if I wasn't anywhere near a basketball court or training facility. This may sound weird, but, I had been using various mind-muscle techniques, which I'll refer to as "bridges or bridging", which is a form of "classical conditioning" in behavioral training.

What Is Bridging?

When most people think about training, it usually centers around gaining mass or strength. This is fine and constitutes the majority of what will effect performance, but an element MAY be missing from the equation. That element, is the ability to create a link between the emotions experienced during intense training and the performance goal (such as vertical jump). Without this link, performance will never be optimal. The degree to which this bridge improves performance varies, for example, it could be 3% or 9%. Regardless of the percent increase, it will yield an improvement in performance, and every percent matters.

Here's an example, the historically well known Pavlov's dog study:

The typical procedure for inducing classical conditioning involves presentations of a neutral stimulus along with a stimulus of some significance. The neutral stimulus could be any event that does not result in an overt behavioral response from the organism under investigation. Pavlov referred to this as a conditioned stimulus (CS). Conversely, presentation of the significant stimulus necessarily evokes an innate, often reflexive, response. Pavlov called these the unconditioned stimulus (US) and unconditioned response (UR), respectively. If the CS and the US are repeatedly paired, eventually the two stimuli become associated and the organism begins to produce a behavioral response to the CS. Pavlov called this the conditioned response (CR).

So briefly deciphering the above quote, by continually pairing the neutral stimulus (such as a bell) with the significant stimulus (such as food), dog's were able to salivate solely in response to hearing the bell.

Let's rephrase the above sentence in 4 ways:


By continually pairing the neutral stimulus (psyche up song) with the significant stimulus (max effort squatting), athletes were able to increase nervous system excitability in response to hearing the psyche up song.


By continually pairing the neutral stimulus (a few loud claps) with the significant stimulus (max effort squatting), athletes were able to increase nervous system excitability in response to performing a few loud claps.


By continually pairing the neutral stimulus (an intense "LET's GO@#$!@") with the significant stimulus (max effort squatting), athletes were able to increase nervous system excitability in response to yelling an intense LET's GO!@#@!@

Mental Imagery

By continually pairing the neutral stimulus (thinking about jumping your highest) with the significant stimulus (max effort squatting), athletes were able to increase nervous system excitability in response to thinking about jumping their highest.

Neutral Stimuli

So, from the above examples, the neutral stimulus precedes our significant stimulus. The neutral stimulus should consist of something that can be done prior to the performance goal you're trying to improve. So, if you plan on doing your best dunks around a bunch of catholic school children, using a verbal neutral stimulus that consists of a loud curse word, would probably not be the best idea. Or, you might not be able to bring an ipod to the starting line of a 100m, etcetc, you get it.

Examples of neutral stimuli:

  • Auditory: a hype up song, something your training partner says.
  • Gesture: a clap, a stomp (sexual chocolate), an intense pacing back and forth.
  • Verbal: a phrase, a curse word, a growl or grunt.
  • Mental Imagery: visualizing the target performance goal, such as a sprint, jump, throw, or another more explosive lift.
  • Actual Imagery: the flag? heh.

Several neutral stimuli can be combined to form a singular neutral stimuli:

  • new neutral stimuli = psyche up song + clap + LET's GO!

All of the above stimuli, should be the "same". Meaning, you want to use the same song, phase, gesture etc. Of course, there could be a few songs or gestures, etc, but introducing too many neutral stimuli is going to reduce the effectiveness of this technique. So, try to keep everything the same.

Also, knowing what we know about music stimuli and it's effect on power, utilizing this technique will have a direct effect on the Max Effort lift. Fortunately, most people already use this technique.

Significant Stimuli

The significant stimuli should consist of something very intense, for example, something that places great demands on your nervous system, mental state, & musculo-skeletal system. Therefore, the only stimuli I've found to be effective, are max effort lifts, of 90-100+% of 1RM (1 rep max).

Preparing for max effort lifts elicits a heightened state of arousal, which includes an increase in stress hormones, adrenaline, fear, excitement, focus, and clarity. This becomes the perfect situation to make use of classical conditioning techniques, and thus build a bridge between our max effort lifting and our performance goal.

Example significant stimuli:

  • Max Effort Front or Back Squat
  • Max Effort Bench Press
  • Max Effort Deadlift
  • The above lifts with or without chains/bands
  • Max effort
  • Max effort clean & jerk's or snatches.
  • Max effort 12" stepups or walking lunges
  • Intense depth jumps (advanced)

Building the bridge

There are a few important guidelines to follow when building a bridge:

  • Don't use the neutral stimuli for NON-MAX EFFORT lifts.
  • Don't use this technique with isolation exercises, come on now, we want big heavy compound exercises.
  • Choose neutral stimuli that you would be comfortable doing in public, competition, etc.
  • Don't be afraid to utilize the neutral stimuli in public/competition, go all out.
  • Don't use it when you're feeling very fatigued (in the performance session or lifting session.)
  • Don't expect this bridge to appear immediately, it may take some time, it's a conditioned response after all.
  • Be consistent with pairing the neutral & significant stimuli, but again, only when not feeling too fatigued.
  • Don't overuse this technique with your performance goal, meaning, don't attempt to use the neutral stimulus with your performance goal EVERY DAY. A good guideline would be to use it at most 2x per week.
  • When using the neutral stimulus during your performance session, only use it before your biggest attempts. For example, don't use it before warmup jumps.

Ok so there you have it, a way to bridge the emotion experienced during max effort lifting with your performance goal, thereby increasing focus, nervous system excitability/arousal, and thus improve performance & achieve new PR's.

Go get it (F!@$!@ LET'S GO *clap*)

As usual, reply with any questions and comments.

-- adarqui


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Re: Making Progress: Mind-Muscle Link
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2010, 07:20:12 am »
A lot of these techniques can be applied by watching porn to increase sexual prowess.


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Re: Making Progress: Mind-Muscle Link
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2010, 07:24:24 am »
A lot of these techniques can be applied by watching porn to increase sexual prowess.

dont forget to eat c-porn-flakes as supplement! :D


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Re: Making Progress: Mind-Muscle Link
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2010, 02:43:51 pm »
cpornflakes = automatic 2 inch boost