How to use your Mind-Body Connection to achieve your Fitness Goals

A guest post by Erin Conroy PT, DPT.

AKA the "PhytChick."

How many of you have heard of the books The Secret or the The Power of Positive Thinking.  How about the concept of “Manifestation”?

 If you haven’t, let me fill you in.

Basically these all are based around the law of attraction. If you think it, it will happen…that goes for negative or positive.

So what does this have to do with fitness?

Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret…

Okay, it’s not actually a secret because there are published studies on this concept, but, hey, I’ll at least try to help make sense of that information. (Here is a summary of some of those studies).

“So you are telling me that if I think about my muscles getting sculpted, my butt lifted, my washboard abs, that one day I will wake up with that body?”


Buuuuut not by itself (sorry for the false hope).

On a positive note, strengthening your mind-body connection will get you those results a heck of a lot faster!

When you hear mind-body connection you probably think zen, yoga, meditation…maybe, oh I don’t know, sitting in a prairie basking in the sun with a flute playing in the background…no, just me? Okay, anyways….the point here is how often do we actually associate this mind-body connection with our workouts?

I’m guessing mind-body connection doesn’t trigger a picture a squats, planks, and burpees.

But it should!

I touched on this in “Get it Right, Get it Tight Part 1 and Part 2

Going through the motions of an exercise doesn’t necessarily mean you are working the areas you think you are. It takes conscious effort to work your desired muscles. If you aren’t using the mind-body connection, your path to results may be a long and inefficient one.

You might even be moving in the correct movement pattern but may not be activating the correct muscles because you have a weak MIND-MUSCLE.

So now you are telling me that I have a mind-muscle? Sounds like some mumbo-jumbo to me.

Let me explain.

To put it VERY simply, the brain is the puppet master. It is sitting up in its castle in the sky pulling the strings to create the puppet's movements.

The brain sends a signal down your spinal cord, through the nerve, and into the desired muscle. The brain is essentially directly linked to that muscle, and if that muscle receives the correct message, BAM! Watch it move! Hello, Mind-Muscle.

Without the brain facilitation, there's no muscle activation.

No brain=No gain.

We use this concept in physical therapy but call it “neuromuscular reeducation”. We often need to train our patients to facilitate muscle contraction or movement patterns that they lost because of an injury or may have never adequately developed. We are essentially reminding those muscles how to work properly.

Sounds technical and science-y right? It really is just the concept of mind-body connection applied to fitness.



Much simpler right?

Basically if you think it (with training and focus), you can do it.

Hell yeah, Manifestation! Bring me that summer body!

Now, let’s figure out how to incorporate this MIND-MUSCLE so we can sculpt those BODY-MUSCLES!

Here are some steps you can take to strengthen your mind-body connection:

Step 1: Visualize which muscle you are trying to work.

Step 2: Warm-up that area with some isometrics (squeezes without moving your body. Basically contract the muscle you want work.)

Step 3: Perform the exercises you are about to do but with less weight or at a lower intensity. During this, focus on feeling the area you want to work

Step 4: Talk to yourself. Tell yourself over and over again what you should be doing with that muscle.

Step 5: Add the weight or continue through your exercise class focusing on “feeling it” where you should be “feeling it”.

Step 6: Repeat step 2 in between sets

Let’s use the squat as an example to a better idea of how to apply these steps.

Step 1: I want to focus on my glutes...or the behind. Picture those muscles!

Step 2: Do some glute squeezes. Squeeze your butt cheeks together, hold for a few seconds, relax. Repeat about 10 times.

Step 3: Perform squats without any weight. Focus on feeling the burn in your butt. Even picture that muscle actually contracting. 

Step 4: Say to yourself: "SQUEEZE the butt!" as you push up through your heels each time.

Step 5: Add your weight and continue to focus on feeling the burn in your butt.

Step 6: Try repeating step 2 in between sets.

Now take these tips and head to the gym or workout studio knowing that you are going to get better results because you have a strong MIND and BODY.

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