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January 2, 2024

235 | Can you Enhance your Training by Focusing on Muscle Engagement?

235 | Mind Muscle Connection - Can you Enhance your Training by Focusing on Muscle Engagement?  with Annie Miller

Proficiency is truly the name of the game when it comes to movement patterns, strength and muscle building.

When people talk about muscle memory or mind muscle connection, what are they really referring to?


In short, I’d say, the proficiency, strength, and consistency of your neural pathways from brain to muscle when contracting.


This is where touching, visualizing or thinking about a given muscle contracting can actually cause a stronger contraction, and more fibers to be recruited (find study).

That is the mind muscle connection. And it will likely behoove you to work on it it gaining muscle, strength or better movement patterns are goes of yours.


First off SLOW DOWN – focus on tempo

Isolated movements VS compound movements

  • isolated – touch, or think about. Close your eyes OR look at the muscle (where mirrors aren’t actually a terrible idea)
  • Compound – rather than just going through the movement, focus ONE section or muscle. Either that is prime mover, or that you want to work on.

Squat – focus on quads let’s say

Picture them lengthening across the knee as you lower down.

Think of them controlling the descent for you.


Think of them pressing the floor away as you stand up from the bottom of the squat. Picture them shortening as they straighten your leg, bringing the knee from flexion to extension.

In a pull up – focus on the lats

Picture the lat contracting, pulling your upper arm toward the low back and hips. 

You get the idea.

You may or may not find that you experience a burning sensation QUICKER than you normally would when going through the motions in a bit more disconnected manner.

That’s normal. And should be celebrated!

You’re also not doing it wrong if that DOES NOT happen.

Can be applied to warm ups and movement prep or mobility as well

Overall really important even as trainees to be curious about the muscles you’re using and the direction of the fibers you’re attempting to work.

Fiber direction and attachments

This might be a stretch, no pun intended, but, like I mentioned with the squat and your quads, it can be helpful to think about when the muscle is stretching, and in what direction. This is where, focusing on range of motion, and shortened, or length and positions can be helpful. Obviously, if you are a trainer, you can educate your clients on this. If you are a trainee, don’t sweat it. But feel free to be curious, and slowly learn about the muscles, roughly where they attach in the body and the directions in which they contract.

Let’s look at the glutes because who doesn’t love working their glutes in 2024.

Next time you work, your glutes, focus on the lengthening phase as well as the shortest position.

In the hip thrust, that length and position is going to be at the bottom. And then want you to contract your glutes from that bottom position in order to bring your hips into extension. Literally think about your glutes being the muscle that controls that movement.

We can then look at some thing like a curtsy, reverse lunge, where the glutes are, both lengthened, sagittally, and you could argue transversely or along the frontal plane at the hip. Basically you’re stretching Gluth max in the center of your butt cheek if you will, as well as Gluth, Max fibers and Gluth need with the working leg crossing your midline. So your outer upper butt.

This would be especially true. If you’re doing a curtsy reverse lunge with your front foot elevated. So from a deficit.

That’s what you were looking for in that movement. Is creating a big and deep stretch at the bottom of that curtsy reverse lunge. That’s where the tension is going to be highest on the working Glute. In that lengthened position.

Again, this is not something to stress about. And if you’re not able to accurately picture, a muscle and its lengthen or shortened position, it’s not like you can’t build muscle. You’ll be just fine.

You want to get the most out of your lifts, focus in on your mind muscle connection if you’ve gotten a bit lax.

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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

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